by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
President Obama seems positively eager to dismantle the safety nets put in place in the Thirties and strengthened by a Black-led movement in the Sixties. He calls it “Winning the Future” – a future that “holds nothing but further pain and decline for Black America.” By virtually all indices, Black fortunes have plummeted under the First Black President, whose policy is to let the (chocolate) chips fall where they may.
Obama’s Depraved Indifference
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“Where previous Democratic administrations have treated Black communities with benign neglect, Obama’s policy is best described as depraved indifference.”
Two years ago this month, BET reporter Andre Showell posed a question to Barack Obama at a press conference to mark the president’s first 100 days in office. Showell noted “double-digit unemployment” among Blacks and asked Obama, “What specific policies can you point to that will target these communities and what's the timetable for us to see tangible results?”
It was one of the First Black President’s greatest “I Have Nothing for the Blacks” moments. “My general approach is that if the economy is strong, that it will lift all boats,” replied the man who had brought millions to the Washington Mall just three months earlier, transforming an inaugural formality into a must-be-there-if-you-are-breathing Great Black Hajj. Obama then offered smug assurances that “folks who are most vulnerable are most likely to be helped because they need the most help.” Under his presidency, the exact opposite would occur.
In the year that followed, Obama would pump $14 trillion into Wall Street’s accounts, the biggest transfer of wealth in human history, but the “rising tide” would swamp Black America. Black male unemployment, which stood at an official rate of 17.2 percent when Sowell posed his question, would exceed 20 percent as the crisis deepened, with never a hint of targeted policy consideration from the Obama administration. Today, at 16.8 percent, Black male unemployment is markedly higher than twice that of white men (7.7 percent) – a significant widening of the great gap that has come to be thought of as “normal,” beginning in the early Seventies. The “hidden” chasms of Black joblessness have grown even more under Obama’s economic tutelage, as Blacks disproportionately crowd the subterranean corridors of the long-term and “discouraged” unemployed – a despairing cohort whose ranks have swelled to record levels during this rich man’s “recovery.”
“Barack Obama must bear direct responsibility for the relative Black decline, both as candidate and president.”
Black wealth has virtually disappeared. Data gathered prior to 2007, when the full scope of the subprime mortgage catastrophe was just becoming known, showed median Black family wealth at about $5,000, one-twentieth of the median white family’s $100,000 holdings. Since then, the bottom has fallen out from under whole communities, with Blacks hit by far the hardest. By the second quarter of 2010, Black home ownership had declined from its 2007 level of 48 percent to 46.2 percent, a 3.7 percent drop, and still falling – a guarantee that median Black household wealth is well below the $5,000 registered in 2007. (Median wealth for single Black women at the top of their earning capacity, ages 36 to 49, was precisely $5 – five dollars! – in 2010.)
Barack Obama must bear direct responsibility for the relative Black decline, both as candidate and president. As election year 2008 began, Obama took the most pro-banker, laissez faire capitalist position on home foreclosures of the three major Democratic presidential candidates. John Edwards backed a mandatory moratorium on foreclosures and a freeze on interest rates, while Hillary Clinton supported a “voluntary” halt and $30 billion in federal aid to homeowners. But Obama opposed any moratorium, mandatory or voluntary, and balked at cash for homeowners and stricken communities. As president, his program to stem the flow of foreclosures has been pitiful, near worthless in slowing the spiral that has taken down much of what once considered itself the Black middle class.
“His program to stem the flow of foreclosures has been pitiful.”
Where previous Democratic administrations have treated Black communities with benign neglect, Obama’s policy is best described as depraved indifference.
Having collaborated in two recent major budget agreements with the Republicans that have already wiped out much of the life supports that made a dignified Black existence barely possible, and with more fiscal massacres to come, Obama characterizes his current posture as “Winning the Future.” That future holds nothing but further pain and decline for Black America. His budgetary formula includes only $1 in closed corporate loopholes and higher taxes on the rich, for every $3 he slices from federal spending, most of it from education, health and other social programs. Then, like a cat scratching in kitty-litter, Obama tries to hide his actual deeds with a wonderfully crafted but totally fabulist speech: “We will all need to make sacrifices,” he said, without quantifying what was being sacrificed by whom. “But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in.”
Obama has already explained, to anyone that was actually listening, what kind of America he believes in. It is one in which people are tossed about to sink or swim with the tides.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].