Obama looks past minorities to favor economic sectors dominated by more affluent whites

by Ryan Streeter on January 16, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Joel Kotkin writes today about how the progressivism practiced by the Obama Democrats, regardless of its rhetoric, hasn’t done much to show it understands or even cares about upward mobility for lower income Americans – a good many of whom are minorities:

The biggest question is whether the current progressive agenda supports minority upward mobility. From its inception the Obama administration’s focus has been on the largely white information economy, notably boosting universities and the green-industrial complex based in places like Silicon Valley. The Obama team’s decision to surrender working class whites to appeal to what Democratic strategists call the “mass upper middle class” makes political sense but could lead to problems for an American working class that is itself increasingly minority.

An emphasis on green industries and strong across-the-board regulation often works against traditional industries like heavy manufacturing, warehousing and fossil fuel development that historically have employed many minorities. Opposing development of new petrochemical plants and such things as the XL Pipeline — opposed by many greens and their allies in the Obama Administration — could reduce new opportunities for minority workers, many of them unionized, particularly in the heavily African-American, and increasingly Latino, Gulf region.

Modern-day progressivism’s primary laboratory, California, tells a cautionary tale. The draconian green legislation enacted under former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has hit the state’s manufacturing and construction industries far more than the national average. Even more troubling: a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California found that this region’s affluent, largely white population has expanded far more quickly than the national average.

The problem, of course, is that Republicans – and conservatives more generally – aren’t especially good at painting a clear picture of how their approach to the world will create the kind of mobility people hope for. And both the defenses (“long live finance capitalism!”) and criticisms (“damned be vulture capitalism!”) of Mitt Bain haven’t helped the cause.

The saddest part of all of this, as we reflect today on MLK, is that African Americans gain the least from all of this political cynicism and policy confusion. On the former point, this video of Valerie Jarrett is a good reminder that Obama knows he has the black community essentially in his pocket and can effectively ignore them in his policies with little fear of retribution.