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Black Leaders Open Fire on Obama Over Unemployment

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama's failed job policies are facing bitter criticism from African-American leaders who say black unemployment has grown worse under his presidency.


After four years of holding their tongues and remaining quiet in the face of sharply rising black unemployment and record poverty, political leaders from the Congressional Black Caucus to the NAACP have begun to open fire on the White House.

Obama won 96 percent of the black vote in 2008 and about the same percentage in 2012, despite a worsening jobless crisis among African-Americans. At 14 percent for adults and 43.1 percent for 16-to-19-year-old teenagers, blacks still have the highest jobless rate of any minority group in the U.S.

Black leaders in Congress largely kept their complaints to themselves throughout Obama's first term in office and his re-election campaign. But no longer.

The nation's black leadership has become a great deal more vocal lately about severe unemployment, fewer job opportunities, and a weak, lackluster economy. They are especially unhappy with the fact that Obama has placed relatively few black officials in top level positions in his second term administration.

It didn't get that much media attention, but shortly after Obama was inaugurated in January, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous went on nationwide television to condemn Obama's weak job creation record, charging that black Americans "are doing a full point worse" than when Obama became president.


"The country's back to pretty much where it was when this president started," Jealous said on Meet The Press on Jan. 27.

The government's employment numbers maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics support Jealous' latest criticism. The black unemployment rate was 12.7 percent when President George W. Bush finished his second term and Obama took office.

It soared over the first three years of Obama's first term to 16.7 percent by September 2011 (the worst jobless rate for black Americans since 1983). Unemployment among black teenagers exploded to 39.3 percent in July, 2012.

"Statistics show that the African-American community is in bad shape under the Obama administration," the widely read web site "Your Black World" said this week.

Earlier this month, Democratic Rep. Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, let loose with some stinging criticisms of Obama's record on his appointments in his second term.

"The people you have chosen to appoint in this new term have hardly been reflective of this country's diversity," she said in a letter to Obama. "Their ire is compounded by the overwhelming support you've received from the African-America community."

Fudge and other CBC members complain that Obama has not devoted enough attention in his agenda to many of the critical economic issues within the black community, especially rising unemployment.


"I think we are going to hear more voices of opposition coming from all sectors of black leadership, and certainly from the most hard pressed sections of the black population," said Dr. Tony Monteiro, professor of African American Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, most black leaders do not understand that it is Obama's anti-growth, economic policies that have contributed to the persistently high level of unemployment among all Americans, especially African-Americans.

The NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus still believe that Obama's $800 billion economic stimulus plan, largely made up of public works, infrastructure and other government spending, was the smart way to create jobs and boost economic growth. If anything, they wanted him to spend more.

But there were no economic growth incentives in his plan that would boost venture capital investment, the mother's milk of business expansion, new business formation and job creation.

Soon after Obama's stimulus plan became effective and the money began flowing out across the country, a look at the list of recipients revealed that it included hundreds of federal agencies and programs. It expanded government spending, and maybe some of the money trickled down to workers, but it created relatively few permanent jobs.


Once the stimulus funds were spent on roads, bridges and other public workers projects, the jobs ended.

The proof that Obama's Keynesian spending didn't work is in the numbers: high unemployment that is still skirting 8 percent, and it is actually 14 percent if you include workers who want and need full-time employment but are forced to take part-time jobs.

And the economy isn't getting stronger, as we can see in the economic growth numbers that measure the gross domestic product (GDP) that is the sum of everything we produce, sell and export. It grew at a barely-moving pace 0.4 percent in the last three months of 2012, according to the Commerce Department's latest estimate Thursday.

The Federal Reserve says unemployment will remain high this year and next and economic growth will remain weak for at least the next two years.

Now Obama is calling for a $9 an hour minimum wage which the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus has supported in the past and no doubt supports now. But this is a job killer, particularly for small businesses and especially for minorities. It will kill entry-level training jobs and that will drive black employment even higher.

In an interview with the College Fix web site, Antony Davies, an economics professor at Duquesne University, explains why: "When businesses -- especially small businesses -- are faced with increased labor costs due to minimum wage hikes, less valuable jobs are eliminated. After that, the extra workload is doled out to remaining employees."


Or as economist Murray Rothbard writes in his book, The Free Market, "In truth, there is only one way to regard a minimum wage law: it is compulsory unemployment, period."

Meantime, it is becoming increasingly self-evident that black leaders are getting fed up with the economic results of Obama's presidency. For the first time, they have begun to question and to criticize some of the economic policies that he still defends but that they now know aren't working.


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