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Wall St. and Business Wednesdays: Why Kerry Is Better Than Bush For The Black Economy - An Open Letter to the African American Community

During the last half of the 1990s, under President Clinton, the unemployment rate and poverty levels for African Americans reached record lows, and the employment rate and income of African Americans reached record highs. There was shared economic prosperity. However, the last three years have seen a shocking turn around in the economic well-being of Americans, and especially of African Americans. From May 1998 to July 2001, the unemployment rate for African Americans remained below 9.0 percent. But, the African American unemployment rate has reached double digit levels 25 months of the 44 months President Bush has been in office. We are writing because we feel the depth of this change is linked to economic policy choices, and is not simply the effect of a change in the international political climate.

On President Bush’s watch, unemployment rates rose dramatically, inflation-adjusted income fell, poverty rates have risen, as well as the number of people without employment-based health insurance coverage. The President has the worst record of any President in the post World War II era in pursuing policies to create jobs:

During all previous economic downturns, the drop in the number of workers on the nation's payrolls has recovered at least after 31 months. We are now over 40 months past the onset of the March 2001 recession, and are still down over 1.5 million jobs on the private sector payrolls.

The economic policy prescription has been aggressive income tax cuts. The last tax cut took effect in July 2003. The president's economic advisors predicted that even without a tax cut, the economy would generate almost 3.2 million jobs over the year by July 2004, and the tax cut would provide an additional 1.1 million jobs. The current policies have not produced the jobs promised, has failed to return us to past levels of employment, and most disturbingly, not created the jobs the President's economists advised could have been done without the tax cuts.

The Congressional Budget Office has reported that the effect of the income tax cuts has been to shift the federal tax burden toward the middle class, and away from those at the highest income levels. This includes shifting the burden of taxes to fall heavily on African Americans. So, the failure of those tax policies to generate jobs, shifts a double burden on African Americans--to suffer the unprecedented calamity in the labor market, and of the tax burden.

Our analysis of President Bush's economic policies show those policies to ignore the effects of growing federal deficits, growing trade deficits and growing personal debt levels, making it unlikely that a second term of trickle down policies can produce sustainable growth. Even if it did, it would lead to greater economic and social inequality. Simply put, we find the economic policies of President Bush to have failed, with no promise of the policies restoring the economic well-being of the nation, and especially of African Americans.

We find very promising several of the economic policies proposed by Senator John Kerry. Collectively, they provide a greater chance for shared prosperity and not a continued growth in inequality.

· Letting some of President Bush's tax cuts end, as is currently set in legislation, and freeing those resources to address the current health insurance crisis faced by American workers would benefit the uninsured and the underinsured, especially those in the African American community.

· Investing heavily in the development of new fuel efficiency technology for the US auto industry should help to keep American manufacturing healthy, as well as our environment and would address that portion of our trade deficit brought on by oil imports.

· Raising the minimum wage will help correct the wage deflation that has occurred under President Bush.

· Aiding the budgets of state and local governments helps low income and African Americans in a big way. A disproportionate share of state budgets go to pay for states' share of Medicaid costs, and a very disproportionate share of low income and African American children rely on Medicaid as their access to health insurance. Support for states will help the general bottom line for states, and so this will keep states from being forced to contain their Medicaid costs, which is normally done by limiting eligibility and thus access to health insurance.

· Removing tax incentives for American corporations to ship US jobs overseas will help keep jobs in the US, and this will definitely help keep entry-level jobs for middle class America and African Americans.

· Being more supportive of the enforcement of civil rights laws means that the effects of discrimination will not exacerbate the problems of a weak labor market.

Senator Kerry’s economic priorities and policies are more likely to help the economic well-being of all Americans, but particularly African Americans. It is our considered opinion that the economic policies proposed by Senator John Kerry will provide a greater chance of creating a period of shared prosperity.

[The undersigned set of individual African American economists, speaking on their own behalf, represent some of the most accomplished African American economists. They have held senior positions in all areas of national economic policy, with the Federal Reserve, the Executive Branch in various federal departments, and key Congressional offices. Many of them have served as president of the National Economic Association--the professional organization of African American economists (though they are not acting on behalf of the NEA) and numerous other professional economic associations. These comments do not necessarily reflect the position of their current or former institutions.]

Dr. Marcus Alexis, Northwestern University

Dr. Dick America, Georgetown University

Dr. Bernard Anderson, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Charles Betsey, Howard University

Dr. Thomas Boston, Georgia Tech

Dr. Cecelia Conrad, Pomona College

Dr. William Darity, Duke University and Univ. of North Carolina--Chapel Hill

Dr. Karl Gregory

Dr. Edward Irons, Clark Atlanta University

Dr. Julianne Malveaux

Dr. Patrick Mason, Florida State University

Dr. Edward Montgomery, University of Maryland

Dr. William Rodgers, III, Rutgers University

Dr. Margaret Simms

Dr. William Spriggs, formerly National Urban League

Dr. James Stewart at Penn State University at State College

Editor's Note: This Open Letter Was Submitted To By The Campaign Of Democratic Presidential Nominee John Kerry. Similar Issue-Oriented Submissions Are Welcome On Behalf Of Other Presidential Candidates, Regardless Of Partisan Affiliation, Until The November 2004 General Election.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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