The Expansion of Black American Misery under Barack Obama’s Watch
by Dr. Reginald Clark
Black folks are not only far worse off “since 2009 under President Obama’s economic and job creation policies” – Africans Americans are the only group that “has taken a definitive step backwards since then.” The main reason: “lack of attention to employment in urban and rural geographic areas where Blacks reside.”
The Expansion of Black American Misery under Barack Obama’s Watch
by Dr. Reginald Clark
“Obama has declined to even put forth the idea that ‘low income Black people need targeted help.’”
Here are two facts that may surprise many people.
1. Black misery has been growing since 2009 under President Obama’s economic and job creation policies. Black folks participation in the labor market has been steadily moving DOWNWARD during the Obama presidency – since 2009 when he was first inaugurated.
2. ALL other major racial groups have moved up, albeit moderately, since 2009! Blacks are the only group that has taken a definitive step BACKWARDS since then. Why? This article will argue that it is because for the past 4 years, until last week, Obama has declined to even put forth the idea that "low income Black people need targeted help too!!! Needless to say, has not designed any job creation strategies or policies that would do something for the Blacks who supported him the most.
One indicator of this downward spiral for Blacks is the underemployment rate. Underemployment is measured by the extent to which people who “usually work full time” cannot find full time employment. These include people who are unemployed completely and people who work less than full time (i.e. less than 35 hours a week) due to their inability to find more employment. The underemployment rate does not include the millions of U.S. citizens (mostly Black) who are institutionalized in prisons.
“Obamapologists will hold their fantastical views even when their favorite son creates policies that have helped everybody else except them.”
Recently I contacted the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to obtain unpublished data they had collected about the rate of UNDER-employment for various racial groups in the U.S. since Obama was inaugurated – from 2009 to today. They sent me the reports I requested. These “unpublished” data show that since Obama was inaugurated in 2009, the economic and job creation policies he has advocated and/or implemented have coincided with moderately better employment prospects and opportunities for ALL other racial groups except one – the Black folks who still deeply support him. More specifically:
The rate of UNDER-employment for Hispanic Americans has DROPPED from 15% in 2009 to 12% at the end of 2012. This represents an improvement of about 20%.
The rate of UNDER-employment for White Americans has DROPPED from 10% in 2009 to 8% at the end of 2012. This represents an improvement of about 20%.
The rate of UNDER-employment for Asian Americans has DROPPED from 8% in 2009 to 6% at the end of 2012. This represents an improvement of about 25%.
But the picture for Black Americans is in the opposite direction. The rate of UNDER-employment for Blacks has INCREASED from 16% in 2009 to 20% at the end of 2012. This represents a 25% WORSENING in the rate of Black underemployment during Obama’s first term in office from 2009 through 2012.
Moreover, the true extent of Black misery in the workplace is not reflected in these statistics. At least 2 million Blacks are in prison and unable to seek employment. Half of these Blacks are there for non-violent drug offenses. If these 2 million Blacks were out of jail, living in their communities, and unable to find full time work, the Black underemployment rate would be 30%.
“President Obama’s job creation policies have ignored a specific focus on stimulating the hiring practices in businesses that are located in the geographic areas where Blacks mostly reside.”
Downward mobility for Blacks since 2009 is shown by the unpublished data available from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other studies as well have reported the disproportionate rate of Black job loss since the recession began. For example, one article reported that “While US unemployment is decreasing overall, one minority group is being left out of the recovery. African-Americans are continuing to lose jobs, with the black unemployment rate now standing at 14.3 percent.”
Since 2009, under Obama’s leadership, the data show that Whites have GAINED millions more jobs and their unemployment rate has gone DOWN. But Blacks have lost hundreds of thousands more full time jobs than they had when Obama was inaugurated, and their unemployment rate has gone UP. Black misery as a whole has increased in at least 10 other quality-of-life and socioeconomic areas as well: employment, family wages, home ownership, health care access, median net worth, poverty rate, college education attendance, college financial aid, retirement savings accounts and benefits and consumer debt. (I will discuss these in future articles in Black Agenda Report, and in more detail in my book when it is finished at the end of this year.)
Some Blacks will have a hard time believing these data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some will ask how it could be that Blacks are the only racial group moving backwards in the area of jobs access, while all other groups are experiencing modest improvement in that area. A big part of the answer, I believe, is that for four years President Obama’s job creation policies have ignored a specific focus on stimulating the hiring practices in businesses that are located in the geographic areas where Blacks mostly reside – mostly economically ravaged urban areas and some rural areas.
“This economic holocaust is NOT primarily caused by Black’s education levels.”
Many Blacks know preciously little about Obama’s economic policies and job creation policies, so they are more susceptible to fall for the okie-doke explanations that evasive politicians like to give. Because they know very little about how Obama’s economic policies work against their interests, Blacks often go for the "easy answer" with the "it's all about racism" cop out. Or they claim that “it’s always been that way.” Or they use the excuse that “he can’t single out Blacks because the White racists will jump all over him.” Or they claim that “Blacks shouldn’t try to be focusing on getting government support. Do for self.” Or “Blacks need more education. That’s why they are going backwards.” But this economic holocaust is NOT primarily caused by Black’s education levels. As a recent study stated: “…There is a massive job shortage right now relative to before the recession started at all levels of education. While workers with higher levels of education face substantially lower unemployment rates, they too have seen a large percentage increase in unemployment. Workers with a college degree or more still have unemployment rates that are close to twice as high as they were before the recession began.”
Importantly, all the other racial groups whose members have similar education levels as Blacks are still doing better from Obama’s policies. Rather, the main the reason for this recent downward spiral in Black underemployment rates seems to be the lack of attention to employment in urban and rural geographic areas where Blacks reside. At the same time, as reported by Think Progress, “Corporations have been the overwhelming beneficiaries of Obama’s policies. Over 88% of all the dollars obtained between 2009 and 2011, 88% of national income growth, went to corporate profits, while just 1% went to wages.”
“An Obamapologist is someone who actively looks for every excuse under the sun to explain away questionable and harmful behavior that president Barack Obama does.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. observed 5 decades ago that "Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think." This statement is, unfortunately, often true about how Blacks approach Obama’s policies in an unquestioning manner. They are like protective parents who refuse to hold their favorite son accountable. They will quickly attack the messenger, the teacher, and anyone else who calls their favorite son’s behavior into question. To them, anyone who attacks Obama’s policies are “just picking on” their favorite son. They are what I call Obamapologists. An Obamapologist is someone who actively looks for every excuse under the sun to explain away questionable and harmful behavior that president Barack Obama does to Black and Brown and White low income people all over the world – even when they do not have ANY credible evidence to back them up. Obamapologists will hold their fantastical views even when their favorite son creates policies that have helped everybody else EXCEPT them. That’s why Malcolm X once described Black folks as “political chumps.”
Now, in February 2013, for the first time since he was inaugurated in January 2009, during his State of the Union address, and again on February 15th in Chicago, Obama appeared to acknowledge the deleterious role of the federal government’s job creation policies on the severe depression of low income Black communities. His “solution?” “And this year, my administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet.” For the first time in 4 years he seemed to be saying he will use federal government resources to establish strategies that focus on the needs of low income Black workers seeking employment.
“Obama’s late response to Black Americans’ job needs will yield no significant or effective results for Black American communities.”
He was not forthcoming with exactly what he will do, however. He also urged Blacks to send their kids to good schools that don’t exist (as opposed to the prep-prison schools that do exist), get good jobs that also don’t exist, and buy nice houses with money they can never accumulate because most Blacks live from paycheck-to-paycheck or struggle to find full time employment that pays a living wage. (See the president’s remarks in Chicago on “strengthening the economy for the middle class.”)
I believe we will see over the next 45 months that Obama’s late response to Black Americans’ job needs will yield no significant or effective results for Black American communities. It is highly doubtful that he will provide the level of resources needed to make it a success. His initiatives will be little more than window dressing. Obama started too late trying to pay attention to such a major initiative. Sadly, he will end his presidency not having made ANY significant positive difference for African American workers and their families. What a waste.
Dr. Reginald Clark is a scholar and activist. Originally from Chicago, he resides in the Los Angeles area. Reg is a researcher and sometimes college lecturer in the areas of Urban Education and Child and Family Studies.
Currently Reg is writing a book with the working title of “Shooting Ourselves in the Head: How American Public Policies Fail Most American Families and Children” The book will discuss how American families and children are being adversely affected by policies and programs established by government politicians and agencies, and how politicians and lawmakers work in tandem with corporate interest groups- to establish corporate-favored laws (e.g. Citizens United), and then use those laws as a firewall to hide behind as they (often) work with major sectors of the labor market (e.g. manufacturing, retail/entertainment, etc.) and with various corporations -- health care, food and prescription drugs, education, housing, finance, prison-industrial complex, and media that hire workers -- to establish policies and laws that adversely impact the socioeconomic success of ordinary American wage earners (toward the goal of increasing corporate wealth, even if it is at the expense of families and children).
The aim of the book is to shine light on a problem that threatens to undermine our entire society: the pattern of government leaders voting for laws that favor private businesses in exchange for kickbacks and bribes (in the form of legal "donations"). He hopes to spur citizens to take action, and cajole our elected officials to develop public policies and laws that prioritize the lifestyle needs of American families and children over corporate profits. He expects to complete this book for publication before the end of 2013.
His previous book, Family Life and School Achievement: Why Poor Black Children Succeed or Fail, is considered a classic in the Educational Policy arena. That book has been in print for 30 years, and has been used to inform education policies at the federal, state and local levels. Reg can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org