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Black Caucus is changing with the times

Posted by Richard on May 6, 2005

Tod Zywicki at Volokh Conspiracy points out an interesting Washington Times article about a growing tendency for Congressional Black Caucus members to buck the Democratic leadership on issues like bankruptcy reform and estate tax repeal (emphasis added):

The article suggests that the key political dynamic at work is the growth in the black middle class and the growing recognition that many small businesses are minority-owned businesses. As a result, more members of the Congressional Black Caucus are taking the expressed views of small businesses into account in their voting pattern.

Now that’s something to cheer about! As the Times article notes:

     In the early days, members said, the caucus’ mantra went hand in hand with President Johnson’s vision to use federal policies to close disparities in employment, wealth, health care and civil rights between blacks and whites. 
… 
    But as the American social climate has changed and more blacks have moved out of poverty — only a quarter of blacks are at the poverty level today, compared to more than half in 1965 — the politics have changed, as well. More blacks are interested in lower taxes and pro-business policies that will lead to job growth.

Zywicki isn’t surprised:

As I noted earlier, when I attended the signing ceremony for the bankruptcy reform legislation, I sat next to the owners of a family-owned lumber store in rural New Jersey, who described for me the dramatic negative effects that bankruptcy losses can have on small businesses. And, of course, excessive bankruptcy losses are most likely to negatively impact higher-risk borrowers, such as young and minority borrowers, in terms of higher credit costs and reduced access to credit.

There may also be a generational change at work here, as those supporting these small-business initiatives also seem to be drawn from the younger and southern members of the Black Caucus (who joined most centrist Democrats in voting for bankruptcy reform), whereas the old rust-belt guys like Congressman Charles Rangel dismiss the votes as "just stupid" and John Conyers just chalks it up political ambition for higher office. In other words, it seems pretty clear where the new ideas in the Congressional Black Caucus lie on issues like bankruptcy reform.

The number of middle and upper class blacks has grown tremendously, particularly in the past decade or so, and much of that growth has been in the "New New South." I think the changes in the Congressional Black Caucus are just the early reflections of that trend.

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