No Time for Austerity

“Today’s report on gross domestic product indicates that the U.S. economy has grown at a disastrously slow 0.9% rate for the entire first half of 2011. This anemic growth is why the unemployment rate stopped falling and actually began rising during these same six months. Worse, Washington's rush to fiscal austerity will make the problems of slow growth and joblessness even worse.”

--Josh Bivens, Economic Policy Institute


What Does Obama Stand For?

Compromises We Can't Believe In?

Although Obama’s overall approval rating among blacks remains high, 57 percent of African Americans surveyed in the poll said Obama is too willing to compromise with Republicans in budget talks. Combined data from recent Post-ABC polls put Obama’s overall approval rating among Hispanics in the low 50s, about 20 points lower than it was two years ago.

On Wednesday, some black and Hispanic lawmakers indicated that their frustration with Obama goes beyond the debt talks to their belief that he has not done more to stem poverty and unemployment in their communities.

“We’ve got to march on him,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.). “We’ve had it. We want him to come out on our side and advocate.”

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Centrism Blowing in the Wind?

It’s time for moderates to abandon centrism and stop shifting with the prevailing winds. They need to state plainly what they’re for, stand their ground, and pull the argument their way. Yes, they would risk looking to “the left” of where the center is now — but only because conservatives have pulled it so far their way.


But when this ends, it’s Obama who’ll need a reset. At heart, he’s a moderate who likes balance. Yet Americans have lost track of what he’s really for. Occasionally you wonder if he’s lost track himself. He needs to remind us, and perhaps himself, why he wants to be our president.

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Opposition to Liberals?

The administration of President Obama has never held much regard for its left flank. Admonished by the vice president to “stop whining,” inveighed against by the president himself for “griping and groaning,” the liberal critics have been generally viewed by the White House as petulant children. “The Professional Left,” former press secretary Robert Gibbs dubbed them, a gang of nettlesome romantics who “ought to be drug-tested,” and would not be happy until “we have Canadian health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon.”
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Get Teens Back to Work: Why the Federal Government Must Invest Now in Teen Jobs

This decline in teen employment has had a disproportionate impact on low-income and minority teens. Poor teens are less likely than middle class teens to find summer jobs, and poor African American teens are much less likely to find work than poor white teens. Poor Hispanics are better off than poor African Americans, but worse off than poor whites.

The situation for poor African Americans is compounded by the fact that they tend to live in neighborhoods with other low-income families and the deprivations in community resources that result. In contrast, many poor whites live in middle-class neighborhoods, and they can benefit from the resources available in these neighborhoods.

All of these factors lead to a situation where teens who would likely benefit most from summer jobs – poor, African American teens - are the least likely to find them.

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The Benefits of Government Health Care

When poor people are given medical insurance, they not only find regular doctors and see doctors more often but they also feel better, are less depressed and are better able to maintain financial stability, according to a new, large-scale study that provides the first rigorously controlled assessment of the impact of Medicaid.

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The Budget and Black America

[Below is a quick response to the question of what does the talk in Washington D.C. about the budget mean for black America.]

At a time when we have a jobs deficit of 11 million jobs (a conservative estimate if one thinks people of color should have full employment, and not just whites), we should not be talking about slashing budgets, laying off government workers, and reducing aid to the needy--unless one wanted to kill the weak economic recovery.

These plans may be good for winning votes from conservatives and conservative-leaning independents, but it is not good for the American economy or for black people specifically. Frankly, it's a pretty awful discussion if one is concerned about blacks. The black middle class will lose government jobs, and the black needy will lose government aid.

The long-term fiscal problem is America's high and rising health care costs. If we had the health care system of any other rich nation we would be in a better fiscal situation since those systems are from about a third to a half less expensive than ours. Also, those systems are universal and ours isn't. We can also significantly reduce defense spending, and improve our tax system so that Warren Buffet doesn't have a lower tax rate than his secretary.

[Original posting from H-Afro-Am]


Is the Black Middle Class Disappearing?; Algernon Austin on MSNBC

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


There is no term to describe this new reality — a world where the economic system, culture and customs conspire to keep many people trapped in what seems very much like the old caste system, even as we celebrate the collapse of the caste system. Neither the old rhetoric of racism nor the new talk of post-racialism remotely captures where we are.

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In June, Black Women See the Largest Decline in Employment

From "Weak Job Growth Leads to Another Rise in Unemployment":

The decline in EPOPs [or the employment-to-population ratio or the employment rate] hit most groups, but black women saw the sharpest falloff, with their EPOP declining by 0.9 percentage points to 52.8 percent, another new low for the downturn. The EPOP for black women is 7.8 percentage points below the pre-recession peak in 2007. The EPOP for blacks overall edged down by 0.1 percentage points to 51.1 percent, also a new low for the downturn.

From "Labor Market in Full Retreat":

Given this situation, it must be our top priority to do everything we can to stimulate demand and generate jobs, including providing fiscal relief to states; expanding the safety net (which, by getting money into the hands of people who will spend it, stimulates demand and generates jobs); approving additional spending on infrastructure; implementing direct job creation programs in particularly hard-hit communities; supporting work-sharing to avoid layoffs; having the Federal Reserve do more quantitative easing and/or target a somewhat higher inflation rate (e.g., 3-4%) to both reduce real interest rates and erode debt; and lowering the price of the dollar to boost net exports. The president and Congressional leaders need to stop talking about deficit reduction and start talking about job creation.


The Black Middle Class in Trouble

Economists say the Great Recession lasted from 2007 to 2009. In 2004, the median net worth of white households was $134,280, compared with $13,450 for black households, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute. By 2009, the median net worth for white households had fallen 24 percent to $97,860; the median black net worth had fallen 83 percent to $2,170, according to the EPI.

Algernon Austin, director of the EPI’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy, described the wealth gap this way: “In 2009, for every dollar of wealth the average white household had, black households only had two cents.”

Since the end of the recession, the overall unemployment rate has fallen from 9.4 to 9.1 percent, while the black unemployment rate has risen from 14.7 to 16.2 percent, according to the Department of Labor.

“I would say the recession is not over for black folks,” Austin says. He believes more black people than ever before could fall out of the middle class, because the unemployment rate for college-educated blacks recently peaked and blacks are overrepresented in state and local government jobs that are being eliminated due to massive budget shortfalls.

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Crime Prevention is Better Than Reintegration

While reentry programs can aid reintegration into the community, they do little to reduce our reliance on incarceration. Prison appears to make inmates as likely to commit crime as not; about half of released inmates return to prison within three years. Congress appropriated only $83 million for reentry in fiscal year 2011, or less than $120 per released prisoner. Even with additional state funds, one is not likely to overcome a lifetime of low educational attainment, substance abuse and/or mental health disabilities with this meager commitment.

Investing in prevention and treatment instead of imprisonment is more likely to shrink the prison population. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy, for example, found that home-based supervision of juvenile offenders produced $28 in taxpayer benefits for every dollar invested.

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