KW: What special barriers do you see that prevent black people from attaining economic parity? Do you see any strategies to overcome these barriers?
JM: We can continue to close the income gap. But we will never achieve economic parity from a wealth perspective because, once upon a time, we were somebody’s wealth. That wealth gap won’t be closed unless it becomes a policy priority to redistribute wealth.
KW: What is your economic forecast for 2011, particularly the bond market, and yields?
JM: I’ll pass on that.
KW: Do you think middle-class African Americans have been more adversely impacted by the recession than other Americans? Being last hired, overburdened by graduate student debt, facing possible foreclosure due to buying at the top of the market before the crash, many African Americans in this socio-economic bracket were the last to hit the prosperity wave and seem to have fallen on worse times than their similarly-educated peers. Many people depend on the continued extension of jobless benefits and have lived through their savings, creating a dependent middle class.
What is your take on this? What is your advice for people who find themselves in this predicament?
JM: I would say that’s absolutely right about the recent, young black middle-class who purchased late, and who have high student debt. They have certainly been severely impacted, although they’re relatively advantaged in comparison to their working-class and poor cousins who’ve never even had the opportunity to accrue student debt. That being said, my advice to them is to regroup, although that is easier said than done. If you’ve gotten in over your head, then you have to figure out how to get out from under. Yes, the job market is tight, but there are still jobs out there. Don’t let what’s happening to you, economically, affect your game face when you’ve got to look for a job. And if the job market has not been kind to you, then you might need to figure out what you can do besides work for someone else.
KW: How did you feel about the TARP Program?
JM: I thought that bailout was welfare for the wealthy. Then Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson, came to President Bush and said essentially, “We need $700 billion,” but he didn’t say why. And it was a pool of money that wasn’t being doled out equitably, so I opposed it.
KW: What is your opinion of Obama’s proposed extension of the Bush tax cuts?
JM: I’m also opposed to that. President Obama’s apparently compromising because he feels caught between a rock and a hard place. But extending the Bush tax cuts is bad news.
KW: Are you as disappointed in Obama as Cornel West seems to be?
JM: Yes and no. Me and Cornel get in trouble about that all the time. Let me say this. If you look at brother Obama’s, President Obama’s, track record before he entered the White House, you could not have reasonably expected him to be a progressive. He never said he was one. Go back and listen to his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention where he talked about there being no blue states or red states but just the United States. There was also an implicit scolding of black men in that speech about fatherhood. I think we all got caught up in the exuberance of the Obama campaign and the historical significance of his presidency. But if you go back and d a careful analysis, you’ll see that what he’s doing is consistent with what he had done as both a state and U.S. senator. I wish that he would engage regularly and more closely with the African-American community. I wish the demographic which was his most consistent supporters had more to show for it. Certainly, I’m very, very pleased that Historically-Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), after organizing, were able to garner some additional dollars from the Obama Administration. But at the same time, I can see so many others where he could do so much better. He really has accomplished an awful lot as President, but his rhetoric and his reach were higher than his grasp. And as for our people, what we wanted was not what we got.
KW: How have you defined your target audience? Do see the possibility that you will be changing the definition?
JM: My target audience is the universe, because I believe everybody should know about black economic history. But obviously, I focus on my community first.
KW: As an economist, author, and college president–how do find time to get everything done, and how do you spend your relaxation time?
JM: Ha-ha, what’s that? I think peace is balance, and balance is peace, and I don’t have either one. I’m a high energy person. I struggle for balance. I really do. Finding my balance is a challenge.
KW: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
JM: If you’re talking about the living, Reverend Jesse Jackson. He’s been a consistent friend, and he’s been persistent with the struggle. If you’re talking about people who are gone, Ida B. Wells.
KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
JM: Self-criticism. I’m a perfectionist.
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
JM: Just do it.
KW: Secondly, how do you want to be remembered? What do you want your legacy to be?
JM: I want to be known as a contributor. I want to leave more buildings at Bennett College that were built during the Malveaux Era. And I want to be known as a wise, witty economist who helped people think.
KW: Thanks again for the interview, Dr. Malveaux.
JM: Thank you.
To learn more about Julianne Malveaux, visit: http://www.juliannemalveaux.com