WASHINGTON -- Black Americans are worse off than a year ago, but hard times are exposing the "dirty little secret" that most poor people are white, says a National Urban League leader.
John E. Jacob, president of the civil rights group, said yesterday in releasing the organization's 17th annual "State of Black America" report that the league still hoped to see its 2-year-old proposal for a $50 billion-a-year "Urban Marshall Plan" adopted by Congress.
The original Marshall Plan directed large amounts of aid to Europe to help it recover from the devastation of World War II.
The Urban League outlined several broad recommendations mostly aimed at improving the lot of low-income blacks. But this year the group emphasized that economic hardship spans racial lines and that the United States must boost industrial productivity and rebuild its infrastructure to compete globally.
"This year, we're all in the same boat," Mr. Jacob said. "But African-Americans are awash in the stern of the boat, knee-deep in water and in danger of drowning, while white Americans are in the bow of the boat, damp and worried whether it will stay afloat."
He said that "every indicator of well-being, whether unemployment rates or poverty rates or income, shows that African-Americans are doing far worse than whites."
But he added: "This recession is helping to uncover America's dirty little secret -- that the victims of poverty, unemployment and hardship are predominantly white. White people are most of the unemployed, most of the welfare recipients, most of the food-stamp recipients."
The 1990 census figures estimated 22.3 million whites were impoverished, compared with about 9.8 million blacks.
Mr. Jacob said people of all races would benefit from the Urban League's 10-year Marshall Plan.