Friday, September 10, 2010

Pres. Obama calls settlement with Black farmers "fair"

After Tim Wheeler's article posted yesterday on how Republicans have blocked the award of more than $1 billion to African American farmers who faced discrimination by the USDA, a reporter today asked President Obama about the case:

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. I want to ask a couple questions. On the economy, could you discuss your efforts at reviewing history as it relates to the poverty agenda, meaning LBJ and Dr. King? And also, since Senate Republicans are holding up the issue of Cobell and Pigford, too, can you make any assurances before you leave office that you will make sure that those awards are funded?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me take the second question first. For those who aren’t familiar, Cobell and Pigford relate to settlements surrounding historic discrimination against minority farmers who weren’t oftentimes provided the same benefits as everybody else under the USDA.

It is a fair settlement. It is a just settlement. We think it’s important for Congress to fund that settlement. We’re going to continue to make it a priority.

With respect to the history of fighting poverty, I got my start in public service as a community organizer working in the shadow steel plants that had been closed in some of the poorest neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago. That’s what led me to want to serve. And so I am constantly thinking about how do we create ladders for communities and individuals to climb into the middle class.

Now, I think the history of anti-poverty efforts is, is that the most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there -- single most important thing we can do. It’s more important than any program we could set up. It’s more important than any transfer payment that we could have. If we can grow the economy faster and create more jobs, then everybody is swept up into that virtuous cycle. And if the economy is shrinking and things are going badly, then the folks who are most vulnerable are going to be those poorest communities.

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