by RALPH EVERETT, ESQ.
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies applauds President Obama and Congress for enacting legislation that will simultaneously restructure the nation’s wireless spectrum and extend the payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment benefits.
The African American and Latino communities experience joblessness at disproportionately high rates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in January 2012, 13.6 percent of African Americans and 10.5 percent of Hispanics were unemployed, as compared to 8.3 percent overall unemployment and 7.4 percent unemployment for whites. While this is partially an indicator of the need to ensure that all Americans have the skills that will allow them to compete in an intensely competitive job market, unemployment benefits provide Americans with the support they need while they are learning new skills or looking for work.
The extension of the payroll tax cut also helps to address significant earning disparities between the races. Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “Hispanics and African Americans have considerably lower earnings than Asians and whites.” In 2010, median weekly full-time earnings were $611 for blacks and $535 for Hispanics compared to $765 for whites and $855 for Asians. The payroll tax cut will allow weekly earnings to be slightly more than they would be without the tax cut. This extra money can be used to purchase basic necessities which will help stimulate the economy and potentially create more jobs that pay more.
We further commend President Obama and Congress for authorizing the Federal Communications Commission to conduct spectrum auctions to help pay for these benefits and help solve the nation’s spectrum shortage. The wireless broadband services and applications markets have grown exponentially in recent years. People of color are leading the way in that growth. According to Nielsen, 45 percent of Hispanics, 45 percent of Asian Americans and 33 percent of African Americans own smartphones, compared to 27 percent of whites According to a 2010 Joint Center broadband adoption report, African Americans are ahead of all other racial and ethnic groups in mobile access, with 11 percent of African Americans reporting that their cell phone was their preferred device for accessing the Internet. Forty-seven percent of African Americans and 41 percent of Hispanics both reported higher usage rates of wireless broadband service as compared to their white counterparts (38 percent).
Clearly, this legislation addresses the key areas that affect the ability of African Americans to be full participants in our economy. Its support for the unemployed and tax benefits to working people will help further stimulate the economy and create jobs, while spectrum policy reform will help ensure that people of color continue to have access to the technology that can enable them to get ahead in life.
RALPH EVERETT, ESQ. is the President and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C. More information on Mr. Everett and his work can be found on the Joint Center website.