Opportunity and Justice for Every Community
Imagine a future where every community — from inner cities to rural areas — is a place with real economic opportunity. Where our economy is dynamic and growing because no one — and no place — is left behind.
We can live in a country where kids growing up in rural areas don’t have to move to find good work and raise a family; where small businesses can get the resources they need, and can compete and grow without being trampled by giant corporations; and where every community — not just a few cities on the coasts — is empowered and thriving.
But today, place is a fierce determinant of life outcomes. We see it in the data: A kid growing up in a poor family in San Jose is almost three times more likely than a kid in Charlotte to rise up to the top 20% of households as an adult. And a boy who grows up in a poor family in Baltimore City will take in nearly 28 percent less income over the course of his career, relative to the national mean. Cory also sees it in the stories he hears across the country: stories of hollowed-out Main Streets, few job opportunities, and communities struggling to keep their young people and provide opportunities for them as they start families. Forget about work ethic or innate potential; for millions of Americans caught in the throes of rising regional inequality, it is the ZIP code in which they are born that shapes their future.
For Cory, building an economy that leaves no one behind isn’t an academic exercise; it is his life’s work. As mayor of Newark, Cory ushered in the city’s biggest economic boom in decades. Thousands of new affordable housing units; a new hotel opened in the city’s downtown for the first time in 40 years; and for the first time in 20 years the city built new office towers and major supermarkets. By the 2010 Census, Newark’s population had grown instead of shrunk for the first time in 60 years. Cory pioneered innovative education solutions, a city parks and public space expansion, workforce and training programs, and reentry initiatives for residents returning from prison.
Here’s Cory’s plan to bring economic opportunity and a better life to every corner of the country.
An economy that leaves no place and no one behind
While a few large cities — primarily on the coasts — are seeing remarkable growth and creating unprecedented wealth and opportunity for many of their residents, huge swaths of the country are standing still or falling behind. If you take away new business growth in just five counties — Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Queens, Harris (Houston), and Miami-Dade — we had fewer business establishments in 2016 than we did in 2007. Since the 2008 financial crisis, cities with more than 1 million residents have seen employment rise by 14 percent, accounting for 73 percent of all new jobs created in America, whereas cities with fewer than 250,000 people and rural areas have barely seen any net job growth. For people living in - or moving to - these mega-cities, these trends have meant better economic opportunity, but that prosperity has also resulted in insufficient housing and much higher costs of living. For smaller cities, Black and Brown communities, and rural areas, the loss of local opportunity has created a vicious cycle, where workers try to relocate in search of better opportunity, and businesses are reluctant to set up shop when both the local pool of labor and potential demand are shrinking.
- “City 2030 Project.” Cory would launch the most far-reaching commitment to regional hubs of economic and cultural dynamism — empowering small- and medium-sized cities to spearhead our nation’s broader economic growth by 2030 and beyond. The City 2030 Project would initiate a national competition to designate at least 50 small- and medium-sized cities for major investment. In doing so, we can ensure that vibrant regional economic hubs bring jobs and opportunity to local residents and surrounding communities. Leveraging resources from across multiple federal agencies, investment in designated communities would be tailored to the assets and opportunities of each place — whether it is doubling down on a dynamic local food economy, investing in tech and R&D, or building on cultural inheritances like music or art; what works in Cedar Rapids may not work in Reno. By 2030, we will have a growing network of world-class cities — tightly connected to the rest of the country physically (by air, rail and other forms of public transportation), digitally (by high-speed broadband), and economically (access to capital and technical assistance for small business formation and other economic development). Just as importantly, through targeted investment and technical assistance, the City 2030 Project would lift quality of life for people in the entire region through an increasing array of amenities, including better education, health care, arts, and culture.
- Targeting federal resources to the communities that need them most. Every year, the federal government sends billions of dollars in loans and grants to communities and local organizations to support essential priorities, from economic development to access to health care to entrepreneurship. But often, the communities that need help the most — persistent poverty counties, Black and Brown communities, and rural communities — aren’t competing on a level playing field with big cities and more affluent communities. Cory would sign into law his bill with Rep. Jim Clyburn that builds on the “10-20-30” framework and ensures that a major share of federal dollars go to communities in deep and persistent poverty.
- Building local capacity. Many low-income and rural communities struggle to compete for outside attention and investment, limiting their ability to realize their vision for economic growth. While affluent towns and cities are often boosted by active local partner organizations, engaged philanthropy, and professional grant writers, such assets are often non-existent elsewhere; in many rural places, for example, it is the part-time mayor tasked with filling out grant applications on her dining room table after work. While federal funding is important, so too is local capacity. Cory would invest in evidence-based interventions to empower communities to shape their own future, including through local planning grants, technical assistance to engage with philanthropy and other partners, and improvements to data systems to enhance implementation and track impact.
- Reimagining rural transit. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year massively subsidizing rural transit providers across the country — and still, public transportation is either non-existent or inadequate in rural areas, typically operating in a fixed loop far from where people live or requiring days of advance notice to schedule a ride. We can and must do better. Technology advances offer an opportunity to pilot new models of rural transit that provide better service at the same or lower cost — potentially transforming quality of life in rural America. As part of an unprecedented $2 trillion investment in infrastructure, with major investment in freight and passenger rail, Cory would test and scale new models of community-run ride-sharing to create a more dynamic and accessible rural transit system.
- Making high-speed broadband a reality for every community. In this, the year 2019, we simply cannot expect individuals, families, and entrepreneurs to thrive without one of the most basic needs in our economy today. Today, 30 percent of rural Americans still lack access to broadband. Again, disparities persist along racial lines; nearly 75 percent of majority-white rural counties have broadband, compared to just 56 percent in majority-Black rural counties. Broadband penetration is limited in some urban areas as well; 15.3 million non-rural U.S. households lack a broadband subscription, including more than 50,000 in Baltimore alone. Cory would close the digital divide once and for all by making unprecedented federal investment for broadband in rural areas and Indian Country, automatically enrolling low-income families into the FCC Lifeline program, investing in rural cooperatives, and passing his Community Broadband Act to push back on efforts by internet service providers to restrict or prohibit municipal and cooperatively-owned broadband that could lower cost and improve access.
- Ensuring low-income people can afford to live in their own communities. Nowadays, families can’t even afford to live in the communities where they work — pushed out by soaring rents and high costs of living. Making every community a vibrant community starts with making housing affordable. Cory’s housing plan would cap rental costs at 30 percent of household income, up to neighborhood fair market rate, to ensure families can stay in their communities. And he would get to work building more affordable housing units, including by requiring localities to eliminate restrictive zoning rules in order to qualify for billions of dollars of federal funding, and by fully funding the Housing Trust Fund with $40 billion each year to build, rehabilitate, and operate rental housing for low-income individuals. Finally, Cory would fight for manufactured and mobile homeowners, which make up 16 percent of owned units in rural areas, including by boosting protections for homeowners and incentivizing landlords to sell the underlying land to mobile park residents.
- Advance environmental justice. Cory sees environmental injustice firsthand in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey, where high levels of lead were recently found in the water; where air pollution causes child asthma rates multiple times higher than in nearby towns; and where the soil is unsafe in parts of the city because of contamination from industrial pollution. And Newark isn’t alone. Americans across the country, especially those from low-income communities, communities of color, and indigenous communities, have been left to bear the costs of decades of corporate pollution. As part of his comprehensive climate plan, Cory will send legislation to Congress creating the United States Environmental Justice Fund, charged with coordinating the most ambitious-ever federal effort to advance environmental justice and invest in communities long left behind, including the replacement of all residential, school, and daycare lead drinking water service lines in the country.
Reversing decades of wealth extraction and exploitation in Black and Brown communities. For much of the 20th century, federal and state policies not only failed to create opportunity and resources for individuals and communities trying to escape poverty, but affirmatively exploited and extracted wealth from them. The efforts were widespread: from federal “urban renewal” efforts of the 1960s and 1970s that built interstate highways directly through Black and Brown neighborhoods; to the devastating crime bills of the 1980s and 1990s, which helped drive mass incarceration and stripped away the potential of millions of impacted Black men, their families, and their communities; to the practice of “redlining,” which kept families from predominantly Black neighborhoods from accessing capital and gaining wealth. It is time to atone for decades of exploitation of Black and Brown communities with a bold vision that lifts everyone up.
- Investing in historically-marginalized communities. Cory would create the Community Justice Fund, a historic new effort singularly focused on restoring wealth in historically marginalized communities. Just as federal policy and structural racism has stripped individuals and communities of opportunities to build wealth, the Community Justice Fund would do the reverse — empowering people in communities that were subjected to redlining, highway construction, and other forms of exploitation. Funding would be awarded through states, localities, and community organizations, and could be used for certain purposes like microgrants to entrepreneurs, home down payment assistance, and community planning grants and technical assistance. Along with federal funding, Cory would engage community organizations, philanthropy, and other partners to invest in local capacity and build on legacy assets. Because the War on Drugs has been a war on Black and Brown communities, Cory would repeal and replace the failed 1994 Crime Bill by passing his Next Step Act and the Marijuana Justice Act, which would not only decriminalize marijuana and expunge the records of those who have served their time, but also reinvest in the communities that have been most harmed by the War on Drugs.
- Strengthening the Community Reinvestment Act. For more than 40 years, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) has ensured banks provide access to credit and financial services to low- and moderate-income home buyers, small businesses, and communities. Cory would update the CRA to reflect today’s modern financial system by extending CRA obligations to include more non-bank lending companies, strengthening requirements for CRA compliance, and increasing opportunities for public engagement and input.
Combating corporate concentration that is hollowing out local economies.
Cory’s dad was born poor, in a small, segregated town in the South, to a family who could not care for him — so another family in town stepped in and raised him as their own. That family’s economic security came from the funeral home they owned and operated in town. That funeral home, locally owned, created wealth and opportunity for that small community, including for Cory’s dad.
But running a funeral home isn't what it used to be. Because of consolidation, a handful of massive corporations own thousands of funeral homes and cemeteries — resulting in wealth drained from communities and fewer choices, as funeral homes that used to focus on the traditions of African Americans and faith communities are bought out by far-away corporations that manage them purely for profit.
Protecting local and independent business isn't about nostalgia, it's core to the future of the communities that we call home. But today it's harder and harder to start and maintain an independent business. For example, in the 1980s, independent retailers sold roughly half of the goods Americans bought in stores; today it’s only one-fourth. Take the grocery sector, where big chain retailers have used their market power and predatory practices to steadily drive local grocers out of business, especially in rural communities and predominantly Black neighborhoods in cities. In the food and farming sector, big agricultural producers have squeezed independent farmers, pushing some into poverty and others out of business. And in health care, extreme consolidation and the hollowing out of local, independent businesses has yielded a host of impacts, from higher drug prices to access to hospitals and pharmacies to wages for health care professionals. These trends continue in broadband, community banking, and more.
As president, Cory would take action to combat corporate concentration and put people and local economies first, including by:
- Fixing our failed antitrust system by blocking mergers and stopping conduct that harms local economies. For decades, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission have failed in their duty to preserve competition and economic opportunity for communities, businesses, and workers. Cory will clean up this broken system so that local businesses and worker wages can grow, especially in rural and predominantly minority communities.
- Create real competition by blocking dangerous mergers. Cory would appoint agency leaders who will toughen the rules on mergers and put real limits on when companies can buy their competitors. Building on the Consolidation Prevention and Competition Promotion Act, Cory would direct the antitrust agencies to create new enforcement guidelines that include clear rules creating a presumption against deals that would result in excessive market share and that diminish competition. Cory would also fight to pass his Agriculture Moratorium Act, which would place a moratorium on new mergers in the food and agriculture sector that are hollowing out rural communities across the country.
- Protect the public from so-called vertical mergers. Today, the DOJ and FTC do not have clear criteria for evaluating vertical mergers, thereby allowing large companies to take advantage of their market power to engage in anticompetitive practices. We have seen it in the health care space, where two insurers recently merged with pharmacy benefit managers (CVS-Aetna and Cigna-Express Scripts) — prompting even the FDA commissioner to raise concerns about the effects of consolidation. And in the agriculture industry, small hog farmers — the backbone of many rural communities — have been put out of business by vertical integration in the pork industry. Cory would direct the DOJ and FTC to create new agency guidelines on vertical mergers that, at a minimum, focus on issues like acquisitions by large, dominant firms and consider the effect on the market, like barriers to entry for new competitors and potential price increases for rivals.
- Strengthen penalties for corporations engaging in anti-competitive practices. European antitrust regulators are able to levy fines for monopolistic behavior, which can be an effective deterrent against anti-competitive behavior by the largest corporations. Cory would fight for the Monopolization Deterrence Act, which would give the DOJ and FTC the authority to seek civil penalties for monopolization offenses under the antitrust laws of up to 15 percent of total U.S. revenues or 30 percent of U.S. revenues in the affected markets.
- Reduce concentration where anti-competitive practices are driving wealth and opportunity out of communities. It’s not enough to simply put in place stronger enforcement going forward; we must also reevaluate past mergers and divestitures that are already hurting consumers and communities. Case in point: the 2015 merger between the grocery store Albertsons and Safeway was approved on the condition that over 160 stores be sold off to limit the negative impacts on competition. We now know that that approach failed; since then, other grocers have gone bankrupt and Albertsons/Safeway has been able to repurchase many of those stores. Cory would require and provide funding for sweeping retrospective studies of past mergers by the DOJ and FTC, focusing on those most likely to have had harmful impacts on prices, wages, jobs, and local communities, and take new enforcement actions, including unwinding past mergers.
- Make sure that job losses and wages are part of the equation. There is a growing recognition that concentration has also allowed large companies to use their power to depress wages and restrict worker mobility — a phenomenon known as “labor monopsony.” Think of it this way: If just a few employers are responsible for most of the jobs in a community or region, they have tremendous power to set low wages and limit worker mobility. For example, in the hospital sector increased concentration has allowed a few hospitals to collude to reduce the wages of registered nurses. In the Senate, Cory has pressed the DOJ and FTC to use their authority under the law to protect labor market competition when evaluating mergers and potential enforcement action. As president, he would create a cross-agency Labor Task Force focused on enforcing existing laws against harms to workers from abusive market power. He would also build on the Consolidation Prevention and Competition Promotion Act, which clarifies that a merger could be in violation of federal law if it enables a company to use monopsony power to undercut prices or wages. In addition, Cory would crack down on practices that keep workers from moving freely across the labor market to obtain higher wages and improved working conditions. A 2017 study found that almost one in 4 workers is or has been subject to a non-compete agreement or so-called “no-poach” clause, including in low-wage industries like fast food. Cory’s antitrust regulators would move forward with rulemaking to enforce antitrust laws against these agreements, ending their ability to prevent workers from moving to find better employment in their fields.
- Cracking down on practices that undermine the ability of small businesses and local economies to compete on a level playing field. Changes made to antitrust enforcement in the 1980s gave large corporations much greater leeway to use their size and financial might to seize market power and crush smaller competitors. As a result, dominant corporations likeWalmart andAmazon have been able to drive competitors out of business using tactics that previously would have drawn antitrust scrutiny. One tactic ispredatory pricing, which involves selling goods below cost over a sustained period of time in order to drive out rivals that can’t afford to sustain similar losses. Enforcement against predatory pricing has been dormant in the U.S. for decades, but in 2002, Germany forced Walmart to stop predatory pricing on basic goods, ensuring that local retailers could compete on a level playing field. Cory would direct antitrust regulators to aggressively investigate these anti-competitive practices and strengthen enforcement, so there is a level playing field.
- Empowering states and local governments to crack down on abusive concentration. In recent years, federal regulators have inhibited states from taking action to reduce concentration and block anti-competitive behavior that is harming local independent businesses and consumers. For example, the FTC has weighed in in opposition to several state bills attempting to impose transparency and fair-dealing requirements on pharmacy benefit managers, who are crowding out local independent pharmacies and jeopardizing affordable prescription drug access. And the FTC weighed in against the City of Seattle when they tried to help the city’s rideshare drivers take collective action and negotiate with Uber for better wages and working conditions. Cory’s DOJ and FTC would stand with state and local governments fighting monopolistic and anticompetitive behavior, including by increasing funding and technical assistance to state Attorneys General to help enforce antitrust laws, and revise enforcement priorities to support state and local efforts to rein in anti-competitive practices that are squeezing consumers and independent businesses.
Catalyzing entrepreneurship and business growth. More than a decade after the Great Recession, American small business growth is still uneven. Between 2012 and 2018, just one-third of all counties accounted for 98 percent of new businesses and jobs. And between 2010 and 2014, just five metro areas were responsible for half of the net increase in new businesses across the entire US economy.
Many of the disparities extend along racial lines: while Black-owned companies seek credit at a 10 percentage point higher rate than white-owned companies, their approval rates are 19 percentage points lower. Two in five Black-owned companies and one in five Hispanic- and Asian-owned companies reported not bothering to even apply for debt financing because they thought it so unlikely they would be approved, compared to 14 percent of white entrepreneurs. The Black population is 43 percent of Philadelphia’s population but make up just 2.5 percent of business owners. Those Black-owned funeral home proprietors, like the one that took in Cory’s Dad, are falling by the wayside, too; the trade group representing black funeral home directors has declined by 40 percent over the last 20 years alone. And the same story can be told for Black banks, Black insurance companies, and Black retailers. Once the bedrock of communities and the drivers of economic security, Black-owned small businesses are disappearing.
Cory’s plan will empower Americans to start enterprises that would drive heightened investment, jobs, and growth across their communities.
- Delivering on the promise of Opportunity zones. Opportunity zones, a tax incentive based on Cory’s bipartisan legislation to drive investment into high-poverty communities, has been touted as perhaps the most ambitious economic development tool to come out of Congress in a generation. Already, local leaders across the country are using opportunity zones to advance high-impact projects, from new supermarkets in rural and urban food deserts to a small business incubator for formerly-incarcerated entrepreneurs, to new factories and innovation districts across the country. At the same time, challenges remain. As a result of a rushed, partisan process to pass the tax legislation and poor implementation by the Trump administration, opportunity zones are not realizing its promise, limited by Trump administration implementation issues and concerns that the incentive benefits wealthy investors more than low-income communities and long-time residents. Cory would ensure opportunity zones drive inclusive economic growth, including by:
- Implementing transparency and reporting requirements to hold investors accountable. As part of the partisan process to jam through the Trump tax bill, transparency and reporting measures from the underlying Investing in Opportunity Act were left out of the final bill. Transparency benefits all stakeholders, from communities in opportunity zones to investors looking for impactful projects. We need data to hold investors and program administrators accountable and ensure that investments are benefiting high-poverty communities. Cory would sign into law his bill to restore and strengthen transparency measures, to ensure opportunity zones live up to the original promise to create jobs, boost local businesses, and deliver real impact to long-time residents.
- Investigate opportunity zone designations of higher-income census tracts. As part of the opportunity zones legislation, governors designated thousands of low-income census tracts in their states as opportunity zones. While the vast majority of opportunity zones face significantly higher levels of economic distress across a wide range of criteria, a small share of the selected tracts, nominated by governors, are relatively affluent or have other structural advantages that made them ripe for investment even before the tax incentive was created. To ensure that only truly high-need communities benefit from new opportunity zone investment, Cory would conduct a comprehensive review of the opportunity zone designation of higher-income census tracts and call on governors to re-nominate census tracts so they benefit truly high-need communities.
- Allowing Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) to take advantage so that underserved small businesses can access new capital. CDFIs are focused on identifying, nurturing, and mentoring underserved entrepreneurs and connecting them with capital — ensuring that opportunity zone projects deliver impact to high-need communities and residents. Cory supports legislation to allow for the participation of community-based and mission-driven intermediaries like CDFIs, and would direct his Treasury Department to facilitate CDFI participation.
- Empowering local community members and minority-owned businesses. Opportunity zones have the potential to unlock billions of dollars of private capital to minority-owned businesses and create new jobs and higher wages for long-time residents in communities of color — but it won’t always happen on its own. Cory would codify and fully fund the Minority Business Development Agency and authorize grants to HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions to help local businesses and community organizations participate in Opportunity Fund investment. Grants could be used for a number of purposes, including community planning, technical assistance to entrepreneurs, and convening of investors. To help high-need communities translate private capital into opportunity for local residents, Cory would also target workforce training, affordable housing development, entrepreneurial technical assistance, and other discretionary federal dollars to opportunity zones.
- Spark entrepreneurial ecosystems in every state. Cory would create a 50-State Start-Up Accelerator Program, seeded with $25 million, and focused on supporting the creation and expansion of startup incubators and accelerators based in geographically underserved areas and serving underrepresented founders, including women, people of color, and veterans. Grants would be awarded to entities that can demonstrate the active engagement of community partners, including anchor institutions, community colleges and training providers, and community banks.
- Empower and capitalize more entrepreneurs of color through Baby Bonds. Cory’s American Opportunity Accounts Act, or “Baby Bonds,” creates a new American birthright. The proposal would establish a federally-funded Opportunity Account for every child — seeded with $1,000 at birth and up to $2,000 every year thereafter through age 17. Beginning at age 18, account holders could access the accumulated capital for eligible uses, including higher education, homeownership, and certain entrepreneurial activities — the kinds of investments that create wealth and change life trajectories. For the vast majority of aspiring entrepreneurs, debt is the only source of seed capital. The Small Business Administration’s microloan program, for example, makes loans of up to $50,000 and averaging $13,000 for certain planning and startup costs associated with getting a small business off the ground. Baby Bonds would empower entrepreneurs to take a chance on new ventures without taking on debt.
- Close the capital gap by expanding access to capital in underserved communities. Cory would expand access to debt and venture capital by reauthorizing and expanding the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). Cory’s plan includes a $1.5 billion federal investment, matched dollar-for-dollar by states, to expand access to capital in underserved communities and among women and minority entrepreneurs. Building on evaluations of the Obama-era initiative, the program would unleash up to $30 billion in new small business credit for our economy.
- Supercharge entrepreneurial training for the next generation of American small businesses. Cory would launch the NextGen Entrepreneurs Apprenticeship Program, which would pair classroom-based training with experience embedded in successful startups and companies, empowering underrepresented aspiring entrepreneurs with business operation skills while still being able to draw an income. Additionally, Cory would expand Small Business Development Centers across the U.S, with a focus on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and other institutions across the country to train and counsel the next generation of diverse small business leaders.
- Make it easier for small business owners to focus on growing their business. A 2017 survey found that small businesses spend as much as 240 days each year working on administrative tasks — the equivalent of 17 percent of total working hours. New businesses should be innovating and expanding, not filling out endless new forms. Cory would sign into law the Small Business Owners’ Tax Simplification Act to simplify tax compliance for small business owners, and would direct his administration to take executive action to reduce administrative burden and lower fees, while safeguarding consumer and worker protections.