Saturday, February 28, 2009
Obama's plan is not a "stimulus-for-us" plan.
President Obama's $800 billion stimulus plan recently passed by Congress, is not a "stimulus-for-us" plan for Black America.
At best, the stimulus package is a Hail-Mary attempt to fix a badly damaged economy before time runs out. What can Racine's black community expect from the stimulus package? Not much.
The stimulus package is not really targeted to benefit any one population. However, for those who listened carefully to Mr. Obama's inaugural address underscoring responsibility -- if you've been acting responsibly or intend to start doing so, there might be something in there for you -- if not, then there is less to be happy about. The plan has tax breaks for those who are responsible enough to look for work and hold down any job. It also heavily favors those who take on the responsibility of owning a home. That's not to say that people who don't have jobs and homes right now are not responsible, but they will not benefit as much from this plan as those who do.
The plan broadly calls for a tax cut of up to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families, but because the tax cuts would be delivered through reductions in Social Security payroll taxes taken from employees' paychecks, people who are unemployed may not benefit. Only people who are lucky enough to continue collecting paychecks would see the full benefit. Since Blacks make up a sizable portion of the unemployed, a lot of people will be disappointed unless the way the tax cuts are delivered, changes. We'll have to wait for the final bill to see who truly benefits.
There is extra funding in the stimulus package for an extension of unemployment benefits, so the high numbers of blacks unemployed will get some relief from that.
The package also has a proposal that would allow credit worthy borrowers to refinance their mortgages at rates of 4.5% or lower. Since Blacks have historically been given higher interest rates on mortgages, this could mean thousands of dollars in extra income for many deserving black homeowners. Of course, the discrimination associated with deciding who is "credit worthy" will have to be rooted out before Blacks can benefit.
A proposed $15,000 tax break for first time home buyers will also be beneficial to Blacks that can afford to purchase a home in this difficult economic environment. With so many people hurting in Black communities around the country, perhaps a modest number of families will take advantage of this benefit.
Measures in the plan to improve education will only benefit Blacks who are responsible enough to go to school. Measures in the plan to create construction jobs will only benefit Blacks who are responsible enough to organize themselves to fight for a fair share of the new jobs that the construction industry has historically excluded them from.
This is where the Racine unemployed skilled labor force could have some benefit if programs such as Racine's First Choice Pre-apprenticeship and the Racine Urban League would demand job opportunities for minorities in that program. I've found that most unions tend to hire within their own ranks, and very seldom hire new or qualified minority candidates.
The message here is that if Black America wants something from this stimulus plan, you are responsible for going out and getting it. This is not a "stimulus-for-us" plan.