Barack Obama’s America
If no more for the euphoria that has attended the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s 44th and first Black president of the United States, there is noticeable change in economic, political and cultural affairs.
Assuming that Election Day’s exit polls are right, Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden, defeated Sen. John McCain and his running mate Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska because Americans decided economic matters, especially the housing and financial crises, trumped race.
In other words, a landscape of record job losses and home foreclosures, soaring gasoline and food prices and a lockdown on loans, which voters connected to the Bush administration, had to be changed and Obama’s platform presented that opening.
Hours after Obama’s victory, and certainly by the next morning, the nation’s major daily newspapers were sold out, a phenomenon easily attributable to Obama’s barrier-breaking triumph. Right away, the slumping dailies — many of them suspending their morning editions — perked up for a moment. The Amsterdam News, arguably the country’s oldest and largest African-American weekly, sold out two press runs, totaling more than 125,000 in sales. Of course, the paper makes most of its money on advertisement, but it’s hard to ignore the momentary bump it received from a Black man on his way to the White House.
Hundreds of vendors across America have witnessed increased sales of all sorts of products bearing Obama’s image. That may keep them going at least through the holiday season, with another boost likely when Obama is inaugurated in January.
The real deal
Mind you, these are minuscule economic perturbations and the real deal may not manifest itself until the midterm of Obama’s administration, given the impending recession he faces and what’s to be done about the terrible condition of the Big Three automobile manufacturers. In his first meeting with President Bush at the Oval Office, Obama stressed a need to act immediately to halt the possible collapse of General Motors, according to sources familiar with their discussion.
Obama urged Bush to support emergency aid to the auto industry, but the Bush administration has been reluctant to allow any tapping into the proposed $700-billion bailout package.
Obama plans to exercise his power to initiate executive orders, a process President Bush expanded with his pre-emptive strike on Iraq. If the new president only moves quickly to end the war in Iraq, that would curtail the more than $10 billion a month allocated to sustain that unwinnable war.
More germane to the interests of Black professionals and businessowners is the extent to which Obama’s economic plans will impact small businesses. Noted finance authority Bill Rys told Newsweek magazine that Obama’s tax plans will keep the 2001 tax rates in place and extend them and will also extend the business tax incentives based on tax code section 179 through 2009.
What about those small businesses earning less than $250,000 annually? Rys, who is tax counsel for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, says 75 percent of small-business owners have organized their companies as pass-through entities, meaning that they pay taxes at the individual level.
“[NFIB] did a survey at the end of 2007 that asked small-business owners how much they earn from their businesses and about 10 percent reported that they make more than $250,000. When we broke that down by how many employees they had, about 30 percent of those with 20 to 250 employees said they make more than $250,000 in taxable income,” Rys said. “What the survey concluded is that regardless of the tax rate, small-business owners draw a considerable amount of income from their businesses and if a higher tax is placed on that income, they will have to make tough decisions about where to cut business investments.”
Cutting business investments is not an option for far too many small businesses that have had to layoff employees, decrease their inventories, or close shop completely. Sikulu Shange, whose Record Shack on the increasingly gentrified 125th Street in Harlem, now exists on the sidewalk along with hundreds of other vendors, is a case in point. Nevertheless, Shange is hopeful, believing that Obama’s victory will put an end to the insensitivities of the Bush administration and provide consumers with not only bolstered buying power but also expanded employment opportunities, as well as a renewed entrepreneurial zeal throughout the nation.
If the economic base is improved and Obama’s political clout ramifies into state legislatures, as it appears to be doing, then the cultural realm will also get a considerable bounce. Soon after winning the election, Obama’s team launched a new Web site, change.gov, where they announced the agenda, a newsroom and other outreach programs in order to be in touch with American citizens. One section of the site is called America Serves and it promises to advance a broad program of diversity that potentially touches every niche and sinecure of American life.
“As the new administration takes shape, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will call on Americans from every walk of life to serve,” it begins. The Obama adminstration will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle-school and high-school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free.
Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.
Since Obama began his presidential campaign he has promised America change, and some of these changes will take a lot of time and will come burdened with a heavy cost. But when you consider what a long shot he was at the beginning of this victorious odyssey, it’s difficult to doubt his ability to turn this nation around.
America, and to a large extent the world, awaits to see just how long Obama’s Midas touch will last and how much it will mean to the least of us.