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Obama’s message of hope still strong

10/13/2009, 7:25 a.m.
“Man, I’ve been down so long, everything looks like up to me.”

Obama’s message of hope still strong

Commentaries on the racial economic disparity in America almost always focus on the difference in income – and for good reason. According to the US Census Bureau, the median family income for whites in 2006 was $50,784, but the median income for black families was only $30,858. The income for white families was 65 percent greater.

Another problem that receives little attention is the enormous racial disparity in assets. According to the 2009-2010 assets and opportunity scorecard prepared by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, the racial gap in net worth is even larger. Whites in the U.S., on average, had assets of $122,505 greater than liabilities, while the net worth of blacks was only $20,122. The net worth of whites is more than five times greater.

Owners of successful businesses are often able to accumulate substantial net worths, but again, blacks are not prominent among American entrepreneurs. While blacks constitute 12.8 percent of the nation’s population, they own only 5.2 percent of the businesses. And often black businesses are relatively small in scale.

The most common way to improve one’s economic status is through employment, preferably at an attractive salary. Here again the economic condition of blacks is fragile. According to the Oct. 2 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment among blacks has reached 15.3 percent compared with 8.6 percent for whites. Unemployment for blacks is 78 percent higher.

Despite the above uninspiring statistics, African Americans seem to be enthusiastic about their future. New America Media published on Oct. 6 the results of a poll on public reaction to the federal stimulus program. The study is named “Gauging the Impact of the American Recovery and Investment Act.”

One question is “now thinking about the last year, do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about your personal financial situation in 2010?” African Americans were by far the most optimistic with 76 percent falling into that category. Only 65 percent of whites had a rosy outlook. Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans scored roughly the same as whites.

Even with an unemployment rate of 15.3 percent, only 66 percent of African Americans are worried about losing their current full-time job over the next few months. Whites are much more worried with 76 percent afraid of unemployment.

According to the poll, 67 percent of African Americans think that “in general, …the American economy is going in the right direction” and is not “…off on the wrong track.” Only 35 percent of whites agree. In response to the economic stimulus plan, only three percent of African Americans think that it has made the national economy worse, while 22 percent of whites believe it has been destructive.

A resounding 84 percent of African Americans believe that President Obama’s economic stimulus package has been a good thing for their families and local communities. Only 45 percent of whites believe it is a good thing. It is doubtful that most respondents to the survey have a clear understanding of the elements of the stimulus package. The responses undoubtedly indicate the different levels of support for Obama among whites and African Americans.

The survey also indicates the extent to which sound leadership can induce people to rise above depressing circumstances. Disparately low income and high unemployment have not diminished the enthusiasm of African Americans for President Barack Obama.