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Obama Jobs Plan Plays Well Among Blacks

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Congressional Black Caucus steps up pressure, criticism

Chris Levister –

Outside New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in San Bernardino Sunday, Tommy Perkins is handing out business cards and preaching to anyone who will listen.

“Pass the jobs bill now. Put America back to work,” he said.

Perkins an out-of-work computer programmer, turned website designer, turned (when he can find work) technical repairman is unabashedly singing the praises of President Barack Obama’s $450 billion jobs program.

“Tell Congress to stop the pain. Tell businesses to stop sending American jobs to foreign countries,” he said.

Echoing his sentiments, a woman wearing in a large yellow hat matching shoes and purse said African Americans are frustrated with the Obama administration’s lack of progress on job creation.

“I’m encouraged by his jobs plan but he (the President) needs to fight harder. ‘They’ want him to fail,” she said. “They want to grind him down. We have to stop complaining and step up the pressure. We have to insist that the President and Congress stand up for jobs in the black community.”

People for the American Way co-founded by the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, and a group of business, civic, religious, and civil rights leaders applauded the president’s jobs plan and encouraged Congress to pass it quickly.

Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of the African American Ministers in Action, issued the following statement.

“These are serious challenges, and President Obama has laid out a serious plan to deal with them. Our elected leaders in Washington have a choice. They can pass the President’s plan and help provide good jobs for people who are hurting, or they can continue to play politics at the expense of ordinary people.”

Days after Mr. Obama rolled out his American Jobs Act many blacks reacted positively to the “fight back, tough talk” tone displayed this week that has been largely absent from his presidency.

The show of support from some of the president’s staunchest supporters is a welcome sign, but increasing frustration over depression level unemployment among Blacks and a newfound comfort by Black lawmakers to criticize Pres. Obama's economic policies is prompting White House officials to focus more directly on Black America.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA.) who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus’ (CBC)national jobs initiative effort praised Obama’s jobs plan and said he clearly had the African American community in mind while he was crafting it.

“He heard us. As a matter of fact we can see our hand print all over this proposal. We're pleased about it,” Waters said Friday on MSNBC.

“Of course, this jobs proposal is for everybody, but this targeting to communities of need will certainly help uplift the community that is most in need.”

The poverty rate in Black Caucus districts is 50 percent higher than the national average. African American joblessness is 16.2 percent, and nearly 41 percent for Black teens. In spite of those numbers, a Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Obama still enjoying rock solid support among Blacks—an 86 percent approval rating for the way he's handled the economy. Among Whites and independent voters, Obama gets a 26 percent rating.

Waters has made national headlines as a result of her sharp criticism of the handling the unemployment crisis by the administration and the tea-party lead Republican House majority.

“We applaud our president’s resolve, that said, the Congressional Black Caucus cannot tolerate this crisis,” said Waters, that is why we are taking the unusual step of getting out of Washington and connecting our constituents directly with real jobs.

Waters blasted the president's recent bus tour and has asserted that Obama skipped hard-hit African-Americans and their communities. Rep. Waters said “We want to give him every opportunity but…the unemployment is unconscionable.”

According to the CBC known as the ‘Conscience of the Congress’ – over 40 job bills have been brought to the house floor by its members since the beginning of the 112th (the current session) of Congress.

Last week the CBC wrapped up its “For the People” Jobs Initiative, a five city tour which included town halls and job fairs in Cleveland, Detroit, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Each stop featured at least 100 employers with real and available jobs and thousands of eager job seekers according to CBC members.

“We cannot be quiet. We have decided that not only are we going to remind the administration about the devastation and the pain that we're experiencing, but we want to be a part of helping to develop the solution. Whatever the jobs plan calls for, we intend to be a part of it, said CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver.

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