President Obama, the Congressional Black Caucus and Rising Unemployment Equals One Big Mess for America
By Gary A. Johnson
(August 17, 2011) As he seeks re-election in a submarine deep recession and a terrible economy, President Barack Obama announced today that he will introduce an economic plan next month. The last report that I read had the nation’s unemployment rate at 9.1%. The unemployment rate for blacks is 16.2%. For black males it’s 17.5%; for black teens the unemployment rate is a whopping 41%.
No President in recent history has been re-elected with a jobless rate that high. The President also announced that the housing market may not improve for a year. Speaking of housing, if the President and his economic team don’t improve jobs and housing, the President will be looking for a new home.
I am on the record for not being impressed with the President’s economic team of advisers. I think the collective body does not have enough of a connection with the black community and has given the President terrible advice. I know he is President of the United States. I know the political ramifications of “appearing” to give black folks any kind of preferential treatment.
That being said, no one can ignore the fact that nearly 14 million people are unemployed and millions more have given up looking for jobs or haven’t found a way to move from part-time to full-time work.
According to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, in Charlotte, N.C., the unemployment rate for blacks is 19.2%. If you factor in people who have given up looking for jobs, that number exceeds 20%. Folks, these are Great Depression numbers.
It is a fact that President Obama inherited this economic mess from the Bush administration. It is also a fact that statistically the economy has been weaker under President Obama than it was under President Bush, which is probably why President Obama’s disapproval rating on the economy is low (around 60%).
This series of events begs the following questions: How much criticism should President Obama get for his administration’s management of the economy? Is President Obama responsible for the soaring black unemployment rate?
It’s no coincidence, (at least in my mind) that the White House has serious concerns about President Obama’s popularity in the black community. A few months ago the White House launched a dedicated web page for black folks (President Obama and the African American Community).
In recent weeks, President Obama has been harshly criticized by Tavis Smiley and Cornel West. These two men are on The Poverty Tour: A Call To Conscience. While Smiley and West have been scorned by many in the black community for criticizing the President. I believe they have a right to challenge him on the issues. The problem for many, (myself included), is Tavis’ reputation for being petty and self-serving precedes him. In addition, the attacks from Smiley and West on the President are perceived by many as “personal cheap shots.”
Yesterday during the Congressional Black Caucus “For the People Jobs Tour” town hall in Detroit, MI, Black Caucus members told the mostly black audience to “unleash” them to confront President Barack Obama on the issue of jobs. WTF?
According to report filed by Correspondent Jeff Johnson posted on The Grio.com, California Rep. Maxine Waters a leading participant on the five-city Congressional Black Caucus “For The People” Jobs Tour, expressed her and other Black Caucus members’ dilemma of having to walk a line. Who is forcing the elected officials to “walk a line?”
Waters was quoted saying that the Congressional Black Caucus does not put pressure on the President. She explained, “Let me tell you why. We don’t put pressure on the President because ya’ll love the President. You love the President. You’re very proud…to have a black man [in the White House] …First time in the history of the United States of America. If we go after the President too hard, you’re going after us.”
Whoa. Let me step back and digest this. My first reaction to reading this story was that the Congressional Black Caucus members who feel that they cannot put pressure on the President during this period of Great Depression era unemployment are weak-kneed, gutless and spineless. Don’t get me started. I’m trying to trim down on my cussing.
What a bunch of inept elected officials. In my mind, the facts reflect that this is a crisis. Courageous people take action during a crisis. They don’t stand around waiting for permission to take action.
Detroit’s unemployment may be the worse for a major city in America. According to folks in the audience, President Obama has not come to Detroit during the worst days of the recession. With unemployment in the city at almost 50 percent that’s justifies asking: Why hasn’t the President visited our city to address this issue? If he can visit Iowa and other places in rural America, he should be able to find time on his schedule to visit the Motor City.
There is growing concern, even among hardcore supporters that President Obama is allowing himself to be detached from the “urban poor”—translation “poor black people.” President’s Obama’s approval rating is reportedly 80% among Black America.
I don’t care if the President’s approval rating is 100% among black folks. Given this economy he needs to be questioned and pressured to force his administration to provide a plan for how they will address this issue for black, poor and working Americans. His ass should be in Detroit, Los Angeles and other cities that are suffering with double-digit unemployment.
Something is terribly wrong when black elected officials are afraid to challenge the President because he’s black. Has politics trumped common sense and doing the right thing? It appears that some members of Congress are more concerned with keeping their job, than doing their job. That’s some terribly “flawed logic.” Another way of saying it is: “That’s some bullshit!”
If I am one of the President’s advisers, one of my primary concerns for the 2012 Presidential election would be voter apathy, especially in the black community. Capturing and killing Osama Bid Laden will not be enough to secure this election. This election is about the economy– specifically, JOBS and curtailing rising unemployment. If things don’t improve for black people, and the President is perceived as being disconnected and not having addressed the issues–black people will not show up at the polls to vote. CTRL + ALT + DEL = Game Over!
As for the Congressional Black Caucus, here’s a piece of advice: How about doing what you were elected to do and represent the best interest of your constituents and not yourselves. If that means criticizing the President of the United States to get him to address one of the most important issue of our time, then do it. I would like to know what the Congressional Black Caucus is doing to help create jobs and solve the soaring black unemployment rate in the black community. One would think that this would be the number one action item for this group of black elected officials. Has the Congressional Black Caucus put forth any recommendations or solutions to help the President solve this issue? Hey, I’m just asking? Hopefully, if Caucus members have been working on helping to create jobs in the communities in which they serve this will come to light.
One can always hope.
Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In America.com a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In America.com Blog. Gary is also the author of the book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.”
Source: Unemployment statistics courtesy Bureau of Labor Statistics.