Black Agenda Summit at Howard: Obama “Does Not Deserve a Pass Anymore”

Black Agenda Summit at Howard: Obama “Does Not Deserve a Pass Anymore”


On the first day of Black history month, policy experts analyzed the current economic state of Black Americans during a summit at Howard University.  One featured participant said President Obama, “does not deserve a pass anymore” regarding confronting Black issues head on and asked that the President “summon his courage” and “find his voice” on economic inequality in America.

Today’s 4th Annual Summit on African American Economics was hosted by Howard University and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Participants included Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Dr. Bernard Anderson, Ralph Everett of the Joint Center, William Spriggs of the AFL-CIO, William Darrity of Duke University, and Profs. Dr. Charles Betsey, Dr. Rodney Green, Dr. Enrique Lopezlira, and Dr. Lorenzo Morris of Howard.

A growing sense of urgency at the start of President Obama’s second term could be heard at today’s forum as well as other events hosted by a growing chorus of experts hoping to put policy focus on a specific “Black agenda.”  The first such event was in December.

“We’re talking about an economic system that is shot through with discrimination against Black people — it denies them opportunities to participate full in this economy.  Until we attack that head on we will never solve the problem,” said noted economist Dr. Bernard Anderson of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

There has been discussion on what some refer to as a “cone of silence” over the Obama presidency regarding issues dealing with race and racial disparities in America.  The Washington Monthly magazine featured Obama and race on their front cover in January.

Last Friday in Washington, the heads of the NAACP, National Urban League, the National Action Network and many other Black leaders, convened to discuss many of the same agenda items highlighted today with the goal of presenting specific policy to the President.
HU2As the White House signals that immigration and gun control will be the first two issues the President will spend political capital on at the start of his second term, Black leaders are positioning to make sure the next four years will include attention on their economic and job agenda.

As he said that Black Americans gave President Obama a “pass” on Black issues during his first term, Dr. Anderson, who has been an enthusiastic supporter of the President, (including hosting a fundraiser in 2008) said the days of Obama getting a “pass” from Black Americans is now over.

“He is not going to run again for anything. He does not deserve a pass anymore.  Let him not only find his voice but summon his courage and use his political capital to address racial inequality. He owes that to the African American community,” he said.

African Americans supported the President with 98% of their vote in November. At the end of President Obama’s first term, the statistics for Black America are daunting and participants clicked off a seemingly insurmountable list of facts challenging African Americans, for example:

Between 2007 and 2010, Black net worth declined more than 50% to $5,400 for Black families while net worth was $116,000 for white families.
— The Black youth unemployment rate in the last two years has hovered near 40%
— The median income in 2010 of Black families is $35,000 — white families is $54,000
The continuing problem of poverty: 46 million, 1 of 7,  live below the poverty line.

“African Americans and their allies have worked long and hard to gain economic security for Black people and the evidence shows their efforts have been met with limited success,” Anderson concluded.  The question of a failure in Black leadership was echoed by another panelist, Prof. Lorenzo Morris.

Participants, particularly Congressman Scott of Virginia, mentioned that President Obama inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression as a result of the economic policies of President George W. Bush and that Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan worked.  Scott used a series of charts to illustrate how Republican policy of tax giveaways to the wealthy and to “dead multi-millionaires” (i.e.: the estate tax) have increased debt.

Still, there is increased talk among some in Black leadership that the President should turn his attention to the specific needs of the Black community.  Last Friday, Black leaders proposed he mention an urban jobs initiative in his State of the Union address on February 12.   The White House pushed a rural jobs initiative in late 2011.
chart62Dr. Anderson spoke directly on the need for President Obama to, “find his voice, summon his courage, and use some of his political capital to eliminate racial inequality in American economic life.”

“We know he’s not President of Black America.  He’s the President of the United States and we are proud of that. But asserting that a rising ride lifts all boats is not enough,” the prominent economist added.

Focusing away from President Obama, Dr. Lorenzo Morris said that an outside force and effort has to occur for policies to change.

“I think Obama — in 2008 — said: ‘we are the change we’ve been waiting for’ to refer to the concept of pragmatism that I think defines him –which is a pragmatism made up of associations rather than ideological range.  I think we may have waited too long,” Morris said flatly.

“I think that the concept of the ‘change we have been waiting for’ refers to what was most likely to happen in the second term. Things like Occupy Wall Street are indications that unless there is a mobilization outside of the Black community the possibility of getting the change we’ve been waiting for is limited,” Morris, who teaches a course in Black politics, added.

The AFL-CIO’s William Spriggs spoke on the importance of raising the minimum wage, which has not been increased since George H.W. Bush was in office.  Spriggs also talked of the “inside and outside” game in dealing with the Obama Administration.

“If you don’t speak the truth — if you try to negotiate with yourself before you negotiate with the Administration you hurt the debate that goes on inside the Administration.  We have to learn how to play the inside/outside game in a far more aggressive way,” Spriggs said.

“The train is at the station. It’s time to get on board,” Dr. Anderson said near the conclusion of his remarks.

Today’s event ran for eight hours.  Later panelists talked on education, historically Black Colleges and veterans issues.

Other sponsors of the summit were the Howard University Department of Economics, the Howard University Center for Urban Progress, the Howard University Center on Race and Wealth, Duke University’s Research Network on Racial and Ethnic Inequality, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the Ron W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center at Howard University.


LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Managing Editor, publishes the blog Crewof42 on Black members of Congress.  She can be heard every Tuesday on the radio on The Earl Ingram Show at 4 p.m. EST. Ms. Burke has enjoyed employment with and ABC News and holds a B.A. in History from The American University. Contact:  Twitter: @Crewof42.


  1. who, what, when, where and how are missing from every piece I read about the “black agenda”. what does ‘urban job agenda’ really mean? does it directly address the needs of convicted felons or is it just more GED training for all? does it establish corporate and government on-the-job training programs? does it establish a path to college education without the lifelong chain of student loan payback? I could go on but I’m not in the mood. just tired of the same old rhetoric about what has to be addressed without any specific ask for any particular geographic area, particualr age-group, particular partnership with any industry, particular ANYTHING.

    • Mia, I feel you underlying frustration. The discussion is not monolithic. We have to reach higher than some of these programs that feed into lower wage career paths. I would like to see more focus on STEM education (Science,Tech, Emgineering, and Math). Obama has increased the Pell Grant and extended tax incentives for higher education. The war on drugs/incarceration rates of blk men is another issue I would like this administration to tackle.

    • @Mia: Where does all this money come from? If he keeps extending our debt, he puts your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren further and further into debt, which is simply another form of slavery, no?

      @Seddi: To work at WHAT jobs, my friend? The dems AND repubs have sent most of the good paying jobs across the pond, that’s why the cities are failing, no taxes to support them, so where will all of these highly trained people, work once their trained? The drug wars were a scam, heroin from Afghanistan and cocaine from South America is coming in faster now then and its bringing with it the related violence!!! Its gotten FAR worse, not better, yet he wants to open our southern borders up which will only bring more drugs and violence to your communities!
      Self-respect and esteem cannot be legislated, they can ONLY be earned through success, but HOW, when there’s almost nothing left for people to be successful at? The manufacturing jobs are not coming back and the high tech jobs will go to those who can truly fill them, where does
      that leave everyone else?
      Like I said in my comment, he played you folks for your votes and he’s kicked you to the curb! Nothing can change that fact now but you!!! PLEASE, look at the results of the last 5 years and tell me honestly, he’s done anything positive to improve your lives? Obamacare will cost you no less than $20K, the auto bailouts failed but the unions got rich, the energy bailouts failed but HIS contributors got rich, Congress and the Senate failed but just gave themselves raises, he’s put us all against one another, and now has nothing at all to lose by doing whatever else he wants! Whose going to stop him? He’s neutered the repubs and the dems are mostly socialists/ closet communists who want nothing more than to control you through poverty and the occasional freebie! Is THAT all your worth?
      The question now becomes, WILL you change it and WHEN???

    • @Lauren, thank you for the link to the bill which I just scanned. What I saw was a plea for funds whereby the National Urban League and its affiliates would address jobs training and education. I was particualrly interested in the statement that the Urban League would address the disproportionate incarceration of minority youth through these programs. Forgive me but education does not address the illegality of disproportionate incarcertation and the illegality of disproportionate sentencing for drug convictions of minorities. And still, I believe this ‘bill’ should address specific programs and goals, not only geographically but by industry. Will the Urban League teach black youths to be farmers? Will they teach and encourage entrepreneurship and self sufficiency through such non-college paths as Realtors, Barbers/Beauticians, Landscaping, Plumbing/Electrical, Auto Mechanics? I really don’t know, but I do know college education as the path to success was a dream sold but is certainly not the only answer. And when it comes to the convicted felons, caught up in the drug game in their teens, who are now men and cannot get good jobs, and either return/remain in a life of crime or find a way out through Barber college, washing cars, etc., that same college dream is not going to work for them and that is a significant portion of black males who have mouths to feed. I just do not understand why the President would be presented with an agenda that basically says, “give me the money and I will take care of it” and which lacks specifics and accountability? That will not work and it doesn’t matter what others have gotten away with. What matters is something that can be presented that will get Congressional approval. Thank you for letting me vent.

    • @Kelly, I totally disagree with your entire comment and have no idea why you are posting here. Obama has not played us- if you mean Black people. Black people, contrary to what you must think, do not share one simple economic and societal condition of poverty, need and political belief. Please go elsewhere with your shortsighted racist perspective. We’re trying to have a serious discussion here.

    • @ Mia, you may not agree with Kelly’s way of putting things, but sadly he is right. We as a country (& I don’t care if you are black, white, blue or pink with purple polka-dots) need to stop our leaders from spending money we just do not have. We need stronger leadership which will make the tough choices. We need to rebuild our country. We need to put money & jobs back in the USA. Get rid of the illegals. Close the borders & limit imports. Thus reintroducing industry into this country. Offer incentives to companies to build here, hence bringing JOBS back to the US. When there are JOBS, there won’t need to be a plea for funds. I’m not talking about bailing out failing businesses. I’m talking about reconstructing our economy so our children don’t have to suffer what we are now. I’m talking about becoming self-sufficient both as a country & individuals. I certainly do not want to see the poor & middle class forced into a communist or socialist state. I work on a farm. I’m about as poor as you can get! I bust my butt everyday of my life (and by the way I DO have a college degree & you are right .. it doesn’t really make a difference) and our leadership makes life tougher & tougher with every poor decision made.

  2. So much for all that free gas, free homes, etc! Y’all got exactly what we said you’d get, except you’ve dragged us down with ‘you’. You get playing this race game but I come no where near your $ and lost a job I’d held for 13 years. Just like Carter, Obama pOlitics and not understanding actual economics has caused this. Leave your ‘race’ out of it and stop blaiming others.

  3. Have any of you thought to ask WHY he would introduce amnesty for approximately 20 million Mexicans long before he’ll ever discuss the black communities issues? Or even gun control when factually, there’s not a gun violence issue in America, there’s a gang issue, but not guns! Guns are only tools to be used by those who use them! They don’t load themselves, aim themselves or fire themselves, their tools, without a human hand behind them they’re simply inanimate objects and nothing more!
    Your not going to like the answer, but its the only answer there is….its the ONLY answer that truly makes any sense after the last almost 5 years, but you don’t want to hear it, trust me!
    But, here it is….he has your vote and spent whatever money you gave him, and he doesn’t need you for anything, anymore!
    IF you wanted to know anything about him (and I will never understand why you didn’t and wouldn’t, for the leader of the former free world), you should have looked at the disaster he left his Chicago district, in…you should have looked for successes, proven experience, history, you should have demanded he explain his past BEFORE you voted for him, but you refused to and called us racists for bringing any of his past up, though we’re not, we tried to warn you but you blew us off, well, you can’t blow this off, can you? He isn’t going to do much for you because he doesn’t have to, he’s moving to Hawaii after this term, and none of you are invited!
    Sorry but pathetic slogans aren’t going to feed, clothe or educate your children and slogans are all he’s ever had! When you accept far less then what you can have from your elected leaders, don’t be surprised when that’s all you get in return!
    IF I’m wrong, and I’m not, name me just one thing he’s touched, said, done or signed that didn’t instantly turn to liquid crap? Just one…I’ll wait! He has already, in just his 1st term, spent more money we didn’t have on crap we didn’t need then every president before him, COMBINED, how’s he going to pay for all this other stuff? Are you willing to in-debt your children for empty promises? Are you willing to trash our Constitution to have what you want? Are you willing to turn your children back into slaves to pay for all of this? The Chinese and Arabs are NOT giving us this money out of the kindness of their hearts, they want something in return, what, do you suppose that ‘something’ is? Its your children’s futures, folks! ALL of it!
    I hate to say this in such a smug tone, but he played you!

  4. As long as the American people allow this legalized bribery of our government nothings going to change. Every single president since Reagan wanted free trade, they got it. Now they’re pushing to allow yet another amnesty to further drive down wages of the poor and middle class. Not one wall street exec. Went to jail then we find out last week that geithner allowed failed executives to get bonuses while their banks received taxpayer money. Let me know if you hear any objections from our current president or any of our last living presidents.

    • Obama let 2000 weapons into Mexico and 100’s are dead and he’s not his AG is held responsible. Have you cried out for the death of US border agent? What about the failure of his administration resulting in deaths of US ambassador and 3 other citizens? What about failure of Carter’s Fed DOE and its cost?

  5. By the way, all you limbaugh parrots are really going to be upset when you find out who’s Really getting all the “free stuff”. I’m quite sure that’s the reason Washington and new York want to disarm all of you.

  6. Typical. Blah, blah, blah, throw more money down drain is the only “answers” given. I thought poin of article was hold Obama and reast accountable? Hasn’t enough tax moneies been stolen from ‘us’? Isn’t it time to say the fed control of our education system has not worked since Carter started it? Isn’t it time say the ‘war on drugs’ had been a complete failure?

  7. The problem is not spending. The problem is one family owning 100 billion dollars in wealth and their employees are on welfare. Two men owning 4.1 million acres of land and paying very low taxes on that land because it has grass on it and therefore is taxed as “farmland”. 500+ of the largest U.S. Corporations having a P.O. Box in the caimans and not having to pay ANY taxes at all. The only spending problem we have is billionaires/millionaires spending 1.8 billion dollars to buy BOTH political parties.

  8. Sooo the students at Alabama don’t get free stuff? What about those at ole miss.? How about Harvard? Surely Boston college? Or do you think just a certain Set of students get free stuff? Secondly, if you think it’s just Obama that wants to disarm you, you’re off base. Wall street knows that the public is finding out where all the money went, and some of those fox viewers might not put Up with it.

  9. Being raised in Tucson, az. I can tell you that the border patrol found dead bodies in the desert on a daily basis for as long as I can remember. Drug dealers don’t need the government to get guns. I mourn for ANYBODIES death, not just Americans. Lastly, nothings wrong with education. The so called elites Want those billions of education dollars just like they want social security and Medicare dollars. The way you do it is to infiltrate it and destroy it from within. That’s why you have Neal and jeb bush involved in all these “school reforms”. And, the business community want 30,000 dollar engineers from India and china through H1B visas, so they have to say that they can’t find any educated and qualified Americans.

  10. African-Americans are going to steadily lose political influence as a voting bloc, especially with the deep south being a Republican stronghold with a large, but minority, black voting population. Look at California for what the future of the U.S. is politically, culturally and economically. Obama and the rest of Washington are just acknowledging reality with their focus on immigration issues.

    Obama is a politician, not a Messiah. And his career has shown only a slight interest in the marginalized and a more dominant interest in power and getting approval from it. It will prove tragic that the African-American community has basically removed themselves from political activism to avoid making Obama look bad.

  11. Blacks will never find good jobs if they can’t pass a drug test, a written test, haven’t completed high school, and can’t speak understandable English. Uneducated Black women will never rise above the poverty level as long as.
    they have babies as a career while their unemployed baby daddies are out stealing. I believe in helping the poor (elderly, widows and orphans) but will not willingly keep up the useless eaters. Obama thinks he will take our guns away for a reason. It is the only way to control ‘whitey’, while the gangs and hommies steal and kill all they want to. Not going to happen. The working middle and upper class is not the problem. Without us the welfare state collapses and crime will sky rocket. Look at where most of the crime is. It’s in the Black cities like Chicago, Detroit and Memphis. People should be able to keep what they work for without having to give it to the welfare crowd. Obama doesn’t like Black people. He uses them. He knows that it is so ingrained in them to do what they are told instead of thinking for themselves. Even educated Blacks have the same mentality to vote color instead of issues. They will never prosper and I’m tired or working 10-12 hours a day to keep them up.

  12. Why is this so hard for some people to understand? I’m saying BOTH political parties are hand in hand when it comes to backing the money truck up to wall street. They know that a lot of it will end up in their pockets, sort of like money laundering. FDR is not president and we still benefit from his presidency. I think Obama is just as big of a corporatist as the bushes. The so called healthcare plan was really the only thing he passed which wasn’t low hanging fruit, and it’s just an industry written piece of nonsense that won’t kick in till next year.

    • FDR, yes we still have to deal with what he started. However, if you truly investigate his economic policies, which is how Bush and Obama have done, it created fiat monies and made the economy worse. You cannot borrow nor print your way out of debt.

  13. Lastly mrs. Pickle, I feel kinda sad for people like you because when you find out that there’s more white people on welfare than anybody your head will probably explode. Do you have a problem with corporate welfare? In this last debt deal, one of your good ole boys put a little 500 million dollar sweetener in it for ONE pharmaceutical company. Got a problem with that? What about TARP? Libor? Never mind, weekend hannity is probably coming on and you don’t know what I’m talking about anyway.

  14. The 1913 jeckyl island meeting between jp Morgan, Rockefeller, and the other wall street elites along with a few congressmen created the fed which created fiat money. History shows you that 90% taxes on income over 3 million created the largest economic boom in history. The only thing high end tax breaks created was 3.4 trillion dollars sitting on wall street and middle class people losing homes and jobs. You can argue with the history books all you want, but you’ll look foolish doing it.

  15. I’ll put FDR’s policies up to a vote up against any president you choose, and I guarantee you the public goes for FDR every time. Wingers always bring solyndra up when you talk about corporate welfare, they never bring up haliburton, exxon, kbr, backwater, lockheed, raytheon, honeywell, bp, etc. Etc.. Maybe I’m crazy but I would get rid of corporate welfare before I would let one human being go hungry.

  16. Bernard Anderson distilled the issue down to its core. Since Mr. Obama is rightfully President of the United States of America and not singularly President of Black America, doesn’t he deserve the same attention as other U.S. Presidents in times when economic, educational, social disparities came in to specific relief? Abolitionists, Women’s Suffrage proponents, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights supporters used appropriate, effective means of getting the ear and subsequent support of the Presidents and Legislatures of their time. It only makes sense that in light of the egregious disparities in economic, educational, and overall quality of life issues, the suffering and those who empathize with them engage in peaceful but powerful protest activities. Raise public awareness, lobby members of Congress etc. Did the Howard University think tank of major Black voices in the fields of economics and public policy publish a strategic plan? That would be awesome to read. Thanks.

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