The Democrats have taken back the House of Representatives in what feels like a clear rejection of the false promises and bigotry of the Trump administration. But now, they must go beyond anti-Trump rhetoric and push bold ideas to advance opportunity and prosperity for the vast majority of Americans being left behind by the policies of Washington, D.C., and Wall Street.
In our $19 trillion economy, a well-connected few have done spectacularly well, while more and more working Americans struggle to make ends meet. Democrats must chart a real path to prosperity that can replace failed, trickle-down economics – one that invests in and uplifts Americans on the margins and breaks down barriers to opportunities.
House leaders should announce a bold agenda for their first 100 days. They can start by aggressively pushing for two bills introduced in the Senate earlier this year that have gone nowhere under Republican leadership: the "LIFT the Middle Class Act" from Sen. Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, and the "American Housing and Economic Mobility Act" from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. Both would help ordinary Americans who got little or nothing from the GOP's massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.
Harris' bill would provide a refundable tax credit of up to $6,000 for low-income and middle-class Americans, bringing some balance into a tax system that has become grotesquely skewed toward the wealthy. Warren's deficit-neutral measure would address our growing housing crisis by building or rehabilitating 3.2 million housing units; assisting first-time homebuyers living in low-income, formerly redlined neighborhoods; and investing $2 billion in long-overdue support for buyers whose home equity was obliterated in the 2008 crash.
Warren's bill also takes initial steps toward strengthening the Community Reinvestment Act, a little-known but important law that dates from the late 1970s. The law, written to fight redlining – the practice whereby the federal government joined with banks and other institutions to deny mortgage loans to people of color – needs an update to deal with changes in the financial industry. Redlining, though technically illegal, never completely went away.
These proposals represent a good start, but Congress could and should go even farther. We need a Community Reinvestment Act for the 21st century that harnesses the tech economy to invest in opportunity in every American community.
By giving a fair shake to all and opening doorways to opportunity for those who have the least, we can build prosperity for all of us – not just the 400 billionaires who now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of Americans.
It's true that none of these proposals will become law quickly, so long as the GOP controls the Senate and the White House. But no important change comes quickly. We can start building a better, fairer America, and Democrats now have a chance to lead the way.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Ky-Nam Kwon Miller is economic equity director at The Greenlining Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Oakland, California. This column was written for the Progressive Media Project, affiliated with The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.