The Republican Party has spent most of the past two years as the "Party of No," opposing nearly every policy proposed by President Obama and Democrats in Congress --a strategy that has worked politically, according to polls that say this November's election could sweep Republicans back into the majority in the House and possibly the Senate. But until last week, the Republican Party had offered no agenda of its own--so party leaders finally produced one: the lofty-sounding "Pledge to America."
Sadly but predictably, this Pledge is nothing more than a promise to return to the failed policies that created the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and threw millions of Americans out of work--with most of the pain doled out to those at the bottom of the ladder.
Those who yearn for a return to George W. Bush's philosophy will cheer the Pledge's promises of tax cuts for the rich and lax regulation of Wall Street. They will applaud the Republican call to repeal universal health insurance and to hand the Social Security Trust Fund over to Wall Street.
But for African-Americans, this retrograde Pledge is a recipe for disaster.
Our communities were hit hard by the Great Recession, and the economic crisis continues. African-American unemployment now stands at 16.3%. Working families are struggling to pay the rent and keep food on the table. And the situation is critical for our youngest generation: among African-Americans ages 16 to 19, the unemployment rate is 26.2% -- and that doesn't include those with low-paying part-time jobs or those who have given up looking.
For these youth, the American Dream is turning into a nightmare.
President Obama and this Democratic Congress led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Whip James Clyburn (the highest- ranking African American in Congress) inherited this dire recession from Bush and the Republicans, and they've directed help toward those who need it most -- despite stiff opposition from Republicans in Congress. If the “Party of No” had gotten its way, the Great Recession could have been worse than the Great Depression – an economic hurricane instead of a bad storm.
They opposed the Recovery Act. They opposed healthcare reform. They opposed ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. They even opposed 7 of the 8 tax cuts Congress has passed to help small business owners.
We don't need to imagine what would have happened if Republicans ran Congress. We know their record – and now we can read their Pledge: to restore the immoral policies of Presidents Reagan, Bush and Bush II: tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and benefit cuts for everyone else and of course, nothing special for Blacks.
It is unconscionable that at a time of our nation’s highest unemployment in more than 60 years, the Republicans propose a $4 trillion tax cut for the rich. They're trotting out the same tired argument they've recycled for 30 years: cut taxes for billionaires, and some of their wealth will trickle down to the rest of us. Meanwhile, the Republicans promise to repeal President Obama's Recovery Act, which cut taxes for 110 million families who don't happen to be rich.
We already know the harmful impact of trickle-down economics – nothing ever trickles down for Blacks, minorities and the poor. Under Presidents Reagan and Bush, the economic divide widened to historic proportions due to huge tax cuts for millionaires while workers' wages stagnated.
President Clinton made a dent in pervasive inequality by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and investing in education, healthcare, jobs and tax breaks for working families.
While turning the budget deficit into a surplus those policies were good for all America. But President George W. Bush pulled a 180 degree turnaround, cutting taxes for the richest of the rich, letting Wall Street run wild, and slashing federal aid to working families. The result: rising inequality, the largest budget deficits in U.S. history, a cataclysmic financial crisis and net loss of eight million jobs.
That's what the Republicans pledge to repeat.
One of the starkest contrasts between the Democrats and Republicans can be seen when it comes to healthcare. Today, one in five African-Americans is without health insurance. They can't afford doctor's bills if they get sick, and an emergency room visit or hospital stay can wipe out their life's savings. But we have reason to hope that this shameful situation will be eliminated in a few short years. Thanks to the landmark Healthcare Reform Law passed by Congress and signed by President Obama this year – unless the Republicans regain control of Congress. That is why we Blacks have to vote and get our neighbors, friends and community to vote. NNPA and our 200 Black publishers are asking our leaders to help us in rallying our base: churches, sororities, fraternities, Black students, community clubs, Black radio, community organizers, Black social media experts and all progressive people of goodwill.
That's right: with the U.S. finally on the brink of joining other developed nations that guarantee healthcare to all their citizens, the Republicans want to repeal universal health insurance, snatching healthcare away from tens of millions of people. The Republicans' Pledge makes it crystal clear what's at stake in November. We can't sit home on Election Day and let the Republican Party turn back the clock on our country and on Black people definitely. I pledge, on behalf of 200 Black newspapers in this country, to do what we can to stop them!
You can mark my words:If they take back the House (of Representatives), they will launch an investigation on President Obama that will make the investigation on President Clinton look like child’s play.
They will make his next two years untenable and miserable, leading up to 2012.
We will also lose two of our most visionary leaders of the 21st century in Speaker Pelosi and Majority Whip Clyburn. We can’t let that happen!
Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. is Chairman of the National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA).