In February and again in April, President Barack Obama met with significant elements of the African American community to discuss what Blacks saw as their most critical need, and how they could work together with the White House to improve the condition of African Americans in the country. He met with the NAACP’s Ben Jealous, the Urban League’s Marc Morial, and Rev. Al Sharpton. Two months later he met with 20 African American ministers on the same topic, and they presented to him a letter of full support for his continuing efforts signed by 30 faith-based leaders of some of the largest congregations in the United States. Although Tavis Smiley, Cornel West, Ph.D., Michael Eric Dyson, Ph.D., journalist Glen Ford and others in the Black community, including almost half of the Congressional Black Congress, have consistently criticized the president–and not always constructively–on not doing enough specifically for the Black community, by no means is that relatively negative view the dominant sentiment among the Black population.
Whether African Americans are currently well-informed of the President’s accomplishments or not, Mr. Obama is still ‘Da Man’ in their book, and handling himself and things in ways in which we can all be proud.
For those who deign to look at that record of administrative work done within the president’s first two years, they see a remarkable achievement that all of us can only hope he can sustain. Clearly, he did not accomplish all things alone-he had much help from his hard-working staff and equally hard-working members of both houses of Congress. But virtually all of the noteworthy achievements by the American government during these last two years (the beginnings of the post-Bush era) have been with his urging, insight, cajoling, arm-twisting and/or wise negotiations.
Wringing out a $20 billion written guarantee from BP to cover all costs of rebuilding and “making whole” the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the largest oil spill in recorded U.S. history, for example, were simply unprecedented. No other U.S. president had done anything of the sort.
There are historians and political economists who currently assert that Mr. Obama at this moment in December 2010 has the best record of accomplishment of any former U.S. President since Lyndon Johnson, and has gotten more done in 23 months than most other presidents got done in eight years. That’s praise of the highest order, shorn of political partisanship. It’s hard to argue with that assessment. There are a documented 250 triumphs one could list for this president, with approximately 100 that most impact the status of Black Americans.
We can grouse about the small things if we want, or we can get to work collaboratively to help this president achieve even more. His success is the success of the Black community, and we should not for a minute forget that. To be sure, it is about all of America, as he constantly says, but lifting somebody else’s yacht higher than it already is means nothing to a man with no job, bread or warm place to lay his head.
So, we are being particular here. Below we mention but 13 of the most impactful of the president’s victories. An extended list will be available at www.ourweekly.com.
1. Getting unemployment benefits extended for another 13 months so more than 3.5 million Americans could continue getting monies for food, housing and other essentials.
2. Getting payroll taxes and taxes on small businesses reduced so more money goes into people’s pockets, and there is more incentive for small businesses to hire folk.
3. Signing an executive order to implement his initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and directly increasing the federal financial support of HBCUs, which together allowed a significant number of those colleges to stave off bankruptcy.
4. Getting the Black farmers’ $1.3 billion reparations legislation done and signed.
5. Appointing two remarkable women to the U.S. Supreme Court.
6. Signing the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which drastically decreases the impact of disproportionate mandatory/minimum sentencing for first time drug abusers and those convicted of simple possession. A large number of Black American men and women are currently incarcerated because of these old-school “Rockefeller Laws” and many more were on the way.
7. Signing the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” after having already signed an executive order declaring assaults against gays as hate crimes.
8. Signing the first significant piece of legislation in nearly 100 years which called for comparable worth pay in the workplace (the Lillie Ledbetter Act).
9. Ordering the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency to once again report directly to the president, ending the mismanagement cycle for natural disasters and environmental issues seen during the Bush administration (remember Katrina?).
10. Ordering the White House and all federal agencies to respect the Freedom of Information Act, thereby overturning Bush-era limits on accessibility of federal documents.
11. Making significant cracks in the old boys’ network of constant contract procurement by ending no-bid federal contracting; banning tax delinquent and tax non-payment individuals and companies from bidding on federal contract; ordering the removal and banning of lobbyists from serving on federal and White House advisory panels and boards, and ordering the “Open Government Directive,” which mandates all cabinet departments advocate, promote and implement public transparency and citizen participation in department initiatives.
12. Authorizing the U.S. auto industry rescue plan and two GMAC rescue packages that essentially saved GM and Chrysler, and thus thousands of auto industry jobs.
13. Authorizing a $789 billion economic stimulus plan, which included one-third in tax cuts for working-class and middle-income families, one-third to states for infrastructure construction projects, and one-third to states to prevent the layoff of police officers, teachers and other civil servants at risk of losing their jobs, because of city and state budget shortfalls.
Professor David L. Horne, is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or Non Governmental Organization (NGO). It is the step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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