Gore on deck

As he eyes the presidency in 2000, Al Gore casts an eye toward black America

a partnership in a completely new way. Of course the overall strong economy for our nation is important to continue as well, because when we quadruple the stock market in just six years’ time, we’re creating more opportunities up and down the line. But you have to be mindful of the fact that in past business expansions, some communities, including some parts of the African American community, have not participated in the prosperity of the rest of the country. We’re not satisfied with allowing that to continue. We want to make sure that everyone participates.

Q: With the fate of Social Security still up in the air, what if anything do you propose to assist those nearing retirement age in terms of having some type of income to live on?

GORE: We can make up our mind now that we’re going to reserve the budget surplus until Social Security is safe. We need to give retirement security to all those that participate in what is by far and away the most important safety net for seniors in America. We should also make pensions in private companies more portable, so that those who change jobs will be able to take their pension contributions with them. For those in the lower- to middle-income groups we need to make changes there too. For example I’m pushing for another increase in the minimum wage-a dollar an hour over the next two years.

Q: Do you have any plans to introduce more technology to low-income areas in terms of computer access and access to the Internet?

GORE: All classrooms and libraries have to be connected to the Internet. That’s critical, because low-income families are obviously less likely to have computers in the home to begin with. And if these children don’t have access to computers at schools, then they are not going to get the training they need to be successful in the 21st century. We currently have a proposal that we call the “E-rate” program that will make it possible for all schools to be connected and all classrooms and libraries to be connected. This is one of the most important ways to make sure that we never become a nation of information haves and have-nots.

Q: What’s the status of that proposal?

GORE: We have the first phase under way right now and the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote later this week on whether to expand the funding, because I think it’s very important to connect these kids to the Internet with safeguards and filters as quickly as possible.
(Editor’s note: Funding for the program was subsequently expanded by the FCC.)

Q: There are some African Americans who feel that the Democratic Party habitually takes their vote for granted. Since the majority of African Americans are reluctant to vote for a Republican ticket, it seems as if the Democratic Party doesn’t have to work very hard for those votes. Is there anything that you feel the Democratic Party needs to do to specifically reach out to African American

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