President Obama to speak to black congressional leaders
President Obama spoke at the CBC Foundation Phoenix Awards dinner in September of last year. He speaks there again Saturday night. (pool photo)
September 24th, 2011
05:13 PM ET

President Obama to speak to black congressional leaders

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The economic slowdown has hit the black community particularly hard, pushing the unemployment rate among blacks up to 16.7% in August, nearly double the national average. The problem is the Congressional Black Caucus' chief concern and one many members have pushed the White House to do a better job of addressing.

As President Barack Obama prepares to speak at Saturday night's 2011 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards Dinner, he is likely to tout some of the proposals in the American Jobs Act he introduced this month. Several are aimed at tackling the problem of long-term unemployment, steps that could provide much-needed aid to the community where the jobless rate is highest.

One CBC member who has been especially critical of the president in recent months is Rep. Maxine Waters, a Democrat who represents California's 35th congressional district. At a CBC jobs tour town hall in Detroit in August, she said black unemployment was "unconscionable," the strategy to fix it was unclear and that the caucus was "getting tired" of waiting for one.

Earlier this month, she questioned the president's decision to focus on the Midwest during a three-day jobs bus tour in August, saying the 3 million population of Iowa, an electorally important state that is also mostly white, is roughly equal to the number of African Americans who are out of work and suggesting that the population of that key state seemed more important to the administration than the black community.

"Are the unemployed in the African-American community, including almost 45% of its youth, as important as the people of Iowa?" she asked in the statement she released ahead of the president's speech before a joint session of Congress in which he announced his jobs plan.

The White House is well aware of this criticism from some in the black community and has made a point of trying to address it.

"The president shares the frustration of African Americans and all Americans about the pace of the economy," said Kevin Lewis, the White House director of African-American media. "Though the president is committed to improving the economy for all Americans, he'll note in tonight's speech that the American Jobs Act includes targetd initiatives and programs that protect, support and provide economic stability for the most vulnerable Americans.  He'll continue to urge Americans to urge Congress to act in a bipartisan fashion and pass the bill."

The president has proposed a $4,000 tax credit to employers for hiring long-term unemployed workers and higher credits to companies that hire veterans who have been unemployed for at least six months. He also wants to see unemployment insurance extended to prevent 5 million Americans from losing their benefits and stronger programs to help the long-term unemployed through counseling and job training.

A number of CBC members - including Missouri Democrat and CBC Chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and Democratic representatives like John Lewis of Georgia and Frederica Wilson of Florida - released statements of support for the American Jobs Act after the president's speech, as did other black leaders like Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

Waters also praised the plan in television interviews after the speech, though she said she and other CBC members wished the plan was "even bigger" and that she hoped the kind of help proposed would get to the people who need it most.

More than anything, CBC members want to see the president fight hard for the jobs plan and not give in to any demands to weaken it. Members' staffers have spoken of concerns that the White House did not negotiate from a position of strength with past bills, such as the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul or the health care overhaul, and say they hope the president has learned a lesson from those experiences.

While some African-American critics of the president have argued he has not done enough to listen to the concerns of the black community, his recent schedule shows he has spent time meeting with black journalists and with the leaders of organizations that serve the community like the NAACP's Ben Jealous, the National Urban League's Marc Morial and the Rev. Al Sharpton from the National Action Network.

At a panel this month with black media group Interactive One, one of the president's top advisers, Valerie Jarrett, called the unemployment rate in the black community "unacceptably high" and said the president understood that "inaction is not an option." In remarks to the panel, the president said 20 million African-American workers would benefit from the jobs bill proposal to cut the payroll tax in half, a measure he said would save the average family $1,500 a year.

"It helps out-of-work Americans, including the 1.4 (million) African-American folks and their families who are out of work by extending unemployment benefits to help support them and their families while they're looking for work," the president said. "And it also reforms the training programs that are available so that they can build real skills and connect to jobs. And that will particularly help the long-term unemployed."

The president also taped an interview with BET Networks, set to air Monday, in which he is expected to specifically address the "increase of unemployment among African-Americans since taking office, the current economic crisis, the political landscape around the 2012 presidential election" among other issues, according to the network.

Topics: CBC • Economy • President Obama

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soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. mikle

    I cannot even look at him anymore. Where is YES WE CAN, Where is change, Where is debt cut in 1/2 he promise, Where is jobs. Lie.

    September 24, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Trace


      Go away, STFU , go sit down, crawl back under your rock. Where have you been this past decade? Do you think you can totally destroy an economy as large and dynamic as the US, and rebuild it in less than 3 years, with a divided government (GOP /Tea Pee Pants people) that can't get anything done????

      Haven't you read that congress WRITES the BILLs? The President Signs the bills? This congress is at an all time low in favorability. Over the past 9 months, they have only been in session 125 days.

      So again I say to you STFU and quit blaming this president for congressional ineptitude.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  2. Galactic Cannibal

    Pres. Obama , What a load of cods wallop, you speak. You are not a black man, your mother was snow white and your father was jet black. So you are a half-caste. To be a black man or black woman you must have black parents, your mother and father must be black . Why can't you understand that dude. There is nothing wrong with being a half-caste , or a black person, or a white person, but you cannot call your self something else, other than what you are. And that is a half-caste.

    September 24, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Trace

      @Galatic Cannibal

      You must be a miserable soul on a every day basis. There is no one that is fully one race/ethnicity. As it pertains to this president, why does that matter to you anyway? Do you have racial issues?

      September 25, 2011 at 11:19 am |
      • Howard


        September 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  3. Daniel

    I like how Obama waits till he sees he has dished on the black community to act like he cares now. He bails out all the cronies that backed him to get elected and makes sure there is no funding left over for the rest of the unfortunate people in the country. He only cares now that he wants to be reelected. Where has been for two and a half years. If he cared so much he would have been putting stimulus money in the hands of the people and let the money trickle up. Instead they get bailed out, get their bonuses for making companies run into the ground as they are not effected by no unemployment for them. But they darn sure lay off a lot of employees to make sure they still have a paycheck. He was a do nothing when he was in the Senate. Now that he is President it is just more of the same. All talk and nothing still gets done. Obama you haven't improved my life you've ruined it with more promises and nothing to show for it. All you are is a man of words and no action.

    September 25, 2011 at 4:21 am |
  4. catwill

    As a black female reared during the civils rights era President Obamas speech to the CBC was reminiesent of MLK and his speech was geared toward all people who aspire to work and improve their station in life. So I am optimistic about improving our economic lives with employment with a livable wagefor all people. Yes we can!!!

    September 25, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  5. MadesInUSA1961

    Obama is a puppet politician marketed by elite liberals to pander to the minority vote. He doesn't have an original thought in his head and is clueless how to govern. Blacks will blindly follow him to he11 and back simply because he is black. We cannot have him in office for four more years or none of us will ever recover financially. It will be passed down to another generation. End governing by teleprompter.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  6. Liz Carter in Georgia

    @Galactic Cannibal; What's your point? Even in a box of 'crayola crayons' BLACK is the dominant color. He's black, Kenyan Black! You're right; his father was jet black! That means the sperm, which ferilized his snow white mothers' egg was JET black. So the dominating color is what? If we listened to your stupid spill on OBAMAS' race, You'd have to call most blacks 'quarter-caste' or at least 'eighth-caste'! If he was a dropout, felon, crackhead, raised by his fathers' parents, he'd just be BLACK then right?

    September 25, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Howard

      The Black Caucus is nothing but a gang of RACISTS, who blindly follow and support their racist leader, Barack Obama.

      September 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  7. Victoria

    I don't really care about black or white we are all the same, I am a white girl in a small country town of 2100 people but I know we all want the same things. Freedom, liberty, fairness, a job, an education and nice roads to drive on. The more important issue as I see thing is this... Republican candidates are not proposing plans, they are catering to the Tea Party more thean the american people. If they are correct in saying these tax breaks to the rich are job creators why have they not created jobs in the last 10 years then? These Republican favor Wal-mart & Exxon over average american people. At the debates the audience cheers execution letting the un-insured die when they are sick and BOO a soldier in Iraq beacuse he is gay!!!
    Not one candidate on the stage had the decency or the care for their fellow countrymen to say to the audience as a leader, do not cheer at anothers misfortune, help thy neighbor and never Boo in the face of an American soldier who is fighting to protect our freedom. It's not very presidential in a presidential debate. It showed a serious lack of leadership along with the disregard of human life and civil rights.
    While all this is going on, while the candidates spout off with incorrect facts and punch Barack Obama and themselves in the faces... Barack Obama has created 2.9 million jobs, saving our great auto industry and infastructure with the stimulous. He is introducing jobs plans, plans to get our war veterans back to work, and incentives for companies to hire more, introducing health care options, killing Osama Bin Laden, fixing immigration, bettering our educational system, bringing troops out of Iraq, repealing bad laws that do not favor our civil rights and introducing good spending cuts, tax and entitlement reform to close our deficit and save our entitlements that we earned. Its clear to me Barack is the candidate that has won all the debates so far and he was not even on the stage.
    Please do not expect change from Barack overnight. The hole we are in is 20 years deep and he is doing everything he possibly can to dig us out. He needs our support to fight this fight.

    September 25, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  8. catwill

    Just look at some of these posts if you believe that this country is post racial? Racism is the stain that will eventually defeat us as a country. President Obama is a man who happens to be of mixed parentage and describes himself as just a man who is generally classified as black when denoting his racial/cultural preferences.

    September 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  9. Parrothdbe

    What percentage of blacks are having children that cannot even support themselves or the children they've already had (in other words, are already on government support)? What percentage of blacks have no father figure or active parent in their lives? Maybe this will not only be an eye-opening statistic, but will help lead you to addressing the REAL problem.

    September 25, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  10. Republican

    Most of the black folks in america LIKE to depend on the GOVERNMENT for there Intitlement ( welfare , housing ,and medical ) of which the DEMOCRAT'S want so they can turn america into a socialist country . Then there will only be the rich and the poor and no middle class. Life is all about CHOICES . No one can tell one person how to live if they want to be where they are today that is there choice.

    September 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  11. Liz Carter in Georgia

    @Republican, where do you get that racist idea? 'Most of the black folks in America like to DEPEND on the GOVERNMENT for (welfare, housing, and medical) of which Democrats want...blah-blah- blah'? How many white folks living in America are depending on government welfare, housing, and medical? It has to be more since it's more of you! You make up 70% of the population; only 3% of you are wealthy! The rest of you fall in the 97% of the rest of America of all races of who're in need.

    September 27, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  12. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Entitlements have been put in place, one at a time, over time, over years of configuration by the working together of DEMOCRAT and REPUBLICAN administrations! Some compromise, some disagreement but when it came down to the end results of the entitlement, they all agreed to do what was best for the country! Now you act like the 'whole entitlements program' was brought onto this racist political dog & pony stage by Barack Obama and his democratic administration personally! Most were done before he was born!

    September 27, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  13. Liz Carter in Georgia

    As far as you mentioning life being all about choices...I agree. However, that's not ALL life is about! I know there are Americans black, white and other who've wasted opportunity and made bad choices, but some Americans didn't have the same choices that you had! Some Americans didn't come from a background, nor were they even privvy to find an avenue which could lead to a better life. Life is also about equal opportunity, equal favor, equal connections, equal advantage, equal education; there's No choice!

    September 27, 2011 at 7:25 pm |