How Trump’s Opportunity Zones Can Close The Racial Wealth Gap

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By Mouktar Albert

Before I make my case for localizing the beneficiaries of President Trump’s Opportunity Zone Program legislation, I would like to state the fact that President Trump was the first US President, since Richard Milhouse Nixon, through public policy, to push economic programs that seek to improve the livelihoods of the Black community in America. 

That should be applauded and encouraged but it doesn’t mean that it is a perfect plan without room for improvement and further development because no such plan exists or will ever exist. 

It should also go without saying that critiques of the program, as it stands, isn’t an attack on the President but rather my desire to add to a more well-rounded public debate on government policy. 

“Since the 1960s, household-income growth for African-Americans has outpaced that of whites.” — 2010 study PEW RESEARCH.

This “growth” led to the narrowing of the income gap between whites and blacks so that now black Americans can expect to earn on average 59.2% of what their white American counterparts earn, “up slightly from 55.3% in 1967 (though in dollar terms the gap has widened).” 

PEW also found that, “due to discriminatory employment patterns, black workers predominate in fields that are least likely to have employer-based retirement plans and other benefits, such as administration and support and food services. As a result, wealth in black families tends to be close to what is needed to cover emergency savings while wealth in white families is well beyond the emergency threshold and can be saved or invested more readily.”

This, in turn, leads to a disparity in the rates of business ownership among black Americans.

This is significant because as the President himself has rightfully celebrated as Black Unemployment rates have hit historic lows of about 5.9%. 

But if you break this number down, black teen unemployment rates have stood stubbornly at 16.5%, according to CBS News

This is bad news for the black community as well as America as a whole, because according to a University of Michigan study, “African American and Hispanic students are less likely than whites to work part-time in high school, according to a University of Michigan study. But those who do hold jobs tend to work longer hours, and are less likely to suffer negative consequences.” 

But with unemployment rates higher than their white teen peers (who have 7% unemployment) African American teens that seek part-time job opportunities have slim pickings to look forward to. 

The University of Michigan study found that “African-American and Hispanic teens, especially those who live in poor urban neighborhoods, have a harder time finding work”, Bachman suggests.

“When they are able to land jobs, those jobs may require them to work longer hours,” which ends up harming them academically.

But this horrible state of affairs need not remain so. President Trump recently signed into law policies to help Urban communities suffering from under-investment and blight. But I argue that the way the tax incentives are put together creates opportunities for those without connections to and a social stake in the communities within which they will operate. 

I do not advocate for overturning these policies because large investors have a role to play. Rather, I advocate that we add on to them by creating opportunity zones for the small and medium-sized businesses and the families and communities they represent. The people who will spend decades of their lives living in these communities and building families as well as businesses that have a stake in the health and vitality of these communities. 

Not only is this an important policy issue but it is literally LIFE AND DEATH, “In a new study published in Urban Affairs Review, Parker reports that growth of African American-owned businesses was strongly linked to a reduction in black youth violence between 1990 to 2000.” This is because black-owned businesses are more likely than any other to hire black teens part-time and with 16.5% unemployment the need for such businesses has never been greater.

I hope this article is received by you the reader with the same goodwill as I wrote it with.

Closing comments by Hotep Jesus:

Opportunity Zones will not help the black community, as the policy exists now. That does not mean they cannot help the black community. They definitely can. Unfortunately, many people in black villages don’t have the know-how to take advantage of these programs.

These programs will only benefit the intellectuals and the affluent.

Opportunity zones are pieces of juicy pork chop to a hungry investor. This program could turn into a gentrification mechanism instead of its intended purposes; to close the racial wealth gap.

With the tweak above, suggested by Mouktar, I truly believe we can assure that the black community will benefit from the program.

Investing in small businesses is the way!

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