“It is clear that the unemployment numbers throughout the country require effective legislation and tangible action to address the crisis. To address the unemployment crisis and the need for job creation solutions in underserved communities, the CBC has called upon the private and public sectors to immediately remedy the crisis by going into communities with legitimate, immediate employment opportunities for the underserved.” U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II
This past week, NAACP President Ben Jealous and I forcefully entered the debt ceiling debate during a meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office. During our meeting, we made it clear that as a final deal is hammered out to raise the debt ceiling and prevent the nation from defaulting on August 2nd, no steps should be taken that will shred the social safety net -- the last line of economic defense for millions of working class and middle class Americans. With African American unemployment at 16.2 percent and the jobless rate for Hispanics also in double digits at 11.6 percent, it would be unconscionable to cut Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare benefits, education, job training or housing services now, especially while businesses and wealthy Americans are protected from any tax increase.
The President has insisted from day one that a final agreement must involve shared sacrifice. After our meeting he issued a statement which read in part: “We cannot afford to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable Americans, including the middle class, low-income families, seniors and students.” Ben Jealous and I wholeheartedly agree with the President, and we intend to stand with him as he steadfastly defends that position.
The President also agreed with us that we need to complete a debt ceiling deal quickly so we can turn our full attention to the most pressing issue facing the nation – high unemployment and the lack of jobs. I urged the President to act on the job creating solutions contained in the National Urban League’s 12-point Jobs Rebuild America plan. We also urged support for New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Urban Jobs Bill which would make critically needed investments in education and training to prepare young people most in need for jobs.
One day after our meeting, the debt ceiling talks broke down over the refusal by those on the other side of the negotiating table to pursue a balanced approach. They continue to insist on a one-sided plan of spending cuts, including cuttingbenefits for the most vulnerable Americans, and no tax increases for the wealthy. It should be noted that this is the first time in almost 100 years that a raise in the nation’s debt ceiling has been linked to deficit reduction.
Ben and I agree: America must get its fiscal house in order so we can invest in job creation and maintain the benefits that protect our must vulnerable citizens. And we adamantly disagree with those who would jeopardize the nation’s credit worthiness and risk a financial meltdown much worse than the recent greatrecession – all because they refuse to compromise.
The NAACP President and I came away from our Oval Office meeting convinced that President Obama understands fundamentally that deep budget cuts to safety net programs and programs that affect urban communities would be harmful, not just to our constituents, but for the nation at large.
We will continue to insist that the concerns of Black and urban America have a voice in this debate.
Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League.