- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2013


President Obama was definitely in the right spot when he stood practically smack dab in the middle of Southeast in Ward 8 in the nation’s capital, and chatted up the economic disparities many Americans are facing.

He didn’t say anything new Wednesday and he offered no new initiatives, although his talking points surely fired up fast-food workers and other wage earners who are planning to strike in 100 cities Thursday.

The strikers are unifying their voices for raising the minimum wage, and Mr. Obama’s talking points on “income inequality” gave them plenty of ideas for their placards.

New innovative ideas or outside-the-box leadership?

In a word, no.

The protesters stand among many of the very Americans who, the president pointed out, are struggling to “make ends meet” and “pay for college,” the people who no matter how hard they work “the deck is stacked against them.”

While such down-on-their-luck Americans live across the nation, a measuring stick shows that Ward 8 is home to more than its fair share.

The October unemployment rate in the ward topped 24 percent, as The Washington Times reported Wednesday, making it the highest and orneriest of rates among the city’s eight wards, and it has been that way for far too long.

For example, in 2005, when the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus in Southeast, where Mr. Obama spoke Wednesday, opened, the District’s unemployment rate hit 8.2 percent, and in Ward 8 it was 15.4 percent (3 points higher than 2004).

Indeed, now at 24 percent, whether you are a white resident who became a new homeowner or business owner in Ward 8 in recent years as the city’s economy grew by leaps and bounds, or you’re included among such demographics as ex-cons and the recently unemployed, the bottom line in Ward 8 remains the same: Someone among that unemployed 24 percent is a likely neighbor.

The employment challenges those people face didn’t begin when Mr. Obama assumed the presidency in 2009, but they have become overwhelming since then.

In 2008, when George W. Bush was still president, overall D.C. unemployment was 6.6 percent. In 2009, Mr. Obama’s inaugural year, it rose to 9.7 percent, peaking at 10.1 percent in 2011. The Times reported Wednesday that the October 2013 rate was 8.9 percent — higher than last year and proof that whatever practices and policies Mr. Obama has moved forward haven’t changed the economic fate of tens of thousands of D.C. residents.

During his speech on income inequality, the president did not propose any new initiatives, which means he’s likely to pile onto progressives’ “trickle up theory.”

An obvious pun, the “trickle up theory” goes something like this:

Congress and the White House raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10 or so an hour. The progressives are happy, the Democrats are happy and the Republicans can say they didn’t filibuster.

Please, don’t be fooled: Minimum-wage jobs are not meant to sustain a family of four, the stock family used by economists and analysts to argue for and against socio-economic policy on both sides of the political aisle.

We can no more expect that guy at Dunkin’ Donuts who can recite your favorite breakfast sandwich each weekday to raise a family of four on his wages than you can that “greeter” gal at whichever Wal-Mart you frequent.

“There’s no solid evidence that a higher minimum wage costs jobs,” Mr. Obama said, trying to debunk evidence to the contrary, “and research shows it raises incomes for low-wage workers and boosts short-term economic growth.”

Oh really?

Somehow that doesn’t ring true.

In fact it makes me wonder: Will Mr. Obama return to Ward 8 on any given day in 2014, after the minimum wage has been raised, and tell the 24 percent there who are still unemployed that in the “short term” their “economic growth” will have improved.

Heck no.

Because it won’t.

To be sure, many of those unemployed Americans in Ward 8 would like to make $7.25 an hour, especially since they’re earning $0 now.

As I said, Mr. Obama was definitely in the right place at the right time on Wednesday to talk about income inequality.

Unfortunately, he spoke like a typical politician, which means he didn’t speak truth to power.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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