Obama on the Defense Against Black Politicians

obama_sc_04_01_2007731285Members of Congress and political pundits have grown louder in their frustration with the White House, asserting that President Barack Obama has not been doing enough to help African Americans.

Earlier this month, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) criticized the Obama administration for not doing enough to help African Americans weather the economic turmoil. The group recently boycotted a vote on the financial overhaul measure in an effort to protest the Obama Administration. Though the bill passed without problems, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said the CBC is willing to side with Republicans on future bills if the president does not shape up.

The organization wants Obama to put more emphasis on foreclosure reduction and provide more aid to banks that lend to African Americans.

Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, recently told The Hill, “[Obama] called me and told me that he heard that I was demeaning him. I had to explain to him that it wasn’t anything personal, it was an honest difference on the issues,” regarding his public criticism of the president.

But it is not just black politicians on Capital Hill grumbling louder about Obama. Actor and activist Danny Glover and Civil Rights activist Jesse Jackson also voiced their displeasure with Obama earlier this month.“I think the Obama administration has followed the same playbook, to a large extent–almost verbatim, as the Bush administration. I don’t see anything different,” Glover told The Daily Beast.

While analysts agree that critics do raise valid points, they also note that many general policies have disproportionate benefits to blacks. “Blacks are more likely to work in the public sector than whites, so the aid to states with large black populations have kept a lot of blacks employed,” says Algernon Austin, director, Economic Policy Institute. “Blacks are more likely than whites to lack health insurance, so again, the health insurance bill will yield disproportionate benefit for blacks.”

But others contend that the president’s foreclosure and credit programs are not target-specific enough, therefore leaving out African Americans. “Universal health insurance will not give everybody universal healthcare because not everybody is situated the same,” says John A. Powell, executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Powell says universal health insurance won’t put healthcare providers in communities that sorely need them, which tend to be disproportionally African American.

Obama went on the defense last week, responding to the criticism. “This notion that somehow–because there wasn’t a transformation overnight–that we’ve been neglectful is simply factually not accurate,’’ he said in an interview with the American Urban Radio Networks.

He says steps he has taken to improve education, healthcare, and urban economies will improve the day-to-day lives of all Americans, including blacks and other minorities: “I can’t pass laws that say I’m just helping black folks. I’m the president of the entire United States. What I can do is make sure that I am passing laws that help all people, particularly those who are most vulnerable and most in need.’’