Former President Bill Clinton said Wednesday that alternative and more efficient energy, New Markets Tax Credit loans, and more broadband access would help areas along the Mississippi Delta enjoy more economic growth.
Clinton addressed by telephone the Delta Grassroots Caucus, a seven-state coalition of advocates and legislators meeting this week in Little Rock.
He said that jobs could be created in Arkansas and the Delta by concentrating on alternative forms of energy along with energy efficiency efforts. He touted the Clinton Climate Initiative’s Home Energy Affordability Loan program, where employers provide loans to employees to reduce their home energy use.
Also, he said the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers together had made a $10 million commitment to a Clinton Global Initiative to retrofit buildings to be more efficient. He said public pension funds as well as private funds could be invested in these kinds of programs.
Clinton also touted the New Markets Tax Credit Program, which provides federal tax credits to investors who invest in low-income communities. However, he said participation in the program has been too scattered and public awareness too limited. The tax credit expired at the end of last year but should be renewed this year, he said.
He said the United States should invest in expanded broadband networks. Instead, it’s happening community by community, where results have been good. He said that South Korea, “dirt poor” 50 years ago, is booming partly because it has the world’s fastest broadband with cheaper access costs than the United States.
Clinton expressed concern about the country’s growing economic inequality, adding that income grew at all levels during his presidency.
“The good news is, we can make better use of technology,” he said. “The ultimate question is whether (technology is) producing more productivity gains than employment opportunities, and we won’t know until we have the right policies in place what else we have to do.”