The one thing for which the Obama administration deserves historical acclaim is its work in keeping the U.S. auto industry alive and thriving.
Much of Barack Obama’s tenure has been more symbol than substance, but credit should go to Obama for his impact on saving America’s society and economy.
Black Americans are better off that Obama reached out to Detroit’s auto industry in the form of an $80 billion bailout in 2010. In authoring the federal bailout of General Motors Co., Chrysler and parts suppliers in 2009, the president saved 1.5 million U.S. jobs and preserved $105.3 billion in personal and social insurance tax collections.
“The bailout of the auto industry started in the waning weeks of President George W. Bush’s tenure,” Politifact reported. “It continued during the early months of the Obama administration. All told, the Treasury Department reported that the program cost taxpayers $79.7 billion, of which $70.4 billion has been recovered.”
Had Obama not stepped in, declines in the auto industry could have devastated African Americans more than any other community, threatening a half-century worth of economic gains. From Blacks who left behind subsistence jobs in the South for high-paying factory jobs in the North during the Great Migration, to entrepreneurs who translated hard work and the gift of selling into their own businesses. The percentage of African Americans in the industry — 14.2 percent — is higher than their share of the labor force overall.
The automotive industry is one of the most important industries in the U.S. and major stepladder to the middle class. According to a Center for Automotive Research report, the automotive sector historically makes up 3 to 3.5 percent of the nation’s overall gross domestic product (GDP). In recent years, one of every 50 African Americans was working in the auto sector. The industry is vital among African Americans, directly employing over 1.7 million people engaged in designing, engineering, manufacturing and supplying parts and components to assemble, sell and service new motor vehicles. Additionally, the industry is a huge consumer of goods and services from many other sectors.
It’s difficult to imagine manufacturing surviving in this country without the automotive industry. Hundreds of thousands of Blacks work on factory lines to showrooms, and over 200 Blacks own dealerships. There are 60 African-American automotive suppliers, which had annual sales of $4 billion and employed 8,000 people.
The impact goes far beyond factory workers and others employed in the industry, said Randi Payton, president and CEO of On Wheels Media.
“The Big Three are leaders in philanthropy and major contributors to education through historically Black colleges and universities, and to nonprofits such as the NAACP, Urban League and National Council of Negro Women,” Payton said. “Actually, the auto industry also is one of African-American media’s largest advertisers. General Motors has stood by the Black Press.”
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.