Congressional Black Caucus' "Marshall Plan" - The Jobs and Justice Act of 2018

Synopsis of The Jobs and Justice Act of 2018

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Recently, the Congressional Black Caucus announced its “Marshall Plan for Black America”, otherwise known as The Jobs and Justice Act of 2018.  The following is a brief synopsis of its contents, categorized in economic justice terms as proposals to address a) racially asymmetric transaction costs and externalities, b) racially asymmetric market information, c) racially asymmetric market competition, and d) racially asymmetric market rationality.


According to neoclassic economic ideology, the extent which the free market meritocratically distributes goods and services depends on the extent which every person is a fully informed and responsible participant with sufficient financial and human capital to compete in any industry they choose.  But not only is the market imperfect, people of color are disproportionately discouraged from participating in the system, without capital with which to compete, without adequate educational opportunities and subject to false stereotypes, and subject to a disproportionate share of society’s private and publicly produced transaction costs and externalities.  The Jobs and Justice Act addresses issues related to each.


A. Provisions Addressing Racially Asymmetric Transaction Costs and Externalities.


The Jobs and Justice Act addresses racially asymmetric transaction costs and externalities relating to voting rights, environmental racism, health disparities, and criminal justice reform.


Voting being the primary means for imposing and distributing society’s transactions, the CBC Marshall Plan proposes to expand voting rights by a) restricting state and local voter identification laws, b) authorizing universities to register voters, and c) requiring that student id’s be recognized for voter registration purposes.


D) The Plan expands early voting and voting by mail, e) expands opportunities to use absentee ballots, f) promotes same-day registration, automated voter registration, internet voter registration, and registration by 17 year olds in anticipation of turning 18.  G) It promotes home voting for people with disabilities. H) It expands re-enfranchisement of ex-felons while it requires greater notification of re-enfranchisement rights.


The Plan strengthens enforcement by i) expanding federal court jurisdiction and authority to grant preliminary injunctive relief.  J) It increases penalties for voter intimidation, k) mandates an investigation and response from the Attorney General to allegations of voter intimidation or suppression by law enforcement officers or other government officials.  The Act would l) prohibit hindering, interfering with, or preventing voter registration, m) prohibit ‘vote caging’ and ‘deceptive practices’, n) require notice of removal from voter registration lists, o) require minimum notification for polling place changes, p) establish voter intimidation hotline and Election Assistance Commission, q) require a declaratory judgment or preclearance before commencing congressional redistricting (anti-gerrymandering).


R) The Act would make Election Day a government holiday for federal employees, s) increases the number of election observers, t) requires more bilingual notices and processes, and u) requires sufficient polling places and equipment and other resources.


V) It provides greater protection for voter lists, x) provides requirements for manual ballot counting, verification, and for counting provisional ballots, y) insists on nondiscriminatory standards.


Criminal justice represents society’s imposition of costs on transactions and activities deemed harmful.  Towards lessening the asymmetrical application of law enforcement costs on people of color, the Jobs and Justice Act proposes a Taskforce on Law Enforcement Oversight, as well as Federal Law Enforcement Training Center Certification.


More specifically, the CBC proposes to a) repeal the Federal death penalty and prohibit the death penalty in the states, b) reinstate parole for federal offenses, and c) decriminalizes marijuana and calls for those previously convicted to be re-sentenced based on amended law.  D) It makes ex-felons eligible for student loans and grants and work study, e) re-establishes eligibility for federal public assistance for certain offenders (nonviolent low level drug offenders), f) while prohibiting criminal history inquiries prior to conditional offers for federal employment or contracts.  G) It lowers the age for expungement of a conviction for simple possession, and h) promotes early release for medically incapacitated, geriatric, or caregiver parents of minor children who do not pose safety risks.


Concerning police reform, the Act would a) strengthen laws and policies to eliminate racial profiling, and b) make it an affirmative duty to use de-escalation tactics when available.  C) It limits transfers of equipment from the Department of Defense to local law enforcement agencies, d) collects data relating to the use of force, e) authorizes grants for body cameras, studies on their cost and use, and a taskforce on accountability, f) requires ICE agents to wear body cameras, g) addresses the ‘treatment of individuals captured by ICE’, h) mandates reports on the use of SWAT teams.


The Plan authorizes grants i) to hire law enforcement officers from the communities they serve,  j) for community law enforcement partnership programs, k) for developing better accreditation and best practices relating to policing, and l) Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grants.


M) The Plan prohibits money bail in federal criminal cases, n) expands the right to counsel, o) requires prosecutors to disclose information favorable to defendants, and p) establishes a Juvenile Justice Commission.


Q) The CBC propose to eliminate Federal private prisons, r) terminates bed quotas, and s) applies the Freedom of Information Act to contract prisons.  T) It expands privileges for primary caretaker parents in federal prisons, including overnight visit pilot program, u) authorizes a study on solitary confinement, and v) creates the Urban Areas Security Initiative and State Homeland Security grant program.


Environmental racism is the disproportionate incidence of pollution burdening people of color.  The CBC’s Marshall Plan addresses some of these asymmetries by a) appropriating funds for safe drinking water, including the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds program, b) creating a financial assistance program for low-income sewer and water customers, c) developing the Environmental Health Development Program, and d) authorizing grants for environmental justice education.


Gun violence represents environmental racism to the extent the social costs relating to guns are asymmetrically heaped on impoverished communities of color.  The CBC proposes to increase the cost of gun ownership by e) expanding the prohibition on firearms for those under a restraining order, f) prohibiting sale of firearms to a person subject to a court order, g) expanding the definition of ‘intimate partner’ and ‘misdemeanor crime of domestic violence’, h) including stalking as a disqualifying offense, i) authorizes research on mental health, gun violence and how they intersect, j) authorizes research on effects of gun violence on public health, and k) requires a report on the effects of gun violence on mental health in minority communities.


Designed directly towards lowering unreasonable market based transaction costs, the Plan proposes l) to create a federal Office for Under-Banked and Un-Banked Consumers, and m) an Minority Bank Deposit Program.


B. Racially Asymmetric Market Competition


The CBC’s Marshall Plan is designed to increase access for people of color to general and specific markets, including provisions facilitating access to capital, as well as those combating market exclusions of both subtle and obvious types.


The Jobs and Justice Act restores the right to a civil action in disparate impact cases under title VI of the Civil Rights Act.  The Act addresses the wage gap by a) combating minority and gender ‘lowballing’ by prohibiting employers from demanding the disclosure of salary and benefit history from prospective employees.  B) It also establishes a program to increase gender and racial and ethnic diversity in Federal Reserve Bank President, c) a program to expand broadcast ownership opportunities, d) expands an FAA program for disadvantaged small business concerns, e) establishes a cybersecurity training program within the Department of Homeland Security, and e) proposes on the job training and apprenticeships relating to federal infrastructure spending ‘for unemployed African-American young men’.


The Plan seeks to facilitate fairer access to financial capital by f) requiring credit reporting agencies to include certain non-credit obligations, like utility bills, g) increasing federal loans to small businesses, h) establishing or expanding programs to mitigate mortgage foreclosure, and i) providing a discount on mortgage insurance for first time buyers who take financial literacy classes and counseling.  J) Expanding the Public Loan Forgiveness program is designed to increase aggregate financial capital as well as encourage entrance into the charitable marketplace.


To help support small businesses, the Plan j) proposes increasing tax deductions for startup expenses, and k) authorizes funds for organizations that support startup businesses.  It supports programs designed increase market-based human capital, including l) a “Back to Basics” job creation program, m) job skills training for older individuals and youth, plus n) summer jobs for youth, especially those at-risk.


In the long run, housing allows one to develop one’s individual capacity to compete, while homeownership builds financial wherewithal.  The Jobs and Justice Act proposes to o) expand programs to help the homeless, including appropriations for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, p) appropriate funds to public housing agencies, q) increase availability of section 8 vouchers, r) increase testing for housing discrimination, and s) provisions relating tenant blacklisting.


More general provisions include t) tax credits for providing access to the disabled, and u) grants for persistent poverty communities and for “economic growth, retention, and recruitment of commercial investment in economically underserved communities.” V) It expands the “New Markets Tax Credit”, and w) creates a business start-up credit for veterans.


C. Racially Asymmetric Market Information


While the Jobs and Justice Act of 2018 does not include significant provisions designed to combat false information and stereotypes about people of color, it is designed to increase access for people of color to educational opportunities and otherwise reliable and truthful information.


The Plan proposes a) increasing access to Pell Grants, Plus Loans, and Parent Plus Loans.  It proposes b) including a parent’s PLUS loans into income contingent and income-based repayment plans.  


With respect to HBCU’s, it c) authorizes general grants, d) facilitates bond insurance, and e) provides other technical assistance, including f) an HBCU Capital Financing Advisory Board. F) The Plan authorizes grants for institutions specifically serving Hispanic, Asian Americans, Native Pacific Islanders, Alaska natives, native Hawaiians, Native Americans, and Black Americans. G) It authorizes grants for states and Indian Tribe community colleges, and h) for increasing access to computer science education.


The Act would i) require data reporting relating to public schools, j) facilitate infrastructure bonds for public schools, k) offer tax credits for rehabbing public school buildings, and l) support teacher recruiting.  M) It authorizes grants to support science and technology, n) for computer equipment, and o) provides matching funds for state and privately financed science and technology after-school programs. The Plan also proposes p) a Young Americans Financial Literacy Program, q) the American Rising Program, and r) Promise Neighborhood Partnership Grants.


D. Racially Asymmetric Market Rationality (Profit Maximization)


Racially asymmetric market rationality relates to phenomena that inhibits or discourages people of color from engaging with the economic system.  For one example, the Jobs and Justice Act of 2018 a) expands hate crime legislation, and b) strengthens the Clery Act.


To combat its many forms, the CBC’s Marshall Plan includes provisions designed to increase mental and physical health for people of color, as well as encourage greater economic market engagement by ex-felons, youth and others.


First and foremost, the Act proposes a) to raise the minimum wage.  It also b) establishes a program for minority and disadvantaged business participation.  The Act offers tax credits c) for those who employ ex-felons and other targeted groups, and d) for apprenticeship programs.


Designed to increase personal healthy and longevity, the Plan e) increases student supplemental nutrition assistance program, f) proposes to study hospital access, and g) expands community health access, including a diaper distribution project.


The Act also includes h) ‘grants to educate Americans about the principles and practice of NonViolence.


Andre Smith