Transcript: Race in USA: Ariel Investments chair and co-CEO Black Economic Mobility
Transcript: Race in USA: Ariel Investments chair and co-CEO Black Economic Mobility, John W. Rogers Jr. and Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the White House Council, Economic Advisers. Properties in Qatar for sale
Mr Capart: Mr Capitol: Good afternoon. Good afternoon. I’m Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post opinion writer. Welcome to Washington Post Live and another one in our “Race in America” series. Today, we are examining the impact on Black Americans of the racial wealth gap as well as ways to promote economic mobility from both the public, government and the private sector viewpoints.
And to begin things, we will focus first on the public sector. Welcome Cecilia Rouse, please. She is the Chairman of the Economic Advisors Council of the White House, the first Black official to lead the Council.
Dr. Rouse, President Rouse, thank you so much for visiting Washington Post Live.
Dr. ROUSE: Right. You’re welcome. You’re welcome. Thank you. Thank you. It’s a joy to be here.
MR. CAPEHART: And here’s the bookcases battle. I’m just going to throw it out.
Mr Capart: Mr Capitol: Thus, the opening slide showed that the figure for white households from the Center for American Progress in 2019 was $189,100, for black Americans, black households, just $24,100. How did COVID-19 not only broaden this gap but also shed some light on that gap?
Dr. ROUSE: Right. Well, as the premise of your question is this gap existed before the pandemic, but what we know about that pandemic has affected color communities disproportionately.
Back a year ago the unemployment of African Americans is as high as 19 percent, 17 percent, much higher than that of White Americans, and African Americans and Hispanics were at the same time essential workers and often in the front line. And so the pandemic also affected these communities disproportionately.
In the meantime, because our economy had to fall, it meant that people who hadn’t received a regular paycheck made housing more precarious. This means your children’s schooling was in danger if you did not have adequate internet connection. Since this pandemic had an impact on every corner of our economy and every corner of our society, the inequalities in our economy had been exposed for quite a while.
MR. CAPEHART: So, Dr.ó-
DR. ROUSE: óincluding ó-
CAPEHART: Mm-hmm. MR. So, given everything, how is the administration dealing with the structural inequalities you are talking about? Housing, business and other areas.
DR. ROUSE: This administration is committed to building a better foundation, and my understanding is not just that we want to build on that pandemic but that it is not just good enough to return to where it was in February 2020. Then we know that these inequalities, these structural inequalities existed. We must do better than that, and so Biden-Harris has a government-wide approach, which means that it’s a type of soup for nuts.
Yes, individual programs exist. There are housing initiatives, initiatives to address the way houses are evaluated. In mainly Black communities, they tend to be assessed less than in mainly White communities. Entrepreneurship initiatives in education exist.
But the most important part I believe is that we pay attention. It’s an administration that understands that many of these policies were baked in, and we cannot just suppose it’s going to affect all the communities equally if you spend a little more government money. It really focuses on saying where are the places where we can make significant headway and where we can make investments.
One small example I would just like to emphasize, following the American Rescue Plan, is the expansion and extension of child tax credit in the American Rescue Plan. It made it more generous and one way it made it more generous was to make it reimbursable. So even if you don’t owe any taxes to the federal government, the child tax credit would allow you to receive money back. It’s so important. It can make a significant difference to child poverty, which will affect African American families disproportionately.
As part of the American Family Planning, the President has proposed to continue and because we understand that this will be an important way of providing families with the resources they need to care for their children because we know that poverty creates poverty. So if children are able to grow up in families with greater resources, then they are more effective at school and have a better time.
It also gives the parent some resources for a balanced working life if they need more childcare or better food to fill the edges, to facilitate their lives.
That is a small example, but in all agencies, there are initiatives to try and see where there are gaps between Blacks and Hispanics, Native Americans and Whites.
Mr Capart: Mr Capitol: You know, the sentence you used just now is “Disproportionately affecting the Black families,” another area we see is in the field of student debt, something like that. The NAACP President Derrick Johnson said, as a quote, “Without addressing the student debt crisis you cannot start addressing the racial wealth gap.” He also says that while President Johnson, Derrick Johnson of NAACP, applauded the emphasis President Biden has placed on home ownership as a means to build wealth, Johnson says that many African Americans will not qualify for the loans needed because of the high debt-to-income ratio. My question is, does the government have to do more about student loans?
Dr. ROUSE: Right. Student loan debt in our country has become a major problem. Personally, I study as an economist in higher education. I believe that student loans have an appropriate place within our financial support portfolio, but it is really important for students to understand and use student loans as part of the correct types of programs and, therefore, we believe that it is a huge burden.
The chairperson is committed to finding ways to improve our reimbursement programs. Those can work a lot more — they can work a lot better. He strongly believes in debt forgiveness for those in the public sector, and says that when Congress issues a bill that cancels some of the students’ debt, it will be signed. This administration is committed to helping students with their loans, although they play an important role in and we recognize this in our financial aid system. Higher education is such a big investment. I want to say that, and stress that for so many of the students, even with their lifetime loans, they can pay off those loans from the increase in their school income. But we recognize and want to make the student loan system better and work more effectively.
Mr Capart: Mr Capitol: One figure that the president has rejected is that $50,000 student loans should be forgiven, that there are a lot of progressive people on Hill who are pushing the president to do so. Does the administration have a number or number that would allow student loans to be forgiven to help Black people and Black families close their own personal wealth lag with regard to their peers?
Dr. ROUSE: Right. Again, the President understands the burden of student loans on individuals. Due to this crisis, student loan payments have been paused, and as I said the President is committed to a much more robust income-based repayment scheme where people only have to payówhat? 10% of their income would be limited. He is ready to make it even more generous. He believes that there is a solid system which respects the fact that this is an important investment but that it is an expensive investment for many people. And he wants to help improve that.
I would also like to stress that President Biden has put forward numerous proposals to help with college costs in advance. For example, he proposes that Community College be free for two years of schooling. He has committed money for HBCUs and minority student institutions to reduce students’ tuition fees. We fully understand how important higher education is for color communities, Black students, and want to make it affordable, looking at a portfolio of options and ways to tackle this issue and make college affordable to everyone.
Mr Capart: Mr Capitol: In your personal history and education ó if I’m not right ó your father, as you said, was the first African American to obtain a PhD in physics from the California Institute of Technology, and the only fifth to graduate from a spectacular American university. Your mother was a psychologist at school. Does this shape the role of education in promoting economic mobility?
DR. ROUSE: Definitely. My parents were so committed to learning that our studies were a major focus of daily life. My parents saved every dollar they could to help pay for our school because they wanted us to go to any school they could.