What is a Recovery Without Widespread Job Growth?

At a time like this, even modest, and potentially temporary, declines in the unemployment rate deserve a round of applause.  Well, unless the decline in the unemployment rate only brings it back to where it was for the first three months of the year.  And unless the rate remains significantly higher for people who had been stranded furthest from opportunity even before the recession.  So, maybe a golf clap?

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Spotlight on the U.S. - Mexico Border

What do our border policies say about our values as a nation?

President Obama committed to dispatching up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and is asking Congress for $500 million for increased law enforcement in the Southwest and for other border protection tools.

The White House is calling the maneuver "a multi-layered effort to target illicit networks trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons and money.”  But in practice, beefing up border enforcement under existing federal programs has only drained our government resources, has put into serious jeopardy our commitment to due process under the law, and has presented serious human rights implications. 

For example, Operation Streamline, an existing Department of Homeland Security program, was instituted in 2005, and mandates the federal criminal prosecution and imprisonment of all people who cross the U.S.-Mexico border unlawfully.

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Framing and the Facts

Here at The Opportunity Agenda, we talk a lot about values, and the importance of building communications around them. In fact, we built a whole organization around six core values that drive our work and the way we talk about it. We do this, of course, because these values matter to us.  Seeing them realized and supported are central to our goals. But as NPR explained recently, leading with values is also a savvy communications strategy. In a story on people's beliefs about climate change, reporter Christopher Joyce describes findings from Yale's Cultural Cognition Project that people form their views about climate change, among other things, based more on their existing worldview - and values - than on the facts presented to them.

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Small Banks, Big Impact

President Obama faced a remarkable political challenge in his recent State of the Union.  Beset on all sides—by populists on the left and right who are highly suspicious of him and all of institutional Washington, by an economy that can produce GDP growth but not jobs, by an increasing consensus that he has failed to connect his legislative priorities to core values since the election—he succeeded in, if nothing else, reminding us of the energy and passion that helped him build a network of committed volunteers, grassroots campaign staff, and small dollar donors.  In the speech he offered a litany of new financial policy prescriptions, including one—rolling $30 billion of TARP funds that big banks have already repaid into smaller, local banks—that has not garnered many headlines, but which represents an affirmation of the critical role that our communities play in our economic vibrancy.  

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Cold Times in New York Town

The coldest, most bitter part of winter is upon us.  Even those of us with a warm home and a proper coat have good reason to fear that truly awful type of wind, the kind that cuts through the skin and chills to the bone. And, for those among us without, this is the time of year when life becomes a struggle for very survival.

With the holidays past, it can be tempting to indulge in a little selfishness, putting all that thankfulness and goodwill towards others on the backburner.  When some unsold clothes that Walmart and H&M put in garbage bags outside their stores were found to have been slashed over the last few weeks, rendering them unwearable, it was probably not an act of malice against people who have been left out in the cold, but it certainly betrayed a lack of compassion.  No one should be forced to rely on digging through the trash for clothing, but, until we create a sufficient social safety net, it would be nice to think that we would all try at a minimum—a very minimal minimum—not to make life even more difficult for people trying to scrape by.

The economic collapse is forcing us to confront the degree to which our fates are inextricably linked.  And, while there is good reason to believe that many Americans have been reminded that we’re all in it together, all it takes is one story like this to see that, if we intend to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, we have an awfully long way to go.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.


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