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More Perspective from the Black Agenda Report
The author, BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon, kindly gave permission to publish the below in full from the Black Agenda Report as long as there was a reference to the original article. That reference is here: “Stick Together” Obama Tells Black Mis-Leadership Class At White House Conference.
The US president is the most powerful man in the world. Black unemployment was already at an all time high the day Barack Obama was sworn in. Three years into his term, there are few signs that record black unemployment, growing poverty, the wave of foreclosures centered in minority neighborhoods are concerns for this administration.
“Stick Together” Obama Tells Black Misleadership Class At White House Conference
Last week, with exactly a year to go before the 2012 election, President Obama summoned a few hundred carefully selected African Americans to the White House. They were preachers and entertainers, politicians and promoters and business people – the kinds of folks we call “leaders: in the black community, whether or not they have or ever will lead us anyplace we really need to go. This was, after all, what the White House called its African American Leadership Conference. It was clearly a campaign event, and just as clearly an attempt on the president's part to back down a little from the utter contempt he displayed last month toward the suffering of the black unemployed and dispossessed at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting, telling them to “stop whinin'... stop cryin' and complainin'..”
They has a “working lunch” with Attorney General Eric Holder. Presumably none of the well-fed preachers or politicians present asked the attorney general why the Justice Department had, 3 full years after the biggest Wall Street crash since 1929, had not begun a criminal investigations of bank and mortgage fraud, or why the Obama Justice Department was pushing a “settlement” of mortgage banking fraud claims that would protect all the banksters involved from future prosecution.
Why were there no probing questions? Because a section of the black misleadership class were themselves implicated in pushing widespread predatory loans on black customers. Black political leaders had long ceased to advocate the construction of affordable housing. Instead, many of them lent their names, offices and churches to “mortgage fairs” and seminars peddling predatory loans to black families in their own communities, touting these as “wealth-building” exercises. As these predatory loans pushed on black and poor consumers have been a disproportionate share of foreclosures, the wealth gap between white and black families has grown, under Obama's watch from eleven to one to more than twenty to one.
It's a fact too, that if Barack Obama ever intended to create the millions of “green jobs” his campaign talked about, his all-time historic opportunity was when the federal government acquired General Motors, one of the planet's largest collection of manufacturing and engineering capital and expertise. The president could have appointed new GM managers and directed them to do electric cars, buses and trucks, or green energy saving building materials and battery technologies, or high speed rail. Congress couldn't have stopped him, but this class of “black leaders” won't call him to account either.
The working lunch followed morning panel sessions economic security, jobs training, corporate education reform which really means school privatization, and on “the President's domestic policy agenda and the African American community.” We are not aware that the black leaders present asked about the tens of thousands of experienced and superbly qualified public school teachers whose salaries have been lowered, whose benefits compromised or whose jobs have been eliminated by the Obama administration's Race To The Top program. But then, some of the politicians present had accepted campaign contributions from the advocates of educational privatization.
If any of the assembled “leaders” noted the incongruence of talk about the “economic security of the black community coming from a president and congressional leaders who crafted the anti-democratic “supercommittee” budget-cutting process with Medicaid and social security on the table in return for nominal taxes on millionaires, there's no record of that either.
We doubt that anybody took the president or his advisers to task for violating campaign pledges to renegotiate NAFTA, or for pushing even more “free trade” agreements through
The president was nowhere on the schedule, but as per the usual custom he made a carefully staged entrance and briefly addressed the crowd.
“We know tough times,” the president said. “And what we also know, though, is that if we are persistent, if we are unified, and we remain hopeful, then we’ll get through these tough times and better days lie ahead.”
The president exhorted them to go back to their communities and tell people about his American Jobs Act, which is stalled in Congress. Never mind that the jobs in the “jobs bill” are mostly fictions (like the lie that tax cuts create jobs --- a large number of the “jobs” in the bill are supposed to result from its multibillion dollar tax cuts) inside a bigger fiction ---- there were no “jobs bills” introduced at all, during the two years Obama's party held both houses of Congress. During that time, the president told black America repeatedly that it was the private sector's duty to produce jobs, and that we'd have to wait for some of those trillions they gave the banksters to trickle back down so every about a jobs bill.
It was in that same spirit of denial that the president asked the assembled “leaders” for job-producing ideas of their own ---- things, he said “...that we can take right now administratively that would make a difference in the communities that all of you represent.”
Given that black unemployment was already at an all time high the day Barack Obama took office, hearing him ask this questions near the end of his term instead of at the beginning is not a good sign. The president of the United States is still the most powerful man in the world, certainly the one with the most tools at hand to get the things he wants done.
Barack Obama is a student of history and nobody's fool. Obama knows that when Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 he came to the White House with a long list of executive actions to do what he could not get through the Democrat-dominated Congress of the time. Obama knows that Reagan appointed anti-legal aid ideologues to supervise legal aid, anti-environmentalist hacks to head up the Interior Dept, and an obnoxious stooge named Clarence Thomas, who hated civil rights laws to supervise the EEOC, and rushed through a stack of executive orders in the first days of his term. If Barack Obama didn't come to DC with a list of job-creating programs and executive orders, it was because he never intended to do these things.
What the president does intend to do somehow, is get re-elected. He knows that without the absolute and solid support of better than nine out of ten black voters this is impossible. But without much to show after three years in the way of jobs, or housing, or prosecuting banksters, or protecting families from excessive debt or stopping the murderous and expensive wars around the world, what can Obama tell his troops, his followers in the black misleadership class whose careers, fortunes and credibility are hooked to his own? The answer was not much.
Persevere, stay the course, stick together, we'll get through this, the president assured his elite White House audience. No doubt they will. What else can they do? The black misleadership class is riding on a cognitive and delusional bubble. Like bubbles of other kinds, it's a delicate contraption that relies on a mass denial of economic and political reality, conflating black faces in high places with the economic and social empowerment of ordinary black people. As long as the bubble persists, so will this president's career, and the careers of the corporate funded black misleadership class he represents. Our “leaders” will do their jobs, and they will stick together, make no mistake about it.
But what about the rest of us? What else can we do?
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.