Rep. Maxine Waters Will Fight Whoever Stands in Way of Job Creation
California Congresswoman wants to repeal Obama's deficit reduction supercommittee
With black unemployment at a record high rate, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has been waging a full court press to address the problem while making calculated criticisms of President Obama on where he’s fallen short on this subject. Of the CBC members, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has been one of the most vocal, telling the President to call black unemployment by it’s name publicly, while challenging voters to sic the CBC on Obama if they think it’s warranted. Next week is the Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference where they will continue to pound the pavement about jobs.
Loop 21 talked with Rep. Waters about the President’s challenges with the economy, his American Jobs Act, the foreclosure crisis, and the federal deficit reduction “supercommittee." The Congresswoman is not backing down from her pressure to bring jobs to African Americans. She says she will fight for the American Jobs Act, but she’s not for any piecemeal compromise that will only add up to a bunch of tax cuts. Finally, Rep. Waters wants to get rid of that “illegitimate” supercommittee.
Loop 21: There seems to be plenty of endorsement from the Congressional Black Caucus of Obama’s American Jobs Act. Any caveats though?
Rep. Maxine Waters: Yes, I’m pleased the President did present what appears to be a substantial jobs act to create jobs by repairing the nation’s infrastructure, and schools across nation, and also investing in small communities. But the devil is in the details. I support the direction of this legislation and I will fight for it. We will all have to fight for it. There are a number of tax cuts for employers whether payroll or tax breaks to hire new workers. We have to make sure it’s not just a tax cut bill that’s only in anticipation of employers hiring, but that they are actually hiring. Now the real work begins.
Loop 21: Part of the American Jobs Act calls for an infrastructure bank, which you called for before the President’s jobs speech. But does it go far enough, targeting women- and minority-owned business like you described?
No, I don’t remember the infrastructure bank in Obama’s jobs proposal being described. The idea has been tossed around a lot and I could support the idea, but not one that would put government money in the hands of big banks. It would have to be directed toward community banks and CDCs (community development corporations) and CDFIs (community development financial institutions) in order to implement some kind of program. But not the big banks.
Loop 21: The Obama Administration recently sued 17 banks deemed responsible for the subprime mortgage meltdown. If successful, is this going to be an adequate remedy to bring justice to those who were preyed upon with those loans? [Read about five of the banks in that lawsuit here.]
No, as a matter of fact the harm that was done with the subprime meltdown and the way our financial institutions committed fraud and misrepresented their products, so much harm has been done that we need a massive way of helping to make [homeowners] whole again and keep them in their homes. The president came up with the HAMP program and it hasn’t worked to keep people in their homes and reduce the principal on homes. Most of them are underwater. They don’t have the value they had when they were taking out the loan mortgages. So we need substantial reduction of principals and all interest rates written down to at least 4%. But that was not mentioned in the job act proposal. Banks are holding on to the money and not lending, not for mortgages nor for small businesses. They have backlogs of properties they have started foreclosures on. So we have to unscramble this mortgage crisis.
Loop 21: The Administration refuses to mention black unemployment even though it’s clearly the highest, and now we see with the Census figures that they suffered the worst increases in poverty. Will Obama ever name this problem for what it is?
I don’t know, it seems as if these are not the kinds of strategies [his campaign] have developed for him to be re-elected. Avoiding using the word “black” or “African American” seems to be what they think they need to do to appease or to get support from others in society. I don’t agree with that strategy. I don’t know what it would take to change their mind. I am working now on the fact sheet on the American Jobs Act where I see they are using targeting in ways that I have insisted -- by targeting the communities with the hardest unemployment and the most harmed in this economic meltdown. Those communities should be targeted for support. In the follow-up fact sheet, they are talking about targeting and they have recognized that it should be done, but it’s not been part of his speeches. As the legislation advances, that targeting should be at the center of how we’re dealing with harm that is done [from the recession]. But in terms of how the White House says that in their language, I wish I could say I have influence over that, but I can’t say that I have that type of influence.
Loop 21: So, if Obama’s bill passes with the kind of targeting of black communities you call for, but he does not say this in front of the general public, would you be pleased?
I would be somewhat relieved -- the bottomline is if I can create jobs and I can get people employed, I want that very badly. If he does not say it publicly it would not please me, but I would not be as unhappy as if I don’t get some jobs. If we don’t get jobs then I would be very unhappy.
Loop 21: In a recent GOP presidential candidates debate, Michele Bachmann mentioned black unemployment. What do you think of Bachmann naming that which the President won’t?
I didn’t see the debates, but if the President allows the right wing to articulate concerns about black unemployment and he doesn’t then that does not speak well to his ability to recognize the people who are really truly his base. That does not bode well for his re-election. If they can say it, then certainly so can he.
Loop 21: One news report says that Obama has not ruled out passing this jobs bill in pieces. Does that concern you?
Yes, it does concern me. When you are in a fight you don’t start with compromise. He put out a comprehensive legislation package for $477 billion. That’s what I expect him to fight for. That’s what I am going to fight for. I don’t like starting out with compromise and picking pieces out, or a bill that just gives tax cuts to employers or businesses. We have to fight for what we think is right so that kind of talk does not please me.
Loop 21: The New York Times reported about employers, from small businesses and large, who said tax cuts would not be enough to incentivize them to hire more workers, that instead they were looking for the right people. What do you think of that?
I did not see the story but I do know this, when you are talking about the right people to do the job -- I had at one of my job fairs 10,000 people show up, and one of the people who owned a company where they are looking for engineers and people who are trained in certain technology and computer expertise said to me that they had found a number of people who met their requirements. So, if employers imply that by hiring someone who happens to be unemployed that they may be unqualified I reject that argument. My sense of what we are trying to accomplish is to hire those who have been laid off and I think there are qualified people out there. So when people say they are not incentivized by tax cuts, that’s not an argument that makes good sense to me. The fact of the matter is that we expect people to hire those who meet the qualifications and to hire those who are unemployed who meet the qualifications.
Loop 21: For companies that advertise jobs with hiring preferences for those already employed, would you say that’s a veiled way of saying they won’t hire African Americans, since they represent the highest unemployed?
I don’t know, but those advertisements would certainly impact that sector of our society with the highest unemployment. It is kind of inhumane to advertise that you will not get hired if you are unemployed. That’s about as un-American as it gets. Certainly the African American population would get that.
Loop 21: Under the arrangement made to raise the debt ceiling, a congressional supercommittee is now responsible for coming up with more cuts, and if they don’t there will be automatic cuts including to Medicare. Was that a good deal?
[Speaker of the House John] Boehner walked away saying he got 98% of what he wanted. The debt ceiling negotiations were harmful and the supercommittee is the wrong way of going about good public policy. No 12 members of Congress can represent the entire American body. I don’t like the supercommittee and I think it is illegitimate. I’m getting signatures for a bill right now to repeal the supercommittee.
Loop 21: Next week is Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference and many eyes are on this body. What is the message you’ll be sending to the country?
The conference will start with a townhall on jobs so that we are consistent on going from our job fairs to the the townhall where we will have some people from civil rights organizations and the business community, and members of the CBC talking about next steps. I do believe that we should focus on the American Jobs Act bill and take deep look at the bill, picking it apart and seeing where the pitfalls are, where we should be applying pressure ,where we should be forming alliances, and how to help get this bill realized. I don’t see this bill as a public relations effort or something for campaign purposes, I see it as a piece of legislation that we have to fight for. The people will know whether we are serious about this based on how hard we fight for it.