New employment numbers came out Friday showing the economy continues to recover and continues to add jobs at a pretty healthy pace. There were 233,000 private-sector jobs created in February. That’s two, solid years of private-sector job growth. The unemployment rate was steady at 8.3 percent. Black unemployment was 14.1 percent, up half a percentage point from last month. Big job gains came in healthcare, business and professional services, as well as restaurants.
The jobs problem and the upcoming election is so on the minds of members of Congress that a bipartisan jobs bill passed the House this week, and a highway bill is expected to pass both the Senate and the House in the next week or so.
The third-ranking Democrat in the House leadership, James Clyburn of South Carolina joined Roland Martin on Washington Watch to discuss these issues and more.
MR. MARTIN: New employment numbers came out Friday showing the economy continues to recover and continues to add jobs at a pretty healthy pace. There were 233,000 private-sector jobs created in February. That’s two, solid years of private-sector job growth. The unemployment rate was steady at 8.3 percent. Black unemployment was 14.1 percent, up half a percentage point from last month. Big job gains came in healthcare, business and professional services, as well as restaurants.
The jobs problem and the upcoming election is so on the minds of members of Congress that a bipartisan jobs bill passed the House this week, and a highway bill is expected to pass both the Senate and the House in the next week or so. Nothing like an election, folks, [for] bringing people together and also causing them to focus.
Here with us today is the third-ranking Democrat in the House leadership, James Clyburn of South Carolina.
Congressman Clyburn, welcome back to “Washington Watch.”
REP. JAMES CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me back.
MR. MARTIN: Now, are you channeling Rick Sa- — Rick Santorum with the sweater?
REP. CLYBURN: Well, not exactly. [Chuckles.]
MR. MARTIN: [Chuckles.]
REP. CLYBURN: Let’s just say I got here first, and I’m not going to give it away because he has decided to adopt it.
MR. MARTIN: I understand. I understand.
Let’s – let’s get right to it. You look at these jobs numbers. You hear everybody say it’s the President’s fault the numbers aren’t going up. Then they say it’s the President’s – it’s not hi- — it’s not his credit when the numbers actually go down.
REP. CLYBURN: [Chuckles.]
MR. MARTIN: So, what do you make of the steady, private-sector job growth and people who say we obviously need more, more, more?
REP. CLYBURN: Well, thank you so much for having me back.
But, you know – you’ve been into my office, and you know that I collect turtles –
MR. MARTIN: Um-hum.
REP. CLYBURN: — and I’ve got them everywhere. I always say that “slow and steady wins the race,” and that’s what the President is doing. Not a spurt and die down, but methodically putting in place not just a program that will succeed, but a program that can be sustained; and that is what is taking place here. And you’ve seen this gradual uptick, and I think it’s being done in such a way that people will be able to sustain this, and we won’t see any kind of a – a drop-off that – and – people ’ve been fearing.
MR. MARTIN: How will this bipartisan bill actually help small businesses help the economy? Because you had House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – sorry, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – she called it a “meager” jobs bill.
REP. CLYBURN: Oh, it is meager – no question about that – and it’s stretching a little bit to even call it a jobs bill, but it could sustain things. It’s not going to create a whole lot, but it could put things in place that will allow us to sustain things. I would hope, though, that we would hurriedly pass this transportation bill; because that will get into communities, and I think it will be a tremendous assistance not just to safety and security, but also to creating jobs for people.
MR. MARTIN: Is there anything specific the President and Congress can do to target African-Americans when it comes to this high unemployment number?
REP. CLYBURN: Yes, there is, and we – you’ll find it in the rule development part of the so-called “stimulus bill.” I- — was – it was called “the Clyburn Amendment,” 10-20-30. I believe that all of these resources coming out of these programs – at least 10 percent of it ought to be directed into these communities where 20 percent or more of the populations ’ve been stuck below the poverty level for the last 30 years.
MR. MARTIN: So, meaning you want to put the dollars where the need is –
REP. CLYBURN: Where the –
MR. MARTIN: — the greatest.
REP. CLYBURN: — absolutely, a- — and we’ve – did that, and so this wouldn’t be anything new. [The] CBO has looked at it and says it is – it passes muster. The President has told me that it’s something that he could support, and it has bipartisan support. And so I would hope that we would do that, because it would be very unfair for us to see the economy moving forward and see these pockets of poverty that we’ve had for so long be left out.
MR. MARTIN: Now, the President has told you that he would support it –
REP. CLYBURN: Yes.
MR. MARTIN: — but is it important for him to come out and publicly make that kind of announcement to spe- — to speak directly to African-Americans – let’s say go before a Black chamber of commerce and say, “Here’s the Clyburn Amendment,” that that could really impact the people where the need is the most? Should he come out publicly and say it?
REP. CLYBURN: Well, I would love to see him do that, but we’ve had these discussions, as I said, with [the] CBO, and we’ve had these dis- — discussions with other agency heads. I’m talking about the – the cabinet members.
MR. MARTIN: Right.
REP. CLYBURN: And they were to really adopt this approach, I think it will really send a signal to people who are feeling a little less hope –
MR. MARTIN: So –
REP. CLYBURN: — than others.
MR. MARTIN: — so – so, does the Clyburn Amendment — does this have to be approved by Congress, or can the agencies implement it without congressional approval?
REP. CLYBURN: I think some of it – I’m told that some of it can be implemented without congressional approval. In some instances, it would have to have congressional approval, but as I said, we did it in the rule development section of the – the transp- —
MR. MARTIN: The stimulus plan.
REP. CLYBURN: — o- — of the stimulus plan.
MR. MARTIN: So, you want to see it in other bills as well.
REP. CLYBURN: Yes, a- — I would love to see it anywhere there is grant money, every place that there may not be a contract. I know you can’t do it with contracts, but with grants and other kinds of discretionary spending, it can be done. And I – I’ve been pushing this now for three or four years, and it’s got a lot of support on the other side of the aisle. Congressman Whitfield from Kentucky co-sponsored the amendment with me. A congresswoman from Missouri, who – whose name is slipping me now, she is onboard with this, and she has asked her conference to take a look at –
MR. MARTIN: Congress[wo]man Em- —
REP. CLYBURN: — at supporting us.
MR. MARTIN: — Emerson?
REP. CLYBURN: Emerson.
MR. MARTIN: Okay. Now –
REP. CLYBURN: Absolutely[?].
MR. MARTIN: — and is – and is one of the reasons you’re also seeing bipartisan support because, like it or not, there are poor Whites in this country – there are pockets in this country beyond just African-Americans where people are in – in dire straits.
REP. CLYBURN: Let me shock you. Two thirds – there are 474 counties in the United States of America that will fit in this category.
MR. MARTIN: Four hundred and seventy-four.
REP. CLYBURN: Four hundred and seventy-four. Two thirds of them are represented by Republicans – two thirds of the 474. So, this is not about anything but need – community needs, and that’s what I want to target. So, this whole notion of, “Well, you’re trying to get it to a Hispanic community or a Black community” – no. Communities of need.
MR. MARTIN: Okay. Well, look, we’ll – we’ll – first of all, we’ll keep that in mind, and we’ll do our part to push it as well; because absolutely we believe that folks in – in the most need need to be touched.
REP. CLYBURN: Thank you so much.
MR. MARTIN: All right. Congressman Clyburn –
REP. CLYBURN: Thank you, buddy[?].
MR. MARTIN: — always a pleasure. Look forward to having you –
REP. CLYBURN: Good –
MR. MARTIN: — back.
REP. CLYBURN: — to see you. Look forward to it.
MR. MARTIN: One Omega I don’t mind on my show.
REP. CLYBURN: [Laughs.]