By. Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on February 4, 2024
An Editorial Opinion
Joe Biden wants and needs a surge in Black voter turnout to beat Donald Trump in 2024. While voter suppression laws passed in states with Republican-controlled legislatures and governors, will hurt the traditional Black voter turnout for Democratic candidates in 2024, something much more sinister is lurking in the dark. It’s called voter apathy.
Voter apathy is profound, widespread and growing in the Black community.
There is a growing disconnect between the political needs of the Black community and what those who are elected and appointed to represent this community in the halls of national, state, and local government are able to deliver.
As a result, candidates of choice of Black voters who are sworn into office – whether Black or White -- deliver nothing to the Black community but symbolic gestures, commemorative events, name changes on bridges and roads, photo ops, and display-checks in token amounts from federal agencies.
As a group, candidates of choice of the Black community are often impotent and useless in the economic arena. The federal response to the 2020 COVID pandemic spotlighted this impotency in undeniable ways.
In this article, I focus on the failures of political leadership that can be objectively measured.
Following the Federal Money
Through 44 agencies, the federal government spent $4.7 trillion in response to COVID-19. Even though Blacks are 13.6% of the U.S. population, less than one tenth of one percent of this money went to Black-owned businesses.
On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) (Public Law 117-58, also known as the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law”) into law. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $550 billion over fiscal years 2022 through 2026 in new Federal investment in infrastructure, including in roads, bridges, and mass transit, water infrastructure, resilience, and broadband.
Recognizing that the federal government spends more than $650 billion each year on purchasing goods and services, in 2021 President Biden directed agencies to use federal purchasing power to grow federal contracting with small, disadvantaged businesses, including Black-owned businesses, by 50%, translating to an additional $100 billion over five years.
Black-owned businesses are part of a group of disadvantaged businesses that have been awarded about $40 billion per year nationwide in past years. The 50% increase in these annual contracts amounts to mere tokenism.
For example, the top ten defense contractors, alone, raked in more than $153 billion in 2022. Much of this money comes from non-bid contracts for goods and services.
Additionally, through three facilities—the New Loans Facility, Expanded Loans Facility, and Priority Loans Facility—the Federal Reserve funded up to $600 billion in five-year loans to support financial markets during the pandemic. Businesses with up to 15,000 employees or up to $5 billion in annual revenue could participate.
Not one dollar of the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion went to Black-owned businesses.
With over $6 trillion federal dollars deployed to combat the economic effects of COVID and rebuild America’s infrastructure, only $60 billion per year is allocated for the group of businesses that specifically includes Black-owned businesses.
This means Black-owned businesses, as a whole, received substantially less than 0.06% of this $6 trillion investment in America. This amount is disgraceful.
What is worse, on September 18, 2023, the U.S. Secretaries of Education and Agriculture notified 16 governors of a $12 billion disparity in funding between 16 Historically Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their non-HBCU land-grant peers in their states.
Out of fear, complacency, and/or incompetency, none of these 16 HBCUs aggressively pursued legal action or market-driven strategies to collect the $12 billion owed to their HBCUs. All of these HBCUs failed their students, faculty, staffs, and alumni in this regard.
The Disconnect Between Black Voters and the Democratic Party is Profound and Growing
Simply bragging about how well Wall Street Is doing will not translate into Black votes for President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party in 2024.
Bragging about the nation’s low unemployment rate will not motivate a high black turnout. Black America already knows it did not get its fair share of the COVID-era $6 trillion.
Relying upon the endorsements of Black elected and appointed officials who have proven themselves to be impotent and useless will not increase Black voter turnout for Democrats in 2024.
The Black community has seen that the only people who economically benefit from government initiatives and high-profile government jobs are the relatives, friends, and allies of their elected and appointed officials.
The catastrophic failure of elected and appointed officials who represent the political interests of the Black community to “bring home the bacon” is more lethal to the Democratic Party's voter turnout in 2024 than any of the new voter suppression laws.
The time for sticking an economic pacifier in the mouths of Black voters is over!