By Lauren Victoria Burke NNPA Columnist
Obstruction by congressional Republicans has been a major obstacle for President Obama for four of his six years in office. But the fact is, specific groups who supported him have won policy victories even in the face of that obstruction. Meanwhile, as 94 percent of African American voters supported President Obama in two elections. Those who supported him less have, in tur won more.
The President’s next policy gift will be an executive order Hispanic activists have been demanding. And it’s not their first victory. In 2012, Obama issued a directive that halted deportations for illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children if they simply applied for a deferral. Eight months after Obama’s order, 465,000 people did just that.
Many other victories for groups under the Democratic Party’s umbrella have been won despite obstruction. A few months ago, Obama signed an executive order favored by LGBT activists, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2010, the president signed the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” In 2009, Obama signed the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Act into law. In February 2011, Attorney General Holder announced DOJ would stop fighting for a law prohibiting gay marriage. In May 2012, Obama announced he’d “evolved” and was now in support of gay marriage.
This past August the President approved $225 million in funding for Israel. That, in addition to the $3 billion the U.S. sends there every year for their missile defense system. Obstruction? The vote in the House was 395-8.
Obviously, Hispanic, LGBT and Jewish activists have more political influence than Blacks. In July, Obama asked Congress for a $3.7 billion emergency appropriation for immigrants entering Texas before the Hispanic lobby asked.
Let’s take a look at what Obama has done to improve the lives of African Americans over six years and what he hasn’t. Let’s start with the good news.
Healthcare. President Obama used the full power of his office to enact the Affordable Care Act that disproportionately helps Blacks.
Federal Judges. So far, 18 percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees have been African American.
Justice Reform. Twenty years after the disastrous Clinton crime bill made over incarceration and turned American into the world’s number one jailer, Obama became the first President to at least begin to turn federal policy into a new direction.
Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder has been the only member of the Obama administration who’s unafraid to speak on race. Holder strengthened DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, protected voting rights, investigated Ferguson, Mo. and focused on sentencing reform.
My Brother’s Keeper. That there should be direct government money for My Brother’s Keeper doesn’t negate the fact that President Obama’s focus on Black and Hispanic boys is unprecedented policy for any White House.
Unfortunately, there have been several policy failures under Obama for African Americans.
Black unemployment. The lowest Black unemployment rate under President Bush was 7.7 percent in August 2007 and the worst: 10.7 percent in June 2014. The best Black unemployment under Obama was 10.7 in June 2014 (matching Bush’s worst) and the worst was 16.5 percent in 2011.
Poverty – There are now 46 million living in poverty in the U.S. – the largest number in 50 years. The percentage of Blacks in poverty is 28 percent. The percentage of Blacks under age 18 in poverty has grown under Obama and now 40 percent.
Failing to end the Bush Tax Cuts. President Obama broke his often repeated campaign promise to end the Bush’s tax breaks for rich. But he extended a major piece of Bush’s economic policy twice (in 2010 and 2012). He then agreed to make them permanent in 2013.
Failing to prosecute bankers. Not one banker or loan officer who targeted Blacks for subprime loans mortgages was prosecuted after the Black community lost 60 percent of its wealth in the sublime mortgage crisis.
Parent PLUS loans. HBCUs collectively lost more than $160 million after Obama’s Education Department changed the loan criteria for PLUS loans in 2011. The result: 28,000 students at HBCUs had their educations interrupted. Later changes to the program came to help those already hurt by the policy.
Detroit. Then-Senator Obama favored bailing out banks for $800 billion in 2007. In July, President Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion for the Mexican border surge.
But $100 million to keep the water on in a once booming Black city? No. In June, the United Nations cited the water cutoffs as “a violation of human rights.”
Inaction on stop-and-frisk. In a clear violation of the 4th Amendment, New York Police stopped and searched 4 million people in eight years, 90 percent of whom were Black and Hispanic.
SBA Loans to Black businesses. The rate of lending to Black businesses by SBA is at historic low under President Obama: 1.7 percent of $23 billion in loans. Under President Bush, it was 8.2 percent