It is impossible to discuss the state of Black America in 2017 without addressing the shift of power and priorities in Washington. Recovery from the Great Recession has been slow, but it has been real. In early 2016, the National Urban League issued a scorecard awarding the Obama administration our second-highest rating of “Excellent.” During the Obama era, the economy added 15 million new jobs, the Black unemployment rate dropped and the high school graduation rate for African Americans soared. Now that progress, and much more, is threatened.
Recent proposals before Congress would shift desperately needed resources away from underfunded public schools toward our heavily-invested-in military. The federal budget currently under consideration would slash the budget of the Departments of Health, Education, Housing, and Labor—a blueprint for a sick, uneducated, homeless and unemployed America. Suggested double-digit cuts, or the outright elimination of funding for vital programs and services, would devastate already vulnerable citizens and working families.
During his confirmation hearing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions surprisingly expressed his doubt—and disregard—for consent decrees secured by the Obama Justice Department in cities where policing patterns revealed ingrained racial bias, systemic civil rights violations and the regular use of excessive force. Citing his concern that the decrees undermine respect for law enforcement, Sessions has ordered a review of all federal reform initiatives, signaling a retreat on common sense police reform that endorses constitutional policing in all our communities. We believe he must continue to enforce these vital consent decrees.
Furthermore, the social cancer of hate continues to metastasize, thriving in a climate conducive to hostility towards religious and racial minorities, permeating even at the highest levels of national discourse and threatening to further crack our fractured nation. In the 10 days following the 2016 election, the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded a “national outbreak of hate” it deemed worse than the days after 9/11. Incendiary language about immigrants, Muslims, women and people of color has translated into discriminatory public policy, including an immigration ban that gives preference to one religion over another; baseless accusations of voter fraud that have provided fresh fuel to racially-discriminatory voter suppression measures in state legislatures; and efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in parts, or as a whole, that would have the inevitable outcome of disproportionately burdening communities of color.
On this, the National Urban League is resolute; we will protect our progress.
The Main Street Marshall Plan is a bold, strategic investment in America’s urban communities that protects our progress. From universal early childhood education to a comprehensive urban infrastructure initiative, the Main Street Marshall Plan is a sweeping and decisive solution to our nation’s persistent social and economic disparities.
The plan would protect our progress in:
- Increase federal funding for public schools, with a focus on equity to eliminate resource gaps
- Expand the ESSA pre-K program, so that every child has access to a high-quality, full-day pre-K program
- Double the nation’s investment in the Pell Grant program to expand the number of students receiving funding, and increase the maximum Pell Grant award
Jobs and the Economy:
- Enact a federal living wage of $15 per hour, indexing wages to inflation
- Create a new Main Street Small and Micro-Business Financing Plan
- Expand summer youth employment programs
Housing and Wealth-Building:
- Expand financial literacy, homebuyer education and counseling
- Broaden access to low-income housing rental assistance
- Make the New Market Tax Credits Program permanent
- Fully fund the Medicaid, Medicare and Children’s Health Insurance Program, and prevent a switch to block grants
- Protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, The National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program and the Summer Food Service Program
- Incentivize more doctors to accept Medicaid, particularly in states with a high percentage of Medicaid recipients and a lower percentage of doctors who accept Medicaid
While the Obama years were no panacea for America’s long-standing racial inequities, they were a steady climb toward improvement, and we are determined to keep moving forward to protect our progress.
To learn more, access the complete list of proposed solutions in the Main Street Marshall Plan here.