The American Jobs Act (AJA) has been presented to the Congress of the United States by President Barack H. Obama. This is another major step forward to get the entire nation to re-focus on implementing solutions to the nation’s unemployment crisis. In particular for Black Americans, the prolonged joblessness problems are causing pain and misery in nearly every community. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, last month’s unemployment rate for Black Americans rose to 16.7 percent, the highest unemployment rate for Black Americans since 1984, while at the same time the unemployment rate for white Americans fell slightly to 8 percent.
Some of us recall that during the administration of President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s, the unemployment rate for Black Americans surged to over 20 percent. The point today is that we have had high unemployment before, but we managed to not let an overall sense of hopelessness and defeatism become a permanent fixture in our consciousness as a people. African-American leaders today should be speaking out in support of the American Jobs Act. President Obama’s recent speech to a joint session of Congress and the subsequent delivery of this important legislative initiative was a remarkable strategic move. What is needed now is public pressure on all members of Congress to get this bill enacted into law as soon as possible.
On the issue of jobs for all Americans, the tea party wing of the Republican Party appears to be leading the rest of the moderate Republicans straight off the cliff of ultra-conservatism into a deep abyss of politically-motivated cynicism and do-nothingness. In other words, there is a clear premeditated motive by those who want to defeat President Obama in 2012 that is glaringly obvious: to prevent Congressional passage of the American Jobs Act in an attempt to politically injure President Obama at the expense of permitting high unemployment to continue.
Annalyn Censky for CNNMoney reported that, “Black unemployment has been roughly double that of whites since the government started tracking the figures in 1972. Economists blame a variety of factors. The Black workforce is younger than the white workforce, lower numbers of Blacks get a college degree and many live in areas of the country that were harder hit by the recession — all things that could lead to a higher unemployment rate.” Of course there are many different other historical and contemporary causes for the fact that Black Americans are the most unemployed in America. Beyond describing the problem, however, we need solutions and we need jobs now. That is why there should be a sense of urgency in both the Black-American and Latino American communities to mobilize support for the American Jobs Act — specifically because this legislation will provide real employment opportunities for our communities.
According to the official White House release on the AJA, the purpose of “the American Jobs Act is simple: put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans And it would do so without adding a dime to the deficit.” For Black Americans, many of whom have been underemployed as well as unemployed, the Obama Jobs Act is a welcomed initiative. The American Jobs Act has five components: tax cuts to help America’s small businesses hire and grow; putting workers back on the job while rebuilding and modernizing America; pathways back to work for Americans looking for jobs; tax relief for every American worker and family; and full funding as part of the President’s long-term deficit reduction plan.
African-American owned businesses will benefit from the passage of the AJA because of the projected millions of dollars in payroll tax cuts. These savings will enable these businesses to in turn hire more employees from our communities. Fifty billion dollars will be spent on new infrastructure jobs for highways, transit, rail and aviation. African- American and other minority contractors will have expanded opportunities to participate in the implementation of the AJA. Thirty-five billion dollars will be available for retention and hiring of teachers, firefighters and other public servants. Twenty-five billion dollars will be available for investing in the modernizations of 35,000 public schools and other infrastructures related to schools across the nation. Hundreds of thousands of youth jobs will be created, and given the fact that Black youth unemployment in some areas of the country exceeds 30 percent, this component of the AJA is vital for our young brothers and sisters who are crying out for an opportunity to be gainfully employed.
President Obama has acted. Now it is our turn to show and express support for the immediate passage of the American Jobs Act by the Congress. This is urgent. Let’s not waiver or be immobilized. It’s time to stand up for the empowerment of our communities. Support the American Jobs Act. — (NNPA)
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is senior advisor for the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and president of Education Online Services Corporation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN).