Whites appear mad as hell and don't intend to tolerate much more of the Obama Administration. But, African Americans are willing to accept business as usual as it pertains to the nation's economy and have opted to maintain the political status quo.
In 2012, America's Black and White voters seem separated by a simple economic question: Are you better off than you were four years ago? As you follow the 2012 presidential race don't be afraid to lift the racial veil from your eyes and track the state-by-state jobless numbers, because they will probably decide who will occupy the White House for the next four years.
Many states' unemployment rates are up, including a few pivotal battleground states that could decide who will be the next president. Numbers compiled and reported by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) say that in May non-farm employment fell in 22 states. The largest month-to-month decrease in employment was in North Carolina, followed by Pennsylvania and Maryland.
President Obama barely carried North Carolina in 2008, but that state now has a 9.4 percent jobless rate and is currently up for grabs and could deny him its 15 electoral votes and his chances for a second term. Pennsylvania is usually considered a swing state. Obama won there by an overwhelming 11 percentage-point margin. The BLS reports that Pennsylvania's job market is weakening as the state's economy continues to decline. Maryland, an important swing state is experiencing economic woes and could tilt Romney's way in November. No matter where you look, employment opportunities under President Obama are disappointing. Yet he maintains a 95 percent approval rating as the unemployment problem extends nationwide with low-income urban areas and minorities the hardest hit. The unemployment rate for urban Blacks that no one wants to discuss is 40.5 percent.
Overall, U.S. median household net worth declined 35 percent between 2005 and 2010 according to the Census, down from $102,844 to $66,740. Whites' median value of assets totaled $110,729. For Blacks it was only $4,955.
Socioeconomically speaking, Black America is in a rut – an extremely deep rut. At 13.6 percent, Black unemployment remains nearly double that of their White counterpart and higher than it was in 2008. The economic situation for African Americans remains comparatively low to that of Whites as it has been for the past 50 years.
Many Whites' job prospects, and their economic well-being, have diminished under Obama and they hold him responsible. But if the economic crises afflicting Black American communities have remained intractable, so has Black support of President Obama. In recent months the unemployment rate for African Americans has continued to rise. Overall Black and Latino unemployment are expected to remain elevated. In all 50 states the Black unemployment rate remains higher than the national overall level of unemployment. In the 25 states where African Americans are experiencing unemployment rates of 10 percent or higher, the expectation is they will continue to do so through the end of next year.
While Black Americans are so accepting of their second-class economic status, most Americans think of the monthly unemployment numbers as a clear and definitive statement about the economy. Blacks may accept being perennially down and out, but Whites don't go along with that mindset. Not long after he took office in 2009, the Obama Administration predicted that unemployment would be brought down to less than 8 percent. But, the latest state-by-state numbers show 20 states with 8 percent unemployment or higher.
Should Blacks be as rigid as Whites in their demands of Obama? Whites will tell you that the Obama Administration's gestures to fix American unemployment are "deplorable." For Blacks the employment outlook "is mixed." Black men appear to have gained some jobs since February 2011 in manufacturing, construction and the service sector. But, deep staff cuts in state and local government have hit Black women particularly hard. Indeed, government agencies, a sector that has slashed about 500,000 jobs since February 2010, employed just over one-quarter of Black women before the recession began.
(William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via the Bailey Group.org)