The Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission
Assessment of President Barack Obama’s 2011 Budget Address
President Obama’s recent address concerning the budget and fiscal crisis facing our nation has been the focus of much reflection and thought. After extensive discussions among members of the Shirley Chisholm Presidential Commission (SCPAC) and consultations with national organizations and agencies keenly interested in the interest and aspirations of Black America the Commission has formulated the following response.
The SCPAC applauds President Obama for putting forth a principled and responsible vision for bringing the federal deficit under control and protecting our nation’s most vulnerable populations.
We agree with his persistence to “win the future” so long as that vision of the future includes targeted programs that address the interests and needs of Black Americans. The Commission recognizes that the Bush era tax cuts along with the conduct of two wars and reckless spending are the root causes of the current federal deficit and budget debacle. We nevertheless expect the administration’s solutions to be fair and equitable for the most vulnerable of our citizens.
Thus, his proposed solutions must recognize the disproportionate pain suffered by the Black community during the current recession and the need for a menu of programs targeted to the urban and rural communities most devastated by the economic downturn to insure our inclusion in the nation’s recovery. We concur with the President’s goal of reducing the federal deficit but we caution that it should not come at the expense of domestic programs that have preserved a reasonable quality of life for impacted and vulnerable populations.
Juxtaposed against the draconian measures proposed by the House Republican leadership, the President has made clear the federal government’s responsibility for the general welfare of our nation while also making clear the necessity to bring spending in line with the present fiscal realities. We commend the President for resisting the extremism of conservatives and Tea Party activists, maintaining a commitment to expanding economic opportunity for the poor and middle class, investing in a 21st century economy that will produce jobs with good wages and benefits that will result in prosperity for all Americans.
While we await specific details on the President’s deficit reduction plan, his commitment to preserve Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security are an important foundation upon which to build. There are many other areas such as inequities in the tax system that favor corporations and high-income earners, defense spending and health care costs that must be a part of the conversation as well. Strategic investments in job creation and training, new technologies and infrastructure should also be considered as tools for a new prosperity in America. We recognize that hard choices must be made but we do not accept that the budget is a zero sum game. It is an expression of national priorities and we are encouraged by the values that the President espoused in his address to the nation last week. His forceful assertions on behalf of the poor, the elderly, the disabled and the middle class have reaffirmed the centrality of the progressive narrative in the national debate.
The Commission is not interested in partisan warfare but holds both parties accountable for putting forth a humane budget framework. As the majority in the House of Representatives, the Republican Party must now prove that it is worthy of its leadership responsibility and govern in a manner that serves the interests of all Americans, particularly communities of color and the most vulnerable populations. Democrats too must not equivocate or wither in the heat of the battle, and must continue to articulate a progressive narrative that defends and advances the interests of the very constituents that form the core of the party’s base.
In the coming weeks the Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission will present its own more detailed plan to achieve fiscal balance and engage in a broader dialogue on the future of our nation. For now, the battle lines have been drawn and we will remain vigilant to hold the administration accountable for protecting the interests of our community.
THE SHIRLEY CHISHOLM PRESIDENTIAL ACCOUNTABILITY COMMISSION MEMBERS
Rick Adams - Convener, Western Pennsylvania Black Political Assembly, Chairman, Institute of The Black World 21st Century Board of Directors, Pittsburgh, PA.
Honorary Chairman – Dr. Ronald Walters (Ancestor)
Dr. Michael Fauntroy – Associate Professor, Public Policy, George Mason University, Washington, DC
Dr. Tricia-Bent Goodley - Professor of Social Work, Howard University, Washington, D.C.
Dr. Duchess Harris - Associate Professor, American Studies, Macalester College, St. Paul, MN
Dr. Marc Lamont Hill - Associate Professor, Education and Anthropology, Columbia University Teachers College, New York, NY
Dr. Julianne Malveaux - Pre-eminent Political Economist and President, Bennett College for Women, Greensboro, NC
Dr. Patricia Newton - President, Black Psychiatrists of America, Inc.
Makani Themba Nixon - Chief Executive Officer, The Praxis Project, Washington, DC
Dr. Mtangulizi Sanyika - President, African American Leadership Project, New Orleans, LA
Attorney Nkechi Taifa - Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundations, Washington, DC
Dr. Boyce Watkins - Professor, Finance, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
Dr. Ron Daniels - Distinguished Lecturer, York College, City University of New York, President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century.
G. Rosaline Preudhomme - Management Consultant, Institute of the Black World 21st Century, Colonie, NY
Institute of the Black World, 31-35 95th Street, East Elmhurst, NY 11369