Depression, Not Recession Rocks U.S. Ghettos

chicago ghettoDepression for Blacks, Recession for Whites

In case you didn’t know it, what’s called a “recession” in White America is called a “depression” in Black America. During much of last year white unemployment held steady at around 8.8 percent. Down the block, though, it was about 12 per cent for Latinos and in Black neighborhoods across town it averaged 16 per cent. And as unemployment spiked at 24 percent for white teens last year it hit 45 percent for black teens, according to the Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University.

To his credit, President Obama signed a $26 billion federal aid package last summer to help the states rehire teachers and save public service jobs, where many African-Americans earn their paychecks. But at the same time Obama keeps pushing needless wars of aggression in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq–the last of which is costing Americans three trillion dollars. And Obama is opening a new war front in Libya—in all, waging wars in four countries that will cost infinitely more than America is spending on the unmet needs of its cities and its citizenry.

Year after year, decade after decade, Washington has cheated black communities out of economic opportunity. Instead of investing in a framework to help blacks advance by their own initiative, the Federal government has flushed billions down the toilets of friendly foreign strongmen such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarek. Black neighborhoods have been the last to get public services from flower gardens to tot lots to street lamps to garbage collection to low-rent housing. They’ve been the first to have their children pulled off to fill the beds of privatized prisons and fill the ranks that march off to fight Washington’s wars of aggression. Their children have gone to the most run-down schools and have been expected to learn to read from raggedy books. The story of dilapidated housing is also well known. As one child in a Washington, D.C., slum not far from the White House told me, “The rats come runnin’ through here like express trains.”

Back in 1962, the Urban League’s Whitney Young pleaded for a “domestic Marshall Plan” that would revitalize the nation’s ghettos. But Washington preferred to spend its money on military hardware in Vietnam. A half century has gone by and not that much has changed. Marc Morial, the UL’s president, is hard at work pushing childhood education, trying to stop home foreclosures, and canvassing employers to provide jobs for minorities. The change is that instead of fighting in Vietnam, Washington is fighting in the Middle East. Same difference.

Instead of an “America First” policy that would put the interests of America’s 300-million people first, Congress, particularly the House Republicans, have called for obliterating aid to the unemployed and training for the unskilled. According to an Urban League news release, “high poverty school districts would lose nearly $694 million in funding, 200,000 Head Start children would be shown the door and thousands of teachers would lose their jobs (while) low-income students…would see their maximum Pell grant reduced by $845.”

Republican governors in Wisconsin and elsewhere have made a show of union-busting as if state workers are responsible for the nation’s economic woes, rather than the foreign wars that have poured a tidal wave of profits into the coffers of defense contractors. Cutting state jobs, again, disproportionately impacts Black workers. The same governors, by the way, seem unable to keep corporations from abandoning their employees and quitting their cities for foreign shores even though taxpayers outrageously subsidized those same corporations with tax-free benefits of all kinds to set up shop in their communities in the first place.

In its May 23 issue, Jet magazine asks the question of whether the Urban League is “still relevant.” Of course, Morial says it is. Maybe what Jet should be asking is whether Washington is ever going to become relevant for the American people, especially the ignored and long-suffering minorities. Instead, the Obama regime is wasting your tax dollars on foreign wars against small, defenseless countries that just happen to have a lot of oil or whose geography, as in Afghanistan, makes them ideal for laying pipelines.

To sum up, 25-30 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed and can’t find a good job, 44 million Americans are on food stamps, 95-million Americans have housing issues, 43-million Americans are living in poverty–and the eminent amateur Mussolini in the White House is going after Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

Sherwood RossAs I’ve urged before, it’s past time to switch the budgets and personnel size of the Defense Department and the Peace Corps, raising the latter’s staff from 16,000 to 3-million, and putting them to work doing good–starting in Los Angeles and Newark. A recent USA Today/Gallup poll revealed that 59 per cent of our people want the U.S. out of Afghanistan now. Is the White House listening?[poll id="33"]

Sherwood Ross

Published by the LA Progressive on May 24, 2011
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About Sherwood Ross

Sherwood Ross has worked as a publicist for Chicago; as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and workplace columnist for Reuters. He has also been a media consultant to colleges, law schools, labor unions, and to the editors of more than 100 national magazines. A civil rights activist, he was News Director for the National Urban League, a talk show host at WOL Radio, Washington, D.C., and holds an award for "best spot news coverage" for Chicago radio stations for civil rights reporting. He is the author "Gruening of Alaska,"(Best Books)and several plays about Japan during World War II, including "Baron Jiro," and "Yamamoto's Decision," read at the National Press Club, where he is a member. His favorite quotations are from the Sermon on The Mount.