President Obama will address the nation before a joint session of Congress on September 8th concerning his plans to stimulate employment. The Shirley Chisholm Presidential Commission (SCPAC) at its inaugural launch in June 2010 sponsored a Symposium titled Black America: The Economic State of Emergency which focused on the growing crisis of unemployment and joblessness in Black communities nationwide, and called for aggressive and focused policies to address the situation.
The Commission met recently to draft this statement outlining what it would hope the President would propose to remedy the Black unemployment crisis that has grown worse since last June.
The Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission acknowledges that the Obama administration is faced with the challenge to fix an economic crisis of epic proportions; a historic debacle that was inherited from the previous administration. The Commission also recognizes the role and responsibility of Congress to guide our economy in our system of representative governance. The urgency of the moment requires our President and Congress to find common ground to restore the American economy. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, Black Americans have fared worse among the nation’s jobless and continue to suffer disproportionately. We are beyond a point of crisis, evidenced by a recent Pew Research Center study that calculated the median wealth of white households to be 20 times that of Black households. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Employment Situation Summary for September indicates the Black unemployment rate was 16.7 percent for August and 8 percent for whites. Moreover, the unemployment rate for Black men stands at 18 percent and 46.5 percent for Black young adults between 16 and 19 years old.
These numbers represent a low estimate of the extent of unemployment. Also from the Employment Situation Summary, when the unemployment rate includes discouraged workers, others marginally attached to the labor force, and those who work part time but want full time work, the overall unemployment rate grows from 9.1 to 16.2 percent (Table A-16). Using this extrapolation, the unemployment rate for African Americans is 29.7 percent; it is 32 percent for African American men! While the unemployment rate was “virtually unchanged” for the general population, it worsened for African Americans. Long-term joblessness among Black workers has taken root, as many of the unemployed have dropped out of the job search out of despair and resignation.
The Commission views this situation as a crisis of conscience and calls upon the President and Congress to exercise moral leadership. In light of the crisis of Black joblessness, the Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission is calling upon President Obama to propose policies and actions that reflect the following:
Targeted Job Creation Initiatives
Whether tax credits for companies that hire new employees or job training for the long-term unemployed, like that in Georgia where unemployment insurance is used to pay stipends, the President must target initiatives to geographic areas where Black unemployment is the highest and demand documented evidence of the hiring and participation of Black workers.
Direct Public Sector Job Investment
President Franklin Roosevelt saved the nation with direct federal sponsored job creation in the Great Depression. The specter of high unemployment and anemic economic growth for the next five years as we recover from the Great Recession demands another bold national approach to jump start our economy. Federal dollars should be used to rebuild our aging and crumbling transportation infrastructure, repair public schools, and upgrade water, sewer and waste management systems. These are expenditures for the public good that have a real return on investment. Workers are able to buy goods and services, pay taxes, meet mortgage obligations and otherwise support their families.
Studies have shown that Black businesses do a much better job of hiring Black people at higher rates than white-owned businesses. An important proscription for ameliorating African American unemployment is to support and expand Black businesses and Black community commercial corridors. Strong community-based businesses provide jobs for local adult residents, help stabilize neighborhoods and provide part-time and summer jobs for Black youth who experience devastatingly high rates of unemployment. The Small Business Administration must make investment in Black-owned businesses a priority and the administration must call upon financial institutions to provide access to capital for start-up and existing enterprises owned by African-Americans.
The President’s jobs plan must recognize the disproportionate pain suffered by the Black community during this economic downturn and the need for a menu of programs targeted to the urban and rural communities most devastated by the Great Recession. We are beyond a point of crisis, evidenced by a recent Pew Research Center study that calculated the median wealth of white households to be 20 times that of Black households. At the same time the administration must address discriminatory practices in the labor market that continue to restrict African-Americans’ access to higher wage jobs. Three significant shifts in the U.S. labor market have wiped out decades of progress in building a Black middle class: the loss of industrial jobs exemplified by the downsizing of the automobile industry, the retrenchment of government employment at all levels, and the diminishment of the unionized workforce. Given these developments, and labor market discrimination, President Obama and Congress must offer a solution that creates clear pathways to employment for Black workers, with benefits and wages that are sufficient to support families and provide long-term financial security. The prosperity and security of our nation is contingent upon all Americans having an opportunity to work and receive wages consistent with the value of their labor. Black Americans can no longer be left behind if America expects to get ahead in the 21st century global economy.
For further information or to arrange interviews contact Carolyn McClair Public Relations: 917.686.0854 or email@example.com
The Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission, named in honor of the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress and the first woman to seek the Democratic nomination for President. An initiative of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW), the Commission held its inaugural public meeting June 18, 2010 in Washington D.C., to coincide with the commemoration of Juneteenth (June19), the date in 1865 that enslaved Africans in Texas learned of the Emancipation Proclamation. www.ibw21.org Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 718-429-1415
Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission
Dr. Ronald Walters (In Memoriam)
Rick Adams – Convener, Western Pennsylvania Black Political Assembly, Chairman, Institute of The Black World 21st Century Board of Directors, Pittsburgh, PA.
Walter Fields – Executive Editor, NorthStarNews.com
- Dr. Michael Fauntroy – Associate Professor, Public Policy, George Mason University, Washington, DC
- Dr. Duchess Harris – Associate Professor, American Studies, Macalester College, St. Paul, MN
- Dr. Marc Lamont Hill – Associate Professor, Education and Anthropology, Columbia University Teachers College, New York, NY
- Dr. Julianne Malveaux – Pre-eminent Political Economist and President, Bennett College for Women, Greensboro, NC
- Dr. Patricia Newton – President, Black Psychiatrists of America, Inc.
- Makani Themba – Chief Executive Officer, The Praxis Project, Washington, DC
- Dr. Mtangulizi Sanyika – President, African American Leadership Project, New Orleans, LA
- Attorney Nkechi Taifa – Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundations, Washington, DC
- Dr. Boyce Watkins – Professor, Finance, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
Dr. Ron Daniels – Distinguished Lecturer, York College, City University of New York, President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century.
G. Rosaline Preudhomme – Management Consultant, Institute of the Black World 21st Century, Colonie, NY