At a time when elected leaders in Washington are fixated on the “debt ceiling” and “the deficit,” Congresswoman Wilson and members of the Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus are correctly focused on the single most important issue for Americans today: the high unemployment rate.
Ms. Wilson brought Reps. Peter Deutch of Florida and Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona from the Progressive Caucus to Miami-Dade in mid-July to hear from residents. She is returning later this month with several members of the Black Caucus for another meeting with residents.
The CBC members will no doubt hear a lot from residents, as did the Progressives and they, too, will no doubt come with a background of how profoundly the jobs shortage is affecting African Americans. It will be good for them to make the town hall meeting set for Aug. 22 a two-way dialogue and tell the people what their own thoughts are on how the country can climb out of the unemployment crisis.
The situation is so desperate that the unemployed are willing to take whatever jobs are available. That, in itself, should be an untenable situation. Jobs ought to provide workers with the means to live at least a decent life and, whatever solutions the CBC and the Progressives intend to offer to their colleagues in Congress, that point must be made clear.
It is important because employment must go hand-in-hand with training, particularly for the black jobless who, more often than not, have to accept menial work that pays less than a livable wage. Many African Americans do not have the level of skills and training needed to qualify for better jobs, especially in the all-important technology field. A Miami-Dade County Public Schools survey in 2008 found that 72 percent of families in low-income areas of the county did not have even basic Internet service.
An initiative which the cable/digital giant Comcast has brought to Phillis Wheatley Elementary School in Overtown will help address that problem. The company unveiled its Internet Essentials program which will provide Internet access for homes where children qualify for free school lunches – poor children – and also subsidize the cost of owning a computer.
That is an important step in Comcast’s campaign to help bridge what is called the “digital divide.” While the company has a direct interest in expanding its customer base, it is doing so in a way that will help prepare people for the really important jobs – simply by making it possible for them to go online and to own a computer.