DETROIT - Speaking at a Sept. 9 Detroit Rainbow Push press conference, Rev. Jesse Jackson sharply criticized Michigan's newly enacted 48-month cap on cash assistance and the "excruciating pain" it will cause.
The cutoff, passed by Lansing Republicans, takes effect in October and will immediately affect 12,600 families and 25,000 children. Jackson said families will be unable to eat and pay their light and heat bills declaring, "It's unfair, it's immoral, and we are not going to take it in the dark or in the cold."
Jackson said people want to move from welfare to work, but the requirements to make that transition are missing. Among those requirements are daycare, transportation, job training and a job, things Jackson said are either too costly or unavailable.
He noted the difficulty of finding work in Michigan. The number of long term unemployed has dramatically increased; 235,000 people have been out of work over six months. New jobs are virtually non-existent in cities like Detroit.
Referring to President Obama's address on jobs Jackson called it a "bold step" and said the president moved the conversation to where we have to go. "I hope Congress is listening," added Detroit pastor and NAACP President Wendell Anthony.
While Jackson said "direct jobs" are a better means than tax write-offs to stimulate the economy, we should embrace whatever means the president uses to create work.
Jackson noted that 100,000 homes are vacant in Detroit. Weatherizing and rebuilding those homes in this and other cities would put urban America back to work. The president referred to such a program in his address.
Jackson spoke about the persistent patterns of racial discrimination and the resulting disparity in wealth, health, educational and unemployment amplifying the crisis in the black community. As an example, he said unemployment is near 9 percent nationally but closer to 30 percent within the black community. In Detroit, the figure is closer to 50 percent.
He also made a plea for disengagement from war and hoped that when the administration reviews Medicaid and Medicare, as the president said would be done, it also reviews the cost of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other locations. "There is no basis for us becoming a nation of warmongers losing money, lives and honor. These wars have not made us safe," he added.
To see that the jobs bill is passed and to ease the crisis people are facing, Jackson cited the urgent need for large public demonstrations saying it was "time for labor, civil rights and the church to take our case back to the streets."
Photo: Jackson in Detroit. John Rummel/PW