Politics

Treasury secretary Janet Yellen addresses racial wealth gap during Al Sharpton MLK event






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The U.S. Treasury has made progress addressing economic inequality affecting Black Americans since President Joe Biden took office a year ago, but it still has a long way to go, according to Treasury secretary Janet Yellen.

Yellen discussed America’s lingering racial wealth gap during Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast event in Washington D.C.

VP Harris And Sec. Yellen Hold Freedman Bank Forum
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Dec. 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

She told those in attendance that the Treasury is working to atone for the economic sins highlighted by King during his iconic 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.

“[King] knew that economic injustice was bound up in the larger injustice he fought against,” Yellen said during the Monday morning meeting. “From Reconstruction, to Jim Crow, to the present day, our economy has never worked fairly for Black Americans — or, really, for any American of color.”

Pointing out ways the federal government under Biden has aided Black America has become even more critical for the president’s administration this year with November’s midterm elections less than 11 months away.

Black voters played a pivotal role in helping Biden win the Democratic nomination and defeating Donald Trump in addition to helping Democrats take control of both chambers of Congress.

President Biden Delivers Remarks On Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
President Joe Biden on Jan. 14, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

But polls show the president’s approval rating among Black Americans has declined in recent months as negotiations over campaign trail promises prioritized by Black voters stalled in the U.S. Senate.

Those promises include passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act as well as dealing with the economic ills that Biden’s Build Back Better agenda was meant to address.

Centrist Democratic senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) have become legislative roadblocks for much of the president’s most progressive policy priorities.

Yellen pointed out on Monday that the Treasury conducted its first racial equity review and appointed the most diverse leadership team in the agency’s history over the past year.

In October, the Treasury made Latina activist and former JP Morgan executive Janis Bowdler the agency’s first-ever counselor for racial equity.

The Treasury also has committed to contributing $9 billion to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) while working to get major companies more involved with both entities and the underserved communities they serve.

“Of course, no one program and no one administration can make good on the hopes and aspirations that Dr. King had for our country,” Yellen said, per Reuters. “There is still much more work Treasury needs to do to narrow the racial wealth divide.”

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