Obama Is Stepping Up His Game
As Republican presidential candidates continued to rumble their way across the country, the Obama administration stepped up its game this week, publishing a Pathways to Opportunity report that outlined what the administration claims to have done and intends to do to get the unemployed back to work, and engaging with voters on the economy.
While President Obama embarked on the American Jobs Act bus tour, The Root hosted a live-streamed discussion Thursday with White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and outgoing Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes about poverty, and African American poverty in particular.
Jarrett and Barnes mostly repeated talking points from the report and promoted the jobs act as they fielded questions from a live audience and from Twitter and Facebook.
Jarrett said Republicans want to see the president fail, but the jobs bill isn’t about him. “This is about what’s good for our country,” she said.
Barnes said the president is resolved to keep pushing Republicans to pass the bill, but the senate rejected a scaled down version Thursday and the Associated Press reported that Democratic support for the measure is dwindling and “future votes on individual pieces of the measure … aren’t likely to fare better.”
Americans Are Fed Up With Government
To make matters worse for the incumbent president, a new Gallup poll suggests that Americans are more fed up with government than with business.
“Americans are more than twice as likely to blame the federal government in Washington (64%) for the economic problems facing the United States as they are the financial institutions on Wall Street (30%),” Gallup reported.
Why Now, Mr. President?
The Root’s Cynthia Gordy asked Jarrett and Barnes why the report and the jobs act are being introduced now.
“We decided to draft the report in many ways to respond to questions about what we have done,” said Barnes, before recounting ways she says the administration has been addressing poverty issues from “day one,” including the 2009 economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act, expansion of tax credits, summer jobs for youth, and health care reform.
“We’ve been working on this since we set foot in the White House,” said Barnes.
Barnes on Getting Out of the Hot Seat
Barnes also confirmed reports that she is leaving the administration at the end of the year to spend time with family and pursue private sector opportunities.
Asked what the most significant policy she developed is, Barnes said choosing would be like picking one child over another. Even so, she said she is especially proud of her work on education and described early, primary, and post-secondary education as a three-legged stool upon which to build success.
To illustrate her point, she recounted how her father went to college on the GI bill while she was a little girl and fondly recalled sitting next to him as he studied at the library. She also said her maternal grandmother worked in a tobacco factory and that her mother went to college on a scholarship
“Education changes lives; it changes communities,” said Barnes, as she expressed wonder at how it led to her own ascent to the White House.
Earlier she had recounted how “little old ladies at church” would tell her how proud they were of her, but would balk at the scope of her domestic policy task.
Jarrett affirmed Barnes’ passion, commitment, drive, and “second to none” breadth of policy knowledge. “If I go much further, we’ll both start crying, so I’m going to stop,” said Jarrett.
Is Obama Backing Away From People of Faith?
UrbanFaith asked (via Twitter) what the administration is doing to support the faith based groups that are filling in service gaps, and if the president is backing away from these groups? The broadcast ended before the question was answered, but the Democratic National Committee announced yesterday that it had hired Rev. Derrick Harkins, senior pastor of Washington D.C.’s historically Black Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, as its new director of faith outreach so, at least from a political standpoint, he appears ready to embrace them.
The Middle Class Is Recovering?
Meanwhile, at a Virginia stop on his bus tour, President Obama sounded positively conservative when he said, “It’s going to take time to rebuild the kind of America in which everybody has a fair shot, everybody is paying their fair share; where responsibility is rewarded; where the deck is not stacked against middle-class families.” He also claimed that the middle class is growing, solid, and secure again.
Is Obama Avoiding Black Communities?
But an article at Politico about tensions between the president and California Rep. Maxine Waters contrasted the Congressional Black Caucus’s summer jobs tour with Obama’s efforts, noting that he has largely avoided stops in Black cities and neighborhoods.
The Psychology of Black Unemployment
Setting aside the politics of Black unemployment for a moment, the North Dallas Gazette published a compelling article Thursday about its psychology. In it, University of Michigan Sociologist Alford Young Jr., Ph.D. said the stress of constantly thinking about supplementing insufficient income “provides an interesting spin on the long-standing notion that Black people, particularly lower income folk only live for today.”
The article said challenges remain, but researchers “retain their optimism for the future in part because of the past resiliency and creativity of the African American community.”
What do you think?
Has the Obama Administration avoided African American concerns or has the president done what he could in a political and social environment that rarely prioritizes them?