Next week, Joe Biden will announce his vice-presidential running mate.
The former U.S. senator and vice-president is under pressure to select a black woman.
The focus on his running mate distracts from the more critical question: What would Biden do as president to increase opportunity for black women, all women, and all Americans?
Unfortunately, the policies he is touting will fail to spur the economic growth and reduce barriers to work that hinder workers and entrepreneurs.
In fact, if anything, they will work to our detriment.
Biden unveiled his Agenda for Women this week noting, “The hard truth is women — and particularly women of color — have never had a fair shot to get ahead in this country.”
Biden’s patronizing tone is insulting to women of all colors.
He ignores the long-fought struggle for equality and the progress women have made.
Today, we enjoy all of the rights, freedoms, and blessings that men do.
And, he could not be more wrong. Pre-COVID-19, women and minorities experienced one of the best economies. The Black unemployment rate fell to its lowest recorded rate last fall and the women’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in over 65 years.
According to American Express’s 2019 State of Women-Owned Business report, there are 13 million women-owned businesses in our nation and of them, 2.7 million are black-owned. Women’s entrepreneurship skyrocketed from just 4 percent in 1970 to 42% in 2019 and a significant amount of this growth occurred in the past five years.
Businesses owned by black women accounted for the highest rate of growth in businesses of all groups over the past five years.
Black women earn money on the side at three times the rate of other groups.
Black women are not the helpless, hopeless victims that Joe Biden has set us up to be.
COVID-19 dealt a heavy blow to employment and entrepreneurship; it threatens to erode workforce gains for the near future at least.
What we need are bipartisan reforms that expand the availability of work opportunities, especially flexible work, so that women can juggle employment with caregiving duties for their children and parents.
Instead, Biden trotted out tired leftist policies that only would set women back.
Not surprisingly, he pointed to the gender pay gap — which he claims is higher for Black women — as evidence of systemic discrimination.
Yet, nearly every cent of the pay gap is explained by the choices men and women make in the workplace, including how many hours to work, time out of the workforce, education level, occupation, industry, seniority, experience, and even dangerousness of the job.
Occupation and industry have a significant impact on Black women’s average wages.
As a group, black women are overrepresented in service jobs that are the lowest-paid occupations. Among Black students, human services, community organizing, and social work are popular majors, but they lead to lower-paying jobs after college.
Biden proposes outlawing pay discrimination, but pay discrimination has been illegal for five decades.
Past legislative efforts failed to close the pay gap and so would laws such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, which he wants to be enacted.
This law would spur litigation, but eliminate flexible employment opportunities for women.
In contrast, two policies that would spur entrepreneurship and reduce the hurdles that Black women face to work, especially during the pandemic, are occupational licensing reform and halting the assault on freelance work.
Occupational licenses force individuals, who want to work in jobs as varied as manicurists and social workers, to obtain state-specified levels of education and training and pay fees. Often, the requirements are arbitrary and unrelated to any actual health or safety concerns. They simply serve to keep out new competition.
States should scale back or eliminate their occupational licenses and allow workers to operate. COVID-19 forced some states like New York and New Jersey to reform healthcare-related licenses to meet the demand for workers. Reform efforts cannot stop there if we want to aid the economic recovery.
Former President Barack Obama supported occupational licensing reform because it would help low-income workers, those with criminal records, and immigrants gain employment or start their own enterprises. It’s surprising that Biden left his former boss’s reform out of his agenda even though he rehashed so many others.
Most worrisome, Joe Biden promises to implement the pro-union PRO Act.
Based on California’s disastrous AB 5, this bill would reclassify millions of freelance workers as employees, among other unhelpful actions.
Over 57 million Americans (10 percent of which are Black) are freelancers choosing “gig” work over being an employee. For reasons such as personal health or caregiving, half of freelancers say they cannot work in a traditional job and prefer to be independent.
The flexibility of freelance work not only helps workers balance priorities but allows many of them to work from anywhere — an advantage when the government forces Americans to shelter in place.
If we want to encourage entrepreneurship or get Black women back to work during this pandemic, we need a government that shrinks its control over the labor market. Joe Biden’s agenda won’t give (Black) women the “fair shot” he claims they never had, but he might erase any shot they have.