By MARC H. MORIAL
National Urban League
“We need to build America from the bottom up and the middle out, not from top down with the trickle-down economics that’s always failed us. I can’t think of a single time when the middle class has done well but the wealthy haven’t done very well. I can think of many times, including now, when the wealthy and the super-wealthy do very well, and the middle class don’t do well.
“These are not about left versus right, or moderate versus progressive, or anything else that pits Americans against one another. This is about competitiveness versus complacency. It’s about expanding opportunity, not opportunity denied. It’s about leading the world or letting the world pass us by.”
– President Biden
For decades, American families have struggled to achieve the American dream of economic prosperity, homeownership and financial freedom due to years of neglect and failure of investment from Congress and the Trump administration.
The United States ranked 22nd in U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 “Best Countries for Raising Kids” rankings, and 34th of 35 in Asher & Lyric’s “Raising a Family Index.” Among 31 countries rated by UNICEF for family-friendly policies, the United States fell at the very bottom. The World Economic Forum’s Global Social Mobility Report ranked the United States 27th. We have the worst income inequality among the G7 nations. The Social Progress Index, which measures the extent to which countries provide for the social and environmental needs of their citizens, ranks the United States 27th.
By almost every conceivable metric, the United States has fallen behind. This week, President Biden reassured the American people that their dreams have not been forgotten.
While the framework for the Build Back Better Agenda and Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Biden announced on Thursday does not include all of the National Urban League’s priorities, it is a substantial down payment on a historic investment in a prosperous future.
The framework is heavily based on the Main Street Marshall Plan, the National Urban League’s comprehensive plan to lift urban communities out of
poverty and stimulate their economic growth.
It will facilitate the creation of millions of family-sustaining jobs, enable more Americans to join and remain in the workforce, and expand the American economy to allow equal opportunity for growth. Elements of the Main Street Marshall plan include:
- Universal and free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, making high-quality education available to more than 6 million children.
- Extension of the American Rescue Plan’s expanded Child Tax Credit, which reduced child poverty by 25% after only one payment and could slash child poverty by more than 40% in a typical year.
- Extension of the American Rescue Plan’s tripled Earned Income Tax Credit for more than 17 million low-wage workers
- Closing the Medicaid Coverage Gap, extending insurance coverage to 4 million Americans who are currently uninsured
- Investment in the construction, rehabilitation, and improvement of more than 1 million affordable homes.
- Down payment assistance that will allow hundreds of thousands of first-generation homebuyers to purchase a home and build wealth.
The Build Back Better Agenda and Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill is an investment in a nation that is inclusive, equitable, and most of all, attainable. It is time for the House and Senate to pass it and send to the president’s desk so we can put the American people first.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League. He can be reached through https://nul.org.