Last week in Baltimore, a hoodlum took a sledge hammer to a statue of Christopher Columbus. Recently, protestors in Durham, North Carolina, cheered the toppling of a statute of a Confederate soldier while another Confederate statue was vandalized in Leesburg, Virginia.
These actions were illegal destruction of property and rightly deserve criminal prosecution. However, the questions that need to be asked are what did this really accomplish? Will defacing or destroying these pieces of concrete and metal cut an unemployment rate for blacks that is 93 percent higher than for whites or close the $133,000 gap in median net worth between white and black households?
Every American has the right to exercise their First Amendment rights to speech. However, the focus on tearing down statues of Confederate soldiers, Founding Fathers, and, even European explorers, is a waste of energy that would be better redirected toward solutions that will actually uplift the black community. A pro-growth, lower-tax agenda will certainly do more for black people economically than taking down every Confederate statute in America.
Nearly one out of four blacks (24 percent) was in poverty in 2015 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s more than the poverty rate for Hispanics (21 percent), Asians (11 percent), and whites (9 percent). While that rate is down from 30 percent in the mid-1970s, there’s nothing to celebrate about the government counting over 10 million black Americans — equal to the populations of New York City and San Antonio combined — as living below the poverty level.
With the recovery of house prices and the astronomical rise in the stock market, the wealth of American households is on an upward trajectory again — except for blacks. An untold story is how generational poverty is not being erased because too many black families aren’t able to participate in these savings systems that ultimately create wealth.
In fact, American families generate the bulk of their wealth from property, yet blacks lag other racial groups with the lowest rate of home ownership rates.
Owning a home is more than just the cornerstone of the American dream. For low-income and minority communities, as with other demographics, home ownership contributes positively to the accumulation of wealth. Whether from the appreciation of home values, tax deductions of mortgage interest paid, the accumulation of savings, or savings from rental costs, studies indicate that each year of home ownership is associated with nearly $5,000 – $14,000 in additional wealth.
How do we motivate the black community to invest in something that will boost their wealth trajectory? Let’s start by putting more money in their pockets on a weekly basis and during tax season, and make it easier for businesses to create jobs so that people can earn more.
This week, President Donald Trump plans to promote a tax reform plan that would simplify the tax code, reduce the number of tax brackets, and cut taxes for individuals and businesses. That’s good news for workers and families struggling today.
Small business owners are increasingly optimistic with the prospect of tax cuts as they should be. Small business owners feel the bite of paying employer and employee payroll taxes and that’s especially true for black-owned businesses, which are less likely to be employers than non-minority firms.
Black-owned businesses also tend to self-fund with 57 percent of minority founders using personal savings or family to fund their startups. That makes cutting personal income taxes all the more important.
Slashing the current seven income brackets to three with 10 percent, 25 percent, and 35 percent rates would provide needed relief for a demographic with a median income of $36,898. If the lowest tax rate is cut from 15 percent to 10 percent, black households, which fall more heavily into those lower income levels, will benefit.
I’m not naive. Lower taxes won’t boost wealth in the black community overnight. However, Black Americans, like all Americans, can use their increased income to save towards down payments for a house, fund businesses and side hustles, pay down debt, and invest in better educational opportunities. These are the strong opportunities that will pay off in dollars for decades to come.
As Charles Barkley noted this week, “I think if you ask most black people, to be honest, they ain’t thought a day in their life about those stupid statues… What we as black people need to do is we need to worry about our education… We need to try to find a way to have more economic opportunity…" So, instead of rallying to pull down statues, the black community should be uniting with all Americans to prod their representatives into making tax reform a priority in September.