The Black unemployment rate in the United States has caused a lot of hand-wringing over the past few years. At almost 17 percent, it’s more than 7 percent higher than that of the general population, and the way that it’s helped to wipe out years of African-American wealth-building has been heartbreakingly effective. Many people are talking about Black unemployment, and still others have taken to the streets to decry Obama’s attempts (or lack thereof) to stem the African-American joblessness tide. Today, a new article from the Wall Street Journal attempts to offer yet another statement on Black unemployment, this one in the form of a solution. And what a solution it is.
Called “How to Fight Black Unemployment,” the piece, by conservative economist Arthur Laffer, begins by lamenting the many tolls that widespread unemployment can have on communities. “Behind these numbers are millions of lives discouraged and despondent,” Laffer writes. “People who've lost their self-esteem and pride. The young who have given up on America and some of whom have even turned to crime. Scars are being made across a whole ethnic subset of America.”
After all that worrying, you’d think Laffer might offer up a kind, caring solution. You’d be wrong.
Laffer’s idea for solving Black unemployment, so-called “enterprise zones,” are rather simple in their insidiousness: Turn America’s low-income Black neighborhoods into regulation-free ghettoes, perfect for corporate exploitation. I’m not kidding or being glib. Consider this idea, directly from Laffer’s piece: “Federal and state minimum wages must be suspended in the enterprise zone. If not for all employees, then at least for employees under 30.” And how about this one: “In the enterprise zones the government should do an expedited review of all building codes, regulations, restrictions and requirements to make sure that they don't unjustifiably impede economic growth.” Laffer also thinks we should cut taxes for any corporation that chooses to do business in the enterprise zones. In other words, these zones will be places where you can hire young Black people at cut-rate prices and use them for all they’re worth. And then, you’ll pay less taxes to support the kinds of social-welfare programs that really do improve the lives of America’s poor.
Thankfully, few are going to take Laffer’s piece seriously, so don’t expect enterprise zones to be coming to a neighborhood near you anytime soon. That said, it’s important to recognize what conservative businessmen are thinking about in these times of need. The Black community is more vulnerable now than it’s been in a long time, and the economic predators are out in full force.
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