By: Jake Foley-Keene, Intern for the Economic Justice Project
“Three years ago, we launched the great American comeback. Tonight, I stand before you to share the incredible results.”
On February 4th, President Donald Trump opened his 2020 State of the Union speech with this grandiose declaration. Unfortunately, it grossly disregards the realities facing women and people of color.
As Trump bragged about the state of the economy and the apparently terrific conditions that African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities are facing, he neglected to mention that black unemployment rate is almost twice as high as unemployment for white Americans, the median household salary for a black household is nearly $30,000 less than a white household, and that African-Americans have a poverty rate of 20.8%, two and a half times that of white Americans. Furthermore, women continue to make only 81.6% of the earnings of their male counterparts, and that number shrinks even more when looking at Black and Latina women.
Trump went on to call on Congress to adopt federal legislation to extend “family leave to mothers and fathers all across our nation.” But the bill Trump supports, the Advancing Support for Working Families Act, doesn’t do nearly enough to address the paid leave crisis in this country. Instead of truly offering paid leave, the bill offers a $5,000 advance on the child tax credit, a loan that does little to cover the enormous monetary and time cost that comes with taking time off for early child-rearing. This bill would do little to alleviate stark racial and gender wealth gaps, as even with this loan, many low-income households would not be able to afford to take time off work to look after their newborn child. Today’s families are diverse, and our public policies must recognize this by supporting people in managing both their work and family caregiving responsibilities. A strong paid family and medical leave law should be inclusive of all those who play an important role in caring for their loved ones, covering extended relatives, such as grandchildren and siblings, along with any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association is the equivalent of a family relationship. The President needs to support the FAMILY Act, as it is vital to African Americans and other communities of color for whom it is significantly more difficult to afford the cost of family medical leave.
If the State of the Union did one thing, it reinforced this administration’s priorities of systematically favoring the wealthy over vulnerable groups that are disproportionately Black, Brown and low-income. The Lawyers’ Committee will continue to challenge this administration’s regressive economic policies on behalf of communities of color to ensure that everyone has a fair chance to succeed.