By George E. Curry
Although unemployment rates are unacceptably high, especially for African Americans, President Obama has done a better job improving the jobless rate than most critics are willing to concede.
That becomes abundantly clear when reading FactCheck.org’s dismantling of Senator Rand Paul’s attack on the president’s unemployment record. Just as he was caught plagiarizing, Paul has been caught again, this time for providing misleading information about Obama’s accomplishments.
FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.
“Sen. Rand Paul says ‘black unemployment in America is double white unemployment’ and ‘hasn’t budged’ under President Obama,” the research group recounts before adding: “Actually, the black unemployment rate is lower now than when Obama took office, and the gap between the races is below the historical average. The black unemployment rate has averaged more than double the white rate for several decades.”
Like most believable lies, Paul’s charges are wrapped in partial truths.
“It is true that the black unemployment rate for November was double the white unemployment rate. The rate in November was 12.5 percent for blacks and 6.2 percent for whites, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unfortunately, this is not new,” FactCheck.org noted.
However, it pointed out, “The current 12.5 percent unemployment rate for blacks is unquestionably high. But by historical standards the current black unemployment rate is consistent with the average from 1972 to 2004, and the ratio of black-to-white unemployment rates is actually below the historical average.”
The deeper the researchers dug, the stronger they made Obama’s case.
“We looked at the average rate of unemployment for blacks and whites in the first 58 months of the last four presidents who were reelected to a second term: Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. (We averaged the monthly unemployment rates from the first February in office to the first November in their second term.),” FactCheck,org stated.
And what did they find?
“Obama had the lowest average ratio (1.9), followed by Bush (2.1), Clinton (2.2), and Reagan (2.3).”
Seeking to further clarify, researchers acknowledged, “Paul was talking about the November unemployment rates and ratio – not the 58-month average unemployment rate and ratio – but even by that measure the black-to-white unemployment ratio is lower under Obama (2) than it was under Reagan (2.6), Clinton (2.4) and Bush (2.5) at this point in their second terms.”
Further dismantling Paul assertions, FactCheck.org stated, “Paul also said that the black unemployment rate ‘hasn’t budged’ under Obama, but it has. It reached a high of 16.8 percent in March 2010 and dropped to a low of 12.5 percent in November – lower than the 12.7 percent rate when Obama took office. That wasn’t the case for two of his recent predecessors, Reagan and Bush.
“Under Reagan, the black unemployment rate went up a full percentage point from 14.6 percent in January 1981 to 15.6 percent in November 1985 – even as the white unemployment rate fell from 6.7 percent to 5.9 percent. Under Bush, the rates went up for both blacks and whites. But it went up faster for blacks, from 8.2 percent in January 2001 to 10.6 percent in November 2005 – the biggest increase in the black unemployment rate of any of the four presidents at that point in their second terms. The white unemployment rate went up more than a half percentage point, from 3.6 percent to 4.3 percent.”
Paul is a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2016. Last week, one of his chief rivals for the White House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), created a controversy when he said on former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett’s radio show: “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”
The comment was immediately criticized by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) as “a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated.”
Ryan refused to apologize for his comments, saying in a statement later, “After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make. I was not implicating the culture of one community – but of society as a whole.”
Whether a brazen affront such as Ryan’s comment about “inner city” Black men or Rand Paul’s more subtle attack on Obama’s record dealing with unemployment, the Republican Party keeps proving it has done nothing to deserve the support of African Americans.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.