American Voices: Advancing a People-First Economy
Selected excerpts of listening sessions included in the final report of the Commission on Reimagining Our Economy (CORE)
The Commission on Reimagining Our Economy convened 31 listening sessions between February and September 2022. These small group discussions, which were held in person and virtually, were recorded conversations with people discussing their lives and the ways they would reimagine the American economy.
Many of these conversations were with people whose perspectives are not typically central to economic policy, including service, care, and airport workers; tribal leaders; teachers; small business owners; community college students; and people experiencing homelessness and mental and physical health challenges. Selections from these conversations were included in the Commission’s final report and can be heard here.
“The system, as far as single moms with children, is designed to keep you there. If you make a penny over, they’re going to take away your SNAP benefits, your health insurance. However, that penny isn’t enough to cover the rest of the rent and the light bill. . . . If they would just have maybe a grace period . . . after getting a raise at work and the new job. And they don’t automatically say, ‘Oh, you [now] don’t qualify for childcare.’ So, then you have to start paying that immediately.”
— Kailin, Café Worker, Kentucky
“You can economize, but you really can’t control what happens to you if there’s a medical expense. So that uncertainty really affects your well-being, it affects what you do, it affects how you behave.”
— Shambu, Airport Worker and Tutor, Virginia
“We have people who come here as writers, as doctors, as nurses, as engineers, as teachers. And they’re told when they walk through the door that, ‘Great, here are your options. You can go to Walmart. Walmart’s a great company and it may be. You could go to work for this other large corporation, you could go work for Amazon.’ What they never ask them is, what do you want to learn? How do you want to transfer your credentials? Where are you on your journey of education and enrichment as a person?”
— Joseph, Afghan American, Lawyer, California
“The fastest way to secure economic stability in this country is through home ownership. So [Black Americans] could fight for this country, go to World War II like my family members did, get a GI Bill and you can go to school with it, but because of redlining, which was coupled with FHA loans, we couldn’t buy homes in communities that were appreciating. And so that was very systemic, very subtle, but that was designed to give a group of people a real head start. We have to acknowledge that.”
— Alex, Pastor and African American Community Leader, Wisconsin
“I think we need to find a way to make running for office something you don’t have to sacrifice to do. . . . Why do we depend on wealthy people and why do they have all the power and persuasion? We’ve got to find a way that more [regular] people can run for office.”
— Chris, Newspaper Editor, Montana
“[We should fix] our tax system . . . so that everyone pays their fair share and we’re not really creating just tax breaks for the wealthy. And we can actually see that money get reinvested into our communities that need it. And really figure out how to live together instead of cheat one another out of the money that needs to be paid back.”
— Katie, Faith Leader, Arizona