In a blog entry at Ebony magazine, Mychal Denzel Smith highlights several proposals in President Barack Obama’s $3.8 trillion spending plan that would directly affect African Americans, including a 4 percent increase in funds for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to help strengthen anti-discrimination enforcement.
Though most of the budget fits Obama’s “a rising tide lifts all boats” mantra for economic recovery, there are some proposals for spending that would directly impact Black people. Included in the budget is a 4% increase for the Equal Employment [Opportunity] Commission in order to strengthen anti-discrimination enforcement. There is also $831 million for the Department of Justice’s prisoner re-entry program. As Black people are over-represented in the prison population, this would most certainly be a boon for the Black community. In a more ceremonial proposal, Obama has called for $85 million to continue construction of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
What isn’t addressed is the loss of public sector jobs that has hit Black people the hardest. Black women, the group hardest hit during the recession, have not fared better during the recovery, losing more jobs (258,000) during the time of recovery than they did over the course of the recession (233,000). Black unemployment saw an unexpected and sharp decrease in February, going from close to 16% to just under 14%, but it still hovers far above the national average. Cuts intended to shrink the size of government could wind up hurting Black people disproportionately.
There are other provisions that provide for revitalization of urban neighborhoods, affordable rent, home ownership, and improving nutrition and access to healthy foods that are desperately needed in Black communities. While it is still unlikely that Obama will mention race explicitly on the campaign trail, as it would not be politically expedient, his budget proposal at least recognizes he understands issues facing Black America and will put them on the table in his quest for a second term.
Read Mychal Denzel Smith’s entire blog entry at Ebony.