Time and time again people will say that the black community has benefitted greatly from Barack Obama’s tenure as President of the United States. In the not quite three years he’s been in office we’ve gotten a tepid at best healthcare reform bill, we’ve gotten a cut in payroll taxes, we’ve enjoyed a continuation of the Bush era income tax cuts, we’ve finally got our vengeance on Osama bin Laden, and a few other bennies as well. If black people have jobs, they are enjoying a few extra dollars in their paycheck each week and we all know that these days every little bit helps. The number of weeks black people can collect an unemployment check has been extended to almost two years. Things could be a lot worse. Even though unemployment rates in the black community are through the roof and poverty rates are truly embarrassing for the richest country in the world, Mr. Obama has really done well for his black constituents.
The big problem I have with this thinking is that it fails to take into the consideration the bigger picture. All the benefits that the black community enjoys are the same benefits that all people enjoy across the country. People might want to make it appear that Mr. Obama is making sure the problems of the black community are front and center in Mr. Obama’s consciousness. But really, to focus on these benefits as something great for blacks is like saying we have the benefit of having breathable air. Air is one of those things that happen for everyone and no one can imply that anyone is getting a benefit of having it.
While other communities are getting all those benefits previously mentioned, they are also getting benefits like infrastructure improvement projects that will greatly enhance their community as well as provide a sorely needed injection of jobs. Even though non-black communities get the same payroll tax cuts and extended time for unemployment benefits eligibility and all the other things that black communities enjoy, they also get the type of attention and investment that make the unemployment rates and poverty rates in their communities so much better than what is found in the black community.
When a community gets an infrastructure projects that can greatly improve life for the people, it has many benefits that go beyond jobs. It can have a profound impact on property values making a geographical location much more attractive. A new bridge linking a less densely populated area to a more urban area will give people more of an incentive to move into that area. People can then use that increase in their property values as nearly instantaneous equity to use as collateral for investment in their children’s education. Companies that may have been crowded out of the established business area would use the bridge to start a new business center nearby. Retail outlets and services would be attracted to the area to take advantage of the new injection of wealth leading to even more jobs. It will have a profound impact on the area in general. Even though this area might enjoy Mr. Obama’s tax cuts and unemployment benefits that everybody else enjoys, they are getting other benefits that everybody else doesn’t.
When people say that the black community isn’t getting the attention it deserves from Mr. Obama as other communities, it is not to say that we don’t benefit from the same location unspecific, generic benefits that everyone enjoys that are meant to be the social net intended to keep people from falling even further down the financial traps that are part of our social makeup. What people are referring to are the type of government investments that Mr. Obama can influence that can enhance life for a community.
Mr. Obama will lobby the people to help his build political pressure so that he can build a new bridge in a district that already has a functioning bridge. Communities that never had a bridge, or communities that had a bridge that was shut down many moons ago because it was deemed to dilapidated to risk the public’s safety, could benefit from the same kind of attention and investment.
Mr. Obama will go to Downtown, USA and talk about how he’s going to fight for big investment projects and how he’s going to fight for jobs and for improvements in infrastructure so people can see their government at work. Mr. Obama can go to Rural, USA and visit the big rural factory that makes all kinds of fancy widgets and doodads, the factory that is intended to be a key example of the country’s effort to become a state of the art manufacturing facility that can compete with other factories around the globe. But usually, those communities and facilities are not in the black community and they are usually void of any black people. Those projects are nice and those communities are truly fortunate that they can garner Mr. Obama’s favor. But when will Mr. Obama do the same for the black community.
When somebody doesn’t have a job and has been out of work for years, an extension of unemployment benefits really doesn’t help. When the people throughout the country gets payroll tax cuts, people without jobs don’t really see a change in their financial condition. Mr. Obama has done a lot for the people in general. Nobody is saying otherwise. But when will he make the push to do the specific project that goes above and beyond the basic minimum that will primarily benefit the people in the black community?