Nothing Special for the Black Jobless
President Obama continues to resist special programs that target inner-city unemployment.
In an interview with The Root, Wilson, said the fundamental unemployment problem in inner cities is an issue of supply and demand. "The number of low-skilled individuals highly exceeds the number of low-skilled jobs." But he said discrimination is also more likely in a market where there are fewer jobs. "Stereotypes come into play in the slack labor market," Wilson explained. "Employers can afford to be more selective in hiring and granting promotions." In the tight labor market of the 1990s, said Wilson, "employers were looking for workers. They were no longer making the requirements that discriminated against poor workers."
Wilson is aware of the political climate that discourages the President from initiating targeted efforts. "Unemployment is high for both blacks and whites,"he noted. "If it were a black thing, he would feel under less pressure." He suggests that a combination of public and private efforts would be the most palatable approach.
For example, he favors tax breaks that would encourage employers to take on less-skilled workers. But at a time when employers are still reluctant to increase their payrolls, he believes the government should take on a larger role. "Right now the public initiatives are very important," said Prof. Wilson.
A President warding off critics from right to left is unlikely to offer them another bulls-eye. Instead he will fall back on the old truisms that a rising tide lifts all boats. The nagging detail is the number of people in the water without life vests.