11/04/2013 12:14 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Survived the Battle but Far From Winning the War

Just hours after Congress reached a deal to reopen the government, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren sent an email to her constituents stating, "I'm relieved, but I'm also pretty angry." Her sentiment was shared by Americans across the country, including Danielle Smith of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Smith, the mother of a young son, lost her job as a family counselor when funding for her employer -- the Head Start program -- ran out due to the government shutdown.

While our government may be open again, the doors to the robust economic recovery our country seeks remain welded shut.

Like most, the NAACP is relieved the country averted an economic catastrophe. However, we share Warren's reluctance to celebrate a legislative deal that maintains the type of budget cuts that continue to weaken our country's economic recovery and harm the most vulnerable populations including racial and ethnic minorities, women and children.

Over the last few years, austerity budgeting has become the new normal in the U.S. and abroad. At the federal and state levels budget cuts are rippling across the country, amplifying issues of high unemployment, low resources and increasing economic insecurity.

This sequestration is not our country's first time experiencing the devastation that sweeping budget cuts have on the middle and working class. President Ronald Regan weakened social programs while advancing tax cuts for the wealthy. His administration's deregulation policies positioned this country to continued racial disparities and the highest income and wealth inequality not seen since before the Great Depression.

Over the last three decades, during both Democratic and Republican administrations, black and brown unemployment has hovered at 1.5 times to 2 times that of white Americans. The median income for most Americans has remained stagnant while healthcare, education and daycare costs have skyrocketed. Pathways to sustainable wealth for the majority of Americans have met increased barriers that limit affordable homeownership particularly for people of color. And we have a system that protects big businesses and corporations but leaves workers vulnerable to termination for demanding a living wage.

Too often in today's economic debate we hear lawmakers proposing to leave the sequester in place and further cut all other budgets. But we know what happens when there is limited private sector investment and continued cuts in the public sector -- an anemic economy where most Americans are left economically vulnerable.

Austerity budgeting is not the key to building a sustainable and competitive 21st global economy; it is the greatest obstacle.

A country's economic agenda must strengthen its people not weaken them. If we continue to make these cuts, we risk leaving bleaker prospects for future generations and waning their ability to compete in a global 21st century economy.

We need to redirect our efforts to ending the sequester and advancing public investments, like the Affordable Care Act, job creation programs, wealth building opportunities, fair tax policies and other investments that can grow the economy.

The crux of the fight over the government shutdown -- and past fights -- has never been whether to spend or tax but on whom do we spend and whom do we tax. And over the past 30 years the majority of the American people continue to see cuts to investments for a sustainable middle class economy replaced with tax cuts that strengthen the economy of the 1 percent.

So, while the battle to end the government shutdown is temporarily over we are still far from winning the war in building an inclusive economy that is equitable and provides greater opportunity for all. Only once we open and pass through that door, can we claim victory.