President Obama sat down with the presidents of two civil rights organizations in the Oval Office Thursday to discuss job creation, economic growth and the debt and deficit crisis --particularly how it affects black Americans and the urban community.
The president has been pushing both Republicans and Democrats to address the deficit and debt in a balanced way, stressing the need for shared sacrifice. White House spokesman Jay Carney said that one of the reasons Mr. Obama is so committed to a balanced approach is so "we do not unfairly burden any segment of society as we tighten our belts and get our fiscal house in order."
Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League, and Ben Jealous, President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said they discussed how deep cuts to programs would affect the urban community, calling it counterproductive. The message they conveyed to the White House is they want to make sure the programs protect everyone in the country.
"You can't let mischievous governors, let alone ones with mal intent, have too much control over whether or not people live or die," said Morial.
Jealous added, "[A] great nation in tough times must do great things. And balancing our fiscal house on the backs of retirees, students, poor people, and the medically underserved is not a great thing. It's a cruel thing."
When it comes to the budget plans that have been presented, both men had some pretty harsh words for Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan's plan.
"We have an immediate crisis, an immediate situation where some of the ideas - the so-called Paul Ryan plan - is a budget of hurt and pain for urban communities," Morial said. "It's a budget that harkens back to yesteryear America."
Mr. Jealous echoed the sentiment saying we need a government "that is closer to the values of Franklin Delano Roosevelt than to Paul Ryan."
The trio also discussed reducing unemployment, which disproportionately stands at 16.2 percent in the African American community. Jealous put some of the blame on the Republican-led House for the unemployment crisis.
"Let's be clear," he said. "We all know that as long as the Tea Party has the power that they have in the House the sort of job creation that needs to happen isn't even going to be a conversation in Congress."
President Obama won 96 percent of the African American votes in 2008 and is hoping to carry over those votes in 2012. But when asked whether the economy will affect the black turnout in 2012, Jealous said "That really remains to be seen. What you hope is that people in tough times realize that their voice is even more important...What we hope we learn from 2010 is that when you stay home, you lose."
Morial and Jealous called the meeting positive and they said they look forward to continued dialogue with the president and his administration.