Star Parker

The Congressional Black Caucus is gearing up for its big annual Washington event – its “legislative conference.”

This is the annual shindig where America’s corporations pour in millions to pay for lavish dinners and parties for Black Caucus members to discuss the crises of black poverty and unemployment.

The NY Times reported last year that the event in 2008 cost $3.9 million, with more than $350,000 going to the official decorator.

Amidst the wine and prime rib this year, the focus of discussion will be President Obama’s American Jobs Act.

One of the more vocal members of the Caucus, Maxine Waters (D-Calif), says she’ll be scrutinizing how the act will be “targeting the communities with the hardest unemployment and the most harmed in this economic meltdown.”

When it comes to government borrowing and spending as a way to “create” jobs, the Black Caucus is possibly the last vestige of the triumph of hope over experience.

Or in Einstein’s famous definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

There is certainly good reason to be deeply concerned about employment in black America. Total employment in this community is 17 percent lower now than it was ten years ago.

If Waters and her colleagues manage a sober moment to reflect during their festivities, they should consider a concept that could provide targeted help for their communities, proposed last week by economist Arthur Laffer in the Wall Street Journal.

Laffer revived an idea first championed a quarter century ago by the late Congressman Jack Kemp. Enterprise zones.

These are geographic areas of high unemployment that would qualify for special tax and regulatory relief to encourage investment and establishment of businesses.

The version Laffer proposes has four key elements that would operate in these areas:

First, no payroll tax on the employee or employer.

Second, suspend federal and state minimum wage.

Third, eliminate regulatory impediments to construction and setting up businesses.

Fourth, profits on businesses operating in these zones would be taxed at one third the regular rate.

I would add two other elements to Laffer’s proposal.

Dollar for dollar tax credits for all charitable contributions going into these areas. And school vouchers for all children in these areas to attend the school of their choice.

Star Parker

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do About It.