The poor in urban America, he [Obama] 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, he has allowed it.
Finding work for the jobless is the best anti-poverty program this nation can mount. But while the Obama administration spends $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.
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.
In December 2009, when the black unemployment rate was just 5.5 percentage points higher than the national rate, Obama told USA TODAY that he didn’t think he needed to do anything special to close this gap. Now that it is nearly 7 percentage points higher, black leaders should demand that the president devote 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 insist that the resulting peace dividend be used to finance that revitalized urban policy–the one Obama not so long ago promised would be the focus of his economic agenda.