Just hours before President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on his jobs plan, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) is demanding the nation’s first African-American president prove he cares as much about unemployed blacks as he does about Iowa’s swing voters.
“There are roughly 3 million African Americans out of work today, a number nearly equal to the entire population of Iowa. I would suggest that if the entire population of Iowa, a key state on the electoral map and a place that served as a stop on the president’s jobs bus tour were unemployed, they would be mentioned in the president’s speech and be the beneficiary of targeted public policy,” Waters said in a statement to POLITICO on Thursday.
“So, one question to be answered this evening is, are the unemployed in the African-American community, including almost 45 percent of its youth, as important as the people of Iowa?” Waters asked.
Last week, the Labor Department reported that black unemployment–already well above the 9.1 percent national average–had a large one-month jump of 0.8 percent, to 16.7 percent in August from 15.9 percent in July. It’s the highest level of African-American joblessness in 27 years.
“This evening, as the President speaks to the nation about his plan to create jobs, he must acknowledge the economic disaster in the African American community, whose unemployment rate hovers at roughly 16.7 percent, almost double that of the general population and equal to depression-era levels. He must then articulate how the plan he puts forth will target the communities with the highest rates of unemployment, including the African American community,” Waters said.
With Obama unlikely to win the support of Republican lawmakers for his jobs proposal, any Democratic efforts to paint the GOP as obstructionist could be undermined by black lawmakers’ dissatisfaction with the president’s plan.
“It is time for us all to acknowledge that a rising tide does not lift all boats,” Waters said. “To be clear, I am not advocating for a ‘Black Jobs’ program. Rather, I am advocating for an approach that uses targeting to areas with high unemployment and poverty as a guiding principle in the design and disbursement of any new programs, tax cuts or emergency assistance. Such strategic allocation could have a net-positive impact on the unemployment rates in communities of color, and the country as a whole.”
“For example, if the President and Congress were to create an infrastructure bank, we could use small, women-owned, minority-owned and community banks, which disproportionately serve communities of color, to make loans for infrastructure projects with local hiring requirements, rather than the large financial institutions who are disconnected from communities and through the bailout, have shown an unwillingness to lend,” Waters said.
“Additionally, the President and Congress could create a tax-credit, similar to credits suggested for hiring veterans, which would incentivize companies to hire persons from areas of high unemployment. Finally, the President and Congress could target federal dollars to states and localities with high rates of unemployment and poverty to hire teachers, police and firemen.