As the signature Obama legislation, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, gets moving across the country, how much are workers benefiting? Clearly, the government's maddening, multi-trillion-dollar intravenous shot in the arm will provide some cushion for anxious workers and the unemployed in some areas. We're already seeing signs of it—stuck in traffic as clogged commuter arteries suggest the 'shovel ready' gigs are spreading, and infrastructure construction is ramping up.
The White House waxes optimistic, and many, like Michael Cottman, agree:
Thousands of African Americans are now taking advantage of President Barack Obama’s $792 billion economic recovery initiative, of which $112 billion has been used to create 150,000 new jobs since Obama took office, according to the White House. Administration officials said new economic resources in the areas of housing, energy and health care are now available for many African American communities from middle-class neighborhoods to those living in public housing.
Despite these rosy assessments, White House officials find the need to publicly "accelerate" the pace of recovery, announcing a new 100-day "Road to Recovery":
Some of these projects include creating and building 1,129 health care facilities, improving veterans’ medical centers across the country, putting 5,500 law enforcement officers on the streets, and creating 135,000 education jobs. In total, the Vice President said 600,000 jobs will be created in the next 100 days.
But is that message is resonating with the public? Does the White House's crafted rhetoric match the reality of the tension at the kitchen table? It's very rough out there on the streets, from the challenges of finding a job to the employers who are using the recession as an opportunity to trim payrolls and reduce overhead. In the President's remarks on the road map effort, I've noticed a carefully calibrated political calculus as well as a rather astute recognition of what is becoming the dilemma of the summer: "In the end," he said, "that's the only measure of progress, is whether or not the American people are seeing some progress in their own lives.”
Always on the real, the President realizes that despite the circulation of stimulus funds and pronouncements of a shorter-than-anticipated recession, jobless figures continue to rise—most prominently surrounding the General Motors bankruptcy soon to leave 20,000 auto workers unemployed.
The unfortunate political consequence for the White House is that, as we're heading further into the recession, the President's brand is at stake (surely, there is internal concern over the political ramifications of this recession in 2010 and 2012). We hyped the first 100 days of the Administration, but many of us have yet to recognize the tough road ahead over the next 100.
Should Republicans manage to silence right-wing bloviation on fringe social issues, there is the potential for a politically damaging GOP response on the debt, unemployment and other critical fiscal issues that are unfolding on Obama's watch. The hustle to accelerate the recovery is thus a sharp political calculation, aimed at reviving the enthusiasm of the first few months and avoid the dangerous threat of summer backlash. Congressional Dems, watch out!
—CHARLES D. ELLISON
Charles D. Ellison is a veteran political strategist and a contributing editor at The Root. He is also Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune, a frequent contributor to The Hill, the weekly Washington insider for WDAS-FM in Philadelphia and host of The Ellison Report, a weekly public-affairs magazine broadcast and podcast on WEAA 88.9 FM Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter.