Mar 17, 2011 - Issue 418
Ray-Ray, Boo, Chico,
Pookie and Today’s Political Economy
Over at Jack and Jill Politics, author Jill Tubman took note of the positive aspects of the country’s employment statistic for February citing figures from the Grio: “Employers hired in February at the fastest pace in almost a year and the unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent - a nearly two-year low.” African-American unemployment went down to 15.3 percent and black youth declined sharply to 38.4 percent, “but remains the highest of any group,” she wrote. “The good news - some of your cousins have actually found jobs. Have Ray-Ray, Boo and Chico finally gotten off your couch?” “So that all sounds nice, don’t it?” Tubman continued. “Except did you notice how African-American unemployment is double that than the average and how 40 percent - close to half! - of black teens are out of work? Which means Pookie may be staying in your spare bedroom a mite longer, n’est pas?”
The bad news, the very perceptive Tubman wrote on the valuable website, “is that the old saying that when America catches a cold, Black America gets the flu remains in full effect” and there is only “a small hope” in the stats. “Where is the job training and help for college our community needs? Pell Grants - college financial aid directed at the poorest of the poor - are targeted for cuts by both the Obama administration and the Tea Party. Government jobs, traditionally a haven for African-Americans due to lower barriers to entry, are on the chopping block as state budgets crash and unions implode. Will hard-working teachers in inner city schools be forced to find new ‘service’ jobs serving sandwiches at Subway?”
Oh, if only such information and observations were more widely available. If only the big pundits in the major mass media saw and expressed thing as clearly. Unfortunately, the alarm Tubman expresses is – as far as I can tell – mostly restricted to a handful of African American commentators around the country, a media outlets big and small. However, what she write underscores something that should produce wider indignation: The economic situation facing African Americans is perilous and nearly everything being contemplated in Washington and state capitals around the country seem destined to make matters worse.
Take these examples:
Meanwhile in Washington, axe-wielding Republican lawmakers are determined to slash what meager assistance there is for people caught in the mortgage crisis.
House Republicans, led by Rep. Spencer Bachus (R – Alabama), “are halfway toward their goal of killing four federal programs meant to prevent home foreclosures,’ wrote Mary Orndorff of the Birmingham News Sunday. Last week, the body voted, mostly along partisan lines, to kill the Emergency Mortgage Relief Program and the FHA Refinance Program in the name of deficit reduction.
Eight Democrats voted with the majority while two Republicans voted against it.
The House also voted last week to eliminate the FHA Refinance Program that is aimed to give assistance to people whose homes have lost significant value. Votes were slated this week ending the Home Affordable Modification Program and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
These actions have attracted very little media attention although they are threats to the livelihoods and survival of millions of working people. One explanation for this dearth of coverage will be that the GOP sponsored measures are unlikely to get past the Senate and there is always the threat of a Presidential veto. However, in today’s Washington politics the ever-present scenario is the Republicans pass something outrageous, the White House negotiates it, and they come up with a “compromise.”
'The president and his aides know that the G.O.P. approach to the budget is wrongheaded and destructive,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote March 11. “But they've stopped making the case for an alternative approach; instead, they've positioned themselves as know-nothings lite, accepting the notion that spending must be slashed immediately - just not as much as Republicans want.
'Mr. Obama's political advisers clearly believe that this strategy of protective camouflage offers the president his best chance at re-election - and they may be right. But that doesn't change the fact that the White House is aiding and abetting the dumbing down of our deficit debate.”
Ray Ray and the others could well end up on the couch more than a mite longer.
Over 1.2 million young adults moved home with their parents from 2005 to 2010, notes Venessa Wong, a lifestyle and real estate reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek. The reason? Rents are soaring.
In 2009, rents fell 5.9 percent: in 2010 they rose 4.2 percent, compared to an overall consumer prices that climbed only 1.6 percent. Citing figures from the research group AXIOMetrics, Wong notes that “last year was one of the best periods for landlords over the past 15 years.”
Furthermore, “Renter households are unwinding from two- and three-bedroom units into one-bedroom units after many tenants doubled up in 2009 to save money,” the researchers told Wong.
Wong writes that the metropolitan areas with the biggest rent increases are Greenville, S.C. (11.2 percent), Chattanooga, Tenn. (10.4 percent), Savannah, Ga., (8.4 percent) and Portland, Ore. and San Jose, Ca. (close to 8 percent). The reason for the increasing rent rates is simple: the still soaring foreclosures are forcing more people onto the rental market and high unemployment is dissuading workers from buying homes. Landlords are only doing what landlords have done throughout recorded history: charging whatever the market will bear (except in fortunate areas that retain some form of rent control or stabilization).
Surveying the scene Tubman wrote, “All for what — to prop up a bloated military budget and fund a war far away that most Americans think we should have stopped fighting years ago? We are wasting our money and bankrupting our future. A mind is a terrible thing to waste indeed.
“Don’t get me twisted. I think the economic stimulus probably helped save the global economy and put off the worst hurt. We have Obama to thank for that. But while Wall Street has made a big comeback, it’s been on the backs and at the expense of those who were fleeced. Black America is picking up the tab whether it’s on the no job front or the subprime mortgages we were sold — it ain’t fair and it ain’t right. And we still look to the Obama administration to help make it right. Because if our boats rise, so will a lot of other boats. I, for one, am still a believer yet am still waiting to see how the Obama administration will make a dent in black unemployment and ensure stronger futures for us and for all Americans who have been hit hard during the Great Recession.”
“We must continue to Hope for Change…
It springs eternal.
Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in