50 Years After MLK's Landmark Civil Rights Speech, Obama's Words Don't Match His Deeds


ACRU Staff


September 5, 2013

This column by ACRU General Counsel Peter Ferrara was published September 3, 2013 on Forbes.com.

The Bible wisely says, “By their fruits, you shall know them.” In President Obama’s August 28 Address on the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s breakthrough 1963 Civil Rights speech, we heard lofty words about good jobs and a fair deal for the middle class and working people. But after 5 years of Obama as President, what he has delivered is exactly the opposite of his own lofty words.

Obama spoke best and most truly when he said,

“In some ways, though, the securing of civil rights, voting rights, the eradication of legalized discrimination—the very significance of these victories may have obscured a second goal of the March. For the men and women who gathered 50 years ago were not there in search of some abstract ideal. They were there seeking jobs as well as justice—not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity. For what does it profit a man, Dr. King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford the meal. (emphasis added)

Yes, that is why we need to regain the traditional American capitalist economy of world leading economic growth and prosperity, like we had under Reagan. But what President Obama has delivered is just the opposite of that.

For President Obama’s entire time in office, 5 years now, blacks have suffered unemployment well into double digits. With “Latino unemployment close behind,” as Obama also said last week. Yes, the economy was in recession when President Obama entered office. But under every other President in U.S. history, for well over a century, the economy was in a booming recovery within 5 years, even under Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression!

Indeed, in the 10 previous recessions since the Great Depression, prior to this last recession, the economy recovered all jobs lost during the recession after an average of 25 months after the prior jobs peak (when the recession began), according to the records kept by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. So the job effects of prior post Depression recessions have lasted an average of about 2 years. But under President Obama, by July, 2013, 67 months after the prior jobs peak, over 5½ years, we still have not recovered all of the recession’s job losses. In July, 2013, jobs were still down 1.5% from when the recession started over 5½ years ago.

Reagan suffered a severe recession starting in 1981, which resulted from the monetary policy that broke the back of the roaring 1970s inflation. But all the job losses of that recession were recovered after 28 months, with the recovery fueled by traditional pro-growth policies. By this point in the Reagan recovery, 67 months after the recession started, jobs had grown 10.1% higher than where they were when the recession started, representing an increase of more than 10 million more jobs.

Richard Rahn, Chief Economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce during the Reagan years, summarized the contrast last month in the Washington Times, saying, “Under Reagan, adult black unemployment fell by 20 percent, but under Obama it has increased by 42 percent. Black teenage unemployment fell by 16 percent under Reagan, but has risen by 56 percent under Mr. Obama.”

The utterly failed jobs record of Obamanomics reflects the more basic reality that the economy has not been growing under President Obama. In the 10 post depression recessions before President Obama, the economy recovered the lost GDP during the recession within an average of 4.5 quarters after the recession started. But it took Obama’s recovery 16 quarters, or 4 years, to reach that point. Today, 22 quarters, or 5½ years, after the recession started, the economy (real GDP) has grown only 4.6% above where it was when the recession started. By sharp contrast, at this point in the Reagan recovery, the economy had boomed by 20%, one fifth, from where it was when the recession started. In some years during the Reagan recovery, the economy grew more than 4.6% in one year.

These are the reasons why President Obama’s recovery has rightly been called the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression. Obama has already fundamentally transformed America, from a world leading, fast growing, hyperpower, to a third world style, banana republic, where the President rules by decree, making up the law as he desires, rather than following the law enacted by the legislative branch. But stop blaming just President Obama. He faithfully reflects today’s neo-Marxist Democrat Party, which fervently supports what he is doing, as reflected in national polls, with full support and cover from Congressional Democrats. If you don’t like seeing America turning into Argentina, then you need to focus your opposition on the entire Democrat Party, not just President Obama.

While Obama spoke the truth in the quote above, he was just blowing smoke when he also said during his address,

“For over a decade, working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate, even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes. Inequality has steadily risen over the decades….the shadow of poverty casts a pall over our youth, their lives a fortress of substandard schools and diminished prospects, inadequate health care and perennial violence.”

President Obama is blowing smoke here because this statement reflects the reality of his transformed America of today, under the policies of his Administration, and the Democrat Party that so fervently supports him.

Since President Obama entered office in January, 2009, real median household income, representing the income for the middle class, has declined by about $4,500, or 8%. That’s the equivalent of the middle class losing one month’s income a year.

Moreover, if you start from when the recession ended, in June, 2009, the middle class has lost more in income during the Obama recovery than during the Bush recession! Real median household income declined by 2.6% during the recession from December, 2007 to June, 2009. It has declined by twice that since then!

In sharp contrast, the Reagan recovery reversed a decline in real median incomes of 10% from 1978 to 1982, and a longer term decline going back to 1972. Not only middle class incomes but incomes at all levels rose sharply during the Reagan boom. Real per capita disposable income increased by 18% from 1982 to 1989, meaning the American standard of living increased by almost 20%, in just 7 years. Indeed, the broadest and most accurate measure of living standards is real per capita consumption. That measure soared by 74 percent from 1980 to 2004, an unprecedented gain in that short of a period. If we measured it just during the 25 year Reagan boom, from 1982 to 2007, it would be even higher. From 1973 to 2004, about 30 years, such real per capita consumption in America nearly doubled. Over 75 years, 1929 to 2004, real per capita consumption by American workers increased by 5 times, and even faster after 1961 than before. The fastest growth periods were 1983 to 1990, and 1992 to 2004, during the 25 year Reagan boom.

Moreover, despite Obama’s rhetoric, real incomes for the poor have been declining steadily while he has been President as well. That is why the poverty rate has increased every year that he has been President, from 12% in 2008 to 16.1% today, higher than when the War on Poverty started in the 1960s. That represents an increase in the poverty rate under President Obama of more than one
The Census Bureau reported more Americans in poverty under President Obama, at 50 million, than ever before in the more than 50 years that Census has been tracking poverty.

Reagan’s recovery, again by sharp contrast, reversed an increase in the poverty rate of one-third that began in 1978 under President Carter, with the poverty rate declining every year thereafter while Reagan was President, falling by one-sixth from its peak.

Again sharply contrary to President Obama’s rhetoric, official U.S. government data shows inequality is accelerating sharply under President Obama. The official measure of income inequality is the “Gini Index,” published by the Census Bureau. That index has risen every year Obama has been President, meaning inequality has increased every year as well. That is because the incomes of the top 20% have still been rising under Obama, with the only recovery focused in the stock market, rather than the job market. But the incomes of everyone else, the bottom 80%, have been falling! Under President Obama, the rich are still getting richer, and the poor are getting precisely poorer. We don’t need a Marxist as President for that!

By sharp contrast again, after Reaganomics took hold in 1983, incomes for every quintile of income earners, from the top 20% to the bottom 20%, rose. The rich got richer, and the poor got richer.

Yes, Mr. President, the lives of poor black children, and other poor children in America, suffer “a fortress of substandard schools and diminished prospects.” But who is standing in the schoolhouse gate this time? It is you, Mr. Obama, and your Democrats, and your political machine teachers unions. As Rand Paul wrote in the Washington Times on August 30,

“Everywhere it is tried, school choice has allowed parents to give their children the education they deserve. Voucher and charter school programs that allow public education dollars to follow the student are greatly improving their performance and giving children so many opportunities….2,000 of our nation’s 20,000 high schools produce roughly 50 percent of all dropouts. Black children have a 50-50 chance of attending one of these schools. [A] Stanford University study showed that 41 percent of students who attend charter schools [in Washington DC] learned the equivalent of 72 days more in reading and 101 days more in math each year than similar students attending district schools….A pastor friend of mine has called school choice the civil rights issue of our day. He’s right.”

But where are you, Mr. President, and your Democrat Party, on this civil rights issue of our day? Your Attorney General, who is also stuck with an outdated mind, just sued the state of Louisiana to shut down its liberating school choice program, which “offers a way out of rotten schools for predominantly black, poor children,” as the Heartland Institute’s Joy Pullman wrote in Human Events on August 28. Eric Holder says black parents don’t know what is good for black children.

President Obama added in his Address on August 28,

“Since 1963, the economy has changed. The twin forces of technology and global competition have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class—reduced the bargaining power of American workers….Entrenched interests…resisted any government efforts to give working families a fair deal—marshaling an army of lobbyists and opinion makers to argue that minimum wage increases or stronger labor laws or taxes on the wealthy who could afford it just to fund crumbling schools, that all these things violated sound economic principles.”

This is stale, outdated, early 19th century thinking that does violate sound economic principles, producing exactly the failed economic results discussed above. It is not about confrontational bargaining power. It is about collaborational productive power. Modern technology and global competition open vast, new vistas for breakthrough productivity and market opportunities for tomorrow’s working people, if Obama and his 19th century Democrats would just get out of the way of tomorrow’s modern economy.

One of the first things Senator Obama and his Democrats did when they took over Congress in 2007 was raise the minimum wage. Then they did it again as soon as Obama was elected President, completing a 40% increase. The result has been a teenage unemployment rate of around 25% persisting for years. The black teenage unemployment rate in July was 41.6%! The available Hispanic teenage unemployment rate was 30.9%. What else can you expect when the government intervenes in the market to mandate a higher price for labor.

This too is a civil rights issue for today, on which Obama and his Democrats are on the wrong side, just as many of them were on the wrong side of civil rights in the 1960s, when a higher percentage of Congressional Republicans supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 than Congressional Democrats. Civil Rights would have been adopted under Republican President Eisenhower, who supported civil rights breakthroughs in the 1950s just as he supported desegregation of the military in World War II. But he was stopped by Congressional Democrats. Republicans supported civil rights to complete the founding mission of the Republican Party, which was to abolish slavery.

But what we have learned from experience with President Obama is that he doesn’t learn from experience. He is a rigid ideologue more interested in advancing the open Marxism of his father, and of his upbringing, than the cutting edge civil rights of blacks and Hispanics today, or their true economic well-being.

Mr. President, your economic policies are not working. For the good of the people, we beg you to change course. Open your mind to new ideas, try something different, leave behind the stale, dead Marxism of the late 19th century, which was only a reactionary response to the Industrial Revolution, which was the foundation of the modern Middle Class.



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