September 02, 2020

The Future of Wealth, Panel Two of Securing the American Dream for Working Families

Today, U.S. Rep Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) convened the second panel of Securing the American Dream for Working Families, a three-day conference in partnership with Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Deb Haaland (D-NM). The Future of Wealth, hosted by Rep. Haaland, featured Mayor Ras Baraka, Newark, NJ; Vanessa Roanhorse, CEO Vanessa Roanhorse Consulting; Anna Aurilio, Federal Campaign Director, the Economic Security Project.

Topics covered included universal basic income, the racial wealth gap, Wall Street reform, and fairer tax policies. Aurilio spoke in detail about how the pandemic has exacerbated current issues that communities were already struggling with pre COVID, and went on to state how UBI legislation can help secure basic necessities for citizens.  “The bottom line is, if people don’t have enough money, the solution is to get them money. A guaranteed income is a monthly cash payment given directly to individuals. Its unconditional, no strings attached, and no work requirements. A guaranteed basic income says no matter who you are, you have worth and you deserve life’s basic necessities,” she said.

Aurilio also reflected on the financial burden of being poor, and how that puts citizens at a disadvantage to elevate their lives.  “It is very expensive to be poor. When you don’t have a cushion, when you don’t have savings and you have an unexpected medical expense, or your car breaks down and you need it to get to work, all of a sudden you are dependent on payday lenders who are going to charge you hundreds of percent’s of interests,  and they know that. And so the farther behind you get, the farther behind your going to fall,” she said.

Roanhoarse spoke about rethinking our current concept of wealth creation and reworking our systems to benefit the average American. “Thinking about the history of how wealth has been created in this country, we have to recognize that the market we built this concept of wealth creation on actually hasn’t represented the regular American in a very long time. Rather we need to start to separate this concept of market drivers and really think about what is prosperity for all,” said Roanhoarse. “And I think having universal basic income, guaranteed income, is a perfect example of what it means for us to be doubling down on people where they are and who they are. Its an opportunity for folks to get in front of, for the first time, maybe even putting in a small savings.”

Haaland vocalized the importance of voting proper representation in office, and the effects that lack of representation had on various minority communities. “Coronavirus has shed an incredible light on so many of the disparities that our country is facing right now. We see that in the data. In some of the data we see that African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, have the highest rate of COVID. Why? Because they live in the most polluted areas. They do not have access to health care. They don’t have the things that a lot of other communities have. We need true representation in this country.” 

September 3rd will mark the final day of the three day conference addressing the future of work, the future of wealth, and the future of housing with academic experts and advocacy leaders, identifying solutions that will help more families make ends meet without the fear that a crisis ­– whether that be­ a sudden illness, a job loss, or an international pandemic – will wipe out their forward progress. Tomorrow’s panel, The Future of Housing, will be hosted by Rep. Ilhan Omar and feature Nelima Sitati Munene, Executive Director of Acer INC; Thomas Silverstein, Counsel, Fair Housing and Community Development Project; and Tara Raguveer, Homes Guarantee Campaign Director.