Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered opening remarks today at the 2014 Color of Wealth Summit hosted by the Center for Global Policy Solutions and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development in conjunction with the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Good morning, and I want to thank the Center for Global Policy Solutions and Insight, in conjunction with the CBC, CHC, and CAPAC, for organizing this important discussion about the challenges of access to economic opportunity and the growing wealth gap for Americans of color.
“President Johnson declared an ‘unconditional war on poverty’ fifty years ago, yet in 2014 we still see the scourge of poverty in our cities and in our rural areas alike.
“Too often, the poverty line traces the color line, and the recession that hit in 2008 impacted minority communities much harder than others. But the roots of the wealth gap go back farther than the great recession.
“According to a study last February by the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, which tracked the same set of families over a twenty-five year period, the wealth gap between white and African-American households nearly tripled.
“While the median wealth of white families nationally was $113,149 that year, it was only $5,677 for African-American families and $6,325 for Latino families.
“White Americans own homes at a rate 28.4% higher than African-Americans. While white households lost 12% of their wealth during the recession, Latino households lost a staggering 67%.
“Congress cannot ignore the reality of these disparities. That’s why House Democrats have been pushing for measures that help all Americans, regardless of color, to access the opportunities that open doors to a secure place in the middle class.
“We have been fighting to raise the minimum wage so that more families can make ends meet, stay out of poverty, afford a home, save for college, and prepare for retirement.
“At the same time, we have been working to restore the emergency unemployment insurance that has been cut off for more than 2.5 million Americans.
“And we have been promoting Make It In America legislation to invest in job training, support innovation, and reward entrepreneurship that will help expand hiring, support small businesses, and create jobs.
“When we were in the majority, Democrats passed legislation to make it easier for low-income families to send their children to college by reforming student lending.
“And we enacted the Affordable Care Act to help millions of low-income Americans who were previously unable to afford health insurance gain access to private plans in the marketplaces or to Medicaid.
“We cannot stop working to close the wealth gap and expand opportunities for African-Americans and Latinos, and I will continue to work with Rep. Cummings and with other House Democrats in pursuit of that goal.
“Across the Capitol, Senate Democrats have been working to advance these same goals, and I am pleased now to introduce someone who has been a leader in that chamber when it comes to promoting opportunity and reducing income inequality.
“I have been privileged to serve alongside Senator Ben Cardin since we were both in the Maryland State legislature. I was president of the State Senate, and he – shortly afterward – was Speaker of the House of Delegates.
“We served together in the House of Representatives for many years, and he has worked hard throughout his time in government to ensure that the American dream works for everyone in our country.
“Please join me in welcoming my friend, Senator Ben Cardin.”