If Jesse Jackson is mad at Barack Obama, the president must be doing something right. Jackson complained this week that President Obama wasn't doing enough to help blacks in a recession that has disproportionately affected black workers. Jackson's major beef, however, seems to be that he was not invited to the White House job summit earlier this month. Join the crowd. The White House didn't invite anyone from the Chamber of Commerce or the National Federation of Independent Businesses either, instead choosing labor union bosses and CEOs that are already reliably in Democratic ranks.
Jackson and black leaders in Congress are becoming increasingly unhappy with President Obama over his failure to play the race card during the recession. In early December, members of the Black Congressional Caucus boycotted a vote in the House Financial Services Committee to express their anger that their colleagues and the White House have not targeted assistance on helping blacks during this recession.
When asked about the caucus vote in an interview with USA Today, President Obama said, "The most important thing I can do for the African-American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy going again and get people hiring again."
I have been very critical of the president on his economic policies, which I think have slowed job creation and threaten to prolong the recession. But in this instance, he is absolutely right. The idea that we need racial quotas or preferences in targeting economic assistance would not only be a disaster as economic policy, it would be unconstitutional. The government has no business directing its aid on the basis of skin color.
It is true that blacks and Latinos have higher unemployment rates than whites, but that is true in good economies as well as bad. The current unemployment rate for blacks is 15.6 percent, 12.7 percent for Hispanics, and 9.3 percent for whites. But the difference between the groups is a reflection of lower skills among black and Hispanic workers -- and low-skilled workers are the first to lose their jobs during a recession. There's been no discriminatory policy to lay off jobs for blacks and Latinos, and there should be no target assistance based on race.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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