A constant feature in American politics is how unrealistically demanding many Americans are of their elected officials. Many of us, especially political activists, expect their representatives to march lockstep with whatever they want. Republicans are particularly bad at this. As a result, they are less fond of compromise than Democrats.
However, many African American voters suffer from left-wing bias and have become disillusioned with Obama because they do not understand what Obama can accomplish given GOP obstructionism and what he has accomplished in spite of Republican obstructionism and too many weak Democrats in Congress. Among the prominent critics is Tavis Smiley who took on President Obama during his little-noted Poverty Tour.
Well … he is saying that he’ll vote for the President in November. We take that as appeasement.
Well, what are the facts? Has Obama helped Black Americans? Below is a chart showing the year-end unemployment rate going back to the Clinton administration. The red line shows the Year-End Black Unemployment Rate, the Blue Line shows the Year-End Unemployment Rate for all workers.
As we have come to expect, there is a sizeable gap between the two. In my next couple of posts, I will examine different subgroups of the Black population to see how the Great Recession has affected us in different ways.
The chart is shaded into thirds. The first third represents the Clinton’s time in office, the middle third represents the George W. Bush administration, and Obama’s three years in office are the final third.
The most important line to pay attention to is the bottom green line. This shows the difference between the Black unemployment rate and the overall unemployment rate. During the Clinton years, the gap went from 5.2% to 3.5%. This is the main reason Black Americans recall the Clinton years so fondly.
Blacks made real progress in catching up with the rest of America during the 1990s. The Bush years were not good in terms of making gains, but neither was this time flat out awful on this metric as some would have you believe. To be clear, the bulk of the Bush years the Black unemployment gap stayed constant. However, it shot up tremendously from the end of 2007 to the end of 2009 when it went from 4% to 6.3%, a fifty-percent increase in just two years.
But, from Obama’s perspective, since the end of 2009 when it stood at 6.3% it is now down to 5.3%. Black unemployment remains way too high, currently at 13.6%, but Obama’s African American supporters should be even more encouraged to see the overall gap come down.