NEW YORK (AP) — Saying he wants to unite “the gleaming office tower and the dark shadows,” President Clinton on Thursday urged the financial industry to give minorities greater access to money and the jobs that control it.
Clinton joined politicians, business leaders and Wall Street executives at a conference dubbed the Wall Street Project, which argued both for investment in neglected inner cities and for helping move blacks and Hispanics into influential Wall Street jobs.
For his part, Clinton promised his 1999 budget would contain a 50 percent increase in funding for community development banks, more low-income housing credits and an expanded number of federal empowerment zones, designated inner-city areas in which businesses are eligible for tax breaks.
“We must bring more Americans into the winner’s circle,” Clinton said. “This is not only economic good sense, it’s morally right.”
Noting that Thursday would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 69th birthday, Clinton said the nation must complete the unfinished work of the civil rights leader, who was assassinated in 1968.
“Toward the end of his life, Martin Luther King embarked upon securing what he called the next frontier of freedom: economic opportunity,” Clinton said. “Wall Street has a critical role to play in fulfilling Dr. King’s dream.”
Before an overflow crowd in the Windows on the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center, the president said inner-city residents have purchasing power of $85 billion, yet have few places to shop or work in their neighborhoods because business ignores their wealth. In turn, their communities miss out on the nation’s vibrant economic growth.
“We have to bring the world of the gleaming office tower and the dark shadows together,” Clinton said. “`If it’s a good argument for America to sell more and invest more around the world, it’s a good argument for America to sell more and invest more down the street.”
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson was also present at the coneference.
“Don’t shackle us and deny us the right to participate in the global marketplace,” Jackson said. “Wall Street stands to gain, and Main Street stands to gain, and those around the corner stand to gain, if the economy expands and is inclusive.”