One day prior to President Obama addressing a joint session of Congress to lay out his jobs agenda, the Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission (SCPAC) has offered its assessment on what should be the President’s priorities. The Commission, a project of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, has called upon the Obama administration to specifically target Black joblessness through private and public sector investments to spur job growth. In a statement released to the media, the Commission notes, “Since the start of the recession in December 2007, Black Americans have fared worse among the nation’s jobless and continue to suffer disproportionately. We are beyond a point of crisis, evidenced by a recent Pew Research Center study that calculated the median wealth of white households to be 20 times that of Black households.” The group also makes the point that the current “official” unemployment numbers mask the real impact of long-term joblessness upon African-Americans, suggesting that the unemployment rate for Blacks hovers at 30 percent when “discouraged workers,” are considered.
Among the recommendations the Chisholm Commission makes is for tax credits for private firms to hire workers or for job training targeted to areas where Black unemployment is highest, and for documented evidence that Black workers are being trained and hired. In addition, the SCPAC is urging President Obama to make federal investment in transportation infrastructure, school renovation and construction, and public works a priority, and to make certain Black workers have access to jobs in those areas. Likewise, the Commission sees Black-owned small business development as a key component of a full economic recovery and urges President Obama to focus efforts by the U.S. Small Business Administration to aid existing business owners and new start-ups by easing access to capital.
Given the dire conditions facing Blacks, in its statement the Commission made clear it “views this situation as a crisis of conscience and calls upon the President and Congress to exercise moral leadership.” Providing some context to the nation’s present troubles, the group also acknowledged that it recognizes the Obama White House “inherited” the economic crisis from the previous administration.
The Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission, named in honor of the pioneering late New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, held its inaugural meeting in June 2010 in Washington, DC. Until his passing, the eminent political scientist Dr. Ron Walters of the University of Maryland had served as the chairman of the group and was posthumously named its honorary chairman. Its members include, among others, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women, Attorney Nkechi Taifa of the Open Society Institute, Dr. Lamont Hill of Columbia University Teachers College, and Dr. Boyce Watkins of Syracuse University. The convener of the SCPAC is Rick Adams of the Western Pennsylvania Black Political Assembly. The president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, Dr. Ron Daniels, serves on the Commission as an ex-officio member.
NorthStar News Executive Editor Walter Fields is a member of the Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission and serves as its facilitator.