Putting America First: Supporting America’s Forgotten Communities
by Alveda King and Linda McMahon
As our nation celebrates Black History Month, we recognize the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in America: Black women. From 2014–2019, the number of businesses owned by Black women grew by 50%, and they are continuing this strong growth today. Black women also accounted for 42% of all women who opened a new business in that timeframe, and they own roughly 2.7 million businesses nationwide. More Americans could start to experience similar triumphs if the government stopped making success harder to achieve.
As Black business owners work to grow their businesses, they understand the incredible positive impact that their success has on the success of their community. All they want is a fair shot to pursue their own vision of the American Dream. That desire is squarely in line with the America First Agenda, and we will continue doing all we can to advance policies that improve the economic outlook for all Americans.
Our movement is about creating a level playing field for all Americans to contribute to society as productive citizens. Small business owners are drawn to this America First vision because we offer real solutions to the problems they face, not just empty words and broken promises. Our solutions promise opportunity, freedom, and prosperity to those who want to pursue them, and we know they will work.
Americans should ask themselves what matters most to uplifting our forgotten communities: rhetoric or results? The simple truth is that no matter the stated intention, decades of counterproductive progressive policies have left many of America’s minority communities trapped in vicious cycles of generational poverty.
Unfortunately, the “safety nets” promised by the Great Society’s welfare state did everything but help these struggling communities. Instead of fixing the underlying problems that often led to poverty, the welfare state accelerated them by ignoring the power of entrepreneurship, ownership, legacy wealth creation over government support. Overall, government safety net policies had no meaningful effect on high-unemployment numbers and problems of economic disenfranchisement.
Today, rather than embracing policies that promote economic freedom, they are still pushing failed policies that promote economic dependency.
Fortunately, we do not have to look back very far to see the sort of policies that actually help minority communities. From 2017–2020, America First policies resulted in the lowest unemployment rates for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Americans with disabilities in the history of our country. At the same time, median household incomes rose to their highest level ever, and the poverty rate hit an all-time low.
This America First approach featured common sense economic policies that allowed Americans of all backgrounds to work themselves out of economic ruts. For example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allowed American workers and business owners to keep more of their hard-earned dollars, which they, in turn, could reinvest into their communities.
An additional driver of this explosive economic growth that greatly assisted Black communities was Opportunity Zones, which provided powerful tax incentives to promote investment in nearly 9,000 underserved census districts across the Nation. Initial reports estimate that Opportunity Zones raised more than $75 billion in capital for forgotten communities in the first two years alone, in addition to lifting 1 million Americans out of poverty.
This Black History Month, we recognize the progress we made in years past and how America First policies helped minority communities. As the one blood, one human race, all Americans should remember the adage that the “path to hell is paved with good intentions” and reject the patronizing rhetoric that does not improve lives. We should instead focus on the America First policies that are proven to work.
Dr. Alveda King serves as Chair of the Center for the American Dream at the America First Policy Institute.
Linda McMahon serves as Chair of the Board and Chair of the Center for the American Worker at the America First Policy Institute.