Increasing Opportunities to Succeed



Tim ScottMonthly sat down with Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina to discuss his “Opportunity Agenda,” a series of Senate bills that would expand access to quality education, provide tax incentives for employers who create job apprenticeships, and offer a temporary capital gains deferral to businessmen in exchange for reinvesting those dollars into economically distressed areas.

Question: The journalist Roger Cohen said, “America is the place where impossible stories get written. It is the overcoming of history, the leaving behind of barriers. It is reinvention, the absorption of one identity in something larger — the notion that ‘out of many, we are truly one.’” Do these sentiments in any way reflect your own viewpoints?

Answer: I could not have said it better myself. It is my life story, and the story of every family in America with a three-generational span. Some more than others, but every American family has a story of reinvention, of second chances.

One of the reasons why I’m so hopeful, despite our problems and our challenges, is that the American dream works. We need more reminders how great the nation is and what is so possible for anyone coming from anywhere to America.

Q: Earlier this year, you introduced your “Opportunity Agenda.” 

A: Yes, my agenda is a blueprint for a foundation that increases access to real opportunities in America. The cornerstone is education. Not just academic education but vocational training and apprenticeships to garner the skills that enable people to become prosperous members of the workforce. 

Q: Why is your agenda important for our nation now?

A: When you look at the people working paycheck to paycheck, they are suffering greatly in an economy that has not really recovered for the average person. They are becoming more disillusioned about what it means to achieve the American dream.

Tim Scott2The foundation of my agenda — i.e., education and work skills and incentives to encourage economic growth and job creation in economically distressed areas — can breathe new life into places where hope has been dissipating.  

Specifically, my Investing in Opportunity Act seeks about $2 trillion dollars of capital gains — all private sector dollars — reinvested into our poorest and multi-class communities. Currently, more than 30 percent of South Carolina’s population, or 1.4 million people, live in economically distressed areas, a number that rises to 50 million Americans nationwide. This is just not the poor but working-class Americans who desperately need new opportunities. 

By deferring the capital gains tax, we encourage long-term investment into distressed communities that desperately need investment. Right here in South Carolina, we don’t have to look farther than Jasper County’s I-95 corridor, the so-called “Corridor of Shame.” We could bring tremendous opportunities for capital investment into this community as opposed as being gentrified. 

Q: Please illustrate the Investing in Opportunity Act in action, if it becomes law.

A: If my bill passes, for example, a small business owner who sells his profitable business for $1 million and faces several thousands of dollars in capital gains taxes could defer that tax burden for seven years and reinvest a portion of those tax dollars in Jasper County to start up a small business.

He could put his money to work by employing people and creating new infrastructure in a distressed community. In doing so, he would also benefit from the appreciation of his capital gains.

Or he or she could join forces with other individuals with capital gains and even larger investors to create a bigger enterprise — a tech company or health care facility. 

Q: How do your beliefs and experience relate to your legislative agenda?

A: My faith is very important to me. My faith instructs me to be compassionate towards people. That just doesn’t mean a warm and fuzzy feeling, it means creating a strategy that helps people reach their potential.

For me, a kid who didn’t do well in high school but ultimately got a second chance to make a first impression, my mother taught me to value education. A strong mentor can make all the difference. Second chances are rare around the world but ever present here in America. I learned how to use my education and skills effectively and applied them to a small business that grew over 15 years. I eventually sold it then helped others start up their own businesses.

I am a guy who works really hard and had great mentors who gave me a different vantage point to see this world. I believe that oftentimes people need someone to come in and shake them up. The pain of failure led to my success. I don’t think we should make life easier, we should make life more productive. And in the end, that will typically make the person’s life easier. 

Q: Robert Lerman, an economist with the Urban Institute and American University, said, “South Carolinian educators, employers, and government are working together to close the ‘skills gap’ and create new opportunities for young people. They are accomplishing this through greater attention to high school career and technical education, a first-rate system of state technical colleges, and a well-managed effort to increase the number of apprenticeship positions.”  

A: A “skills gap” is undermining our workforce. We have 5.8 million job openings in the U.S. In three years, we’re anticipating up to 8 million openings.

When you look at a bachelor’s degree, so often a student graduates but can’t get a job. And they didn’t understand the actual cost of a college education, so now they’re $40,000 in debt… By expanding educational opportunities, whether a bachelor’s degree or a vocational degree, an apprenticeship or quality private, public, or charter schooling, we can foster success and better maximize potential. 

Q: What could the state of South Carolina do now without waiting for your legislative initiatives to pass?

A: County and state governments should continue to work on increasing opportunity zones. There’s no doubt that today there are some credits given to businesses that open up in certain areas.

The state has packages of incentives for employers that could be reevaluated to stress the importance of education. When we were courting Boeing, one of its chief concerns was, “Do you have a workforce that is educated properly for us to achieve the goals of our company?”

Q: What kind of legacy would you like to leave as the first black U.S. senator from the South since the 19th century?

A:  If I had to define my legacy, I would hope that it has less to do with my complexion, and more to do with my character and ability to successfully weave into the American tapestry the notion of increasing access to opportunities and helping people reach their potential without any guarantee of the outcome.  

Said differently, Mathew 25: 23 “Well done, good and faithful servant!” That I provided for those who are the least of our society.