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In an exclusive interview on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour with host Earl Ofari Hutchinson on KTYM 1460 AM Los Angeles on July 1, with Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League.
EOH: What is the 12 point plan the Urban League has for creating jobs?
MM: It’s a 12 job plan to put urban America back to work. The Urban League is focused on economic empowerment. This year our theme is jobs, jobs, and jobs. We have continued to promote this plan and emphasize that we have two recessions. There is a recession affecting Black America, Latinos, Urban America and the working people, and the recession that is affecting middle and upper income America. That recession has begun to abate. But for Black Americans, Urban and Latinos, the unemployment rate is in the 16% range for Black Americans, 12% for Latinos and in urban communities it’s in double digits for most of the 35 largest urban areas in the nation. For our young males, it’s particularly high. I think people need to recognize that the National Urban League is not going to stop pressing, pushing and advocating for a stronger commitment to jobs and a new job plan for the nation. We cannot stand by and expect this recession to fix itself by itself. Many steps that have been taken thus far, probably kept the economic ship from sinking, but it is at best now treading water. In 1999 and 2000 the black unemployment rate had reached 7%, an historic low. The job creation we needed did not come back the way it needed to be, so we’ve really got a double hit of the 2002 and 2008 recessions affecting Black America. I encourage your listeners to go to Iamempowered.com or NUL.org and look up our 12 point jobs plan.
I want to point out that this is the second summer we have not had a comprehensive summer job program coming out of Washington, DC. I find that to be a tragedy and economically senseless, and morally reprehensible that this nation can’t muster the courage to put teenagers and young adults to work during the summer, when we have the greatest recession since the Great Depression. Last year we got a summer jobs program through the House and the Senate, and with the President’s support, but a Senate filibuster blocked the plan. This year Republicans in control of the house sent notice they were not going to entertain a summer jobs plan. We can do something about the teenage unemployment; it takes public investment, companies in the private sector hiring, and a greater commitment to put teenagers and young adults to work. We do not have to stand for circumstances as they are. The National Urban League is concerned about the obsession with cutting the budget too quickly and being too focused on cutting people programs which will make the unemployment rate even worse. This “recovery” is fragile and has not produced the number of jobs needed, but there have been more private sector jobs created under President Obama than under President Bush. We [The Urban League] have 98 affiliates in 36 states that do job training and job placement. I would recommend that you go by the Urban League near you to see if they can help you find work or enhance your education in a job training program. We have spent $1.1 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now it’s time to end those wars and re-direct those resources to the home front here in America’s urban communities.
EOH: Does the Urban League think President Obama can do more?
MM: We believe there needs to be, within the nation’s economic policies, targeted approaches that focus on those communities where unemployment is the highest. Many of those communities are, but not exclusively, Black, Latino and Urban communities. They are also Suburban, Rural and small towns where White Americans live. I have communicated to the President and members of his team that the Urban League believes he should embrace the nation and targeted policies are necessary. General economic growth will no doubt lift up African Americans, but it will not close the historic disparities in joblessness between black and white America. It’s important that job training be provided by urban serving organizations close to and who understand the communities they serve. I give the President a great deal of credit for saving the automobile industry, for turning around a deplorable shift of state, but I will not be satisfied until the unemployment rate comes down to acceptable levels. We will support and push the President and his policymakers. In his 2012 budget plan he did embrace a modest idea to create growth zones. It’s a good step that needs to be strengthened and expanded and needs to pass Congress. Right now the President is into a head wind of Tea Party Conservatives who do not believe the government should invest more in building the economy. I vigorously disagree with that point of view. We have a massive infrastructure rebuilding plan for Bagdad and Kabal, covering 100’s of millions of dollars. We need the same emphasis and focus on the crisis we face domestically as it is as great as any crisis we may face abroad. We applaud the work that the President has done, and continue to push him and the leadership of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans. Once disparities grow, it’s hard to turn the ship around. Education is important, but college grads are struggling with employment prospects. I am encouraging local leaders not to lose focus on unemployment and the need to wage a new war on unemployment.
EOH: Will President Obama be addressing the National Urban League in July, 2011?
MM: This year he will not be with us. We have extended an invitation to him for next year. He was with us in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The President has been enormously accessible. Last year we had an unprecedented number of cabinet officers who came to our conference. We feel they have worked very hard to be available and accessible. This year we will be featuring an interesting conversation we call “Gates and Gates”; a conversation between Bill Gates and the noted Harvard Scholar, Skip Gates. We will also have a major job fair, a major small business fair for people looking to build or grow their businesses. You can go to our website to learn more about what we are doing.