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Why Black Lives Matter wants Hillary Clinton to reinstate Glass-Steagall

Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a primary election night rally at the University of South Carolina volleyball center in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016.
T.J. Kirkpatrick | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a primary election night rally at the University of South Carolina volleyball center in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016.

Hillary Clinton's support from financial institutions has always been her Achilles heel but running counter to this criticism is her pledge to end systemic racism. The two are actually closely related and if she is to make good on her promises on racial justice, she will have to test those close connections to Wall Street by directly pushing for a reinstatement of Glass-Steagall and closing the carried interest tax loophole.

The Movement for Black Lives' policy platform calls for a reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, the 1933 law that separated commercial and investment banking. The law has lately become a core focus of economic progressives.

Groups involved with the Movement for Black Lives see it as a key way to advance economic racial justice. Hillary Clinton has hesitated to publicly talk about the policy – in no small part because Bill Clinton was the one who repealed the law under his administration. The absence of an impermeable boundary between commercial and investing functions both instigated and then accelerated the 2008 financial crisis, forcing millions to lose their homes and jobs.

Communities of color were hit hard and recovered more slowly. Mortgage lenders like Wells Fargo systemically targeted black and brown borrowers for subprime loans, putting many at risk of foreclosure. In the years after the recession, many of these lenders settled multi-billion-dollar discrimination lawsuits years after the damage had been done.

Also, a 2015 American Civil Liberties Union study showed that black families continued to lose wealth years after the recession – even as white families began to climb out. The average black household lost 40 percent of its non-home equity wealth.


"Hillary Clinton has hesitated to publicly talk about Glass Steagall – in no small part because Bill Clinton was the one who repealed the law under his administration."

Home ownership is one of the most stable and reliable ways to acquire wealth in America, and the massive loss of homes among black and brown communities during the 2008 crisis will take decades to recover from. A new Glass-Steagall would help prevent banks from getting bigger and riskier, stopping them from coming back to black and brown neighborhoods and destroying even more wealth.

The carried interest tax loophole is another example. Eliminating this loophole, which lets private equity firms and hedge funds avoid taxes on part of their income, could raise $180 billion. It might sound like a drop in the bucket in the context of a national budget, but when you look closer, it is money that could make a huge difference.

It is also money that could have drastic implications for cities and states around the country that claim they don't have enough funding. The City of Chicago is facing a massive school funding crisis of more than a billion dollars. The hedge fund-cozy Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner routinely go to the school district for more concessions to make up the gap.

In the meantime, billionaire hedge-funders use the carried interest loophole to get out of paying taxes that translates into much needed revenue. The details of closing the loophole should be worked out by economists, but one thing is clear: if we keep a loophole that costs us billions of dollars while closing schools in black and brown neighborhoods, we are making a strong statement about the level of racial injustice we are willing to accept.

If Hillary Clinton wins the election, she will enter office at one of the most racially charged moments in American history. It is also a moment of some of the greatest income inequality in history – a reality even starker for black and brown communities. If we truly want to achieve racial justice, we should look at policies that prevent a repeat of the 2008 crisis. Closing the carried interest loophole and reinstating a modern Glass-Steagall are the tip of the iceberg. It is up to us to push Clinton for more.

Commentary by Maurice Weeks, who leads the housing & Wall Street accountability campaign at Center for Popular Democracy. Follow him on Twitter @mo87mo87.

Correction: An earlier version of this op-ed incorrectly stated that Citadel founder Ken Griffin used the carried interest loophole to lower his tax rate.



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