By Donald Norcross
COVID-19 continues to rage, our economy is officially in a recession and across the nation people are standing up to injustice and crying out for change. Clearly, America needs new leadership. Our country must have a comprehensive strategy to not only defeat COVID-19, but address the economic crisis and growing racial disparities. Joe
Biden has a plan to do it, which is why he and Kamala Harris are the steady, principled leaders that this moment demands.
Even if the Coronavirus “magically disappears,” the systemic racial, social and economic inequalities that the pandemic has exposed will continue to drag us down until we take action. That’s why Biden, as the Democrats’ presidential nominee, has put forward a “Build Back Better” plan to restart the economy and address directly the defining issues of our times. It starts by unifying Americans in our shared fight against COVID-19, then mobilizes workers in service of four great national challenges: reclaiming our manufacturing base, investing in a clean energy infrastructure, building a caregiving and education workforce, and ensuring racial equity throughout the economy.
The plan is designed to create millions of good-paying jobs, address inequalities and provide American workers with the tools they need to emerge from today’s crises stronger and more resilient. These are big, bold ideas. We can look to Congress to see what they are likely to mean in practice. I’ve been working with my colleagues to lay the groundwork for them so a Biden administration can hit the ground running.
Recently, the House passed the first significant expansion of our Buy American federal procurement law in a generation. I led the effort in our annual defense bill to ramp up domestic content in major national security programs to 100% over five years. This will ensure that taxpayer dollars are used to create skilled, good-pay jobs at local manufacturing plants like the helicopter facility in Delaware County, Pa., and the shipbuilding site in Philadelphia, which will support thousands of small businesses that supply parts to them.
Investing in clean technologies will grow jobs while responding to climate change. The House has put forward a comprehensive infrastructure and climate action plan to repair roads and bridges, rebuild schools and help us transition to a clean-energy economy. The House also just passed two bills I wrote
— one that provides a rebate for manufacturers to switch to energy-efficient electrical power, and another that helps train a wind turbine jobs workforce that will build the offshore turbines that could be manufactured at sites like the newly proposed South Jersey Wind Port.
But, our economy will only work if parents can go to work knowing that their kids are being safely cared for and educated. I was once a single father searching for quality, affordable child care. It was difficult then, and that was long before the pandemic made everything harder. That’s why I worked to pass the Child Care is Essential Act, which would create a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization fund. I also pressed the Trump administration to implement a testing and contact tracing plan for the child-care industry.
We will defeat the coronavirus and our economy will recover, but those gains will be short-lived if they’re not shared by all Americans. Following the murder of George Floyd, thousands marched for change and Congress passed a sweeping justice reform bill. But we must go further and address institutional barriers in education, housing and access to capital so that people of color can build and sustain wealth. In Camden, where I live, the state and county rebuilt the police force into what is now nationally recognized as a model for effective community policing. This set the stage for the improvements in public schools and job growth we see in the city today. Racial justice and economic prosperity go hand in hand, and in the post-COVID world, we will either have both or neither.
All of these initiatives are necessary, but none are possible with the current Republican leadership in the White House and Senate that is blocking progress on the pandemic and everything else. Now we have the opportunity to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, real leaders who will bring us together to defeat the virus and build back better.
U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st Dist., is running for reelection on Nov. 3. He is a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, and vice-chair and labor liaison for the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
This article first appeared in THE STAR LEDGER