Cory Booker: Paying It Forward and Why I Fight
In 1936, my dad was born in a small, segregated town in the mountains of North Carolina. He was born to a single mom who had health problems and a family who could not care for him, so a local family took him in and raised him as their own. He had no source of financial support and no tradition of college in his family, so my dad never considered going to college. But members of the community recognized his potential and encouraged him to go. His church sent around a collection plate to help pay for his first semester’s tuition at an HBCU, North Carolina Central University.
That investment in his future opened doors that he never even knew existed-- he got a good job, worked his way up, and within the span of a generation, he moved his family from poverty to the middle class.
My father’s upbringing in poverty to a single mother isn’t a unique story but, sadly, his ascension to the middle class is, in part because of the racial wealth gap in America. We know the racial wealth gap did not happen by accident. For centuries, deliberate local, state, and federal policies have concentrated wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the many, often times people of color. Some of the most ambitious federal policies — from Social Security to the GI Bill — originally excluded Black Americans. Black Nevadans know the phrase “Mississippi of the West” all too well because of the state’s history of discriminatory policies.
It’s going to take a comprehensive collection of policies to balance the scales and create, as our Declaration of Independence said, a “more perfect union” that lives up to its founding ideals. To start that work, I am proposing policies that will dramatically expand the level of federal investment and commitment to accelerating Black entrepreneurship and small business development. It is past time that federal investment in our communities -- from communities like my hometown of Newark to the Historic Westside of Las Vegas -- is at the level needed to boost black entrepreneurs and black small businesses so that they can do what they do best: empower our communities, expand opportunity, and make our entire economy stronger.
We can, and should, give every child a “baby bond,” my proposal to help close the opportunity gap in this country. Each account would be seeded with $1,000, growing by up to $2,000 each year, depending on family income. By the age of 18, the average black child would have access to more than $29,000 - rising to nearly $50,000 for the most impoverished --- for eligible uses like starting a business, paying for college tuition, or a down payment on a home — the kinds of investments that change life trajectories. In year 1 of enactment, about 690,000 accounts would be created for Nevada children. In any given year, nearly 1 in 5 children in Nevada would receive the full $2,000 payment. A Columbia University study found that a plan like my “baby bonds” proposal would virtually close the racial wealth gap among young adults.
There were few places hit harder by the housing crisis than Clark County and although there is new development throughout the county, about one fifth of the residents still face severe housing problems. Stagnant wages with the ever-increasing cost of housing is making housing unaffordable and out of reach. In addition to my “baby bonds” proposal that will lower barriers to home ownership, I am proposing a Renters Credit that will cap rental costs to 30 percent of a household’s income. My Renters Credit would benefit over 600,000 Nevadans, with the median participating family receiving a credit equal to $4,600.
It’s a common pain in our country that so many find themselves with more month at the end of their money than money at the end of the month. And yet, our current tax code has only made things worse. As President, I will work to put money in the pockets of hard-working Nevadans struggling to get ahead with my proposed Rise Credit — a bold new tax credit aimed at putting more money in the pockets of American families. The impact of the Rise Credit would be transformative, lifting nearly 15 million people out of poverty, cutting poverty in our country by a third, and giving a tax credit to nearly half of all Americans. According to an ITEP analysis, in Nevada alone, 1,609,00 adults and children would be helped.
One of the most important lessons my father taught me was that we cannot pay back the work our ancestors did for us — we can only pay it forward. That is why I started my career working as a tenant rights lawyers in Newark helping families take on slumlords in the first place. That is why I fought to bring attention to gun violence as a member of the Newark City Council. That is why I worked to strengthen Newark’s economy following the Great Recession as Mayor. That is why I led efforts to pass a historic criminal justice bill in the Senate. And that is why I want to be your next President.
ABOUT: Cory Booker is running for president to reignite our spirit of common purpose to build a more fair and just nation for everyone. In 1996, Cory moved to Newark, NJ, and founded a nonprofit organization to provide legal services for low-income families. At twenty-nine, Cory was elected to the Newark City Council, and in 2006, he served as Newark’s mayor for more than seven years.
The first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate from New Jersey, Cory has led efforts to reform our broken criminal justice system, and invest in communities that have been left out and left behind.