Let me begin by wishing the president and the First Lady a full and speedy recovery from the COVID-19 illness they are now dealing with. And I, of course, wish the same for my colleagues in the Congress who have also been infected with the virus, as well as the many, many other Americans who are struggling with this terrible disease.
What the last few days have told us is that, if there was ever any doubt, it should now be clear now that no one, no one, is safe from this pandemic. It doesn't matter if you are a front line worker in a hospital - and we thank our medical personnel for the extraordinary sacrifices they have made for us during this pandemic. It doesn't matter if you are an essential worker at a supermarket, a packing house worker, or a bus driver. And it doesn't matter if you are president of the United States. Each and every one of us is vulnerable. And we will remain vulnerable until there is a vaccine or a perfected cure. That's the reality, and there is no getting away from that.
There are some who say that we have to make a choice between having a strong economy and protecting the American people from this terrible disease. I disagree. The truth is that we will never have a strong economy so long as this pandemic continues to surge — as it is today. We will never have a strong economy if people are afraid to go to work, afraid to go to school, afraid to shop, afraid to go to a restaurant or afraid to do all of the things that we have always done. We will never have a strong economy unless we get this pandemic under control.
Is the solution to this crisis to shut down the economy and lock everyone in their homes? No it is not. We can keep our country moving forward if we do so in a way that is disciplined, not dangerous — that is responsible, not reckless.
And now I want you to ask yourselves some very simple questions. Which candidate for president has shown that he will be disciplined, that he will be responsible, in dealing with this pandemic? Which candidate for president has made it clear that he will develop policies based on the advice of the best scientists in our country and the world? Which candidate for president will develop national protocols and guidelines, and model the behaviors we all need to engage in to keep our families and our neighbors safe? Which candidate has the temperament to see us through this difficult crisis? Let me repeat. Which candidate has the temperament to see us through this difficult crisis? I don't think there is any doubt that the answer to those questions is, that in the worst public health crisis in 100 years, we need Joe Biden as our president.
And now let me say a word about the economy.
Let’s be clear: The working class of America is in more desperation today than at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Tens of millions of our fellow citizens have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. They have lost their incomes. They have lost their health insurance. They have depleted their life savings. They cannot afford to pay rent or mortgages. They cannot afford to put food on the table. And they are going deeper and deeper into debt.
Today, the percentage of Americans who don’t have jobs is at its highest level in 45 years — while tens of millions of Americans who do have jobs are often working part-time for starvation wages.
And as bad as the economy has been in general it has been far, far worse for African Americans and Latinos. During the pandemic, nearly 60% of Latino families and 55% of African American families have either experienced a job loss or a pay cut.
Meanwhile, not everyone is hurting in America. While the middle class is being devastated and poverty is growing, we are witnessing a massive increase in income and wealth inequality. Over the past 6 months, and I want you to hear this, 643 billionaires have seen their wealth go up by $845 billion.
Let me repeat. While 30 million Americans have lost their jobs, while 12 million Americans have lost their health insurance, while 29 million Americans do not have enough food to eat, while 40 million Americans face eviction, 643 billionaires increased their wealth by $845 billion over the past 6 months alone.
That is the state of the economy in America today. The very rich get much, much richer, while nearly everyone else gets poorer and poorer.
And let’s be clear: Despite what you may have heard, over the past 4 years the economy has not been good for the working class — not before the pandemic, not during the pandemic.
No. It was not a good economy when over half of the American people were living paycheck to paycheck, as was the case before the pandemic, with no ability to put a nickel in the bank.
It was not a good economy when 87 million people were uninsured or underinsured and 68,000 Americans were dying each year because they could not afford to go to a doctor.
It was not a good economy when over 40 million workers in America were earning starvation wages of less than $15 an hour.
It was not a good economy when half of older Americans had no retirement savings and no idea how they would be able to retire with any shred of dignity.
It was not a good economy when over half a million Americans were homeless and 18 million families were spending more than half of their incomes on housing.
Yes, it was a great economy for the billionaire class, and it has become even better for them during this horrific pandemic, but it has been an absolute disaster for working families.
But, truth be told, the economy has not been good for the working class for decades.
Over the past 45 years, there has been a massive redistribution of wealth in America, but it has gone in the wrong direction — from the working class and the poor to the very richest people in our country.
Since 1990, while the top 1% saw their wealth go up by $22 trillion, the bottom 50% of Americans saw their wealth go down by $776 billion.
Incredibly, if income inequality had remained the same as it was in 1975, the average worker in America would be making $42,000 more today.
Instead, the average worker in America is now making $34 bucks a week less than he or she made 47 years ago — after adjusting for inflation.
Brothers and sisters: What I understand and what you understand is that the American people are getting more and more disgusted with the corporate greed they experience every single day.
They are sick and tired of large, profitable corporations shutting down in the United States, throwing American workers out on the streets as they move their factories to low-wage countries.
They are sick and tired of corporate CEOs who now make 300 times more than their average employees, while they give themselves huge bonuses and cut back on the health care benefits of their employees.
They are sick and tired of paying, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs while the largest drug companies in America make tens of billions in profits year after year after year.
In my view, we can no longer tolerate a rigged system that allows the three wealthiest people in our country to own more wealth than the bottom 50%.
We can no longer tolerate a rigged tax code that allows billionaires to pay a lower tax rate than nurses, teachers and truck drivers while we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on earth.
We need to create an economy and a government that works for all of us, not just the top 1%.
Joe Biden will improve the economy
Now, it is no great secret that Joe Biden and I disagree on a number of issues.
But there is no question that the economic proposals that Joe Biden is supporting are strong and will go a long, long way in improving life for working families.
Let me tell you about just some of those proposals.
Minimum Wage – When Joe Biden is president he will increase the federal minimum wage from a starvation wage of $7.25 an hour to a living wage of $15 an hour. What Joe understands is that if you work 40 hours a week you should not be living in poverty. A job in America should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it. And let’s be clear: When we increase that minimum wage to $15 an hour we will be raising the wages of more than 40 million workers.
And Joe Biden also understands that we have to guarantee that every woman in America gets equal pay for equal work. Women in America don’t deserve to be making just 80 cents on the dollar compared to men. They deserve the whole damn dollar.
Joe Biden also knows that if we are going to expand the middle class in this country, we must make it easier for workers to join unions, engage in collective bargaining and end the heavy-handed corporate tactics that make it hard for workers to unionize in America.
And Joe Biden also understands that we have got to stop providing corporate welfare to companies that are throwing American workers out on the street and moving abroad.
It is absolutely unacceptable that more than 300,000 American jobs have been shipped overseas over the past 4 years, while some of the biggest corporate outsourcers in America have received over $400 billion in government contracts. When Joe Biden is president he will sign an executive order to prevent companies that ship American jobs abroad from receiving corporate welfare.
Infrastructure – Here's something else that Joe Biden understands. And that is that, in the midst of the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes, we need to create millions of good paying jobs through a massive investment in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure — our roads, bridges, sidewalks, schools, water systems and affordable housing.
Paid Family and Medical Leave – I'll tell you what else Joe understands. Like most of us, he is embarrassed that the United States is the only major nation on earth not to guarantee paid medical and family leave. When a woman in this country gives birth, she should not be forced to go back to work after one or two weeks. When a kid gets sick, mom or dad should be able to stay home and not lose a day's pay. That’s why Joe has proposed at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for working families.
Childcare – When we talk about babies and young children, we all know that our current childcare system is totally inadequate. Our children and their parents deserve high quality, reliable and affordable childcare. That’s why Joe has proposed universal pre-K education for every 3 and 4 year old in the country.
Colleges – When we talk about making sure that we have the best educated workforce in the world, Joe understands that we have got to make public colleges, universities and trade schools tuition free for working families and substantially reduce student debt in America.
Tax Reform – At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, Joe Biden understands that we must demand that the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in America pay their fair share of taxes. No more tax breaks for billionaires while veterans sleep out on the street and children go hungry. No more tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas or shift their profits to the Cayman Islands.
Prescription Drugs – As some of you may recall, last year I traveled to Canada with a group of diabetics to buy insulin, a life and death drug for more than 30 million Americans. And here's what we found. You can buy insulin in Canada, a few miles from our border, for one-tenth the price that it is sold here. No. You didn't mishear me. The same product, made by the same company, is sold for one-tenth the price that it's sold here. But it's not just Canada and it’s not just insulin. While the drug companies, through their collusion, price fixing and greed, make obscene profits, we pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Joe Biden understands that we must take on the pharmaceutical industry and significantly lower drug prices in this country.
Health Care – As many of you know the United States is the only major country not to guarantee health care for all people. Meanwhile, despite paying almost twice as much per capita for health care as the people of other countries, over 90 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured and over half a million Americans go bankrupt because they cannot afford to pay their medical bills.
While Joe and I disagree on the best path to get to universal coverage, his proposal will greatly expand access to health care and make it more affordable for tens of millions across this country. He will lower the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 60. He will expand Medicare to cover dental care, eyeglasses and hearing aids. And he will substantially increase funding for community health centers to make sure that millions of Americans get the primary health care and mental health care that they desperately need.
In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, we need an economy that works for all of us and not just the 1% and large corporations.
There is no excuse for millions of workers in our country being unemployed, and for tens of millions lacking health insurance. There is no excuse for America having the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on earth, for starvation wages, for a dysfunctional child care system, for homelessness and for massive student debt.
Let us stand together — Black and white, Latino, Asian American, Native American, gay and straight and elect Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.
Thank you all very much.
North Star caucus members
antiracismdsa (blog of Duane Campbell)
Hatuey's Ashes (blog of José G. Pérez)
Authory and Substack of Max Sawicky
Online University of the Left
In These Times
The American Prospect
Black Agenda Report
Dollars and Sense
Working Families Party
Poor People's Campaign
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
Progressive Democrats of America
Democracy for America
Black Lives Matter
Movement for Black Lives
The Women's March
Jewish Voice for Peace
National Abortion Rights Action League
National Organization for Women
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights