As we close out the year, this is a good time to take a look back at some of the big events of 2010 that will influence our lives for years to come. The National Urban League has spent much of our centennial year urging the Congress and the White House to focus relentlessly on job creation. But, we end the year with a so-called tax cut compromise that rewards billionaires, shortchanges middle and working class Americans and does little to create jobs. We have called for changes in the tax package, including extending unemployment benefits for two years and increasing tax cuts for middle class families. No matter what the Congress does before the end of this year, this is sure to be a fight that carries over to 2011.
But all is not doom and gloom. The Obama administration achieved several major legislative victories this year that will benefit all Americans.
On March 23, President Obama signed historic health care reform legislation into law. With the stroke of a pen, the president expanded coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured. The bill also prevents insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions and allows children to stay on their parent’s insurance plan until they turn 26. Health care reform had been debated for decades and attempted by numerous presidents. President Obama got it done and the country is better for it.
On July 21, the president signed into law the most sweeping Wall Street financial reforms since the Great Depression. The bill reins in the big banks that have largely been responsible for the financial crisis. It also creates a new Consumer-Financial Protection Bureau that will be able to regulate mortgage and credit-card products, including predatory lenders that have operated with impunity up till now. Upon signing the bill, the president said, “From now on every American will be empowered with the clear and concise information they need to make financial decisions that are best for them.”
Finally, 2010 saw the National Urban League celebrate 100 years on the frontlines of closing America’s equality gap. From July 28 – 31, the NUL held its Centennial Conference in the nation’s capital. President Obama attended, and delivered a major education speech.
The events of the past year remind us that we must be one nation empowered to ensure that every American child is ready for college, work and life….that every American lives in safe, decent , affordable and energy efficient housing on fair terms and has access to quality, affordable health care solutions. And most importantly, that every American has access to jobs with a living wage and good benefits. As I said at our July conference, as long as there are people out of work, as long as there are people in need of better schools, as long as there’s a need for safe, decent and wholesome afterschool programs, as long as there are people who long to become homeowners and are looking for somewhere to turn, this National Urban League and Urban League Movement is here to stay. Enjoy the holiday and Happy New Year!
Marc Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.