African-American leaders recently met with President Barack Obama to express their concerns for his second term.
Based on press reports of the meeting, the leaders delivered the right message to the president in saying his primary focus should be on jobs and the economy.
They also told the president that the brunt of the looming "fiscal cliff" or upcoming deficit reduction deal of tax increases and spending cuts should not be on the backs of the middle class and working class.
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said Congress must also be held accountable for making sure that the tax burden does not fall on the poor and the middle class.
African-American leaders should be encouraged to try to leverage more attention from both Obama and Congress in light of the strong African-American voter turnout.
National exit polls showed that the African -American vote nationally was 13 percent, the same this year as it was in 2008. However, in some key states African-American voter turnout was higher and had more impact, said David Bositis, an expert on African-American politics and voting at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
Blacks made up 15 percent of the electorate in the key battleground state of Ohio, up from 11 percent in 2008. In Ohio, 97 percent of the African-American vote went for Obama, leading Bositis to say his margin of victory in the state came from African-American voters.
In Michigan, the African-American share of the vote grew from 12 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2012, according to exit polls.
"Michigan was one of the states the two parties jostled around, and eventually Republicans decided they were not going to win, and one of the reasons was the big increase in the Black vote," Bositis said.
In Florida, the African-American share of the vote was 13 percent. In Virginia, African -Americans were 20 percent of all voters. Obama won both Florida and Virginia.
Strong African-American voter turnout should be leveraged with Obama and Congress.
Within days of the election, National Urban League President Marc Morial sent an "urgent petition" to Obama, House Sspeaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asking that Obama's second term focus be on economic opportunity and income inequality.
Morial said in his letter that a jobs program should emphasize infrastructure and public works, broadband technology and energy "with a special focus on those communities where unemployment is and remains stubbornly and persistently high."
Black leaders are right to ask the president and Congress to pass initiatives to address the unacceptably high unemployment rate for African Americans, which was 12.7 percent when Obama took office, peaked at 16.5 percent roughly a year later, and stood at 14.3 percent in October. The overall unemployment rate is 7.9 percent.
Exit polls showed that Americans across the board see the economy and jobs as the top priority for the president and Congress. This is important to point out as the media and elected officials sharpen their focus on deficit reduction.
Reducing the high unemployment rate among African Americans will help reduce poverty, stabilize communities, boost consumer spending and grow the economy.
—The Philadelphia Tribune