Anti-Poverty and Jobs Proposals/Initiatives

Anti-Poverty and Jobs Proposals/Initiatives

  • A Marshall Plan for the “Abandoned”
  • President Obama’s American Jobs Act
  • National Urban League’s Entrepreneurship and Jobs Initiatives
  • Congressional Black Caucus Jobs Initiative
  • Tavis Smiley & Cornel West Poverty Tour

The various initiatives highlighted here generally require substantial public investments at federal, state and local levels to achieve the desired transformational impact in distressed communities. As discussed elsewhere on this website — see Financing Black Progress, Part 1: A Publicly Financed “Marshall Plan” Is Unrealistic, So What’s the Alternative? A “Self-Reliance Marshall Plan”? – given the current political environment and budgetary constraints, it is unrealistic to expect such proposals to be implemented on a substantive scale, even if President Obama wins reelection. The noxious and racially-charged political environment, the continued contentiousness of the budget debate, the political damage the president has already suffered, and the difficult reelection prospects he faces have essentially erased any chance of substantial increases in investments in even the most desirable and proven initiatives, including large parts of the president’s American Jobs Act. A companion article, Financing Black Progress, Part 2: A Self-Reliance “Marshall Plan”: Creating a National Resource-Pooling Fund, discusses an alternative, self-reliance option: resource-pooling on a substantial scale in the African American community through a national fund.
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Also visit our blog on this website: Financing Black Progress – Blog
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A Marshall Plan for the “Abandoned”?
Excerpts from: Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America (Double Day, 2010), by Eugene Robinson (associate editor and columnist, The Washington Post; winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary; MSNBC commentator), on his proposal for a Marshall Plan to address black America’s distressed communities–the “large, Abandoned minority with less hope of escaping poverty and dysfunction than at any time since Reconstruction’s crushing end.”

“…What is needed now is true affirmative action…What is needed is a kind of Marshall Plan for the Abandoned–massive intervention in education, public safety, health, and other aspects of life, with the aim being to arrest the downward spiral. Otherwise, that phrase I detest–permanent underclass–will become our permanent reality…

…The problems of the Abandoned have to be attacked on every level, all at once. It can‘t be an either-or proposition–either we set up enterprise zones, with tax breaks, to encourage the formation of small businesses, or we intervene directly with government-sponsored jobs programs. We have to do both. We have to accelerate the process of tearing down dangerous, decrepit housing projects and replacing them with units that are less Stalinist in scale and easier to make secure. We have to intervene directly with families to break daisy-chain cycles of teen pregnancy; we have to rebuild and re-staff the schools; we have to give young men and women something to dream about beyond the confines of the neighborhoods where they live…

…A domestic Marshall Plan aimed at Abandoned black America will be expensive, and politically it will be a hard sell. For reasons that I doubt anyone really understands, it seems to be much easier to convince Americans and their elected officials to spend hundreds of billions of dollars for comprehensive nation-building programs in faraway places like Iraq and Afghanistan than to fund comparable initiatives in their own hometowns…

…A Marshall Plan to attack entrenched African American poverty, dysfunction, and violence should be framed as a cognate of the original Marshall Plan: a costly, but ultimately profitable, investment in America’s national security. I doubt that it can be sold to the public and to Congress at all unless it is made explicit that the intent is not to give any special advantages to Mainstream black families that most Americans consider to be middle class or even affluent. Even given the nation’s serious burden of deficit and debt, designing and building a bridge to bring the Abandoned into the Mainstream is not beyond our reach.…We can find the money. We just have to find the political will… We also have to find the political leadership…

…Whatever the label, though, a Marshall Plan for inner-city America is going to involve a lot of resources being directed toward a lot of black people–and for the first black president, there would inevitably be political blowback…

…But Obama has an “important card he can play: means testing of affirmative action programs: He can declare that from now on, the black Mainstream should be on its own–in exchange for the political leeway to concentrate money and attention on the Abandoned…”
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President Obama’s American Jobs Act

The American Jobs Act – Official Website

White House: Here’s How American Jobs Act Will Help African Americans. Kenneth Mallory. Politic365.com. September 10, 2011.

On the heels of President Barack Obama’s speech to announce the $450 billion American Jobs Act, the White House gave specifics Friday on how the legislation would benefit African Americans, who have an unemployment rate of 16.7 percent.

The roundtable with reporters included Danielle Gray, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, Marie Johns, deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration, and Ronald Kirk, U.S. trade representative and former mayor of Dallas, Texas.

The White House believes the American Jobs Act will help African Americans in a number of ways:

  • An estimated 1.4 million unemployed blacks will benefit from extended unemployment insurance, which would continue into 2012.
  • About 20 million black workers will benefit from the extension and expansion of payroll tax cuts.
  • More than 100,000 African American-owned small businesses will benefit from the plan’s reducing employer payroll taxes in half, providing business owners with an added bonus for hiring new employees and extending provisions that provide an incentive for investment.

Kirk said President Obama also believed that a “thoughtful balanced approach to trade is a great way to help us grow our economy,” and said that some of the trade proposals on the table would ensure that trade adjustment assistance was available as a safety net for small businesses.

Johns said President Obama’s plan to help small businesses through the American Jobs Act followed previous legislative measures that have helped small businesses.

According to Johns, the administration’s Recovery Act and Small Businesses Jobs Act enabled the Small Business Administration to put $42 billion in capital in the hands of small businesses. She acknowledged that economic recovery was “uneven” among African Americans as compared to others but stressed that now was an opportune time to start a small business. She said African American entrepreneurs needed to learn more about resources the SBA provides.

The Obama administration representatives also maintained that the president was in tune to the plight of unemployed African Americans. “I think the president believes this is a serious problem and the onus is on us to do everything we can to tackle this,” said Gray.

Asked why the president did not mention high minority unemployment in his jobs speech Thursday, Kirk said the president was sympathetic to the plight of minorities but took care to avoid polarization. Kirk maintained that it was his belief that ”substantively our people are sophisticated enough to understand the way the president expressed what he did.”

Obama to CBC: ‘Put on Your Marching Shoes’. Cynthia Gordy. TheRoot.com. September 25, 2011. Includes video.
“…Next Obama touted some of his efforts to stabilize the economy and provide a safety net for the poor and unemployed, including multiple tax cuts, financial regulatory reform, a near doubling of Pell Grants, an extension of unemployment insurance and health care reform. “Ask the family struggling to make ends meet if that extra few hundred dollars in their mother’s paycheck from the payroll tax cut we passed made a difference,” he said. “Ask the engineering student at an HBCU who thought he might have to leave school if that extra Pell Grant assistance mattered.”

Acknowledging that there’s far more work needed to alleviate the country’s economic pain, the president hit his selling points for his jobs bill and deficit-reduction plan, again urging Congress to act on them. “These Republicans in Congress like to talk about job creators. How about doing something real for job creators? Pass this jobs bill, and every small-business owner in America, including 100,000 black-owned businesses, will get a tax cut,” he said of the American Jobs Act, his voice rising to a near shout and the audience jumping to its feet. ‘You say you’re the party of tax cuts. Pass this jobs bill, and every worker in America, including nearly 20 million African-American workers, will get a tax cut.’…”

Rep. Waters: Obama ‘heard’ Congressional Black Caucus with jobs plan. Daniel Strauss. TheHill.com. Includes video. September 9, 2011
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) praised President Obama’s new jobs plan and said that Obama clearly had the African-American community in mind while he was making it. “He heard us. As a matter of fact we can see our hand print all over this proposal. We’re pleased about it,” Waters said…. In August, before a town-hall audience in Detroit, Waters drew attention for saying that the black community still supported Obama but had been getting tired.

Hey, CBC: Get Off the President’s Back. Gregory Kane. BlackAmericaWeb.com. September 08, 2011.
Members of the CBC – for my money, the most useless government body there is – have been sticking it to the president lately about not paying enough attention to the needs of black folks. The CBC is especially miffed because Obama allegedly hasn’t done enough to stop the disproportionately high unemployment rate among black folks, especially teens. I’ll cut straight to the chase: Providing jobs for black folks isn’t Obama’s job. It isn’t the job of any other chief executive the nation has had either.

TheGrio Editorial: CBC should show us their jobs plan. TheGrio.com. September 2, 2011.
The Congressional Black Caucus’ “For the People” jobs initiative – a series of town halls and job fairs in five cities hard hit by the economic downturn — shined a light on the caucus in a way we haven’t seen in years…

…What we heard was a consistent complaint from the CBC that the president was spending more time in rural towns in Iowa than in the black community; that the White House was shrinking from addressing black communities by name; and that the president and his team weren’t pursuing the kinds of “targeted” — meaning targeted at poor and black communities — economic remedies the CBC supports. We also heard that the caucus has put forward more than 40 bills to deal with the 16 percent and higher jobless rates in predominantly black communities.

What we didn’t hear, is that not only have none of those bills become law, none will likely come to a vote — not while there are 42 Black Caucus members and 87 Tea Party freshmen, and a Speaker of the House who feels emboldened to publicly reject an offer by the president of the United States to address a joint session of Congress.

So now that the jobs tour is over, the Caucus’ constituents should ask what comes next. Has the CBC collected data from its tour to quantify how many people actually got jobs?

Did the questions and concerns they heard in ClevelandDetroitAtlantaMiami and Los Angeles give the CBC a special perspective not just on the “hurt” that members described, over long term unemployment, tea party obstructionism, and what they perceive as a lack of attention from the White House, but also on solutions to those problems?

The inconvenient truth about black joblessness is that it didn’t start on January 20, 2009, with the inauguration of Barack Obama as president. Many of the districts CBC members represent have been suffering under the yoke of economic misery, high unemployment, failing schools, crumbling infrastructure and economic stagnation for decades — even generations…

…So having toured the country, fielded the concerns of black people, and felt their pain, the caucus should take the next logical step: they should come out with a comprehensive jobs plan of their own.

It’s not enough to call for “leadership from the top.” The constitutional reality is that any bill related to the nation’s finances that the president could sign must come from the House of Representatives, and then get through the Senate.

The president can use the bully pulpit to push for legislation but he can’t pass it. The CBC should give the president something specific to push. Next Thursday, President Obama will make a proposal to the nation on how he thinks job growth can be restored. The caucus shouldn’t wait until then.

They should release their jobs plan now, based on what they learned on their month-long jobs tour. They should quantify what their constituents need from Washington. They should also spell out how their plan could attract enough support from Republicans to pass the House with the required 218 votes. They should list the potential obstacles to getting their plan through. And they should detail what, specifically, they’d like the president to do to help make their plan a reality, or at least part of the negotiation to come.

Otherwise, what happened in August was more show than substance, and it won’t matter to the people who “unleashed” the CBC in Detroit.

Why Obama’s ‘Black Job Plan’ Won’t Resolve Black UnemploymentTamara K. Nopper. Black Agenda Report.
President Obama tried to give his Congressional Black Caucus Awards Dinner audience the impression that his jobs bill specifically targets 100,000 Black businesses as job incubators. In reality, the 100,000 African American firms that actually have employees will be treated no differently than the millions of white-owned businesses that are much better positioned to take advantage of the Obama scheme. “In the end, Obama expects African Americans, in this case Black business owners and Black youth, to largely shoulder the burden of resolving the Black unemployment crisis.”  And, although the president made general reference to racism in his speech to the CBC, “Obama’s jobs plan does not talk about racial discrimination.”

Obama Jobs Plan: American Jobs Act Heartens Frustrated Blacks. Errin Haines and Suzanne Gamboa. Huffingtonpost.com. September 10, 2011.
President Barack Obama’s jobs pitch is already playing well with blacks, who had grown plenty irked with him over what they perceived as his indifference to their needs. A day after Obama laid out before Congress his plan to kick-start job growth, many blacks hoped it would translate into reduced misery for them over the coming months.

Labor Sec. Hilda Solis On The American Jobs Act, Black Unemployment And Recent Jobs Report. Roland Martin Reports. Video.
Labor Sec. Hilda Solis joined Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch to discuss the new jobs numbers, what the White House is doing to get Americans back to work, and the American Jobs Act.

Marie Johns Says the American Jobs Act Would Improve Black Unemployment Rates. Joyce Jones. BET.com. October 12, 2011. The Small Business Administration official says doing nothing is not an option.
President Obama’s American Jobs Act was dealt a blow in the Senate Tuesday night when Majority Leader Harry Reid failed to get the 60 votes needed to move the bill forward. Although every Republican senator voted against a measure to debate the $447 billion package, and House Republicans have said they also would not support it, President Obama and congressional Democrats hope that the two sides can find common ground on some of the provisions that they believe would jumpstart the economy. In a conversation with BET.com, Small Business Administration deputy administrator Marie Johns discusses the legislation’s importance to the nation’s economy and how it would positively impact African-American unemployment.
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Congressional Black Caucus Initiatives

Congressional Black Caucus Jobs Initiative – Webpage

Chairman Cleaver and African American Business Leaders Meet with President Barack Obama on Job Creation. Congressional Black Caucus Newsletter. December/January 2012.
In December, Chairman Emanuel Cleaver led a discussion with African American business leaders and President Barack Obama. The first of its kind, the meeting served as an opportunity to discuss job creation recommendations and cultivate stronger working relationships within the African American business community, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Administration. As legislators and as a Caucus, Members are working diligently to remedy the jobs crisis. The Members of the CBC have introduced over fifty job creation bills since the beginning of the 112th Congress, launched the For the People national jobs initiative, and provided nine job creation proposals that help our nation’s most vulnerable. These proposals and initiatives are closely in line with the President’s Americans Jobs Act.

Congressional Black Caucus Jobs Legislation
CBC’s jobs legislation in Congress
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National Urban League Initiatives

The State of Black America 2012 Report – National Urban League

State of Urban Business 2011 Website
Includes links to video of CNBC interview with National Urban League President and CEO, Marc Morial, on the State of Urban Business Report; press releases; and media coverage.

State of Urban Business 2011: US Cities that Lead the Way – Report
From the Executive Summary: 

NUL programs and initiatives that are helping to provide much needed technical assistance and financial support of urban businesses.

The Entrepreneurship Center Program (ECP), in its 6th year of operation with nine centers operating in Atlanta, GA, Chicago, IL, Cincinnati, OH, Cleveland, OH, Jacksonville, FL, Kansas City, MO, Los Angeles, CA, New Orleans, LA and Philadelphia, PA.  Five of these nine locations are in cities that made our list of Top Metro Areas for Black-owned Businesses.  The services offered by the ECP assisted entrepreneurs in receiving $20.19 million in new bonding, new contracts and financing during 2010.

New Market Tax Credit Program (NMTC)/Strategic Alliance between Stonehenge Community Development and the National Urban League through which we have deployed $352.5  million  of  the  allocations as of the 3rd quarter of 2011, closing 28 NMTC allocations in various states around the U.S. with investments
ranging in size from $3 million to $25 million. This has lead to the creation or saving
of more than 8,000 jobs nationwide.

The Urban Empowerment Fund, a planned future endeavor of the National Urban League to fill a credit gap that has widened during the last two years, particularly in minority communities.  The Urban Empowerment Fund will invest in new and expanding small businesses, nonprofit organizations, community facilities and affordable housing development in underserved communities of color throughout the country. Through its lending activity, the Urban Empowerment Fund will help empower African Americans to attain economic self-sufficiency and to create sustainable, vibrant minority communities throughout the country.

The State of Black America 2011 – National Urban League
“Everything that we do in this nation ought to be about job creation. The economy has undergone structural changes that require targeted solutions. The 12-point Urban Jobs Rebuild America Plan provides a roadmap to those solutions and The State of Black America 2011 includes several great vehicles to take us there.”

12-Point Plan for Putting Urban America Back to Work. National Urban League.
Among the solutions recommended are Urban Jobs Academies, reauthorization of a reformed and revised Workforce Investment Act, and Green Empowerment Zones in areas of high unemployment.

Economic Innovation: Finance and Lending Initiatives Bring Prosperity to Underserved Communities. Keith B. Corbett

At Risk:  The State of the Black Middle Class. National Urban League study. Found almost all the economic gains that blacks have made in the last 30 years have been lost in the Great Recession that started in December 2007 and in the anemic recovery that has followed since June 2009. Not only is the size of the black middle class shrinking, Morial said, the fruits that come from being in the black middle class are dwindling, and the ladders of opportunity for reaching the black middle class are disappearing.
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Tavis Smiley and Cornel West Poverty Tour

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West Poverty Tour- Website

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West on their “Poverty Tour”. C-SPAN Video. Aug 10, 2011
Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, co-hosts of the “Smiley and West” radio program, talked about their recently launched “Poverty Tour,” which will take them to 16 poor communities across the U.S.
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Smiley and West have too much baggage on poverty bus tour. Jonathan Capehart. WashingtonPost.com (Blog). Aug 16, 2011

“…Pardon the pun, but a poverty bus tour guided by these two is a flawed vehicle for discussion.

You’ll recall that in April 2010, Smiley criticized the president for lacking a definable “black agenda” and demanded that Obama “take the issues of black America more seriously.” Then, in May of this year, West lashed out at the president calling him “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” It was a slam as ugly as it was obnoxious made worse because it was animus based in pettiness. West remains peeved that he wasn’t invited to the inauguration. Smiley hasn’t been the same since Obama didn’t show up at a forum during the 2008 presidential campaign, but sent his wife Michelle in his stead. Whatever Smiley and West have to say about poverty and Washington’s inadequate response to it — no matter how right, true or fair — will forever be colored by their personal pique against the president.

Steve Harvey, comedian and host of the popular urban radio program, “The Steve Harvey Morning Show,” tackled the controversy surrounding Smiley and West in his brilliant and down-home way. His language gets a little salty in spots, but Harvey articulates why I and many others in the black community have a problem with the Smiley-West bus tour and the call for a defined black agenda. He riffs on an e-mail from a listener from Charleston, S.C., who accuses Smiley and West of “poverty pimping” and says that “[t]heir plan is to discourage a large voting bloc of the president’s base so that their lucrative hustle will once again be secure.”

…HARVEY: The disguise is — the disguise of it all — he’s not doing for black America what he should be doing. But let me hip everybody to something right here and understand this — and this is in layman terms: You are so wrong when you make that statement. But he is the President of the United States. He is not the President of The Hood. He is the President of the United States. But if you look at what he’s pushing, no one could benefit greater than our community. Healthcare? Who is lacking in healthcare overwhelmingly than anybody else? Who is that? Who is lacking in education overwhelmingly than anybody else? And who—who do you know could stand a tax break above anybody else? So all you gotta do is fit yourself into the equation and you’ll see that he’s doing everything he can. But, it’s not for us. It’s for the American people. And the moment we quit saying, “Us,” “Gimme gimme gimme,” and just plug yourself into the already existing system — which ain’t gonna change just ‘cause you want it to — then we can move on with this thing. The man is doing a great job.

…You all, please look at the facts of what this man’s platform was about and see if you don’t fit into the platform. How can he raise a flag for black people and be the President of the United States? It’s utterly ridiculous. Y’all – do you know that that would be death to his second term, if he was standing up talking about “I’m gonna do this for black people.” He’s gotta do it for the country. We all live in this country. I would be disappointed if he did that. I really would.

At a forum last Monday on the African American vote in 2012, I made the same point as Harvey. If blacks want to guarantee that Obama is a one-term president — and thus fulfill the No. 1 goal of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and all other Republicans — then they should demand that Obama release a black agenda tomorrow. And if he doesn’t do it, they should continue to pummel him as someone who doesn’t care about African Americans. As Allison Samuels points out in Newsweek this week, “the black war over Obama” has black leaders fearful that “West and Smiley could discourage black voters from turning out when the nation’s first African-American president stands for reelection in 2012.”…”

Smiley ‘allergic’ to my poverty tour reaction. Jonathan Capehart. WashingtonPost.com (Blog). Aug 16, 2011

“Tavis Smiley didn’t like my post saying that he and Princeton University professor Cornel West have too much baggage to lead a bus tour on poverty. …An email arrived this afternoon from Smiley’s publicist with a letter from the best-selling author and television host. …

…But did you notice a glaring omission in Smiley’s letter to me? No mention of what he and West have seen and learned on their tour. There’s nothing about how many people they’ve helped. Nothing about what they plan to do when the bus tour is over. Not once did he address the substance of Harvey’s or my argument. That whatever he and West have to say about poverty and Washington’s inadequate response to it — no matter how right, true or fair — will forever be colored by their personal pique against the president.

Tackling poverty and unemployment in the United States, especially among African Americans, demands attention. And it demands action….

…I would have loved to have Smiley put me in my place with a boast of…concrete accomplishments helping people in need instead of continuing to wallow in what he sees as slights against him.”
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Check Out What Steve Has To Say About Tavis Smiley And Cornell West Hating On President Obama!!! Audio. Steve Harvey Show. August 10, 2011

Steve Harvey Rips Tavis Smiley and Cornel West’s “Poverty Bus”. Maurice Garland. Loop21.com.
After reading an email from a listener who insisted that Smiley and West’s current Poverty Bus Tour was nothing more than a hustle, Harvey added his two cents blasting the duo for using personal vendettas to go out and sully the POTUS’ name.

“I was a huge fan of Cornel West,” he said. “[But] Tavis, I seen him coming a mile away. His anger started when he had a town hall meeting, President Obama couldn’t come because of the campaign trail and he sent Mrs. Obama. He has held that grudge every since.”

To West’s squabbles about not getting extra tickets to Obama’s inauguration, Harvey offered, “Have you ever been invited to the damn inauguration? Did Bush send for you? Did Clinton send for you? Did Reagan send for you?”

He continued, “You don’t have any real basis behind your dislike for this man…you keep masking it saying it’s not about hate. Then what is it about? Poverty existed before January 20, 2008. Where was your damn bus then?”

The Original King of Comedy, Family Feud host and suit designer didn’t stop there. After reading Smiley’s request that Obama join him for “a roundtable for two or three days on poverty,” Harvey joked, “Who in the hell got 2-3 days for your ass? I ain’t got time to sit down with your monkey behind for two, three days, let alone the President of the United States. We got three wars going on, the economy crashing and we going to sit down with Tavis ass for three days?”
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“Remaking America: From Poverty to Prosperity.” C-SPAN Video. Discussion forum held at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, Washington, DC. Jan 12, 2012. 
Tavis Smiley moderated a conversation on solutions for restoring America’s prosperity. Topics included the white paper from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), released the previous day, titled At Risk: America’s Poor During and After the Great Recession, which reveals the “new poor” and how the face of poverty in America has changed.

Poverty in the United States. C-SPAN Video. Jan 11, 2012.
Tavis Smiley and Cornel West talk about their annual January symposium entitled “Remaking America: From Poverty to Prosperity” and their thoughts on the upcoming presidential campaign.
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