Today the National Urban League releases a new report: The State of Black America: Jobs Rebuild America/Putting Urban America Back to Work. In it, economists, public figures — including first lady Michelle Obama — scholars, policy experts and journalists weigh in on the most urgent issues facing African Americans. At the top of the list: unemployment.
The report's "2011 Equality Index of Black America" includes comparisons between black and white Americans in areas including economics, social, justice, health, education and social engagement. Frankly, the results are grim. But the report includes detailed proposals for improvement.
National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial talked to CNN about the report and his messages to black parents ("There is no greater priority than raising and educating your children in the best way that you can, and to do so requires sacrifice") and black voters ("Wake up. You must vote and be civically engaged or others will call the shots") in light of its findings.
Read a piece of the interview:
Within today's report is a 12-point plan to rescue those most profoundly affected by the ongoing economic emergency and to create new jobs. Ideas include restoring the Summer Youth Jobs Program, creating 100 Urban Jobs Academies, creating Green Empowerment Zones and expanding small business lending. How will these and other programs be funded at a time when states are trying to cut millions from their budgets and Congress is trying to cut billions in federal spending?
Congress, states and cities have to prioritize their spending, and we have to invest in programs that create jobs, not recklessly kill jobs. One can argue that there's no money for everything you're against and there's money for everything you're for. The key is to prioritize.
These ideas will help more Americans become taxpayers, and I think in that way, many of these ideas will pay for themselves.
The National Urban League, in the report, is calling for a "nuanced and comprehensive approach to unemployment and economics that places education at the strategic and functional heart of reform." Again, you are doing this at a time when states are making deep cuts in public education budgets. What kind of approach are you talking about that is also affordable in the current climate?
Again, we have to prioritize, and spending on education is an investment in the future. But just as an example, the current tax code contains a trillion dollars in tax loopholes. This unfair, Swiss cheese-style tax code is costing revenue and not creating jobs. We could lower rates for everyone if we eliminated loopholes and made the tax code more fair.
Donna Brazile, the CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, has written an essay in the report on the political lessons to be learned from the Obama presidency and the 2010 mid-term elections. In your point of view, what kind of political power do African Americans now have?
African Americans have growing political power, particularly at the state and local level. The number of state and local elected officials continues to increase.
Translating those electoral victories into public-policy impact remains the most difficult challenge. More and more, for African Americans, coalition building will be important — with Latinos, Asians and like-minded whites.
Coalition politics, which has been the political formula for success in American municipal elections, will be the most important element for political success in the next generation …
Read the rest of the interview at CNN.
Watch the State of Black America town hall event at Howard University here.