Most polls, both the formal ones that care to track black thoughts and the informal ones in the barber shop, show jobs as black folks number one concern. A May YouGov poll found 93% of African Americans listing “the economy” as their top concern, tied with health care and followed by education and Social Security.
Yet, the response to those concerns from the black political and policy community is scattered and astoundingly disjointed. To date, perhaps only the Congressional Black Caucus and Urban League consistently make steady noise on websites and during press conferences about jobs. The CBC is even convening a national job fair tour while the Urban League can’t talk enough about it. Bottom line is we can’t get anything done or progress if we don’t have jobs.
Still, that’s not enough. CBC is simply relying on connections at large corporations to prop up tables and signs and make anxious black Congressional Members look good enough into next election. Urban League can draw on sponsorship funds for the same. The NAACP’s focus on jobs, perusing the website, is lost in the scrambled eggs of “economic opportunity” when there really is very little at the moment. And, yes, it would be nice if black churches – amassing billions from parishioners – would coalesce and find a way out of it. Isn’t there any talk of pulling money together into a national Black Employment Fund or Business Opportunity Bank to inject a round of immediate hiring? And, are HBCUs in relentless pursuit of big jobs creation idea, besides taking tuition money their students barely have.
One would think the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the first and leading independent “non-partisan” black think tank in the country, would be on it. There should be white papers, studies and an array of spirited discussion on how we fix this fix. Joint Center, however, is wrapped in an obsessive focus on broadband expansion, no doubt the courtesy of much cheddar from telecommunications industry grants. While that’s important, it’s not exactly what black folks are focused on at the moment: only 9% of African Americans saw that “high speed Internet connections” as a priority of Obama Administration policies during budget proposing in March, as opposed to 75% who felt “education” deserved increased focus.
The lack of a focused, single-minded, aggressive and centrally coordinated jobs creation effort is non-existent in the African American public policy community. We accept it as the current condition, some of us even ignoring warning sounds all around us so long as we’re holding on. Can’t be worried about those who can’t. But our political class – still middle-class and fairly secure last checked – is not placing that much urgency on it beyond the sound bites and loud pressers. Maybe that’s a big part of the problem.