Black Lives Matter. And equal economic opportunity for Black Americans is one critical solution.
Racism in American economic development takes multiple forms. Spatially, it mirrors private-sector redlining and then gentrification, denying communities of color equal access to development dollars, favoring affluent white communities, and then favoring white investors and gentrifiers again when central cities are “rediscovered” (the latest example being federal Opportunity Zones). Racism is also evident in the profound bias against small, local and entrepreneurial businesses that get shortchanged in the distribution of development incentives. Many of the private, for-profit prisons in the prison-industrial complex have received “economic development” subsidies.
Communities like Ferguson, Missouri have made racist, revenue-driven policing practices a way to offset tax base stress they suffer because of excessive tax abatements and tax diversions in tax increment financing. And in a truly outrageous development in municipal finance, taxpayers in some cities are taking on debt burdens for “police brutality bonds,” to pay for the enormous costs of legal judgments and settlements for police violence and misconduct.
Economic development programs and procurement policies can be anti-racist when they require community benefits such as local hiring and favor the hiring of people of color and of dislocated workers and returning citizens and veterans; when they require jobs be accessible by public transportation; and when they favor workers’ freedom to choose union membership.
We must now de-fund the Tax Break-Industrial Complex and reinvest in anti-racist job policies. Let’s start with companies that have honed the extraction of public subsidies, turning tax breaks into private profit centers. To companies such as Amazon.com, Inc., Wells Fargo, Facebook, JPMorgan Chase, Walmart, Google and Bank of America that claim concern over recent events, we say: disgorge the billions of dollars in tax breaks you have taken and let those monies be spent on restorative justice and other structural changes.