DealBook: How to Fix America

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:26 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:26 a.m. ET

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By William Ackman | Chief executive of Pershing Square Capital Management

One of the principal problems with capitalism, particularly as it has functioned over the last several decades, is that wage growth has not kept pace with long-term wealth creation, which has disproportionately favored the wealthy and the upper middle class. This likely can be attributed to the higher after-tax returns generated by investment assets as compared with wage growth over the same period.

A potential solution to the wealth inequality problem is to create a way for those with no investment assets to participate in the success of capitalism. To do so, we need a program that makes every American an owner of the compound growth in value of corporate America. The government could fund investment accounts for every child born in America, a program we could call Birthright.

Birthright funds would be invested at birth in zero-cost equity index funds; be prohibited from withdrawal until retirement; and would compound tax-free for 65 years or more. At historical rates of equity returns of 8 percent annually, a $6,750 at-birth retirement account — which would cost the government $26 billion a year based on the average number of children born in the U.S. each year — would provide retirement assets of more than $1 million at age 65, or $2 million at age 74.

Compound investment returns are indeed one of the great wonders of the world, and every day we wait to address this issue, the problem looms larger. Without funds to invest for retirement — particularly after the housing crash of 2008 destroyed many Americans’ only other potential source of long-term wealth creation — one has almost no hope of building wealth for retirement, or giving the next generation a head start. In sum, the American dream has become a disappointment, or worse, for too many.

In addition to helping all Americans build wealth for retirement, Birthright would encourage greater financial literacy, and give all Americans the opportunity to participate in the success of capitalism.

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:25 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:25 a.m. ET

Credit…Otto Steininger

By Robert F. Smith | Chief executive for Vista Equity Partners

The number of things that need fixing in our country can make it hard to know where to start, but for decades our country’s households have known exactly what to do. On average, they donate 2 percent of their income to do good, and one way to fix our country would be for our largest companies to do the same.

As one example, the 10 largest banks in our country generated nearly $1 trillion in profits over the last 10 years. If they invested 2 percent of that over the next 10 years toward ending systemic racism, we’d have $20 billion more for African-American communities from those banks alone. How could they invest this money?

The 10 largest banks could use that money to invest in Tier 1 capital for the African-American banks and Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) that serve African-American borrowers; to modernize those lenders and improve their financial technology capabilities; and strengthen their human resources.

Today our country has more than 4,400 banks with $20.2 trillion in assets, but only 18 of those are owned by African-Americans, and those 18 have only $4.4 billion in assets. Many of these lenders lack access to up-to-date tools and resources, even as our country’s largest banks use technology that further reduces risk and improves efficiency.

During the Paycheck Protection Program process, we saw how a single CDFI could strikingly increase one credit union’s loan-processing capacity by modernizing its systems — from 40 to 50 in one year to 7,400 in four months.

We can talk about racial equity for the next 10 years, but unless we inject more capital and modernization into African-American lenders and strengthen their capacity to reach African-American businesses and borrowers, we’re unlikely to make the kind of change that our communities are demanding.

Similarly, our country’s largest telecom companies and device manufacturers could invest their 2 percent toward eliminating broadband disparities; food companies could invest their 2 percent toward ensuring equitable access to healthy food; sports teams could invest in the communities their players come from; and so on.

Sector by sector, our country’s largest businesses could fix one of the most important challenges of our time. Their funds could be deployed from their community or marketing budgets, their corporate foundations, or even via innovative new financing mechanisms such as Bank of America’s Equality Progress Sustainability Bonds, using historically low interest rates to make these investments without eroding profitability.

This isn’t just a moral imperative; it’s an economic one. Last year, McKinsey showed that eliminating the racial wealth gap would add as much as $1.5 trillion to our gross domestic product, a huge boost as we navigate the economic downturn. Ending systemic racism also would strengthen social and political cohesion, which would be good for business.

All that’s needed is for our largest corporations to do what the average American family does each year.




At the Dealbook New York Summit in November, Robert Smith explained his 2 percent solution.

So what we’re saying is let’s call upon top US companies across key sectors of the economy to invest 2 percent of their net income over the next two years aimed at closing these racial wealth gaps. And if you think about it, if you actually take companies that have industry based initiatives aligned with what they do, you have the ability to drive their best thinking, their best use of their assets and resources to solve some of the problems in areas like modernizing banking systems in African-American communities, eliminating the food deserts in these communities, health care deserts, education deserts. And we have the capability and know-how to do it. It’s really just a function of now how to bring capital.

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At the Dealbook New York Summit in November, Robert Smith explained his 2 percent solution.CreditCredit…New York Times

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:25 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:25 a.m. ET

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By Heidi J. Larson | Professor of anthropology at the University of London and University of Washington and the author of “Stuck: How Vaccine Rumors Start and Why They Don’t Go Away.”

In thinking about ways to address our problems, I had to step back first and think about what’s broken. The question of what most needs fixing, of course, depends on who you are, where you live, what your job is (or was), and, most important, what kind of place you believe America should be once it’s repaired.

For the past decade I’ve been working to “fix” the vaccine divide that has alienated friends, stressed parents and left children unprotected from disease. As a Covid vaccine becomes a reality, the question of who is willing to be vaccinated and who isn’t will determine whether we can thwart this pandemic and move toward something like normal life.

But tensions run deep. Decisions around vaccines are increasingly about other things: politics; distrust of government and big business; alternative health beliefs; and resistance to any form of perceived imposed control. I’ve listened to many questions, some anxious and some angry, about why we need so many vaccines. In those conversations, not even the best scientific evidence matters. These conversations point not to a lack of information but the proliferation of perhaps the biggest issue we face: extreme polarization.

The lessons around vaccine trust can be applied to polarization everywhere. My journey in navigating these debates has taught me the power of listening — of trying to discover things about each other that we might otherwise never imagine. The anger on the outside often masks very different emotions on the inside.

So here is my proposed solution, to be applied one conversation at a time: When confronted with a different view, try to find something you can agree on. You don’t have to change your views. Just be open to the fact that others have theirs, too. It may sound counterintuitive. But it’s the only place to start.

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:24 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:24 a.m. ET

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By Prithwiraj Choudhury | Professor at Harvard Business School

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted a lot of change in America, including changes to where we work. My research suggests that if organizations adopt the right practices, workers can indeed “work from anywhere.” This presents an opportunity for the incoming administration to promote policies that will lead to more equitable talent distribution nationwide. But it also presents a potential threat — if remote workers for U.S.-based companies decide they would rather live and work outside of the United States.

For years, brain drain has plagued noncoastal cities in America, with talent and companies relocating to a handful of cities on the coasts. Fostering “work from anywhere” is an opportunity to reverse that trend. In 2018, a program called Tulsa Remote offered $10,000 and a range of services to remote workers who were willing to move to Tulsa, Okla., for one year. The program received more than 10,000 applications for 100 slots. Two years later, only a handful of program participants have left the city, and Tulsa Remote is fielding applications for its third cohort.

Other regions have taken note, and similar programs have launched in Northwest Arkansas (participants receive a mountain bike) and Tucson, Ariz. Moving forward, the federal government should support these initiatives, in two ways: First, the Economic Development Administration should launch a program to share best practices and provide funding to enable smaller towns to start these initiatives. Second, the federal government should invest in establishing nationwide access to high-speed internet.

If the United States doesn’t invest in offering our workers the freedom to work from anywhere, other countries will — to our detriment. The adoption of “work from anywhere” means just that: Workers can work from anywhere, worldwide.

Immigration issues in the United States, from soaring rejection rates for H-1B visas to long wait times for permanent residence status, are already pushing global talent to alternative destinations. MobSquad, a Canadian-based staffing company, took advantage of Canada’s Express Entry program for skilled workers and recruited foreign workers based in the United States, who were struggling with the immigration system to relocate to Canada — while continuing to work for their U.S. employers.

The new administration should stop this outflux of talent. Start by exempting immigrants with U.S. graduate degrees in STEM fields — or Ph.D. holders in any field — from visa quotas and provide them a faster path to permanent residence.

By reforming the U.S. immigration system and replicating the Tulsa story in other smaller towns, the next administration can ensure that, when workers work from anywhere, rather than taking their talent — and tax dollars — across the border, these workers will choose to work from, and help revitalize, the cities in America’s heartland that need it most.

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:24 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:24 a.m. ET

Credit…Otto Steininger

By Michael Render, a.k.a. Killer Mike | Grammy-Award winning rapper and a co-founder of Greenwood

When it comes to finances, the Black community has been sold a bill of goods.

We have been primed to be consumers rather than creators of wealth. Many of us have been locked out of real possibilities of acquiring wealth, and collectively we have not received the same opportunities — lower interest rates, access to capital to start and maintain businesses, and funding to invest in the things that really matter. If our Black grandparents and ancestors managed to build wealth and thrive, their stories were sidelined.

The Greenwood District was different. The Greenwood District flourished in the early 1900s in Tulsa, Okla. Known as “Black Wall Street,” Greenwood emerged as a center for African-American entrepreneurs. Craftsmen, merchants, architects, cobblers, attorneys, entertainers, artists, accountants, bankers and manufacturers all found a home (and a market) there.

Historians estimate that a dollar circulated at least 36 times in the community and could remain in Greenwood for as long as a year. At a time when the state of Oklahoma had only two airports, six Black families in Greenwood owned their own planes.

As the standard of living for Greenwood’s Black families grew, so did resentment in the surrounding white communities. On May 31 and June 1, 1921, after an inflammatory news report, the Greenwood District was attacked, looted and destroyed by racist whites, who burned it to the ground..

Approximately 300 people died, 35 blocks of the city were ruined, and more than 800 people were treated for injuries. This says nothing of the psychological trauma inflicted on residents of that community. That’s why the Greenwood story must be told.

So when Andrew Young, the former mayor of Atlanta; Ryan Glover, the founder of Bounce TV; and I decided to undertake an initiative to start a digital bank, we named it Greenwood.

It’s a digital bank, but it’s much more than that. It’s a means of serving a community that has been primed as consumers, preyed upon by lenders and subject to vicious racial backlash. Greenwood is a symbol of what has been and what can be done. In an era of economic devastation, job loss and poverty, our imagination must be recast. This is what we intend to do through Greenwood.




“I’m a product of believing in oneself and turning the dollar in the African-American community,” said Killer Mike at the DealBook online summit.

I’m a product of believing in oneself and turning the dollar in the African-American community. The Exxon that we went to as children was owned by Ms. Barnard who was a black woman. The grocery store that we went to were owned by black people. And that doesn’t mean that we had a problem of shopping with other people, or even corporations. It meant that the dollars we put back in that community were immediately put back into our community whether it was supporting education or sports program, whether it was partnering — Mack Wilbourn, who I talked about, who has the number one selling Popeye’s of course, has helped many young people in his community who had the wherewithal to start their own businesses to help. So for me, it is about doing what kept, what made me and that is keeping that dollar in our community longer and people have to remember too, that if the black community is stronger economically like Robert was saying, like Ursula alluded to, the greater community gets better.

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“I’m a product of believing in oneself and turning the dollar in the African-American community,” said Killer Mike at the DealBook online summit.CreditCredit…New York Times

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:23 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:23 a.m. ET

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By Marcelo Claure | Chief executive of SoftBank Group International and the executive chairman of WeWork

Inequality for people of color is real. Nowhere in the United States is this more evident than in the education children receive. Before the pandemic, there was already a “homework gap,” meaning too many American kids didn’t have internet at home to do work assigned at school. A Pew Research Center study in 2018 found the gap is most pronounced for Black, Latino and low-income families.

The pandemic has exacerbated this gap as education has moved online, which puts minority kids at even greater risk of falling further behind. According to a study by Common Sense Media, 15 to 16 million public school students in America lack either an internet-enabled device or internet service that’s reliable enough to facilitate distance learning, and nine million students lack both.

That’s why governments should urgently embrace a commitment to getting one internet-capable device to every student from kindergarten through 12th grade, as the National Education Association has recommended. It should have the software, web camera and keyboard necessary for remote learning.

It sounds daunting, but the work’s already begun. In 2017, I launched Sprint’s 1Million Project, which provided one million children free internet access with a device. When finalizing the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint this year, I fought to continue this program. T-Mobile expanded it, with a goal of reaching 10 million students.

While this private sector effort is a good start, governments must do more — especially when the reality of Covid-19 requires distance learning in so many schools across America. Giving children the necessary digital tools will help equalize education to meet this unique moment and enable a brighter future.

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:22 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:22 a.m. ET

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By Chris Murphy | United States Senator from Connecticut

We are a nation awash in gun violence. Every day, roughly 100 Americans die from a gunshot wound. If you are a citizen of this country, you are 10 times more likely to be killed by a gun than someone living in another high-income nation.

But the problem is much deeper than just the casualty numbers. In neighborhoods with high gun murder rates, studies show that children’s brain chemistry can be changed by the constant fear of physical harm, rendering it difficult for them to learn and cope.

This epidemic of gun violence is a choice. We know how to reduce this carnage, but we live with a policy paralysis caused by a small industry with outsized political power. For the past 30 years, the gun lobby has successfully blocked action to reduce gun violence. But thankfully, their power is quickly fading, and Congress is closer than ever to passing lifesaving reforms.

There is no single law change that will prevent every gun death or mass shooting. But the data points to one particular intervention with an eye-popping return on investment. Passing a national requirement that no gun be sold without the purchaser passing a background check will save thousands of lives. States that have already implemented universal background checks, including my home state of Connecticut, have seen significant drops in gun homicides.

Federal law already requires anyone who buys a gun at a firearms store to undergo a background check — a process that usually takes less than two minutes. This helps keep weapons out of the hands of convicted felons, domestic abusers and anyone a court deems dangerously mentally ill.

But people who buy guns online, at a gun show or through a private seller don’t have to pass a background check. This begs for a national solution, because no state can adequately protect itself. A recent study showed that in New York, a state with a strict background checks requirement, three-quarters of the guns used in crimes were bought in states with weaker gun laws.

The good news is that a federal universal background law is wildly popular. More than 90 percent of all Americans support this approach, including 85 percent of gun owners and an overwhelming majority of N.R.A. members. That makes universal background checks more popular than baseball or apple pie (in some polls, at least). By making this simple and urgently needed change in law, Congress can save thousands of lives.

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:21 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:21 a.m. ET

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By Oren Cass | Executive director of American Compass

If there is one message that America sends loudly, clearly, and consistently to our youth, it is this: Go to college. We operate our high schools as college prep academies. We offer more than $150 billion in annual public subsidies to college students. Our culture defines the campus experience as the sine qua non of a successful life, while also advertising it as a veritable amusement park entitlement: a bacchanalia that offers enrichment classes you should attend at least sometimes.

Politicians now argue with a straight face for simply waving away tens of thousands of dollars of student debt per borrower, as if financial obligations incurred in the ivory tower deserve some special status that we would never accord to the lowly car loan or home mortgage.

This message is a bad one. Yes, for people with the academic aptitude to succeed in college and the desire to pursue a career that requires the training only higher education can provide, the college pathway is the right one. But that is not most people.

Indeed, fewer than one in five young Americans move smoothly from high school to college to career. Most will not attain even a community college degree. Around 40 percent of those who do earn a diploma end up in a job that doesn’t require one. Meanwhile, other industries like the skilled trades offer excellent careers and face worker shortages. The mismatch between the cultural narrative and our economic reality is so acute that many college graduates now find themselves going back to trade school.

Rather than lavish resources on college students and leave everyone else to fend for themselves, we should do the reverse. Spending more on building strong, non-college career pathways is vital, but so too is defunding the oversaturated Big Ed boondoggle.

Over 10 years, we should move half of that $150 billion out of higher education and into programs that foster employer-trainee relationships.

For what we spend trying to move someone through college, we could provide excellent career and technical education, subsidized employment or apprenticeship and a savings account for future training. A 20-year-old could have years of on-the-job experience, an industry credential and money in the bank. And a 16-year-old and her family, weighing their options, could have multiple pathways to consider, a full picture of the pros and cons of each, and a better chance of making the right choice for her.

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:20 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:20 a.m. ET

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By Hal Harvey | Chief executive of Energy Innovation

America used to do great things. Our economic success was built on ambitious efforts like the transcontinental railroad, the rural electrification program, huge investments in clean water, our unparalleled research universities, the interstate highway system and more. We used these serious mobilizations to win World War II, to dramatically extend the average life span and health of Americans and to own the technological revolution.

It is time to square our shoulders and do the same with climate change. Success here starts with cutting emissions in the four energy sectors: electric utilities, vehicles, buildings and industry. All have a path to zero carbon, and none must entail sacrifice, but each requires a national commitment.

Start with the grid. If America doubled the historic rate it deploys solar and wind energy starting this year, then triples it starting in 2030, we’d cut power sector emissions 90 percent by 2035. It’s a smaller effort than we mobilized to build the planes and tanks for World War II and similar to the fracking “revolution” that began in 2010. And we gain benefits today, in cleaner air and better health.

Next is transportation. We can ramp up to electric-only vehicle sales by 2035 (already required in California and a dozen other countries). If we power those electric cars with our zero-carbon grid, voilà: zero climate pollution from cars by 2050. And trucks should follow fast upon that.

Then come buildings. Heat pumps, which are already used nationwide, produce four times as much heat as a conventional electric heater for the same amount of electricity. That’s pretty great. Their cost is now close to that of a new furnace, so … heat our buildings with clean electricity using these clever, commercially available heat pumps.

Industry is the toughest challenge, with complex processes and expensive factories. The answer here has three parts: First, get serious about research and development. America spends a pitiful one half of 1 percent of its energy bill on research, which is insufficient to invent new processes to make aluminum, steel, cement, glass and fertilizer. Second, we need public agencies to purchase only the cleanest materials. Early markets will encourage new technologies. Third, as low-carbon industry emerges, America must lock in progress with steadily rising standards.

America can once again do great things, but only with a serious commitment. There’s a common expression: “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Let’s get going.

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:19 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:19 a.m. ET

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By Heidi Heitkamp | Former United States Senator from North Dakota

In the entirety of our country’s history, Native American children, families and communities, the victims of colonial genocide, have been pushed aside, blatantly harmed and tragically forgotten. Treaties with the tribes, signed on behalf of all Americans, have always been and continue to be violated, underfunded and ignored. In the first hours of his administration, President Biden should launch a new initiative: Operation Honor Our Tribal Treaties. Here’s what this initiative should include.

Change the national holiday of Columbus Day, celebrated every second Monday of October, to Indigenous People’s Day. Guarantee that every tribal member, who has a treaty right to health care, has access to quality, free health care where they live. This involves increasing access to telehealth; creating incentives while enabling recruitment and retention of health-care professionals to serve tribal communities; expanding services for behavioral and mental health; and funding the construction and renovation of Indian Health Service hospitals and clinics. This must be done in consultation with tribal leaders and tribal elders.

Invest in safe and secure housing by making sure tribal homes are connected to sewers (currently fewer than half of them are) and running water. Expand tribal housing to reduce overcrowding and provide utilities and roads. In addition, we must create ways to fund homeownership in Indian Country.

Enhance education by investing in school infrastructure, recruiting top teaching talent, providing housing for teachers, offering additional social and academic support to boost high school diploma attainment and access to higher education, and implementing the recommendations of the Commission on Native Children Act.

Ensure the safety of Native people by expanding tribal court jurisdiction and increasing funding and training for tribal law enforcement. This includes holding the Department of Justice and the F.B.I. accountable for their failure to protect Native people and making sure that the families of missing and murdered Indigenous people finally see justice done.

Make the delivery of broadband and 5G technology in Indian Country the administration’s top infrastructure priority.

Make funding for Indian Country mandatory to prevent politics from halting our obligations to Native communities; increase set-asides in existing programs; and create set-asides in others.

Impose treaty accountability measures in every federal agency responsible for fulfilling tribal treaty rights and create a special accountability unit to measure compliance.

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:18 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:18 a.m. ET

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By John B. King Jr. | Chief executive of the Education Trust and former secretary of education under President Barack Obama

The kitchen table. A makeshift desk in the corner of a one-bedroom apartment. A basement work space shared with siblings or parents. For millions of public-school children across our nation, amid the coronavirus pandemic, education has moved from school buildings to inside their homes and online. Over the last month, because of an alarming escalation in the number of Covid-19 infections throughout the country, many schools and districts that were either attempting to reopen or institute a hybrid of in-person and online instruction had to close their buildings and revert to fully remote learning.

This shift is exposing deep chasms in educational opportunity. About 16 million students from kindergarten to 12th grade — and even some 400,000 teachers — lack the necessary technology in their homes to make online learning and teaching possible, including access to computers or tablets and high-speed broadband.

Because remote and hybrid learning will be with us for the foreseeable future, denying our children access to the internet and devices essentially bars them from the schoolhouse door. We can and must act.

There are two things that can be prioritized now: a swift federal response as part of a new Covid-19 relief package and a national commitment to help our children make up for interrupted and unfinished learning.

When the pandemic forced the majority of school buildings to shutter for months in the spring, it exposed a glaring digital divide in America, drawn starkly along lines of race and income.

Congress should act quickly by establishing in its next coronavirus relief package an Emergency Connectivity Fund. This fund would provide $12 billion to schools and libraries, which would be distributed through E-Rate, a federal program, run by the F.C.C., that schools already know and trust.

E-Rate is the most efficient and, importantly, most equitable way to disseminate resources to help ensure students and educators have access to the technology they need for distance education. Congress should appropriate this emergency funding now, and commit to sustained investments to eliminate the digital divide permanently.

Next, we need a nationwide focus on helping our children make up for lost ground in their learning.

We can do this through investments in high-quality, voluntary, multiweek summer learning programs, creatively designed to address core academic skills and incorporate activities like the arts, sports, computer science, or environmental education. Evidence shows that students who participate in these programs experience significant gains in reading and math that can lessen the effects of learning loss.

We also can get our students back on track through a national tutoring corps, consisting of recent college graduates who commit to working alongside educators in public-school classrooms to accelerate our children’s learning into the future. The program would be full-time, offered throughout the school year, and provided by expanding the federal AmeriCorps program or through state and city programs.

I’m encouraged that senators, led by Chris Coons of Delaware, already have proposed bipartisan legislation that would expand national service in response to the pandemic, doubling the number of AmeriCorps positions for this year and providing hundreds of thousands of opportunities to young people who are currently unemployed.

This is the kind of mobilization we need, both to support our children and to stimulate our economy. We can meet the needs of this moment. The question is whether we have the will.

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:18 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:18 a.m. ET

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By Chris Magnus | Chief of police for Tucson, Ariz.

We need to be more successful in addressing mental health-related calls that come into 911 centers. But how? We should be placing one or more mental health professionals in these centers to triage calls of this kind before they are dispatched exclusively to police officers on patrol. New York City recently announced a pilot program along these lines. In Tucson, where I am the police chief, we have been doing this since the spring of 2020.

Calls to 911 from people in crisis typically fall into several categories that justify different types of responses. The first type involves callers with questions who need referrals or who require crisis counseling. In many circumstances, mental health professionals within a 911 center can handle these questions and provide the appropriate referrals. When callers need counseling, triage personnel can make a “warm handoff” to a crisis line for counseling over the phone.

Another category of calls involves circumstances where mental health professionals must respond but there is no need for the police to go to the scene. Local mobile crisis teams of mental health professionals can often handle these calls without police support, as long as there is no indication of weapons or violence. Such teams should be established if they don’t exist.

Suppose the 911 center call-takers or mental health triage personnel determine that weapons are involved or that the scene involves potential violence. In that case, they should send both police and mental health professionals. The police should always make the scene safe before the mental health personnel engage with those who need them. When it is appropriate that only the police engage with the persons at the scene, they can decide to call off the mobile crisis team personnel.

Appropriately triaged calls involving mental health crises coming into an emergency dispatch center can assure “the right work in the right hands” and help 911 center call takers, police officers and mental health personnel work together to provide persons in crisis with the best possible care.

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:17 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:17 a.m. ET

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By Kwame Owusu-Kesse and Geoffrey Canada | Chief executive and president of Harlem Children’s Zone

Since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, schools have failed to eliminate the opportunity gap between Black and white children in America. How do we make schools actually work for all children?

The nation has been pondering this question for decades, with answers that have fallen woefully short for poor students. But we think this is the wrong question. What the country should be asking is, how do we change the neighborhoods around schools to make them places where young people can find success — in school and beyond?

If we are going to break the cycle of poverty, we must reimagine education in America. We can no longer view education as simply the things that go on inside that building we call “school.” Such a narrow-minded focus has proved inadequate to the task of moving large populations out of poverty. We must broaden the focus of education to encompass the communities around the school building.

Researchers such as the Harvard economist Raj Chetty have made clear that the neighborhood where a child grows up is perhaps the chief determinant of that child’s social and economic mobility. Of course, the quality of the school the child attends is important, but so is the level of residential segregation, the neighborhood’s social capital, the stability of that child’s family and the neighborhood’s level of poverty.

The Harlem Children’s Zone has achieved success with this approach. We have eliminated the Black-white achievement gap in our schools and have graduated over 1,000 students from college over the last decade. But we are not alone. Other organizations throughout the nation, such as StriveTogether, Northside Achievement Zone, and Communities in Schools have used the same holistic approach to open pathways for upward mobility for poor children.

An emerging field of practice centered on “place” (i.e., where a child grows up) has championed the providing of comprehensive services to neighborhoods to effectively combat poverty. These services include high quality education and cradle-to-career youth programming, physical and mental health support, work force development, affordable housing and community leadership development.

This is the level of support that our nation must direct to poor communities across America. The focus of the William Julius Wilson Institute at the Harlem Children’s Zone is to scale the effectiveness of high-impact organizations around the country through capacity building and technical assistance. But the resources to fund such ambitious programming have been painfully deficient.

America cannot afford to continue to waste all the talent in these communities. When these communities suffer, the economy suffers. When the economy suffers, we all suffer. We must reach a point where the word education means much more than schools; it means truly transforming a child’s life from cradle to career.

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:16 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:16 a.m. ET

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By Alexandra Délano Alonso | Professor and chair of global studies at the New School

The call for comprehensive reform of the U.S. immigration system has been pervasive for over two decades. It has failed. This call for reformation has been based on two facts: 11 million people live in the country without legal status; and existing channels for migration to the United States through work visas, family reunification, temporary worker programs or asylum are insufficient and do not correspond with economic and political realities.

The result is that millions of people in this country live with a precarious status and face discrimination, oppression, the constant fear of being deported and the heavy toll of family separation. While this may seem like a distant reality for many Americans, the fact that millions of immigrants and their children cannot fully access health and educational services, demand labor protections or participate in civic life has an impact on the whole of society, for citizens and noncitizens alike.

So why does this system remain in place and what would it take to fix it?

Those who argue for immigration reform often describe this as a broken system. But its dysfunction serves clear interests. Historically, the U.S. economy has thrived on the availability of cheap, expendable labor. The exclusion of immigrants from social and political institutions is the product of a racial bias that has led to distinctions between “desirable” and “undesirable” immigrants. The latter are deemed essential to the economy but a threat to security, public health and national identity. By design, this “illegal” status — built into the system from the moment one enters the country through unauthorized channels or overstays a visa in the absence of other options — is the justification for exclusion.

The call to abolish ICE — including shutting down detention centers and, ultimately, ending deportation — would be the first step toward a needed transformation of these conditions. Rather than attempt to reform the enforcement apparatus to make it “more humane,” we should break the cycle of abuse, violence and lack of accountability that is embedded in immigration enforcement and incarceration.

Dismantling ICE does not require a cumbersome process of drafting new legislation or the bipartisan support that has been so elusive. And resources could be immediately shifted from raids, detention centers and deportations to the court system, case management, social work and community development.

But decriminalization of immigration is not a project that can be left only to the political will of governments. Abolishing institutions also requires reimagining a society’s vision of justice and a reckoning with the racial and economic injustice built into the “nation of immigrants” from its very origins. It requires, at the everyday level, decoupling the words “illegal” and immigration in our public and private conversations. It demands — as migrants themselves make clear when they challenge the fiction of borders and build communities grounded in mutuality — understanding and acting upon the fact that one’s liberation is bound to another’s.

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:15 a.m. ET

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:15 a.m. ET

Credit…Otto Steininger

By Veronique de Rugy | Senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University

“Economic growth isn’t just ethical, it’s sublime,” writes my former colleague Eli Dourado for the Cato Institute. I agree. Here are the top three growth-inducing policies that I would prioritize. What they all have in common is the removal of obstacles to growth. And all are progressive in the sense that the Americans who will benefit the most are those in the bottom half of the income scale.

First, let’s start with an initiative that has supporters across the political spectrum: rolling back zoning and other land-use rules that slow growth by restricting the construction of housing, especially in coastal cities, where housing costs have skyrocketed making it hard for ordinary people to live there. Even modest housing deregulation, such as upzoning to allow taller structures, can substantially increase the supply of housing in the most prosperous areas of the country. This promotes economic migration to these areas, which can reduce poverty and inequality by giving lower-income workers greater access to higher-wage labor markets. As an example, look at how Fairfax County in Virginia successfully upzoned the community of Tysons Corner.

Next, do away with all government-granted privileges, such as tariffs, farm and export subsidies, and most occupational-licensing requirements for fields like natural hair-braiding or interior design. According to the Institute for Justice’s occupational-licensing report, on average the requirements for low- to moderate-income occupations in the U.S. cost around $200 in fees and require nine months of training.

These requirements favor wealthier and politically connected interest groups at the expense of lower-income workers and consumers. And the health care industry should receive no exemption. Get rid of scope-of-practice rules which protect doctors from the competition of nurse practitioners. At the same time, allow doctors to serve patients all over the country and compete for business through telemedicine.

Finally, we must reasonably relax safety rules. Consider the environmental-impact reviews required by the National Environmental Protection Act of 1970. Scholars on both sides of the aisle agree that these reviews are in need of reform. They cause delays and drive up costs in infrastructure projects while rarely delivering on the promise of environmental protection.

Likewise, an overly risk-averse approval process slows down drug development. The higher safety of drugs that are available for use fails to compensate for the lifesaving drugs that aren’t brought to market as a result of costly approvals. The same is true of the safety requirements imposed on the development of new technologies. We all want to be safe, of course, but being too risk-averse kills innovation and restrains growth. We need a balanced approach.