A lot of media outlets are speculating on what President Trump will likely talk about in his State of the Union address tonight as he lays out his agenda for the coming year.
Here are some of the things that President Trump should be emphasizing in his remarks, given the ongoing challenges our country faces in creating good, quality jobs for everyone, building inclusive and thriving communities everywhere, and ensuring that everyone — no matter where they live or who they are — can secure a better future for themselves and their family.
There may be a long way for our country to go to achieve these goals, but we know what works — and what doesn’t — to build a more perfect union.
Invest in our communities and our people. We already have the tools to build an economic recovery that is inclusive and addresses inequalities in North Carolina, leading to a stronger economy for the whole state and a higher quality of life for us all. Our leaders need to prioritize investing in our communities and our people, rather than giving handouts to the wealthy and profitable corporations. That means committing to ensure that every person can put food on the table and a roof over their head. That every child can have the early childhood experiences that get them ready for Kindergarten and educational experiences that lay the foundation and enthusiasm for lifelong learning. That every community has the infrastructure and tools to create opportunities.
Create good jobs that pay a living wage for all Americans. This should be a top priority for any president, but it is especially important when job growth is stalling and income gaps continue to grow. The latest numbers show that job growth fell in North Carolina and the United States last year, and we’re still not even back to where we were before the Great Recession. In fact, this is the slowest recovery in a generation. It gets even worse when you realize that most of the positive job growth in North Carolina was concentrated in the metro areas – many of our rural counties experienced a loss of jobs last year. Not to mention that the unemployment rate for Black workers is still 2.3 times higher than that for white workers in North Carolina. We need to do more to address the structural barriers to employment for workers of color, such as geographic distance to jobs, discrimination in hiring, and the lack of affordable job training in growing industries.
It’s been 10 years since the Great Recession, and the barriers to prosperity remain for many of North Carolinians. We’ve seen that much of the income growth was concentrated at the top in North Carolina last year – while the bottom 30 percent of North Carolinians have actually seen their wages fall on average. We also continue to see a wage disparity for women, especially women of color. While women overall receive 86 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make, Black women make only 64 cents and Latina women receive only 48 cents on the dollar.
Build inclusive, thriving communities. Where someone is born shouldn’t determine what is possible in their lifetimes. Yet, for too many Americans, economic mobility is limited by existing barriers. Rather than build more barriers (and walls), it is time for American leadership to recognize the ways that our past has created many barriers for people of color and recognize that the path forward is not to erect more, but to tear down the ones that persist.