Here we go again.
For some reason, several Republican presidential nominees are pre-occupied with the demographic that’s least likely to vote for them at the moment: African Americans. The only thing is that they’re under the impression the Black population in the United States is sitting around all day collecting welfare checks.
Recently, while addressing a New Hampshire audience, Newt Gingrich said he planned to attend the upcoming NAACP national convention and lecture Blacks on why they should demand jobs instead of welfare checks
Never mind that 70 percent of those collecting welfare in America are White.
Ironically, while Gingrich – who is lagging in the polls and apparently desperate for relevancy – was trying to pander to White voters using the usual dumbed down, primal and primitive references to “colored people,” NAACP president Ben Jealous was at the White House pushing a jobs plan. Jealous wanted reporters to know about an initiative that would create up to 250,000 jobs targeted at mainly minority youth who experienced the highest unemployment rates last year.
The White House and the Department of Labor announced its Summer Jobs+ initiative, revealing that private sector, nonprofit and agency employers pledged to make available 180,000 internships, jobs, and mentorships for youth 16 to 24 this summer.
In the middle of a spiel and reacting to my questions seeking reactions to Republican criticism of the Administration, Jealous happily welcomed Gingrich to the NAACP then asked what Republicans have done to create jobs for Blacks. “We would ask that Speaker Gingrich to encourage Speaker Boehner to get the Jobs Act passed,” Jealous said.
On a call Wednesday, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said the White House had gotten new commitments to create positions that weren’t there before and expand existing programs.
Jamba Juice CEO James White, one of the few African American heads of a major corporation, said his company had planned to create 2,700 new jobs. The company recently partnered with the family of Venus Williams to open up a store in DC last fall and had plans to open 4 more in the area in the coming year. “Companies are repurposing existing programs and investing in new hiring,” White said. This would be Jamba Juice’s second year participating in Administration led summer job effort, he added, referencing his company’s participation in the Department of Labor’s 2011 summer program that helped employ 80,000 youth. The White House said its Recovery Act fund directly supported 367,000 jobs for young people in 2008 and 2009.
Jamba Juice is joined by other major corporations including AT&T, Viacom, Bank of America, CVS, Deloitte, JP Morgan Chase, Disney, Gap, LinkedIn, Starbucks and several other companies listed on the Department of Labor’s Summer Jobs website. The Administration is hoping to increase the current 180,000 pledge to 250,000.
The entire initiative is an alternative to the $1.5 billion high-impact summer jobs and year-round employment for low-income youth portion of the President’s job’s bill that got sacked in the Republican-led House last legislative session.
An analysis released by the White House Council for Community Solutions showed that in 2011 alone, taxpayers shouldered more than $93 billion in direct costs and lost tax revenue to support young adults disconnected from school and work. Over the lifetime of these young people, taxpayers will assume a $1.6 trillion burden to meet the increased needs and lost revenue from this group.
“We challenge other employers to join us and we want more to come on board,” Solis said of the Labor department which will be managing the program and will soon launch a job bank for employers to list summer opportunities.
While the initiative is not only for low-income minority youth, the White House said it recognized that nearly 64% of African Americans and over 50 % of Hispanic youth were disproportionately unemployed last summer compared to 48% of all children generally.
“This is a call to do more,” National Urban League president Marc Morial said. “It’s an example of leadership from the President encouraging action by the businesses in the private sector. If each small business in America created one job this summer, we would have 1 million jobs.”
Solis said on a recent call to reporters that she knows the value of a summer job, having worked at a recreation center and a library as a teen. “In these tough economic times, summer youth jobs are important for the family too,” Solis said.
Jealous said he saw the program as an investment in youth jobs as an alternative to juvenile delinquency.
“We can pay on the back end in terms of incarceration, broken families and increased dependence on social welfare,” Jealous said. “Or we can pay in the front end investing in young people, keeping families together, and keeping young people inspired.”
He also mentioned the stimulative impact of those young people getting paychecks, noting that they will spend their money which would in turn create more jobs and help fuel the economy.
Interesting enough, the program will cost zero tax dollars. But, what do conservatives want? Some on the right chose to harp on the fact that 110,000 of the jobs, which would provide life skills, time management, teamwork, and other critical skills for building a strong work ethic, are unpaid.
Al l this time, GOP candidates like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum constantly complain about a lack of “work ethic” and call Black people anything but lazy in a cheap shot attempt at attracting White voters. Finally, here’s a program that puts that demographic to work and resolves the issue of “work ethic” with $0 investment from the federal government.
It’s a classic case of you’re dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.