Attorney General Strengthens Commitment to Equal Opportunity in Recovery Spending

Equal opportunity is one of our nation’s most valuable national assets.

On September 27, 2010, the Office of the Attorney General reinvigorated our nation’s commitment to opportunity for all people by releasing a memorandum adopting The Opportunity Agenda’s ongoing policy recommendations for the economic recovery.

To comply with civil rights requirements prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, disability, and gender in federally funded programs, the Attorney General stated that federal agencies should consider:

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New Challenges, New Solutions

The Opportunity Agenda was founded with the mission of building the national will to expand opportunity in America, a reflection of the core American belief that where we start out in life should not determine where we end up.  The vision that we will have a country in which your possibilities are determined by you is central to the American self-concept.

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A Government that Reflects America's Values

According to a 2007 poll, Americans define human rights as the rights to equal opportunity, freedom from discrimination, a fair criminal justice system, and freedom from torture or abuse by law enforcement. Despite the current political wrangling over how to reform it, a majority of Americans even believe that access to health care is a human right.

There was a time when America’s leaders echoed those sentiments. President Franklin D. Roosevelt embraced them when he told Congress, “Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.” And in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the Civil Rights Act, forming the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The Commission was intended to conduct critical reviews of social needs and public policy – in essence, to be the conscience of the nation. Regardless of circumstances or leadership, the body was to operate as an independent voice for the broad range of civil rights issues facing the country.

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Bi-Weekly Public Opinion Roundup

The upcoming November elections draw near, both Democrats and Republicans are in an election state of mind. Both parties are focusing on trying to appease their voter base, while Obama and his administration push forward to make due on some promises such as health care reform and the repeal of the ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ military policy.

According to recent surveys 32% of Americans affiliate with the Democratic Party and 26% self-identify as Republican, while 39% identify as independents. Regarding the upcoming fall election, 34% of Americans say that they will definitely vote Democratic, while 37% say that they definitely will not.A majority of the public view both Democrats and Republicans unfavorably. 51% of the public view the Democratic Party negatively, and 57% for Republicans. Three- quarters of the American public disapproves of Congress, which is their highest disapproval rating since 1977. Additionally, half of the public would like to see the filibuster rule changed, in order limit back and forth politics of Congress, and ensure sure legislation actually can be passed.

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The Disparate Impact of the Downturn

While it is a deeply-held American belief that we’re all in this together, there has long been a truism that when the economy gets a cold, the poor get pneumonia. It’s a glib way of noting that any downturn in the economy has a disparate impact on those least prepared to handle it.

On February 20, 2010, the New York Times published an article on the “new poor,” millions of Americans struggling with long-term unemployment. As the Times notes, changes in the economy have stripped away some of the jobs that traditionally offered a path to the middle class for those with less education. “Some labor experts say the basic functioning of the American economy has changed in ways that make jobs scarce.” … “Factory work and even white-collar jobs have moved in recent years to low-cost countries in Asia and Latin America. Automation has helped manufacturing cut 5.6 million jobs since 2000 — the sort of jobs that once provided lower-skilled workers with middle-class paychecks.”

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