It seemed like the world was changing for the better. People all over the world celebrated because America elected its first Black (half-Black) president. Millions of people in national capitals went to the streets in euphoria. On Election Night, I cried in joy for hours.
It all seems kind of silly today. Our thoughts and expectations would soon melt into disappointment. Our democracy would be threatened by a sea of regulations. Our political activity took a strong left turn with a funny interpretation of our Constitution. I thought, “Something is wrong here. He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago.”
Things go downhill
It didn’t take long before a string of executive orders started flowing out of the White House. The first group of victims under this assault were minority and women construction workers.
I was working on the Obama transition team when I learned that the new president was going to impose project labor agreements (PLAs) on all construction projects over a million dollars. I was in disbelief until it was confirmed a few days later.
We convinced President George W. Bush that construction unions discriminate against people of color and women. He verified the statistics and issued an executive order banning PLAs on federally funded projects. What a victory! Now it was about to go away thanks to our newly elected Black president, who was making a move to hurt Black contractors.
Just the beginning
Soon Black lending by the Small Business Administration would fall from eight percent to less than two percent. Investigative reporters divulged this, because the SBA and anyone else in this new administration would not report Black business numbers – lending, contract numbers, contract dollars, etc. They claimed they didn’t keep those numbers.
It was just a lie! It wasn’t that they didn’t care. In retrospect, I believe they did it on purpose for some strange reason.
I began to oppose the White House. During one of my few visits there, I went up to Michael Strautmanis, Valerie Jarrett’s chief of staff. I stated my displeasure about the vile executive order and asked him to pass my displeasure on to his boss.
While I was there, I looked around and realized I didn’t know 95 percent of the people in the room. Most of them were union executives and left-wing extremists.
I became nauseated and went home. I told my wife, “Kay we have made a very big mistake. Blacks will not become better with this Obama guy. I believe we have voted for the devil.”
The assault on Black construction would last throughout both Obama administrations. However, the National Black Chamber of Commerce formed coalitions with other associations to fight the onslaught of harmful regulations that hurt small businesses. We started opposing items dealing with labor, the environment, banking, etc.
The first big showdown was the “cap and trade” bill which would have devastated Black America.
Someone financed a very convincing study contesting the proposed bill and gave it to us. We took ownership of the study and started circulating it to the world. This became big news and the Democratic Party decided to discredit me personally. They controlled both chambers of Congress at the time.
I wasn’t worried
Senator Barbara Boxer was chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee and she called a hearing to discuss the Cap and Trade bill. Someone called to alert me that the Dems were going to set me up. I wasn’t worried, as I knew the proposed legislation like the back of my hand.
After reading my testimony, the Democratic members pounced. One by one I was strongly winning the debate. Senator Boxer decided she was going to break me – a big mistake. During her frustration, she started becoming racial (“What are you doing with that expensive study?”) and I called her out.
When we got back to the office, all our workers were laughing. Cable news had our hearing on live.
For the next two days, it was the biggest news. The whole nation laughed watching me shake down Senator Boxer. The hearing went viral.
The cap and trade bill went down from there. It was the Obama administration’s first loss.
The White House was starting to fear the National Black Chamber of Commerce. They decided to do something about that.
Harry C. Alford is the co-founder and president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC). Contact him via www.nationalbcc.org.