After savoring the feeling of sweet success of President Barack Obama’s re-election, there is work to do. Most of us got the outcome that we worked and hoped for, but we have to resist the temptation to exhale and get on with our work. Before the president takes the oath of office for a second time, African Americans should mobilize around:
Sequestration. Unless a deal is cut during the lame-duck session of Congress, our budget will be cut automatically. While House Speaker John Boehner has softened his tone just a bit and indicated his willingness to compromise, he still has to herd his Tea Party colleagues into also agreeing on ways to avoid sequestration. Cutting expenditures at a time of slow economic growth makes no sense. Neither does sequestration, a desperate move to avoid a compromise. Instead, address the deficit with a long-term plan that takes economic cycles into account.
Poverty. It would be great if the president would form a task force to reduce or eradicate poverty, and he might do so if he were urged to. Meanwhile, as the holidays approach, keep the poor in your community in mind, and find a local charity to sponsor.
State and Local Elections. Presidential elections seem to suck all of the air out of the political landscape, and rightly so. We elect a president only every four years, and his (maybe one day her) focus has long-term implications. But so do local elections. Consider running. Failing to engage in full civic participation cedes your choices to others who are engaged. It’s a great time to get involved.
Housing Crisis. Despite action at the national level, many banks are dragging their feet on modifications for under water mortgages. The problem: Too many of us are ashamed to talk about our financial status, thinking it’s a personal problem instead of a structural problem. The solution: Get a state legislator or local leader to develop a workshop for underwater homeowners. Get bankers there to explain why so many have not been offered loan mortifications. Take the results to your congressperson and ask them to act on it.
Parent Plus Loans and Higher Education. While the federal government provides an opportunity for parents to borrow for their offspring’s tuition, the requirements are now so tight that nearly half of those who qualified last year don’t qualify now. Thousands of students, especially at HBCUs, have to either pay up or get out. Colleges could “carry” these students, but that’s a bad idea when regulators judge historically Black colleges by fiscal stability. In a second Obama term, issues affecting especially HBCUs should be high on his watch list.
The African American Community. African Americans have been the president’s most loyal supporters. When will we get the attention we deserve? We can’t meekly ask for it. We have to demand it. With high unemployment rates, few employment possibilities and high dropout rates, our community is in desperate need of attention.
Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is president emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.