Opinion Extra

Op-ed: Warren’s problem-solving approach will open opportunity in South Carolina

Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at the Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s “We Decide: 2020 Election Membership Forum†at the USC Alumni Center in Columbia, SC.
Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at the Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s “We Decide: 2020 Election Membership Forum†at the USC Alumni Center in Columbia, SC. jblake@thestate.com

South Carolina is on the rise. U.S. News and World Report ranked the state’s economy 16th in the nation, pointing to a growing GDP, job growth, and an unemployment rate at 4.3%. But the statistics and economic evaluations fail to show the significant opportunity gaps between South Carolina’s communities.

African Americans make up less than a third of South Carolina’s population, but they make up more than 40% of those in poverty. Even more striking is that African Americans are incarcerated at a rate nearly five times higher than their white counterparts.

We’re proud of the efforts we’ve made with our colleagues in the state legislature to make progress on the issues facing communities of color. However, we believe the only way to open doors of opportunity for all South Carolinians is to make big, structural changes in our economy. That’s why we are supporting U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren for President.

Like many South Carolinians, Elizabeth comes from humble beginnings. She grew up in Oklahoma on the ragged edge of the middle class. Her dad sold fencing and carpeting, and ended up as a janitor. After dropping out of college, she went back to a commuter college for $50 a semester. Her early experiences led to her studying why the working class is being hollowed out.

As legislators, we’ve focused on combating inequality and fighting to end the educational funding gaps between school districts and providing working parents the support they deserve.

We believe Elizabeth’s plans to establish universal child care, high-quality early childhood education and cancel college debt that is crippling a generation will provide economic relief and greater opportunity for financial stability. Working parents and college graduates will benefit from her plans that will create more capital to start a small business or purchase a first home.

The average annual cost of child care in South Carolina for two children is more than $11,000, which can be a roadblock for parents seeking to purchase a home or pursue a college education. In a Warren administration, child care would be free for families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line, and families earning more would see their costs be capped at no more than 7 percent of their income.

Elizabeth’s plan will also create new high national standards and raise the wages of child care workers to make sure that no matter where you live, your child will have access to quality care and early learning.

Her college debt cancellation proposal is also a game changer. For decades, black Americans were kept out of higher education by the United States government. That legacy remains today as black students are underrepresented in four-year public colleges and overrepresented in predatory for-profit colleges.

Elizabeth’s plan cancels $50,000 in student loan debt for every person with household income under $100,000. Her plan also includes a minimum $50 billion in funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The cost of these ideas will be fully covered with revenue from her Ultra-Millionaire Tax on the wealthiest 75,000 families in the country — a two-cent tax on every dollar in wealth above $50 million.

Elizabeth understands, as we do, that before we can create a government that works for all Americans, we have to acknowledge the current system has been tilted against communities of color. All South Carolinians deserve the access to the American Dream, and we believe Elizabeth has the vision and a unique approach to provide everyone the opportunity to succeed.