The economy has become the dominant issue in the 2008 presidential race, and rightly so. With foreclosures surging, consumer prices on the rise (4.9% between September 2007 and September 2008) and a loss of 760,000 jobs between January and September 2008, the future of this nation’s economy will depend largely upon the policies set in place by the next president of the United States. Though recovery of the U.S. economy will require a careful balancing of national goals and priorities, a well-informed electorate will prove to be the first line of defense against the weakening U.S. economy.
The National Urban League has long advocated for such an approach and played a strong thought leadership role in developing solutions for policymakers, politicians and our constituents. As part of this effort, in 2005, National Urban League President Marc Morial introduced the concept for The Opportunity Compact stating that, “our Opportunity Compact is the first step toward a concrete action plan…a blueprint for building a nation that lifts every American together, as one people, united by our commitment to a better future.” Over the next two years, this action plan was developed through a series of five roundtable discussions and other conversations and activities during which the National Urban League obtained feedback and recommendations from dozens of policy experts from academia, public policy think tanks, non-profit service and advocacy organizations, the business sector, and the Urban League movement.
The Opportunity Compact was unveiled in 2007 at the National Urban League Annual Conference. At The Opportunity Compact’s core are four cornerstones that reflect the values represented by the American dream: (1) The Opportunity to Thrive (Children), (2) The Opportunity to Earn (Jobs), (3) The Opportunity to Own (Housing) and (4) The Opportunity to Prosper (Entrepreneurship). These cornerstones are supported by a list of ten policy priorities.
This report explores the three policy recommendations under The Opportunity to Earn and assesses how the two major presidential candidates’ economic plans address them:
- Expand “second chance” programs that help ex-offenders, high school drop outs, and at-risk youth to secure GEDs, job training and employment;
- Increase economic self-sufficiency by indexing the minimum wage to the rate of inflation and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to benefit more working families; and
- Create an urban infrastructure bank to fund reinvestment in urban communities.