Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I like Barack Obama, but...

By DeWayne Wickham

This is not an easy column for me to write.

It’s never easy to tell someone you like that they’re a disappointment. I like Barack Obama. I liked him the first time we met back in 2006 when I took a small group of journalism students to Washington, D.C., for a meeting with the then-freshly-minted U.S. senator.

I liked Obama even more when an aide to his presidential campaign invited me to a July 2007 speech he gave laying out his commitment to improve life for people in urban America – which for most politicians is a euphemism for black America.

“Today’s economy has made it easier to fall into poverty…Every American is vulnerable to the insecurities and anxieties of this new economy. And that’s why the single most important focus of my economic agenda as President will be to pursue policies that create jobs and make work pay,” Obama said that day to his mostly-black audience.

At that time the nation’s overall unemployment rate was 4.7 percent. Whites had a jobless rate of 4.2 percent while the black unemployment rate stood at 8.1 percent. Today the black rate is 15.5 percent, nearly double that of white job seekers.

I don’t blame Obama for the economic conditions that are responsible for so many blacks being out of work. The seeds of this problem were planted long before he moved into the Oval Office. But I do fault him for not doing more to fix this problem.

The poor in urban America, he said in that 2007 speech, “suffer most from a politics that has been tipped in favor of those with the most money, and influence, and power.” And then he asked rhetorically: “How can a country like this allow it.” To which he answered: “We can’t.”

But so far, under his leadership, it has allowed it.

Finding work for the jobless is the best anti-poverty program this nation can mount. But while the Obama administration spends $2 billion dollars a week fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan; and spent $608 million during the first 17 days of its involvement in Libya’s civil war; it can muster neither the money nor the will to combat black unemployment.

The president’s failure to fight this problem as vigorously as he wages war abroad gets a pass from black leaders, many of whom complain to me privately, but remain silent in public. They’re reluctant to challenge Obama the way Martin Luther King, Jr., did Lyndon Johnson in 1967.

America “would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor” so long as it was involved in the Vietnam War, King said in a speech in which he called for an end to that bloody conflict.

Last month, as the Obama administration applauded the creation of 216,000 new jobs and a slight dip in the overall unemployment rate, the gap between whites and blacks without work widened as the black unemployment rate inched up.

Back in December 2009, when the black unemployment rate was just 64 percent higher than the national rate, Obama told USA TODAY he didn’t think he needed to do anything special to close this gap. Now that it is 75 percent higher, black leaders should demand that the president target as much attention on this problem as he has on ending the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and in pushing for immigration reform.

They should demand an end to the wasteful spending on wars that can’t be won and use of the resulting peace dividend to finance the urban policy Obama once promised would be the focus of his economic agenda.


Rev Dr Susan K Smith said...

I so agree with you, Dwayne. I get the feeling he's afraid to say or do anything about it because he's afraid of appearing "too black." That's a crock, but that's what his political opponents would say. I wish he'd go on and do what's right. If he doesn't, then who?

Anonymous said...

Dwayne i am glad someone in journalism see what is happening with the so call first black president.
What really gets to me -is our so call black leaders aka. Rev Al Sharpton is also going along with the president of passing this immigration law for illegals.
He should be the main 1 on Obama's back about the BLACK joblessness.
It seems as though Al is trying to fit in where he can get in.. Doesn't surprise me..

"To be black and beautiful means nothing in this world unless we are black-powerful and esponsible."
-John Henrik Clarke

Mr. Kite said...

one of the biggest causes of unemployment, underemployment, and depressed wage employment is immigration, particularly illegal immigrations. These effects have struck at most Americans, but particularly hard at black Americans.

Meanwhile, Obama is doing his best to make the situation worse by his pushing of amnesties and increased visas, which will swell both legal and illegal immigration. He cares so much about squeezing Americans that he is suing Arizona for enforcing immigrations laws, while praising Utah for passing a bill that illegally and unconstitutionally tries to establish a state wide amnesty and work visa program.

You should check out http://www.NumbersUSA.com

Wendell said...

DeWayne, I would love to hear your ideas on what specifically the President should do to close the gap between the black and white unemployment rates.