Black Amer­ica hurt most by gov­ern­ment in cri­sis

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Pat Buchanan

The head­line over a re­cent Chicago Sun­Times story read: “The Dis­ap­pear­ing Black Mid­dle Class”. And the sta­tis­tics from the Eco­nomic Pol­icy In­sti­tute were in­deed sober­ing.

In 2007, best year of the Bush era, white house­holds had a me­dian net worth of $134,280, com­pared with $13,450 for black house­holds.

By 2009, the me­dian net worth for white house­holds had fallen 24 per­cent to $97,860. For black house­holds, it had plum­meted 83 per­cent to $2,170, a near wipe­out.

As Al­ger­non Austin of EPI’s Pro­gram on Race, Eth­nic­ity and the Econ­omy put it, “In 2009, for ev­ery dol­lar of wealth the av­er­age white house­hold had, black house­holds had two cents.”

One ex­pla­na­tion for this surely is the wave of fore­clo­sures on sub­prime mort­gages, a large share of which were held by African-Amer­i­cans.

But while un­em­ploy­ment among white men has surged in the Great Re­ces­sion, among black men it has hit 16 per­cent, the high­est level since the Depart­ment of La­bor be­gan to keep records in 1972.

Omi­nously, things are likely to get worse, be­cause Bill Clin­ton’s as­ser­tion, “The era of big gov­ern­ment is over!” is to­day pal­pa­bly true.

Not only in Wis­con­sin, Ohio and New Jer­sey, run by Repub­li­cans, is this so, but in lib­eral mega-states like New York and Cal­i­for­nia. There, Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Jerry Brown run the show, and gov­ern­ment pay­rolls are also be­ing slashed and gov­ern­ment pen­sions pared back.

From Greece to Por­tu­gal to Ire­land to Italy, an age of aus­ter­ity has be­gun. And now that age is about to be­gin in Barack Obama’s Wash­ing­ton.

Why should this ad­versely af­fect black Amer­ica?

Be­cause not only are African-Amer­i­cans dis­pro­por­tion­ately the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of fed­eral pro­grams, from the Earned In­come Tax Credit to aid for ed­u­ca­tion and stu­dent loans, they are even more over-rep­re­sented in the fed­eral work­force than they are on state pay­rolls.

Though 10 per­cent of the U.S. civil­ian la­bor force, African-Amer­i­cans are 18 per­cent of U.S. gov­ern­ment work­ers. They are 25 per­cent of the em­ploy­ees at Trea­sury and Vet­er­ans Af­fairs, 31 per­cent of the State Depart­ment, 37 per­cent of Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion em­ploy­ees and 38 per­cent of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment. They are 42 per­cent of the Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­nity Com­mis­sion and Pen­sion Ben­e­fit Guar­anty Corp., 55 per­cent of the em­ploy­ees at the Gov­ern­ment Print­ing Of­fice and 82 per­cent at the Court Ser­vices and Of­fender Su­per­vi­sion Agency.

When the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion sug­gested shut­ting down Fan­nie Mae and Fred­die Mac, the mort­gage gi­ants whose losses of $150 bil­lion have had to be made up by tax­pay­ers, The Wash­ing­ton Post warned, in a story head­lined, “Wind­ing Down Fan­nie and Fred­die Could Put Mi- nor­ity Ca­reers at Risk,” that 44 per­cent of Fan­nie em­ploy­ees and 50 per­cent of Fred­die’s were per­sons of color.

In Wash­ing­ton, D.C., we have also seen the re­sult of gov­ern­ment cuts on AfricanAmer­i­can lead­ers who had to ap­prove those cuts.

When Mayor Adrian Fenty stood be­hind schools chan­cel­lor Michelle Rhee, who fired hun­dreds of teach­ers, most of them African-Amer­i­can, the wards east of the Ana­cos­tia cut him dead. In 2010, Fenty was thrown out by many of the black vot­ers who elected him.

From 2000 to 2010, the num­ber of fed­eral em­ploy­ees earn­ing over $150,000 in­creased ten­fold. That num­ber dou­bled in the first two years alone of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. The av­er­age pay of fed­eral civil ser­vants in 2009, af­ter ben­e­fits were fac­tored in, was $123,000, twice the av­er­age pay and ben­e­fits of $61,000 in the pri­vate sec­tor.

In­deed, be­cause of the salaries and ben­e­fits that District of Columbia and fed­eral em­ploy­ees re­ceive, Wash­ing­ton is first among all metropoli­tan ar­eas in per-capita in­come. And the three con­gres­sional dis­tricts north and west of the city in Mary­land and Vir­ginia are among the top 10 in the nation in av­er­age in­come.

The half-cen­tury since the Great So­ci­ety was launched in the mid-1960s have been the salad days of the gov­ern­ment sec­tor. No seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion has ben­e­fited more than black Amer­ica.

As black Amer­ica ben­e­fited im­mensely from the Great So­ci­ety, so it is likely to hurt most as the cuts come.

Al­ready, black voices are be­gin­ning to blame the black pres­i­dent whom fate has cho­sen to pre­side over the down­siz­ing.

Obama, says Prince­ton pro­fes­sor Cor­nell West, “lacks back­bone.” He is a “black mas­cot of Wall Street and a black pup­pet of cor­po­rate plu­to­crats. . . . I don’t think in good con­science I could tell any­body to vote for Barack Obama.”

In­cred­i­bly, the ques­tion must be asked. Is this Demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tion about to go to war with its base? Is black Amer­ica sour­ing on Barack Obama?

Pa­trick Buchanan is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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