A plan for urban recovery

8/5/2016, 7 p.m.
As the general election season begins in earnest, the National Urban League has a message for the next president: Invest ...
Marc H. Morial

Marc H. Morial

As the general election season begins in earnest, the National Urban League has a message for the next president: Invest in America.

When Europe found itself in physical and economic ruin after World War II, the United States invested $13 billion — $130 billion in today’s dollars — through the European Recovery Program, more commonly known as the Marshall Plan, after Secretary of State George Marshall.  

Since 2006, the United States has spent nearly $50 billion rebuilding Afghanistan through the Afghanistan Infrastructure Rehabilitation Program.

The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008, infused the nation’s faltering financial institutions with investments of more than $400 billion. The United States’ collections under TARP and affiliated relief efforts, actually have exceeded total disbursements by more than $12 billion.

Whether we call it “recovery,” “rehabilitation” or “relief,” it’s time for America to demonstrate that our commitment to our own struggling urban families and communities is as powerful and compelling as it was for Europe, or for Afghanistan or for Wall Street.

The National Urban League proposes a sweeping and decisive solution to the nation’s persistent social and economic disparities — the Main Street Marshall Plan: From Poverty to Shared Prosperity.

In many ways, the country’s recovery from the Great Recession is well underway. But the recovery essentially has bypassed struggling communities of color. Black Americans remain twice as likely as white people to be unemployed. Since 1976, the black unemployment rate has consistently remained about twice that of the rate for white people across time and at every level of education. The household income gap remains at about 60 cents for every dollar. Black Americans are only slightly less likely today to live in poverty than they were 40 years ago.

The Main Street Marshall Plan is a bold and strategic investment of $1 trillion over the next five years in America’s urban communities, including:

• Universal early childhood education: Studies show people who were in preschool programs are more likely to graduate from high school, to own homes and have longer marriages. They are less likely to repeat grades, need special education or get into future trouble with the law. Furthermore, financially, the return on investment in early childhood education is estimated at 12 percent, after inflation.

• A federal living wage indexed to inflation: Not only would an increase in the minimum wage lift hundreds of thousands of Americans out of poverty and shrink the nation’s dangerously wide income gap, it would inject billions into the economy. According to a Chicago Federal Reserve Bank study, every dollar increase for a minimum wage worker results in $2,800 in new consumer spending by his or her household over the following year.

• An urban infrastructure fund to finance schools, community centers, libraries, water systems and urban transportation: Every dollar spent on infrastructure increases in economic growth between $1.50 and $2. An analysis by the Economic Policy Institute estimated that a $250 billion annual investment boosts the GDP by $400 billion and overall employment by 3 million net new jobs by the end of the first year.