National Urban League Says Fiscal Cliff Could Disproportionately Hurt African Americans

The Urban League sent a letter urging President Obama, congressional leaders to take action.

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In this Oct. 7, 2010, file photo, President Barack Obama greets people after speaking at a campaign rally for Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley at Bowie State University in Bowie, Md.
In this Oct. 7, 2010, file photo, President Barack Obama greets people after speaking at a campaign rally for Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley at Bowie State University in Bowie, Md.

The National Urban League says it believes if the U.S. economy drops off the so-called fiscal cliff, it would disproportionately affect African Americans—unless Congress finds a compromise to avoid it. The U.S. government faces the fiscal cliff at the end of the year—when $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts kick in, along with a tax hike.

In a letter sent Wednesday to President Obama, House Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi and House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, the league's president and chief executive officer Marc Morial urged a "fair and sensible fiscal plan."

[READ: An Extremely Simple Explanation of the 'Fiscal Cliff']

Morial tells Whispers he is worried that the fiscal cliff would disproportionately affect African Americans because budget cuts would likely slash jobs in state and local government. African Americans make up a disproportionately large share of the public sector workforce.

On Tuesday, Boehner said in a press conference that President Obama must lead the efforts to avoid the fiscal cliff.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, this has historically been true. The higher number of African Americans working in public sector employment has meant higher rates of job loss due to the economic recession, the think tank reports.

In August, President Obama blamed black unemployment of nearly 14 percent in part on weak recovery in state and local government hiring.

[READ: The Fiscal Cliff Just Got Steeper]

But the fiscal cliff could impact many more groups than just African Americans.

According to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office cited in the Wall Street Journal, the cuts could send the entire country into another recession.

And the Washington Post reports that the middle class in particular will feel an immediate impact from the fiscal cliff through the alternative minimum tax, a tax the Post reports "threatens to tack $3,700, on average, onto taxpayers' bills for the current tax year."

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or reach her at eflock@usnews.com.