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Commentary: Now who you calling lazy? Ryan’s racist attack fails

Melvin B. Miller

The rate of unemployment in the first quarter of 2014 was 6.9 percent. As expected, the rate for blacks was higher at 12.2 percent, twice the rate for whites. According to Paul Ryan, House Budget Committee chairman, this is the result of poverty in our inner cities.

Ryan said in a March interview “we have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work…”

A week earlier, Ryan had released a report critical of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Ryan asserted that anti-poverty programs had actually contributed to poverty by discouraging people from seeking work.

Contrary to Ryan’s conclusions, Valerie Wilson of the Economic Policy Institute determined that their eagerness to find work creates a higher rate of unemployment for blacks. The Bureau of Labor Statistics determines the rate of unemployment by comparing the number of those in the labor pool with the number working. Only those seeking a job are considered to be part of the labor pool.

Wilson’s analysis found that a higher percentage of whites than blacks had dropped out of their labor pool by discontinuing an effort to find jobs. As a result, whites would have a smaller labor pool and lower unemployment rate. The rate for blacks would then be higher because they are less likely to quit looking for a job.

Far from being lazy, as Ryan claims, blacks demonstrate a determination to find work despite continual rebuffs. Once again, it appears that government policy will be based on faulty data. And Ryan’s insult of inner-city blacks will certainly not endear Republicans to African American voters.