When speaking about Vice President Joe Biden, a lot of people still prefer to discuss his gaffe-prone nature. As a matter of fact, if you Google the Vice President, one of the first choices that comes up is ‘Joe Biden Gaffes’. Part of this is because, in an entertainment-infatuated society such as ours, Biden’s gaffes are entertaining and much easier to digest than anything substantive. The other reason is, well, Biden does have a rather colorful history of screwing up sometimes, especially when he goes off script.
But as most anyone who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention should know, the gap between the entertaining soundbyte and the man himself is rather monumental. President Obama is not a stupid man, nor is he a man afraid of surrounding himself with intelligent people. His cabinet choices, even those whom some might regard as questionable, can hardly be said to be intellectual midgets. I think it’s safe to say the same holds true for Biden. But it’s not just his political intelligence that makes him invaluable to the Obama team, it’s his ability to connect at a gut level that sometimes matches or even surpasses Obama’s gift, and that’s saying something. Biden has that same sort of everyman charm that Obama has never been able to pull off very well but that was Bill Clinton’s specialty. Earlier this week at the NAACP Annual Convention, anyone who watched Biden’s stem-winding speech to the extremely enthusiastic crowd who enjoyed his comments so much that they booed when he said it was time for him to wrap it up (especially if you watched it after seeing the response to Romney at the same event) should have been able to see plainly why Obama keeps this guy on the front lines.
As for these Republicans such as Fox’s beloved Sean Hannity who are suddenly so concerned about the high rate of unemployment among African Americans, emphasizing repeatedly how much higher it is than the national average under Obama’s presidency, I must say that’s what I call entertainment. Aside from the fact that the level of black unemployment has been dropping right along with the national rate, Hannity and all of the other Republicans hopping on this bandwagon are dutifully ignoring any and all pesky facts that dare to stand in the way of their conclusions.
According to Media Matters:
But Hannity ignored another key fact in the high unemployment rate in the black community. Blacks work more in the public sector than in any other industry and the public sector has faced huge job cuts, even as private-sector jobs have grown.
As Slate’s David Weigel noted, it’s difficult to have a real conversation about the black unemployment rate without including the role that public-sector layoffs have had. A February report from the Department of Labor stated:
Black workers are more likely to be employed in the public sector than are either their white or Hispanic counterparts. In 2011, nearly 20 percent of employed Blacks worked for state, local, or federal government compared to 14.2 percent of Whites and 10.4 percent of Hispanics.
The report also explained that the recession hit blacks more severely than other major racial groups, and the recovery for blacks was slower partly because of government layoffs:
Historically, Blacks have had persistently higher unemployment rates than the other major racial and ethnic groups. In addition, the increase in the black unemployment rate during the recession was larger than that for other races partly because workers with less education are particularly hard hit during recessions. Moreover, the unemployment rate for Blacks was slower to fall after the official end of the recession. The slower recovery for African Americans in the labor market has been partly the result of government layoffs after the official end of the recession. Blacks have been more vulnerable to the drastic layoffs in government in the past two years because they make up a disproportionate share of public sector workers. Moreover, with the exception of health and education, Blacks are under-represented in the sectors that have experienced the greatest job growth during the recovery, including manufacturing and professional and business services.
I mean seriously, folks; if Obama was somehow responsible for the high level of black unemployment, or if he really just didn’t give a damn, do you really think the NAACP, the nation’s oldest and most revered African American civil rights institution, wouldn’t notice?