By Susan L. Meyers
President-elect Donald Trump is correct. Georgia’s 5th Congressional District – like many urban centers across this country – is in dire straits.
If you look beyond the shiny skyscrapers, sports venues and new bicycle trails, the capital of the New South fails miserably those who make it home.
Congressman John Lewis’ refusal to accept the outcome of the Nov. 8 election and to focus on the needs of his District shows how out-of-touch he and other veteran lawmakers are in this nation. Trump has more of a pulse of what is happening with the people of inner cities such as Atlanta than the icon of the civil rights movement.
Lewis’ 5th Congressional District consists of the city of Atlanta, south DeKalb County – including Decatur – portions of Henry and Clayton counties. The workers who frequent Buckhead, Midtown and Downtown by day still primarily flee to the suburbs and exurbs at night. They don’t enroll their children in local schools nor create enough jobs to boost the underclass.
- A 2015 report by the Annie E. Casey foundation found that 80 percent of African American children in the city of Atlanta live in poverty compared to 6 percent of whites and 29 percent of Asians.
- The same report found that unemployment is 22 percent for African Americans in Atlanta compared to only 6 percent for whites. Meanwhile, whites earn three times as much as their black counterparts.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in November of 2016, the unemployment rate was 6.2 percent in Clayton, 5.2 percent in Henry, 5.1 percent in DeKalb and 5 percent in Fulton. Yet the average for the Atlanta region is 4.8 percent, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. Again, black and Hispanic unemployment is astoundingly higher than white unemployment.
- The Georgia Department of Education reports as little as 62 percent of students graduate from public schools in Lewis’ district such as Clayton and the city of Atlanta. The statewide graduation rate is 79 percent. At one school in Atlanta, less than 10 percent of the pupils earn a high school diploma. The 5th District would have been home to the greatest number of schools targeted for state takeover under Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed Opportunity School District which did not pass.
Parents support school choice – whether charter schools or scholarships to attend private schools. They want a future for their kids when government schools fail them generation after generation. Yet Lewis and Congressional Democrats continue to stand in the school house door, blocking children from school choice opportunities that come before Congress such as a voucher program for Washington, D.C. students. They side with teachers unions over the welfare of children.
As a result, tens of thousands of youth have lost the ability to earn a decent living and have succumbed to poverty, unemployment, gangs, drugs, prison and worse.
While Lewis is stuck protesting in the 1960s, he has neglected those who need him most – those out of work, the poor, children, mothers in poverty. Trump, meanwhile, takes office this week with strong Cabinet picks who aim to turn around the American economy and correct failed policies that have harmed the inner cities such as Ben Carson and Betsy DeVoss.
Trump wants to roll back regulations so small business will create jobs for those who can’t find work. And he will enact tax cuts and tax incentives to encourage major corporations to bring jobs back to the United States – many of those blue collar jobs that would appeal to low-skilled minorities.
For those with no skills or dropouts, Trump’s Administration will focus on job training and school choice so students stuck in failing schools may choose a school that works for them. A child’s future should not be determined by his address.
Lewis, of course, is likely to oppose all this.
Like other civil rights leaders, Lewis has a significant place in American history. But he really is history. His inability to identify with the needs of his Atlanta-area constituents shows how the Democratic Party will play politics the next four years. But our 45th President is focused on running the nation like a business in which failure – no matter what the city — is no longer an option.
Meyers, a Decatur resident, is a former spokeswoman for Newt Gingrich and President of Oak Grove Communications.