Obama Ignores Black Economic Woes To Focus On Racism

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Obama is using racial tensions to distract attention from the painful impact of his economic policies on African-Americans.

The tactic was crudely and successfully used Dec. 19 in his year-end press conference, when Obama waved away a reporter’s question about the economic condition of African-Americans in the sixth year of his presidency, and quickly shifted the topic to racial conflict.

“Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office,” he said, before switching to his preferred subject.

“Now, obviously, how we’re thinking about race relations right now has been colored by Ferguson, the Garner case in New York, a growing awareness in the broader population of what I think many communities of color have understood for some time, and that is that there are specific instances at least where law enforcement doesn’t feel as if it’s being applied in a colorblind fashion,” he said.

Obama’s speech came one day before an unemployed African-American man implemented his plan to kill two cops in New York City. The man killed himself while being chased by cops.

Obama’s distraction tactic works because establishment reporters are eager to portray African-Americans as victims of white cops, and are reluctant to address the toll of Obama’s economy.

Even the reporter who asked the question, April Ryan, was seemingly spun by Obama’s answer. She later appeared on MSNBC and CNN where she and the hosts talked about cops and racism, not blacks, wages and unemployment.

Since August, Obama and his allies have pushed the media to provide massive coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo.

When a grand jury chose not to indict Wilson, Obama and his allies — including MSNBC host and community organizer Al Sharpton — turned the media’s attention towards the accidental killing of another black man in New York during an altercation with police.

The media has happily followed the president’s stage directions, and has delivered massive coverage of riots, angry African-Americans, TV-stage arguments and street protests, both prior to the midterm elections and after voters delivered a disastrous setback to Obama in Congress.

This media cooperation was provided despite the implosion of Obama’s prior focus on racial conflict — the 2012 investigation and 2013 acquittal of a neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, for shooting a black youth who reportedly misidentified the watchman as a white man.

That racial distraction has minimized coverage of Obama’s lame economy, his many scandals and his Nov. 20 decision to provide work-permits to at least four million foreigners, most of whom will compete directly against African-Americans for decent jobs.

Obama’s strategy was neatly illustrated at his year-end press conference, where April Ryan asked him directly about his economy.

“You said [in 2009] it was the best of times in the sense that there… has never been more opportunity for African Americans to receive a good education, and the worst of times for unemployment and the lack of opportunity,” said Ryan, who works for American Urban Radio Networks. “We’re ending 2014. What is the state of black America as we talk about those issues as well as racial issues in this country?”

Obama dodged on the softball economic question, which was the only question asked about working Americans.

First, he reached for his most-used crutch — that the economy is now better than at the depths of the 2009 recession.

“Black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office. The jobs that have been created, the people who’ve gotten health insurance, the housing equity that’s been recovered, the 401 pensions that have been recovered,” he said.

Those statement are partly correct.

Obamacare’s expansion has aided many low-income blacks, but the government regulation adds more burdens to the economy. The stock market has raised the value of 401(k) accounts, but very little flowed to poorer Americans, including African-Americans, while nearly all of the benefits went to wealthier Americans.

The unemployment rate for African-Americans has fallen by 1 percent per year, down from 16 percent in February 2010 to 11 percent in November 2014. That rate is double the national average, and it matches the high unemployment rate among low-skilled people who did not graduate from high-school, and who are now losing jobs to machinery and low-wage immigrants.

But Obama has made the employment situation worse for African-Americans by ending enforcement of immigration laws and by offering work-permits to roughly 6 million illegals, guest-workers and future immigrants. Overall, almost half of the jobs added since January 2010 have gone to migrant workers, not to Americans. In fact, fewer Americans held jobs in December 2014 than held jobs in 2007.

Obama dodged the uncomfortable fact that African-Americans’ wages have drifted down amid the surplus of low-skill labor. The median weekly wage for blacks was $601 in 2009, and $644 in the fall of 2014. That’s a $15 decline, once inflation is considered.

Next, Obama reframed the economic problem as a racial issue, by describing African-American poverty as a racial disparity.

“The gap between income and wealth of white and black America persists,” he said.

In fact, it has grown. African-Americans’ median household wealth — such as has declined steadily from 2009 to 2013, according to Pew. Blacks’ median wealth is now one-thirteenth of whites’ median household wealth, such as property and stocks. That’s down from one-eighth in 2010.

Obama then tried to spread the blame. “We’ve got more work to do on that front,” the president said, moments after claiming credit for apparent gains.

Obama explicitly blamed past racism for current problems. “I’ve been consistent in saying that this is a legacy of a troubled racial past of Jim Crow and slavery. That’s not an excuse for black folks… they’re starting behind, oftentimes, in the race.”

Then he claimed his government-centered policies have boosted education and opportunity among African-Americans. “The education reforms that we’ve initiated are showing measurable results… We are seeing record numbers of young people attending college,” he said.

But in Obama’s high-unemployment economy, even blacks with college degrees are doing worse than their pre-depression peers. “Among recent graduates ages 22 to 27, the jobless rate for [graduate] blacks last year was 12.4 percent versus 4.9 percent for whites,” said a New York Times article, which was published quietly on Christmas Day.

“This 7.5 percentage point difference was far greater than before the recession… there was only a 1.4 percentage point difference [in 2007], with 4.6 percent of recent black graduates out of work compared with 3.2 percent of similarly educated whites… [and] the delay in finding a job can reverberate years down the road, reducing wages over a lifetime,” the Times said.

“’I’m just surprised I haven’t gotten any job,’ said Garrick Ewers, 22, a business administration major who donned a cap and gown this spring at Morehouse College, a historically black men’s college in Atlanta,” read the Times article.

“Mr. Ewers, who would like to work in marketing, applied to Google, Apple, BET, MTV and Amazon, among others… He took a job a couple of weeks ago at a video store near his home for $8.50 an hour,” the article said.

That’s a huge drop from the future that Obama promised to Morehouse students in a May 2013 commencement speech.

“You’re graduating into an improving job market. You’re living in a time when advances in technology and communication put the world at your fingertips. Your generation is uniquely poised for success unlike any generation of African Americans that came before it… With doors open to you that your parents and grandparents could not even imagine, no one expects you to take a vow of poverty,” Obama declared.

But the established media isn’t interested in the gap between reality and Obama’s words, or in the link between reality and Obama’s actions.

The New York Times article on African-American graduates, for example, did not even mention Obama. It was published on Christmas Day and generated minimal media reaction. In contrast, the Times produced 106 articles on the Ferguson shooting in the 20 days between Aug. 10 and Aug. 30.

The established media prefers easy, TV-ready racial conflict — and Obama delivered that in a rush of words, just after he dodged Ryan’s economy question.

There is “a growing awareness in the broader population of what I think many communities of color have understood for some time… [that] law enforcement doesn’t feel as if it’s being applied in a colorblind fashion,” he told the assembled media Dec. 19.

“The task force that I formed is supposed to report back to me in 90 days… [and] my intention is to, as soon as I get those recommendations, to start implementing them.”

The media-magnified disputes between police and African-Americans “has been a healthy conversation that we’ve had,” he said, promising more of the same.

“We’ve been moving forward on criminal justice reform issues more broadly… Sometimes you’ve got a police department that has gotten into bad habits over a period of time and hasn’t maybe surfaced some hidden biases that we all carry around,” he continued.

After the press conference, the reporters followed Obama’s stage directions. For example, Ryan appeared on MSNBC and CNN shortly after she asked her question to Obama.

On CNN, the host and Ryan focused on Obama’s decision to talk about the Ferguson shooting, not about economics. “As black people, we feel certain thing that other communities don’t,” she said.

That focus was promptly touted by Jay Carney, Obama’s former press secretary. “I think it it really resonates with African-Americans around the country, especially parents, and to Americans of all colors,” he told CNN.

On MSNBC, Ryan followed Rachel Maddow’s lead and focused on male reporters’ reactions to Obama’s decision to take questions only from women reporters in the press conference. “Oh yes, they are hot, they are seething,” Ryan told Maddow, before she briefly returned to economics in the last fifth of the segment, when she cited her 2009 interview with Obama.

“For African-Americans, he said, for those who have education, good education, it’s a great time for opportunity, but for those who don’t, it is unemployment, it is a bad time, because there’s unemployment problems and the lack of opportunity,” Ryan told Maddow, before Maddow returned the president’s use of female reporters.

Ryan did not respond to emails from The Daily Caller.

In her radio show for urban radio, Ryan again led with the president’s decision to invite questions only from women, then highlighted an upbeat quote from Obama, saying “through persistent effort and faith in the American people, things get better.”

Unfortunately for African-Americans, the economy is growing much slower than the labor supply, and has been since at least 2000. That keeps median wages low, especially for low-skill African-Americans, no matter how much is earned by investors and business leaders.

But for Obama, African-Americans’ economic problems aren’t one of his top priorities.

Obama has seen this downward economic trend since he was a left-wing political activist in Chicago, and has even publicly acknowledged that the flood of cheap immigrant labor was part of the problem.

“If this huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefits to the economy as a whole… it also threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans,” Obama wrote in his 2006 autobiography, “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.”

In Chicago, “everywhere, it seemed, Mexican and Central American workers came to dominate low-wage work that had once gone to blacks — as waiters and busboys, as hotel maids and as bellmen — and made inroads in the construction trades that had long excluded black labor,” he wrote.

But Obama has long subordinated that problem to his higher goal of binding the growing Latino community into the Democratic political machine, alongside the black community.

“In my mind,” he wrote, “the fates of black and brown were to be perpetually intertwined [and become] the cornerstone of a coalition that could help America live up to its promise.”

Follow Neil on Twitter