Obama poised to unveil a new jobs and economic plan, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) say they want the president to fight harder to alleviate Black unemployment that’s nearly twice the national average.
Speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said many in the Black community have conflicting feelings about Obama when it comes to his performance and historical significance as the nation’s first Black president.
“All the polling data shows that the African-American community is very protective of our president. And they see him as their son, as their brother, and they are very proud of him,” Cmmings said. “On the other hand, almost every African-American I have talked to said they want him to fight harder.”
Obama and the CBC have appeared to take two different paths in recent weeks. While Obama did a campaign-style tour of mostly White sections of the Midwest, the Black Caucus embarked on a five-city jobs fair and town hall meeting tour to specifically address Black unemployment, which current stands at a seasonally-adjusted 15.9 percent.
The CBC formed the tour out of frustration that nearly 40 of their jobs-related pieces of legislation have failed to reach the floor of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and out of concern that the Obama White House isn’t doing enough.
Obama received 96 percent of the Black vote in 2008, and David Axelrod, the Obama re-election campaign’s chief strategist, said the president isn’t taking Black voters for granted as the 2012 election approaches.
Also appearing on “State of the Union,” Axelrod said Obama has addressed minority concerns through the health care law and by ensuring that Medicaid and Pell Grant student loans were cordoned off in discussions about cutting federal spending to lower U.S. debt, which currently exceeds $14 trillion.
Most Congressional Black Caucus members, like Cummings and CBC Chair Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) are trying to gently get Obama to tend to Black unemployment. But some caucus members are taking a sledgehammer approach.
“We’re supportive of the president, but we’re getting tired,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said during a CBC town hall meeting in Detroit. “The unemployment is unconscionable. We don’t know what the strategy is. We don’t know why, on this trip that he’s in the United States now, he’s not in any Black community. We don’t know that.”
Cummings tried to soften Waters’ scathing comments Sunday, saying that the CBC “wants the president to go to Iowa.”
“But we also want him to come to Detroit, we want him to come to Los Angeles and we want him to stick with a jobs agenda,” he said.
Axelrod said Obama’s travel schedule doesn’t show that he gives priority to one group over another.
“And just because on one trip the president doesn’t stop in every community doesn’t reflect a policy judgment on his part,” he said.
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