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Romney's Disastrous Prescription for the Black Jobless Crisis

Posted: Jul 10, 2012

LOS ANGELES--GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has managed an incredible feat. In a Google search of millions of references of his campaign speeches, interviews and his writings, I could not find a single word he has written or spoken about the greatest economic crisis that faces any of the nation’s voter constituencies. That's the crisis of black unemployment.

The release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment figures for June found that the chronically high jobless numbers among blacks, especially the jobless numbers among young black males—which have been at Great Depression levels--have jumped even higher.

In more than a dozen major urban areas, nearly one in four blacks are unemployed. The closest anyone in the Romney camp has come to acknowledging the severity of the crisis is a terse, vague and perfunctory statement from a black Romney campaign advisor. She knocked the Obama administration for allegedly not "talking about" black unemployment.

Will Romney Break His Silence at NAACP?

Romney will have his chance to break his silence on the problem when he addresses the NAACP’s annual conference in Houston on Thursday.

If his past performance is any guide, he'll almost certainly make his stock pitch that he'll grow jobs with massive corporate tax cuts, sharply pare down regulations on business--starting with repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reforms--and spur free-market, not government, initiatives. This supposedly will unleash the awesome power of private industry to create thousands of new jobs that will lift all battered ships. Expect Romney to claim that blacks will be major beneficiaries of this supposed unfettered job surge via private industry.

Conservatives have not changed this threadbare script for creating jobs for minorities since Ronald Reagan. The only wrinkle to it has come from black conservatives, who delight in taunting civil rights leaders with the refrain, “what have the Democrats and Obama done to end black’s economic misery?”

Romney’s black advisor repeated that line in defending Romney’s economic prescription for blacks. This is all, of course, pure economic mythmaking that ignores too much history.

During the late 1990s, joblessness tumbled to its lowest levels in two decades. Help-wanted signs were everywhere. Deficit spending was not a major White House or congressional flashpoint because the government had a healthy budget surplus. There was far less flight of capital to off shore havens back then, or ballooning trade deficits.

Most important to the joy of conservatives, corporations and medium-size businesses expanded and created tens of thousands of new jobs. Yet, the unemployment rate for young black males was double the level for white men. And just as the latest jobless figures show again, in major urban areas the proportion is triple that of white males.

Private industry did not wipe out the nagging racial gap in employment.

No Change Since 1990s

There’s no evidence that anything has changed since the 1990s, and much evidence that things have worsened. The major corporations and financial services industry have racked up record profits, hoarded trillions in cash, and paid relatively low overall taxes.

In many cases, top corporations have paid no domestic corporate taxes. But those profits
have not led to even a trace of the massive job expansion that Romney’s job prescription promises. And they won’t.

Romney can’t and won’t even hint at the other causes for the black unemployment crisis.

They include major slashes in state and federal funds for job training and skills programs, the shrinkage in the number of low- and semi-skilled service and retail jobs, and the refusal of many employers to hire those with criminal records.

The high number of miserably failing inner-city public schools also fuels the unemployment crisis. They have turned thousands of blacks into educational invalids. These students are desperately unequipped to handle the rapidly evolving and demanding technical and professional skills in the public sector and the business world of the 21st century.

The educational meltdown has seeped into colleges. According to an American Council of Education report, in the past decade Latino, Asian, and black female student enrollment has soared while black male enrollment has slowed down.

Then there’s discrimination. The legion of federal and state anti-discrimination laws, affirmative-action programs and successful employment-discrimination lawsuits give the public the impression that job discrimination is a relic of a shameful, racist past.

However, countless studies on employment discrimination still tell a damning story of subtle and blatant bias, especially in management and supervisory hiring and promotions in corporate industry.

Half of Blacks Jobless for a Year or More

The Congressional Black Caucus reports that at least half of all unemployed black workers have been out of work for a year or more. Many have given up looking for work. The U.S. Census does not count those who have stopped looking among the unemployed.

The black unemployed, like the poor in all groups, have few powerful advocacy groups and are mostly nameless and faceless. They make up no defined constituency that Mitt Romney can court and bank on to vote for him in any substantial numbers.

The NAACP is certainly not the place where he’d find those votes. His prescription for knocking down black joblessness then is more than failed and flawed. It’s disastrous. But that’s not what the NAACP and blacks would ever hear from him.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC and a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson.

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