After seeing its record deliberately distorted by conservatives and – in their opinion – unappreciated by liberals, the Obama administration is redoubling its efforts to publicize the president's accomplishments in his first 18 months in office.
With President Obama's popularity plunging in every group except among African-Americans, the move to tout his accomplishments is part of an effort to shore up the Democratic base prior to the mid-term elections in November by letting the public know how the administration's work impacts their lives.
The White House outreach efforts included a private telephone session Tuesday with members of the Trotter Group, a national organization of African-American columnists. A document titled, "The New Foundation for Economic Recovery and Future Prosperity," along with a 5-page fact sheet, was distributed to the columnists.
"Since the beginning of the Administration, President Obama has worked to develop a New Foundation for economic recovery and future prosperity for the nation," the document states. "This means working with small and minority businesses so they participate in our economic recovery, implementing health care reform to increase access to those who need it most, revitalizing schools to provide the highest quality education possible to children in urban and metropolitan communities, investing in communities to make them more livable, sustainable, and prosperous over the long term, and defending civil rights and civil liberties as we continue to remove barriers to hope and opportunity for all Americans."
The White House says Obama improved economic security by:
* Allowing unemployed workers to receive special consideration for Pell Grants to attend college or to pay for job training and education;
* Authorizing states to use TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) emergency funds to support creative ways of finding jobs for people who qualify for public assistance; more than 160,000 jobs have been created this way in 21 states;
* Providing $500 million to community-based organizations for green job training;
* Providing $4 billion in additional funding to support job training for adults and youth summer jobs programs;
* Reallocating $1 billion of TARF funds to community-based banks more likely to lend to small businesses and non-profit groups;
* Expanding the safety net for such programs as food stamps and
* Providing tax cuts to most Americans.
The Obama administration said health reform legislation, known as the Affordable Care Act, will help by:
* Requiring insurance companies to provide preventive care for such things as testing for high blood pressure, diabetes and elevated cholesterol without being charged a co-pay or being part of a deductible;
* Offering pre-existing conditions insurance until 2014, when all insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage to people with pre-existing ailments;
* Providing additional funding for community health centers;
* Providing a one-time rebate check to fill the gap in seniors Medicare prescription drug coverage;
* Allowing children to remain on their parents' health care plan until their 26th birthday and
* Allowing small businesses to receive tax credits up to 35 percent of their health care premiums.
Accomplishments in Education include:
* Committing $3.5 billion to turn around low-performing schools;
* Allocating $4.3 for Race to the Top programs that encourage competition and innovation in public schools;
* Providing $850 million to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and $150 million to predominantly Black institutions (PBIs) over 10 years;
* Nearly doubling the amount for annual Pell Grants for needy students;
* Revamping the student loan program, a saving of $68 billion over 10 years, money that will be reinvested in education and
* Providing $2 billion to two-year community colleges.
Housing and community development actions will assist in:
* Funding a home modification program that will help 1.1 million homeowners;
* Allocating $6 billion for neighborhood stabilization projects;
* Providing $9.4 billion to preserve approximately 1.3 million affordable rental units;
* Distributing $4.4 billion for the Community Development Fund and
* Expanding homelessness prevention funds by $1.5 billion.
Corey A. Ealons, director of African American Media for the Obama administration, said Blacks have benifited from the Obama initiatives.
"The administration has had great success this year in issue areas important to the future of African-Americans including reducing health disparities by expanding access to our health care system, turning around underperforming schools and reducing dropout rates, and protecting consumers against unscrupulous practices by banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions," he said.
Although questions have been raised about the efficacy of Obama's Race to the Top education initiative and the failure of federal stimulus funds to sufficiently reach Black business owners, Obama operatives have a point when they claim he has not received ample credit for all he has accomplished in such a short period on the job.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.