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LAMBRO: Unemployed and black in Obama’s America
Jobless rate is worse than his predecessor’s
President Obama’s failed job policies are facing bitter criticism from black Americans, whose leaders now say black unemployment has grown worse under his presidency.
After four years of holding their tongues and remaining quiet in the face of sharply rising black unemployment rates, top political leaders from the Congressional Black Caucus to the NAACP have opened fire on the White House.
Mr. Obama won 96 percent of the black vote in 2008 and about the same percentage in 2012, despite years of very high unemployment levels among black workers. At 14 percent for adults and 43.1 percent for 16- to 19-year-olds, blacks still have the highest jobless rate of any minority group in the United States.
Black leaders in Congress largely kept their complaints to themselves throughout Mr. Obama’s first term in office and during his re-election campaign. The nation’s black leadership has become a great deal more vocal lately about fewer employment opportunities and a weak, lackluster economy. They are especially unhappy with the fact that Mr. Obama has placed relatively few black officials in top-level positions in his second-term administration.
It didn’t get that much media attention, but shortly after the president was inaugurated in January, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous went on nationwide television to condemn Mr. Obama’s weak job-creation record, charging that black Americans “are doing a full point worse” than when Mr. Obama became president.
“The country’s back to pretty much where it was when this president started,” Mr. Jealous said on “Meet the Press” Jan. 27.
The government’s employment numbers maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics support Mr. Jealous‘ latest criticism. The black unemployment rate was 12.7 percent when President George W. Bush finished his second term and Mr. Obama took office.
It soared over the first three years of Mr. Obama’s first term to 16.7 percent by September 2011, the worst jobless rate for black Americans since 1983. Unemployment among black teenagers exploded to 39.3 percent in July 2012.
“Statistics show that the African-American community is in bad shape under the Obama administration,” the widely read black website Your Black World said this week.Earlier this month, Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, Ohio Democrat, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, let loose with some stinging criticisms of Mr. Obama’s record on his appointments in his second term. “The people you have chosen to appoint in this new term have hardly been reflective of this country’s diversity,” she said in a letter to the president. “Their ire is compounded by the overwhelming support you’ve received from the African-America community.”Ms. Fudge and other CBC members complain that Mr. Obama has not devoted enough attention in his agenda to many of the critical economic issues within the black community, especially severe unemployment.”I think we are going to hear more voices of opposition coming from all sectors of black leadership, and certainly from the most hard-pressed sections of the black population,” said Tony Monteiro, professor of African-American studies at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, most black leaders do not understand that it is Mr. Obama’s economic policies that have contributed to the high level of unemployment among all Americans, especially blacks.
The NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus still think that Mr. Obama’s $800 billion economic-stimulus plan, largely made up of public works, infrastructure and other government spending, was the smart way to create jobs and boost economic growth. If anything, they wanted him to spend more.
There were no economic-growth incentives in his plan, though, that would have boosted venture-capital investment, the mother’s milk of business expansion, new business formation and job creation.
Soon after Mr. Obama’s stimulus plan became effective and the money began flowing out across the country, a look at the list of recipients revealed that it included hundreds of federal agencies and programs. It expanded government programs and maybe some of the money trickled down to workers, but it created relatively few permanent jobs.Once the stimulus funds were spent on roads, bridges and other public works projects, the jobs ended.The proof that Mr. Obama’s Keynesian spending didn’t work is in the numbers: high unemployment that is still skirting 8 percent, and that is 14 percent when you include workers who want and need full-time employment but are forced to take part-time jobs.
The economy isn’t getting stronger, as we can see in the economic-growth numbers that measure the gross domestic product. It grew at a barely moving pace of 0.4 percent in the last three months of 2012, according to the Commerce Department’s latest estimate Thursday. The Federal Reserve says unemployment will remain high this year and next and that economic growth will remain weak for at least the next two years.
Now Mr. Obama is calling for a $9-an-hour minimum wage, which the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus have supported in the past and no doubt support now. This is a job killer, however, particularly for small businesses and especially for minorities. It will kill entry-level jobs, and that will drive black employment even higher.
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