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We should all have the tools to meet our own basic needs and the needs of our families. Without economic and social security, it is impossible to access the other rights and responsibilities society has to offer. Security is at the core of our human dignity.
Tackling Racial Bias Requires Multi-layered Solutions
This blog post was authored by Summer 2015 Home Opportunity Intern, Alexander Adames.
Our nation’s Founding Fathers declared that all Americans are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Of course, in its earlier years, that statement excluded women and people of color. Nonetheless, we have made great progress by extending rights to women, racial minorities, people with disabilities, and the LGTBQ+ community. We have worked towards passing legislation that protects many Americans from discrimination. Now, though we have come a long way, we must acknowledge that there are still some measures that the American government must undertake to protect and serve its citizens. After all, this nation was founded in the name of the people and we must keep true to that value. We all deserve the right to safety and protection. If we deny our fellow Americans this right, then we deny their opportunity at life, liberty, and an equal opportunity to realize their full potential.
|Aug 13 2015|
September 11, 2011
On the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the time is right to consider how we have changed as a country and how we remain the same. It is a widely-accepted truism that we were all changed after the terrorist attacks in Washington, DC, New York, and Pennsylvania. However, even though some made use of the fear and heated emotions following the attacks to suppress human and civil rights, our bedrock principles endure, and in fact, flourish.
|Sep 9 2011|
Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: Social Security's 75th Birthday
Having reached it's 75th birthday, Social Security cuts are now being considered by the federal deficit commission. Survey data shows, however, that this action is wildly unpopular with a majority of Americans, as Social Security has historically held high levels of public support, and continues to do so. People have doubts about the program's solvency in the long-term, and this is an issue that needs to be addressed in a meaningful way.
|Sep 10 2010|
Spotlight on the U.S.-Mexico Border
While we’re spending our federal funds on policies that threaten both human rights at the border and judicial and prosecutorial safeguards, is there room for us to reaffirm our commitment to human dignity and due process?
|May 26 2010|
At Last, Rational Plans to Assess & Stabilize the Economy
What We Can All Learn from Truckers & Poker Players
|May 17 2010|
A Crisis for America
Across the country, our youth – the future of our country – took to the streets today. Protestors closed college campuses and secondary schools in a national day to defend the current state of public education. With rising tuition costs, budget cuts, increased layoffs and growing class sizes, parents, students and concerned citizens are trying to get their voices heard in the education crisis.
|Mar 4 2010|
An Economic Recovery for Everyone
Today, the public will get a look at how funds distributed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 are being spent when the reports from agencies receiving these stimulus funds are released.
|Oct 30 2009|
Blog Action Day: Climate Change
Today is blog Action Day. In the organizers' own words:
|Oct 15 2009|
Talking Points: The State of Opportunity Report (2009)
This memo offers guidance for using the 2009 State of Opportunity in America report, which examines various dimensions of opportunity, including health care, wealth and income, education, and incarceration. While expanding opportunity in America remains a goal of policymakers and advocates alike, this report finds that access to full and equal opportunity is still very much a mixed reality. Our recommendations to address this reality offer concrete ideas for moving us forward together.
|Apr 15 2009|
Report: The State of Opportunity Report (2009)
This is the 2009 State of Opportunity report. Here you may download the final report, the final report with accompanying charts, a synopsis, and each of the indicators individually.
Read more about the report here.
|Apr 1 2009|
Report: The State of Opportunity Update (2007)
This is the 2007 update to the State of Opportunity report. There are two files, the full chart of indicators and a summary.
|Mar 15 2009|
Report: State of Opportunity (2006)
If the promise of opportunity is a core national commitment, it is essential to measure our success in fulfilling that commitment. This report assesses the nation’s progress toward protecting and expanding opportunity for all Americans and encourages our policymakers, through bold leadership and innovative policies, to ensure the promise of o
|Feb 15 2009|
The State of Opportunity in America (2009) Released
The Opportunity Agenda is pleased to announce the release of our 2009 State of Opportunity in America report. The report documents America’s progress in protecting opportunity for everyone who lives here, and finds that access to full and equal opportunity is still very much a mixed reality.
|Feb 1 2009|
A Guaranteed Right to Health: The Key to Presidential Greatness
President-elect Barack Obama has renewed our hope as Americans that the promise of opportunity is revitalized, alive and well. But in order to secure his own legacy as the first great president of the 21st Century, and one of the greats in American history, he will need a grand undertaking equivalent to Abraham Lincoln's saving of the Union or Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.
|Nov 6 2008|
Framing to Win: Health Care is "a Right for Every American"
Are we "consuming" health care or realizing our "rights?" The American public is ready for a new conversation; in fact, the conversation has already begun. Are you speaking the right language to be a part of this new discussion?
|Oct 8 2008|
What's AIG got that your child doesn't?
If you've watched a news show, listened to the radio, picked up a newspaper or even just watched The Daily Show this week, you know that Wall Street is in trouble. Years of irresponsible speculation and reckless lending policies--including the targeting of subprime mortgages in America's most vulnerable communities--have contributed to the threat of bankruptcy of some of the biggest names in banking and insurance. Bear Sterns. Fannie Mae. Freddie Mac. Lehman
|Sep 17 2008|
Labor Day Health Blog
In lieu of the regular Monday Health Blog Round-Up, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on our observation of Labor Day yesterday, and how the history of the holiday reflects upon our current health care crisis.
Labor Day was first conceived of in 1882 by the Central Labor Union of New York City, a coalition of trade unionists who later joined with the American Federation of Labor. But it was not until twelve years later, on June 28, 1894, that Congress made Labor Day a national holiday, eventually adopted by all 50 states. What was the catalyst for the "day off for the working man," and how is all of this related to our current health care crisis? What follows below is a discussion of the key national values mobility, security, opportunity, and how government can (but sometimes fails to) defend the American Dream.
The catalyst, it turns out, may sound somewhat familiar. Irresponsible speculation by banks encouraged over-development by speculators, creating an economic bubble. When the bubble burst, thousands of businesses and hundreds of banks lost everything, resulting in a massive recession where unemployment skyrocketed and many American families wondered about how to make ends meet for the most basic of necessities. After massive protests (some ending violently) subsumed the industrial centers of the Midwest, Congress felt a need to act, and Labor Day, in recognition of the contributions of working families, was what they came up with.
Now, Labor Day is a fine holiday; I enjoyed it myself by making a chuck roast that turned out wonderfully. But the history that bears some worrying parallels to our current economic conditions (a downturn as result of over-speculation by banks and developers, though housing in our case rather than railroads) brings up some questions about how we view labor (with a small "l") in this country. America is based in the core ideal that when folks work hard, not only should they be able to barely make ends meet, they should have the opportunity to advance and fully participate in the social, economic and political. Put another way, this is the promise of Mobility, the element of the American Dream that says not only should we ensure that the lives of the next generation is better than our own, but we must make sure that our institutions allow for all of us in our own lifetimes to pursue a better life for ourselves, our families, and our community. A poor economic environment should not be an excuse for the government to fail to stand up and protect this right; the government has, at its best moments in history, defended the American value of mobility, by creating more jobs, by helping those who have fallen on the hardest times get back on their feet, by helping communities to find new paths in new economies through government-aided infrastructure and supportive programs.
The role of the government is to appease unrest with another national holiday; it is to provide Security. I don't mean security in the sense of having a strong national defense and valuable alliances and partners abroad, though that is important as well; this sense of security is that we, our families, and our communities are entitled, as part of the social contract of the United States, to be secure in our health, our homes, our most basic human needs that afford us our most invaluable human dignity. And here we find the roots of the answer to the second part of my question above, as to how the history of Labor Day relates to health care.
By any measure, Congress's response to the labor protests of May 1894 was inadequate. A holiday didn't change the fundamental inequities of the new economy; it didn't reduce unemployment (the highest estimate being 18.4%), create new jobs, or protect Americans struggling to survive despite working hard to build the new infrastructure of our country. "The Panic of 1893" that had precipitated the events of 1894 had been preceded two decades earlier by "The Panic of 1873," and would be followed by The Great Depression of the 1930s. In these cases, the government had seen the problem before, knew that Americans required their assistance to fulfill the dream of opportunity, security, and mobility, but failed to act. It was only after a government that recognized the American promise to aid our neighbors and to strengthen our national community acted to create jobs and programs to assist those hardest hit to recover that the nation once again began moving in the right direction.
And so, we finally come to health care. There is a crisis in America, only partly due to the recent bursting of the housing and real estate bubble, but a problem that has been underlying for quite some time. Almost 46 million Americans are uninsured, and 25 million Americans are underinsured, meaning that despite having insurance policies, they don't receive the health care that they need when they need it due to insufficient coverage. In a system where health care is tied so closely to employment, the downturn in the economy is foreboding, signaling a possible worsening of this crisis. And yet, in some good news last week, the percentage and number of uninsured actually dropped from 2006 and 2007, from 15.8% to 15.3%, and from 47 million uninsured to 45.7 million. The cause?
The expansion of a the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, ensuring nearly one million more children.
A government for the people is one that responds in times of need to protect our core American Values. Now is time for Congress to defend those values not with another holiday, but with real, practical solutions to key issues such as health care. What we need now is something much more than another day of barbecuing.
|Sep 2 2008|
A Debate on Housing, Live from the New Orleans City Council
|Dec 20 2007|
Undocumented Immigrant Honored in Arizona
|Dec 5 2007|
All Things Being Equal: Instigating Opportunity in an Inequitable Time
The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog reposted a recent New York Times article on the Surge Seen in Number of Homeless Veterans. While many veterans have ended up the sort of post-traumatic stress disorder which often correlates with homelessness, it's unusual that veterans would show up in shelters as soon after deployment as have the most recent batch after duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. Sexual abuse is another factor which correlates with homelessness -- the article states that "roughly 40 percent of the hundreds of homeless female veterans of
|Nov 9 2007|
WITNESS Launches 'The Hub' For Human Rights Media
|Nov 8 2007|
Writers Guild Fighting for Fair Pay While TV Networks Threaten To Cut Jobs
|Nov 7 2007|
San Francisco Hospital Closure Will Deny Health Care Access to Underserved Communities
|Nov 5 2007|
Crime is Not an Isolated Action, in New Orleans and Beyond
|Oct 31 2007|
Spitzer Reaches Agreement with Federal Government on Licenses for Immigrants
||Oct 29 2007|
As Americans, We Value Supporting the Vulnerable in our Communities
|Oct 25 2007|
Mychal Bell Back in Jail
||Oct 12 2007|
Equality in Immigration, Schools, and the Workplace
||Oct 11 2007|
Immigration Crackdown Affects School Children, DREAM Act Passes CA Assembly
|Sep 14 2007|
The State of Opportunity - An Update
Over at TomPaine.com, our Executive Director Alan Jenkins has a column about Bush's State of the Union and the State of Opportunity in America:
|Feb 7 2007|
State of Opportunity; State of the Union
Last night President Bush delivered his 6th State of the Union Address. Thanks to a terrific interactive tool put out by the New York Times, we're able to determine that Bush mentioned opportunity 8 times in his speech - more than in any other State of the Union address he has delivered thus far. In almost each instance, he referenced the need to spread hope and opportunity and build a brighter future for our country.
It's wonderful to hear the President promote the value of opportunity
Last year, just after the President's 2006 Address (in which one of the only references to opportunity came coupled with a broken promise to rebuild New Orleans - curiously absent from last night's speech), The Opportunity Agenda released a report - The State of Opportunity in America. In this report, we measured America's progress in expanding opportunity along a variety of indicators and issues. Our findings were not encouraging.
Next month, we'll release an update to the State of Opportunity Report. For now, here's a sample of our findings:
We'll have more in a few weeks. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, you can fact-check the President's statements and policy proposals through this tool created by Think Progress.
We also recommend you check out the SOTU review offered by our friends at the Drum Major Institute.
What did you think of the President's address and his newfound commitment to spreading opportunity?
|Jan 24 2007|
Brochure: About The Opportunity Agenda (2008)
Read about The Opportunity Agenda in our new brochure.
|Jan 20 2007|
God Grew Tired of Us
Next time you head to the movies you must check the powerful and inspiring film, God Grew Tired Of Us. It will be released in NYC and around the country this week. It explores American opportunity through a unique lens, following the lives of Sudanese refugees from the war in Southern Sudan to resettlement in the United States. It highlights how these men try to retain their culture while seizing opportunity in America -- earning a living, going to school, and providing for families back home. It investigates American culture and the American dream, and explores the pros and cons of life in the Unites States.
Here’s a trailer for the movie: and a summary from the website: “Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, GOD GREW TIRED OF US explores the indomitable spirit of three “Lost Boys” from the Sudan who leave their homeland, triumph over seemingly insurmountable adversities and move to America, where they build active and fulfilling new lives but remain deeply committed to helping the friends and family they have left behind. Orphaned by a tumultuous civil war and traveling barefoot across the sub-Saharan desert, John Bul Dau, Daniel Abol Pach and Panther Blor were among the 25,000 “Lost Boys” (ages 3 to 13) who fled villages, formed surrogate families and sought refuge from famine, disease, wild animals and attacks from rebel soldiers. Named by a journalist after Peter Pan’s posse of orphans who protected and provided for each other, the “Lost Boys” traveled together for five years and against all odds crossed into the UN’s refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya. A journey’s end for some, it was only the beginning for John, Daniel and Panther, who along with 3800 other young survivors, were selected to re-settle in the United States.”
For another interesting take on opportunity (and the barriers to it) in America and the Lost Boys, the book What is the What by David Eggers is a must read. It is based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng, and at 400+ pages, the book provides a nuanced account of the history of the Lost Boys and life after resettlement in America.
Finally, if you’d like to learn more about the conflict in Sudan and join efforts to help out, The International Crisis Group website has a short list of recommendations, including writing to your elected representatives and writing to media urging more coverage of the situation.
|Jan 8 2007|
Images of Opportunity
Here are The Opportunity Agenda, we are fortunate to have a strong partnership with the New School University in New York, where we teach a class on media and social justice, and work with some great professors who use our organization as a case study in their classes. Most recently,
Students in the class were tasked with producing an image that was representative of:
one of the 6 Core Opportunity Values that we use as the basis of our framing.
Students tasked with producing two images. One of which contained text and could function as an iconic image on our blog or website when we cover a particular issue or message around a particular core value. The second image was designed specifically for use by others. It was to contain no text, and was meant to be a "blank canvass" that other nonprofit organizations or social justice activists could use to remix and reuse the images for their own work. To that end, all images were to be original photos taken by the students, original graphic illustrations, or images found under a suitable creative commons license.
The results are in, and we're really please with the results. I've created a Flickr set of the images and tagged the photos with a number of common tags - non profit, creative commons, etc.
I'd invite you take a look at the work the students produced, pass the
|Nov 30 2006|
The Opportunity Mandate
I just want to add one thought to the great piece that our executive director currently has posted at TomPaine.com (which you should all go read).
Alan makes the point that this election wasn't just about Iraq, but about the economy broadly defined as the opportunity for every American to get their shot at the American Dream:
I think this is right, and just wanted to point out that it was also the main message in some of the Democrats more surprising pick-ups this November. Jim Webb, who beat out George Allen, just published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for fairness in the economy. Here's some excerpts:
Hopefully Webb is right - and his colleagues take his concerns seriously. The American people voted for change. They voted for a restoration of opportunity and the American Dream. It's the responsibility of our newly elected leaders to make that happen.
|Nov 22 2006|
Daily Blog Roundup
Spencer Overton at the BlackProf blog has an update on the Georgia voter ID law. Professor Overton links to an NPR interview he did on the subject yesterday, as well as a forthcoming article on voter identification.
Sara Solon at DMI Blog also tackles the supposed menace of "voter fraud," writing about how such ID laws are disenfrachising all sorts of folks - and not just poor, rural voters or people of color. As a bonus, she also links to Bronx Defender (And DMI fellow) Ezekial Edwards' interiew on WBAI about how the the census count of prisoners is distorting our democracy in other ways. Longtime Opportunity Agenda readers will remember that we covered this issue in the spring with an article by Kirsten Levingston of the Brennan Center.
Ezra Klein has a must-read about changes in Wal-Mart's employee health coverage, and what it means generally for the health security of working Americans. You should read the whole piece, but here's a quote:
The Insure Blog has some information about the "doughnut hole" - the gap in medicare coverage that many seniors now face. The blog notes that a study by Wolters Klewar Health estimates that 16% of seniors who fall into the hole will discontinue therapy due to the costs. And for some treatements, that figure may climb as high as 33%.
For more on healthcare, The Century Foundation is hosting this week's edition of The Health Wonk Review, a summary of the best of the health blogosphere.
On a cultural note, Jack Turner of Jack and Jill Politics alerts us to the unfortunate news that Aaron Mcgruder's Boondocks comic strip may have come to an end. Fortunately the reason is that Boondocks was renewed for a second season on the Cartoon Network and a Boondocks movie might be in the works. The first blog I ever wrote was about the Washington Post's boneheaded suspension of Boondocks. It's unfortunate that the second time I blog about Boondocks may be to chronicle its permanent end. At least this time McGruder is going out on his own terms and taking his brilliant cartoon to the next level.
Also take a look at Black Prof Spencer Overton's analysis of racial diversity in Grey's Anatomy.
Finally, economist Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute proposes a $3000 solution to Treasury Secretary Paulson's $64,000 question: why are Americans unhappy with the current state of the economy?
|Sep 27 2006|
Katrina's Aftershock: Jobless in the Diaspora
Guest Blogger Jared Bernstein is a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and the author of the book All Together Now: Common Sense for a Fair Economy.
August 29 marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall. In New Orleans, the storm not only scattered homes and belongings, but also thousands of residents who now represent a diaspora of Katrina survivors around the country.
For those of us following the economic numbers coming out of New Orleans and the diaspora, two lessons have become clear over the last twelve months: that race still makes a difference in the opportunity people enjoy, and that our government still has an important role to play in ensuring opportunity for all.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has been tracking the labor market status of Katrina evacuees. Its data have some limitations, the biggest of which is that the BLS survey covers only households, and thus misses people still living in shelters, hotels, and churches. But even with that drawback, the data tell a compelling story about the hardship that African-American evacuees have encountered in starting over.
For African Americans who remain away from home, the share with jobs is extremely low, 32 percent, and unemployment rates are at recessionary levels. In the most recent quarter, April-June of 2006, the jobless rate for African-American evacuees was 46.5 percent, about where it has been since the Bureau began tracking evacuees a few months after the storm. In contrast, most blacks who have returned to the city are working: their employment rate was 60 percent last quarter, comparable to the national average for black workers.
For whites, however, relocation has had virtually no effect on job opportunities. Sixty percent of white evacuees are working, regardless of whether they stayed in their new communities or returned home.
What explains this vastly different experience for whites and blacks? The characteristics of black non-returnees are slightly less favorable than those of returnees—they’re a bit younger with somewhat fewer skills—but not enough to explain the 28-point employment-rate gap.
Given the size of that racial difference, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that whites have simply faced fewer hurdles than blacks integrating into their new communities.
Whatever the causes, it’s apparent that government intervention is needed to clear the pathway home for evacuees of all races, and to address the labor market hurdles that disproportionately face displaced African Americans. Otherwise, this trend of unequal opportunity will only continue, shutting out hundreds of thousands of storm survivors who have already lost everything.
In the short term, Congress should restore unemployment benefits to the 80,000 Katrina victims who lost their jobs because of the hurricane yet saw their disaster-related unemployment benefits end last month. That effort should be coupled with incentives to rebuild the most disadvantaged communities rapidly, as well as job training and other services for groups that face the steepest employment barriers.
The promise of America is that opportunity should not depend on where you live or what color you are. As we mark the one-year anniversary of Katrina, Congress should act to fulfill that promise for those who have lost so much over the last twelve months.
|Sep 1 2006|
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