“This country would never tolerate white unemployment at 14 and 15 percent. No one would ever stay in office at 14 or 15 percent unemployment in this nation, but we’ve had that double unemployment for over 50 years.” – Bob Johnson, Founder of BET
Bob Johnson made the above comments at a National Press Club event. On the face of it, I agree with the statement. This country would not tolerate 14 or 15 percent unemployment (not with viable political alternatives, anyway). Johnson has hit the nail on its head – and in the same statement points to the reason the nation tolerates black unemployment that is double white unemployment … but somehow is unaware of his own words.
In casting about to find a reason, Johnson alludes to a poll he had commissioned regarding the high unemployment issue:
According to the poll Johnson commissioned, which was conducted by Zogby, 50 percent of African-Americans blame the “failure of the education system for minorities/African-Americans” for high unemployment among blacks, while 48 percent say the “lack of corporate commitment to hiring minorities/African-Americans” is to blame for unemployment in the black community.
Twenty-five percent of respondents blame the lack of government policies for the high rate of black unemployment. Eighteen percent don’t blame anyone or anything, and twelve percent aren’t sure.
OK, 50% blame the education system, 48% blame corporate bias, and 25% say government policies are insufficient (presumably people are allowed to provide multiple answers). Who knows, maybe all of these answers have some merit, but I think the more interesting response is found in Johnson’s initial statement.
“No one would ever stay in office at 14 or 15 percent unemployment in this nation” – yep, I’d have to agree. If broad unemployment were at 14 or 15 percent, enough unemployed people would be angry at the government (and its policies that have destroyed the economy) to tip the scale in almost any election. If there were 15% unemployment (vice 8%) and the 7% overage (per the “norm”) is more than enough to sway an election. (Even in the 2008 landslide Obama only won by 7.2% – a small enough margin to be eaten up by ultra-high unemployment statistics.) But this presumes that people most impacted by devastating government policies (the unemployed) actually change their vote. Herein lies the rub.
When Johnson says 14 or 15 percent unemployment wouldn’t be tolerated, what he means (perhaps without knowing it) is that the nation as a whole reacts to such disastrous economic policies and votes people out of office. The nation won’t “tolerate” such unemployment and neither will politicians – they want to keep their jobs and know full well they’d get ousted by such a turn. Yet nobody anywhere seems concerned about allowing high unemployment amongst blacks. Why? Hmmm. It is a difficult point to ponder. I wonder if we can find a plausible explanation?
Hey, let’s try this one, black Americans (by and large) do not change their voting patterns based on outcomes of government policies. They vote democrat, no matter what. In this last election they voted for the democrat incumbent (for president) in droves, despite massive unemployment.
Mr. Johnson, politicians will not take your outrage seriously if they know it has no real threat behind it. Democrats have no need to mollify you – you’re in their hip pocket. Republicans have no need to appeal to you – you’re vote is locked-in Democrat already.
It’s not just the presidency either of course. In places where black unemployment is highest (inner cities) there is near-zero feedback between the disaffected population and the government. Has 50% black youth unemployment in Atlanta or Baltimore changed the outcome of a local election? Nope. The same people who ran things into the ground in the first place keep getting re-elected.
It’s a pickle alright. There’s a saying in here somewhere … I wonder if I can remember how it goes. “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten” … yeah, that sounds right. Double unemployment? Ball’s in your court Mr. Johnson.