We must keep marching toward Dr. King’s dream

By Joe Biden, president of the United States, published in The Washington Post, August 27, 2023.

Sixty years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and hundreds of thousands of fellow Americans marched on Washington for jobs and freedom. In describing his dream for us all, Dr. King spoke of redeeming the “promissory note to which every American was to fall heir” derived from the very idea of America — we are all created equal and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives. While we’ve never fully lived up to that promise as a nation, we have never fully walked away from it, either. Each day of the Biden-Harris administration, we continue the march forward.

That includes a fundamental break with trickle-down economics that promised prosperity but failed America, especially Black Americans, over the past several decades. Trickle-down economics holds that taxes should be cut for the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, that public investments in priorities such as education, infrastructure and health care should be shrunk, and good jobs shipped overseas. It has exacerbated inequality and systemic barriers that make it harder for Black Americans to start a business, own a home, send their children to school and retire with dignity.

Vice President Harris and I came into office determined to change the economic direction of the country and grow the economy from the middle out and bottom up, not the top down. Our plan — Bidenomics — is working. Because of the major laws and executive orders I’ve signed — from the American Rescue Plan, the bipartisan infrastructure law, the Chips and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, my executive orders on racial equity and more — we’re advancing equity in everything we do making unprecedented investments in all of America, including for Black Americans.

Black unemployment fell to a historic low this spring and remains near that level. More Black small businesses are starting up than we’ve seen in over 25 years. More Black families have health insurance. We cut Black child poverty in half in my first year in office. We are delivering clean water and high-speed internet to homes across America. We’re taking on Big Pharma to reduce prescription drug costs, such as making the cost of insulin for seniors $35 a month. We’re taking the most significant action on climate ever, which is reducing pollution and creating jobs for Black Americans in the clean energy future.

This administration will continue to prioritize increasing access to government contracting and lending. We awarded a record $69.9 billion in federal contracts to small, disadvantaged businesses in fiscal 2022. We’re taking on housing discrimination and increasing Black homeownership. To date, we’ve invested more than $7 billion in historically Black colleges and universities to prepare students for high-growth industries. We’ve approved more than $116 billion in student loan debt cancellation for 3.4 million Americans so that borrowers receive the relief they deserve. And a new student debt repayment plan is helping Black students and families cut in half their total lifetime payments per dollar borrowed. We’re doing all of this by making sure the biggest corporations begin to pay their fair share, keeping my commitment that Americans earning less than $400,000 a year not pay a single penny more in federal taxes.

And to help guide these policies, I made it a priority to appoint Black leaders to my Cabinet, my staff, in the judiciary and to key positions in agencies such as the Federal Reserve to ensure policymakers represent the experiences of all Americans in the economy.

But we know government can’t do it alone. Private-sector leaders have rightly acted to ensure their companies are more reflective of America, often in response to their employees, their customers and their own consciences. Right now, the same guardians of trickle-down economics who attack our administration’s economic policies are also attacking the private sector and the views of the American people. A recent poll from the nonpartisan Black Economic Alliance Foundation shows overwhelming bipartisan support for promoting diversity as central to a company being more innovative and more profitable, and central to fulfilling the promise of our country for all Americans. Despite the attacks, we all must keep pushing to create a workforce that reflects America.

For generations, Black Americans haven’t always been fully included in our democracy or our economy, but by pure courage and heart, they have never given up pursuing the American Dream. We saw in Jacksonville, Fla., yet another community wounded by an act of gun violence, reportedly fueled by hate-filled animus. We must refuse to live in a country where Black families going to the store or Black students going to school live in fear of being gunned down because of the color of their skin. On this day of remembrance, let us keep showing that racial equity isn’t just an aspiration. Let us reject the cramped view that America is a zero-sum game that holds that for one to succeed, another must fail. Let us remember America is big enough for everyone to do well and reach their God-given potential.

That’s how we redeem the promissory note of our nation.

 Image Credits: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the National Mall on Aug. 28, 1963. (AFP via Getty Images)