Obama admits little economic progress for blacks, urges more political action

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Barack Obama Wednesday acknowledged the failure of the federal government’s economic policies over the last 50 years to help Africans-Americans catch up with whites economically, but he still urged Americans to rally for a political fix to the economy.

Since 1963, the economic gap “has not lessened, it has grown,” Obama declared in a speech marking the 50th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King’s famous “content of their character” speech.

Americans’ wages have stagnated “even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes. Inequality has steadily risen over the decades. Upward mobility has become harder,” Obama said, while standing on the steps of the Lincoln Monument before tens of thousands.

Instead of lauding entrepreneurship, personal ambition, families and technological advances, Obama declared “the promise of this nation will only be kept when we work together.”

“Change has always been built on our willingness, We The People, to take on the mantle of citizenship,” he said later.

“That’s the lesson of our past,” said Obama.

Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, he has worked to expand government’s role in the nation’s education, banking, real estate, manufacturing, health-care and energy sectors.

At the same time, the richest one percent of Americans doubled their income from 2009 to 2011, while all other Americans saw a slight drop in their income.

Households’ after-inflation income dropped by 4.4 percent, or $1,002, after the recession ended in June 2010, according to a recent report by Sentier Research.

The lousy economic numbers were highlighted by an August report from the Pew center.

Since 1963, the gap between whites’ and blacks’ median household income has grown by 50 percent to $27,414 and the median household wealth gap has expanded by 10 percent to $84,960, partly because fewer blacks than whites are getting married, said the Aug. 22 report, titled “King’s Dream Remains an Elusive Goal; Many Americans See Racial Disparities.”

Obama, however, denounced conservatives who believe government played a role in slowing African-Americans’ progress.

March On Washington Obama

The “politics of division” push “a great untruth — that government was somehow to blame for their growing economic insecurity,” he complained.

Also, “technology and global competition have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class — reduced the bargaining power of American workers,” he said.

However, Americans can rally for political changes to regain prosperity, he claimed.

“We can stand together for good jobs and just wages … the right to health care … for the right of every child … to get an education that stirs the mind and captures the spirit and prepares them for the world that awaits them … we can feed the hungry and house the homeless,” he claimed.

Younger voters can be helpful to the cause, he said, because “the young are unconstrained by the habits of fear, unconstrained by the conventions of what is. … They dare to dream different,” he claimed.

However, younger Americans have seen their student debts and unemployment rates rise during Obama’s tenure. Obama’s health-plan will tax younger people, even though they use less health care than older people.

“America, I know the road will be long, but we can get there,” he insisted.

“We will win these fights — this country has changed too much — people of good will, regardless of party, are too plentiful for those with ill will to change history’s currents,” he claimed.

His claim of a demographic shift toward progressive goals was coupled with a few low-key calls for passage of an immigration bill that will boost the Democratic-leaning Latino population of the United States.

Americans should support “the immigrant dishwasher … [and] recognize the striving spirit of the new immigrant,” said Obama, who has called for the GOP to back a Senate immigration bill that would double immigration rates to add 46 million, mostly-unskilled Democratic-leaning foreigners by 2033.

Passage of an immigration rewrite, plus the Obamacare law, will be Obama’s two greatest achievements, Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s top aid, said Tuesday.

But the increased immigration will nudge down average wages and shift more of the nation’s income from wage earners to investors for at least 20 years, according to a July report by the Congressional Budget Office.

The pro-immigration theme was also pushed by other speakers, including former president Bill Clinton and current Rep. John Lewis.

“Too many believe our differences define us,” claimed Lewis, a former advocate for racial equality.

“The stain of racism still remains deeply embedded in American society, whether it is ‘stop and frisk’ in New York, or injustice in the Trayvon Martin case in Florida … [or] immigrants hiding in the shadows of our society,” claimed Lewis.

Immigration “is good for African-Americans, it’s good for Americans,” Lewis told The Daily Caller in July.

In 2012, Lewis predicted the return of racial segregation if Obama lost to GOP candidate Gov. Mitt Romney.

Follow Neil on Twitter