'Political high noon, economic midnight,' says Rev. Jackson
HERB BOYD and | 4/12/2011, 4:40 p.m.
"While we are politically at high noon, we are economically at midnight," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The renowned minister was recently in town to promote his upcoming 12th annual Wall Street Project Economic Summit and to share some of his views on the disparity between the current economic and political issues. "As President Barack is rising," Jackson continued, "our economy is falling. The economic downturn is double trouble for us." The "us," Rev. Jackson, founder and president of RainbowPUSH, was referring to is Black Americans. "In the best of times, we are number one in mortalities." His misery index included infant mortality, life expectancy, homicide and you know the drill.
But most of his comments were keyed to the dismal economic picture, and at the top of his agenda was the credit crisis. "Over half of our small businesses depend on credit, and when they are unable to get credit and loans, their businesses suffer, and many of them are forced to layoff workers and eventually close," Jackson began, as he sat in the Harlem office of the AmNewson Monday. Then came the sub-prime crisis, he continued. "We were clustered and targeted in the sense that we have to pay more for less," Jackson explained. Unfortunately, he said, the combined credit crisis and home foreclosures did not come with a bailout.
On top of these problems, the nation was confronted with an automobile crisis, Jackson said. "What this means is the loss of a whole generation of Black workers, including dealers and suppliers," he lamented. "The bailout gave a cushion to the wealthy, but did not include a restructuring plan for those at the bottom of the economy."
Add to this the ongoing outsourcing of jobs and services to India and China, and that compounds the joblessness for Black and brown people in America, Jackson said. Even the churches--Black America's most dependable institution-- are in trouble, he said. "When the members of the church are facing foreclosures, then the church is not in a position to sustain itself." The historic Black colleges, he said, were in equally desperate straits since so many of the students depend on loans that are less and less available.
Closer to home for the Amsterdam News and other Black publications and media is the evaporation of ads, which come mainly from the automobile industry, Jackson noted. "Many Black newspapers, members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, are in jeopardy because of the lack of ads and now must lay off or cut-back their staffs," he said. These are some of the issues that will be taken up at work-shops at the Economic Summit, and Jackson was proud to announce that Sheila Bair, chair of the FDIC, is among the invited speakers. "She advocated a long time ago restructuring over repossessing," he said. Jackson suggested a few things the incoming president can do, including the enforcement of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. "Enforce contracts and compliance...and the Community Investment Act," he said. "The enforcement of all these would be of benefit to us and the community at large." And what were his impressions of Obama's infrastructure proposal as part of the remedy to the economic crisis? "It's a step in the right direction," he said. "But it must go deep enough to touch those who are not only unemployed but underemployed...the working poor without decent insurance."