President Obama speaking at a university in Richmond
As an aggressive follow-up to his address to Congress on his jobs creation bill last week, President Obama is on the road, taking that message directly to the people
The American public is weary of talk and wary of promises that help is on the way. That story was told when the government doled out the first stimulus package. It was re-told with the second stimulus package, yet the needy still has not been stimulated. Many of them are still unemployed or under-employed; many are losing or have lost their homes … and the misery continues. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, African-American poverty rate more than doubled that of non-Hispanic White Americans … in addition, the African-American poverty rate has also nearly doubled the overall U.S. poverty rate. Furthermore, that the African-American poverty rate is twice as high as the poverty rate for Whites reveals that African-Americans continue to suffer disproportionately from social injustices … to say the least … and that means the one-size-fits-all-solution is not practical or appropriate because since the suffering is unequally spreaded among African Americans, more of the remedy must be applied to “neediest.”
According to Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the focus of the President’s jobs plan must be targeted to the “neediest.” Prior to the President addressing Congress about his jobs bill, he took a short fact-finding bus tour through the Midwest. Soon after that, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), chaired by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, and led by Rep. Waters, urged the CBC “to get out of Washington and hit the streets of America” – they held massive job fairs in Cleveland, Detroit, Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles, which attracted thousands of the unemployed and hundreds of employers.
Then the President spoke to Congress saying “…we meet at an urgent time for our country. We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless, and a political crisis that has made things worse…” And for Black Americans, it is getting worse. The day after President Obama laid out his plan to kick-start job growth, many Blacks believed that it would reduce their jobless index over the coming months. For while the country’s unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent, Black unemployment has reached 16.7 percent, the highest since 1984. Unemployment among Black men stands at 18 percent, and for Black teens, it is 46.5 percent – a national disaster.
The CBC in general and Rep. Waters in particular, has been very vocal in articulating the jobless plight of the Black masses whose unemployment rate stands at 16.7 percent, a daunting figure. Many in the CBC believe that by ‘taking it to the streets’ the caucus may have cleared the way for the President to send his massive jobs bill to the Congress. “I can see that our handprint is all over it,” Waters said. “We upped the ante a little bit by pushing, being a bit more vocal. This was not done in a way to threaten the President, but to make it easier for him. We think we helped him to be able to formulate a response.”
But when the President told the Congress “…I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It’s called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans – including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything.” There is still some trepidation in the Black community. Past experience has demonstrated that these acts that emanate at high levels do not always ‘trickle down’ meaningfully to the Black community. (Like voting rights, they have to be enforced, watched and monitored … and then enforced, watched and monitored … to ensure meaningful compliance).
National Urban League president Marc Morial after meeting with President Obama also chimed in: “I look forward to working with the White House and Congress to insure that this package provides the type of targeted solution that ensures that urban communities are not left by the wayside for a second time.”
To help make his case, the President may have taken a page from the CBC’s book and has left Washington ‘taking it to the streets.’ The day after he spoke to the Congress, he went to Virginia with scheduled stops in Ohio and North Carolina. Hopefully, like Rep. Waters said, he would target the “neediest.”