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We must create jobs by Dr. Julianne Malveaux

Last week, I had the opportunity to testify before the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I am grateful to Congressman Keith Ellison for the invite. Here are excerpts of my testimony:

While I am sure that you are familiar with the data, I would like to take a moment to discuss the magnitude of the unemployment challenge. Officially, the unemploy- ment rate in October was 9 percent, which meant that, officially, 13.9 percent of all Americans were unem- ployed. Of these folks, 5.8 million, or 42 percent of the unemployed have been without work for more than 27 weeks, or half a year. The average unemployed person has been out of work for 39 weeks.

But these data are a pleasant fiction that ignores the reality of our nation's unemployment. From Table A-15 of the monthly BLS Employment Situation report (USDL-11-1576) we learn that when those marginally attached to the labor force and those working part time who want full time work are included as unemployed, the rate for all Americans soars to 16.2 percent. That means that one in six Americans are unemployed. The situation is far more severe in the African American community, where the unemployment rate is 15.1 percent. This represents an improvement over the 16 percent rate that was measured last month, yet this is a rate that is still too high. If we look at this through the lens of the A-15 data, in other words, using the same pro- jection that is used with overall rates, the 15.1 percent Black unemployment rate actually looks more like 27.2 percent. African-American men over 20, with an official unemployment rate of 16.2 percent, actually experience unemployment at the 30 percent rate. In some of our nation's largest cities, half of all African-American men do not have work. Overall, the employment population ratio for adult African-American men is 57.4 percent, a full 10 percent below the same rate for white men. It is important to review the magnitude of this problem because different tactics may be used to respond to a 9 percent unemployment rate than a 16 percent unemploy- ment rate, than a 27 percent unemployment rate. A9 per- cent rate might simply be considered a challenge, but a 27 percent rate, or the 30 percent rate for African-American men must be considered a crisis.

What are the solutions, then, for the challenges we

face. Not only must the federal government be involved in job creation, but the private sector must be offered incentives to be part of this solution. We have a rich tra- dition of federal involvement in job creation, ranging from the Depression era Works Progress Administration (WPA) to the JTPA(Jobs Training Partnership Act) of the 1980s. There are unmet needs in public infrastructure, in health care, and in social services. Creating 5 million jobs at $50,000, with benefits and administrative costs would run us $500 million, and would reduce the unem- ployment rate by about 5 percent, and would increase tax revenue significantly. Those employed by federal pro- grams could work in schools and in libraries, in repairing infrastructure, and in implementing neglected public services. It is would be my recommendation that employ- ment funds flow to cities, not states, as urban issues are far more acute that state-wide issues, and because cities are likely to be blacker, browner, older, younger, and both

richer and poorer than the rest of American. The econom- ic bifurcation we see in cities is likely to be one of the rea- sons we see such strong Occupy movements in urban areas.

Many will ask where the money will come from to cre- ate jobs, especially as Congress grapples with debt ceil- ing related issues. There is overwhelming evidence that a country does not work its way through a recession, official or unofficial, by cutting employment or cutting programs. While there is no denying the self-imposed con- straints that have come from the August agreement to cut the long-term debt, I might posit that the debt might be elimi- nated more quickly if American were put back to work. I would suggest that if cuts are necessary, then a tax increase to put America back to work would be in order. However, it might also be necessary to consider a special appropriation directed to job creation. Our nation's future depends on it.

Job creation is only the first step for securing America's future. We also have to look at the issue of workforce readiness and job prepara- tion. We are lagging woefully behind in the STEM areas, and in other international indicators of economic prosper- ity. We are 11th in the world in the number of people over 25 who have AA or BA degrees, falling behind Finland, South Korea, Ireland and Canada, among other nations. In order to continue to innovate, and to produce educated global citizens, we must spend more money, not lest, on both K-12 and higher education.

While I realize that

there must be a spirit of shared sacrifice in this economic climate, I would also suggest that cutting higher educa- tion is equivalent to a farmer eating her seed corn, choos- ing to sacrifice tomorrow for the exigencies of today. My special concern is for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), the work we do in post-sec- ondary education and job creation, and the extent to which we may experience cuts in Title III funds in Supercommittee deliberations. Although the 38 HBCU colleges represent just 1.6 percent of the 4-year degree granting colleges, we produce more than 5.6 percent of our nation's college graduates. We do more than our share of heavy lifting, preparing inner city, first genera- tion, and financially challenged students. We need more support, not less.

Our nation is losing ground and losing our leadership status internationally because we are neither generating jobs nor investing in the education that will prepare the workforce of the future. I realize that these are trying times, and yet innovation often emerges from trying times. We can create jobs at a modest cost, and improve communities along the way. We can support higher edu- cation, especially for the underserved. We can connect the public and private sectors with tax incentives to encourage business to employ those who have been out of work. Finally, we can encourage entrepreneurship by strengthening new businesses with government grants and tax incentives.

Dr. Julianne Malveaux is President of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, NC.

14 Chicago Defender • • November 30-December 6, 2011

Did so-called Black Friday trump Thanksgiving?

by Dr. Julianne Malveaux

First of all, I never understood why they called it “Black” Friday. I never saw any red, black and green adorning the shop- ping mall sales. Yes, I know that theoretically this is the day that puts stores in the black, out of the red they've been man- aging all year. Nearly 40 percent of jewelry sales happen between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and other sales are up in the weeks that end the year.

But Dr. Julianne Malveaux

I'm enough of a national- ist to resent the day after Thanksgiving being called “black” for com-

mercial purposes.

Call it what you will, though, it was a rousing success for retailers. Record breaking, according to the National Retail Federation. More than 226 mil- lion shoppers spent $52.4 billion dur- ing Thanksgiving weekend.


are 312 million Americans, which means that at least a few of us sat this drama out). At least 50 million of these folks hit the stores before midnight. They spent an average of nearly $400 per person, undaunted by crowds, pep- per spray and long lines. When did they find time to give thanks? And whatever happened to the recession? I am frankly puzzled by the hype of post-Thanksgiving shopping and the way so many people have shrugged off their concerns of economic survival to crowd the stores. At the same time, it underlies the way that consumerism so drives our society, our need for more, more, more of things, things, things. To be sure, it would make no econom- ic sense to put retailers out of business, and we know that consumer spending drives 70 percent of gross domestic product. But there is something sad about the crowds, the energy, and the profligate spending that drives people to spend part of Thanksgiving Day standing in line waiting for a chance to buy stuff, something tragic about some fool pepper spraying folks for a chance at an X-Box (I suppose I show my own ignorance by wondering what an X- Box is).

Retailers are touting their successful weekend - with spending up by more

than 6 percent from last year - as a good sign that economic recovery is on the way. I'm not so sure - unem- ployment rates remain high and there are more than 14 million officially unemployed people, and probably an equal number marginally connecgted to the labor market. Wages have been stagnant for quite some time, and the Occupy Wall Street movement has only gained momentum because of the enormity of economic misery. But the Occupy Wall Street move- ment has attracted curiosity but hardly the interest of 226 million people. I can't think of ANYTHING that gets 226 million people together. Imagine that as many people cared about the environment, economic justice, or anything else. We don't even get that many people voting in so-called close elections.pointing to the 99 percent at the bottom.

So how is it that we spend Thursday counting our blessings, surrounded by friends, family, and other loved ones, and thanking the Lord, and then col- lectively spend Friday swarming the stores. How is it that some of us actu- ally get up from the dinner table and make it to the stores. And how is it that retailers force employees to come to work to sell “stuff” to the rest of us in the name of post-Thanksgiving sales?

According to those who study spending the post-Thanksgiving sales aren't actually the best ones. Prices next week, according to some experts, are actually going to be better. And the quality of the merchandise that was put out there on sale wasn't “all that” either. Still, we swarmed the stores. I realize that I have Grinch-like ten- dencies when it comes to holidays, but the economist in me is more puzzled than anything else at this holiday behavior (especially the pepper spray wielding fool). I'm also wondering if the energies of 226 million people could ever be harnessed for good. I surely hope that Black Friday did not trump Thanksgiving, but it surely got a lot more ink than Thanksgiving. Shopping may well be both the great American pastime and our substitute for religion, for industry, and maybe even for morality. No wonder the Chinese are planning to eat our lunch in 20 years or so. We'll probably buy new place settings for them at a holi- day sale!

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