For Carrie Baker, the greatest joy is spending quality time with her 11 grandchildren and two great-grand-children. Yet Baker, who lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, says there are days when she can’t help feeling a sense of dread when she thinks about their future. “I feel sorry for them. Before they leave this earth, they will experience a lot, and I don’t know if they’re going to be prepared for it,” says the 61-year-old grandmother, who has seen several presidential elections come and go.
Like Baker, many African Americans are troubled about what government is or is not doing to improve the quality of their lives. Last fall, both Clinton and Dole laid out plans for taking Americans into the 21st century. But looking closely at President Clinton’s rhetoric about cutting the deficit in half while creating new jobs and Dole’s election year promise of a 15% tax cut and increased business productivity, one wonders about the real prospects for improving the lives of African Americans?
“A lot of people are angry and a lot are bitter,” says Baker. “There’s talk about these new jobs but where are they? There’s talk but is anyone doing anything?”
The good news is that the outlook isn’t all bleak and the current administration isn’t necessarily all talk and no action–according to the Black Enterprise Board of Economists (BEBE), which met in Washington, D.C., to discuss the economic forecast for the country, particularly for African Americans, as we enter 1997.
Present were David H. Swinton, president of Benedict College; Margaret C. Simms, research director at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies; Cecilia A. Conrad, an economics professor at Pomona College; Marcus Alexis, a professor of economics and management and strategy at North-western University; Lucy Reuben, dean of the school of business at South Carolina State University; Thomas D. Boston, an economics professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology; Andrew F. Brimmer, president of Brimmer & Co.; and BE publisher Earl G. Graves.
With the economy growing at a 3.1% rate over the last four years, Bob Dole faced an uphill battle last fall. Not only was the economy on an upswing, but President Clinton had cut the deficit in half. Moreover, some 10 million new jobs were created over the same period.
The President also took credit for increasing wages by signing a bill that raised the minimum wage. He ran on a platform proposing an expanded earned-income tax credit for 15 million families, and a proposed family tax credit of $500 per child. He also implied that he would sponsor tax credits for small business owners.
While BEBE members agreed that the nation as a whole has prospered under the Clinton administration, it’s still up for debate how much of that prosperity has trickled down to the black community. “The problems in our community are so disproportionately. severe that the kinds of incremental changes that we have been getting [over the last four years] will not affect structural changes,” says Lucy Reuben.
Indeed, statistics show declining incomes in