THE BLOG

Just Give Me 5 Minutes With The President And I'd Tell Him...

07/30/2013 10:26 am ET | Updated Sep 29, 2013

When you are in my line of work, it's a good week when the President -- speaking on the state of the economy -- reiterates the pledge he made at the State of the Union address to "rebuild ladders of opportunity for all those Americans who haven't quite made it yet."

Too many of these Americans who struggle to get by live in my part of the country -- the Deep South. Figuring out ways to break the intransigence of poverty is my all day, every day job.

At Hope Credit Union, we provide products and services that strengthen what President Obama calls "cornerstones of middle-class security:" jobs, home ownership, health care security, and retirement security. And to his list we would add: access to affordable financial services.

This week, I will be at the Aspen Leaders Action Forum participating in a panel that seeks to fill in the following sentence: "Just give me 5 minutes with President Obama and I'd tell him..."

I've been lucky enough a few times to have had those five minutes, but I'll take them again, and here's what I'll say:

Mr. President, your administration has the power right now to start rebuilding ladders of opportunity. Using laws already on the books and funded programs that are already in place, you must direct your people at Treasury, HUD, USDA and other departments to make sure the allocations of federal resources go to organizations that are working, in line with your goals, to grow opportunities for the people who see the rungs on the ladder getting farther apart.

Too often we see these resources going to organizations that do not share your goals.

These allocations should not go to big corporations who might meet the letter of the law but are using federal programs to make money for shareholders and executives.
These allocations should not go to wealthy individuals who might have good contacts in Congress but will only use the resources to buy an even bigger house for themselves.

Scarce federal resources must go to the community development organizations that are strengthening the rungs on the ladders of opportunity and will use those resources to help the people you want to help right now.

These organizations should share your commitment to equality of opportunity, to upward mobility. We agree with you that as a country "we have to do a lot more to give every American the chance to work their way into the middle class." At Hope, we have pledged to double our membership over the next three years. This means we will be bringing financial services to twice as many previously unbanked or underserved communities. We could use those federal resources to help us meet this goal.

Acknowledging intransigence from Congress, President Obama went on to say: "Whatever executive authority I have to help the middle class, I'll use it."

I hope so. What the government does -- all the way down to the details -- matters.

Sure, Mr. President, push your agenda with Congress. We support your efforts to increase the minimum wage, expand preschool, and reduce higher education debt.

And, please, use the tools you already have.