|Olga Negron and Rev. Gregory Edwards|
"In fact, denying that racism exists is the new racism," the report charges.
Interestingly, the 12-person task force responsible for this report itself has no diversity. It lacks a single white person. Kevin Greene (Lehigh Valley Faces), the task force member who led the discussion, complained that only "a few people rise at the expense of others."
The data definitely demonstrate that there is a huge divide between the white and other families in the Lehigh Valley. Whites have a better education, make more money and live in nicer homes.
- In 2007, only 4% of black students took the SAT, the standardized test used for college admissions, compared to 79% of white students.
- 27% of white people have at least a Bachelor's degree, compared to blacks (18%) and Latinos (13%).
- Loan approval rates for white people are nearly 70%, regardless of income level. For blacks and Latinos, the approval rate is closer to 50%, regardless of income level.
- Latino and black poverty rates are 220% and 166% higher than white residents of the Lehigh Valley, respectively.
- Whites make 40% and 62% more, respectively, than black and Latino Lehigh Valley residents.
- A white person's home value is 17% and 29% higher than a black or Latino person.
Greene concludes that racism not only exists, but that the "exclusion is intentional." His comments were echoed by another task force member. "Wealth diversity is a function of our values," she asserted. "We value people who have white skin more than we value people who have black or brown skin."
Alan Jennings, Executive Director at CACLV, disputed Greene. "I don't want to believe it's deliberate," he told the group.
The Task Force has recommended a minimum wage that is a "living wage," although it fails to specify an amount. It insists that all children, regardless of the family income level, should participate in pre-kindergarten. It demands an end to what it calls "educational apartheid," a "separate an unequal public education."It is calling for expanded home ownership, including a "post-homeownership counseling program marketed to persons of color." It also calls for the elimination of minimum lot sizes to enable a "more equitable distribution of wealth," It even calls for more diversity on non-profit boards.
One of these recommendations, home ownership counseling marketed to persons of color, appears itself to be discriminatory.
|U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, Pa-15|
Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent, who appears to have been the token conservative participating in an otherwise one-sided forum, gently reminded that audience that wealth disparity is the necessary result of a free market economy. "We've always had it," he noted. He also cautioned against changing that approach to one in which power is concentrated. Under other systems, "You will see less prosperity and a heckuva' lot more cronyism," he warned, in an obvious reference to totalitarian regimes.
But he conceded that the disparity has increased in recent years. "We have to fix the policies that make it harder for people to make more money," he argued.
One of these policies, brought about in large part by Obamacare, is what Dent refers to as our "part-time recovery." He pointed to data of his own, showing that 7.6 million Americans are involuntarily working part-time, either because their employers have reduced hours or because that's they best they can do. This in turn has resulted in a "very erratic" recovery, one that Dent warns is unstable.
Employers like Red Lobster and Olive Garden are trying to remain under the Obamacare requirement of providing health insurance to employees who work more than 30 hours per week. This hurts working families, and Dent supports expanding the 30-hour cutoff to 40 hours.
Flawed Monetary Policy
Dent also argued that our monetary policy is flawed. The Federal Reserve's interest rates on short-term loans has been near zero since late 2008. But there's been no mad rush for mortgages, and no real incentive to save. Those who do are investing in the stock market instead of depositing at their local bank. "It drives people to the stock market," Dent observed. "The wealthy are getting wealthier." But he worries that "[w]e are creating another bubble in the stock market."
Tax Code Policy
A third policy change desperately needed, according to Dent, is a simplification of the 70,000-page long Tax Code. Calling it a "hodge podge of special income breaks", he noted that 2/3 of the population is unable to take advantage of them because they don't itemize.
One of the more nonsensical federal tax policies, he argued, is one that discourages American companies from bringing their profits back. A recent report does indicate that $2.1 trillion is held by American companies overseas.