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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Rich-poor divide ‘picking up speed’

Category : Business

The gap between rich and poor widened more in the three years to 2010 than in the previous 12 years, according to the OECD.

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HS2 rail benefits are ‘unclear’

Category : Business

The HS2 rail project has an estimated £3.3bn funding gap and the benefits for the economy are “unclear”, the National Audit Office says.

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Media Advisory: Coalition Declares April 9 Equal Pay Day

Category : World News

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – April 9, 2013) - The Equal Pay Coalition is declaring April 9 Equal Pay Day and is launching a province-wide campaign to close Ontario’s 28 per cent pay gap between men and women.

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Gap stock spikes after strong sales report

Category : Stocks

Gap said its same store sales rose 3% in February, topping forecasts.

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China uses wage to narrow wealth gap

Category : Business

China approves a plan to tackle the widening income gap between rich and poor, which includes raising its minimum wage.

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Firms must pay their fair share of tax – this is war | Jackie Ashley

Category : Business

A report by MPs on the tax dodges employed by multinationals is incendiary – and ought to unite politicians to act

Wednesday’s autumn statement will be full of big numbers and arguments about fairness. But Monday’s report from Margaret Hodge’s public accounts committee on how the biggest companies dodge their fair share of taxes is incendiary, huge in its implications, and ought for once to unite politicians from all sides.

The overall picture is by now familiar to anyone interested in the news: Google, Amazon, Starbucks and many other multinationals are using different jurisdictions and complex accounting rules to avoid paying corporation tax. What the report lays out with new clarity is the terrible imbalance between our national tax-gatherers and the cleverer, sharper corporate accountants, plus the vast scale of the problem – so big it is beginning to feel like a national crisis.

Let’s start with scale. The corporation tax take is falling fast, from £46.4bn in 2010-11 to just £40bn in 2011-12. Dwarfing that £6.4bn fall is what Revenue & Customs (HMRC) calls the tax gap. This is the difference between what they think they ought to be collecting and what they’re actually collecting. That is an astonishing £32bn.

That’s more than the cost of all the state spending on local government. It’s not far short of the entire defence budget, and about half of what we spend on education. There’s a big, bubbling row about our overseas aid budget. Well, you could fit four of those into the tax gap.

So it’s odd, isn’t it, that we spend so little time on the subject? When we hear the chancellor on the cost of housing benefit, in-work welfare benefits and child benefit, this week, remember the tax gap. It’s a battle that, so far, HMRC is losing. It has apparently been fighting hard to close the gap, but after eight years of trying it has only managed to reduce it by £1bn.

Hodge’s committee says HMRC isn’t aggressive enough, and is “unconvincingly positive” about the situation. It should not be “so accepting of failure”. Reading between the lines, it seems the MPs think Britain’s tax-gatherers are simply less bright, less fast moving and equipped with poorer systems than the people they are up against.

This, they believe, will also have a devastating effect at the bottom of the tree, among those dependent on a fast-moving HMRC to fairly allocate and deal with their benefits. Universal credit requires excellent computerised systems, but the department has no contingency planning and its performance on error and fraud has got worse. As a result, “families may find themselves struggling to repay money from much reduced universal credit payments as a consequence of the department’s poor performance”.

Those people may be looking with increasing awe and anger at what is happening to corporation tax, which Hodge fears is becoming a voluntary tax. But it isn’t only them.

When Amazon sells books or games or DVDs at a low price, squirting its profits abroad, it is putting out of business lots of excellent smaller shops that do pay their taxes. The same goes for Starbucks and other coffee shops. We keep being told small and medium-sized businesses are what we’re going to rely on for growth. But they are the very ones being hammered by this.

And it goes a lot further than competing businesses. HMRC comes down heavily on the easy targets, the small-timers. But the message that if you are big enough you don’t pay your taxes, rots faith in the whole system. In the end, there will never be enough tax inspectors to scrutinise everyone. Taxation depends on assent, and the co-operation, if not the enthusiasm, of those being taxed.

The corporation tax gap destroys it. As the committee says: “There is genuine public anger and frustration because there is an impression that rigorous action is taken against ordinary people and small businesses … But apparently, lenient treatment is given to big corporations …”

So it’s not just a battle about the potency of national governments in a globalised marketplace. It’s also about the authority of government at home. As this ghastly, endless economic squeeze goes on, it’s hard to think of another aspect of domestic policy that is potentially more damaging.

To be fair, George “We’re all in this together” Osborne has begun to take note, and the UK is working with other countries to try to find ways to squeeze the biggest global companies out of their tax havens and tax-dodging. And there are the very first signs of a nervous reaction to the bad publicity, with Starbucks – apparently worried by a mass customer boycott – talking to HMRC about paying more tax.

Customer boycotts and consumer activism is all good. UK Uncut has done sterling work in exposing the behaviour of British corporates that don’t pay their fair share. With a broken ankle just now,

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India’s clothing workers: ‘They slap us and call us dogs and monkeys’

Category : Business

Human rights tribunal hears allegations of abuse and low pay against clothing companies that supply high street stores

Workers making clothes that end up in the stores of the biggest names on the British high street have testified to a shocking regime of abuse, threats and poverty pay. Many workers in Indian factories earn so little that an entire month’s wages would not buy a single item they produce.

Physical and verbal abuse is rife, while female workers who fail to meet impossible targets say they are berated, called “dogs and donkeys”, and told to “go and die”. Many workers who toil long hours in an attempt to support their families on poverty wages claim they are cheated out of their dues by their employers.

The allegations, which will be of concern to household names including Gap, H&M, Next and Walmart, were made at a human rights tribunal in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru. The “national people’s tribunal for living wages and decent working conditions for garment workers” was convened to investigate widespread human rights abuses in the garment industry.

Sakamma, a 42-year-old mother-of-two working for Gap supplier Texport in Bengaluru, told the tribunal she earned just 22p an hour and that when she finished at the factory she had to work as a domestic help to top up her wages.

“It hurts us to be paid so little. I have to do this and they sell one piece of clothing for more than I get paid in a month,” she said. “We cannot eat nutritious food. We don’t have a good life, we live in pain for the rest of our life and die in pain.

“Low wages is the main reason. How much burden can a woman take? Husband, children, house and factory work – can we manage all these with such a meagre salary? So we are caught up in the debt trap. Is there no solution for our problem?”

Like many of the women giving evidence, she said workers faced abuse if they failed to meet quotas. “The targets are too high. They want 150 pieces an hour. When we can’t meet the targets, the abuse starts. There is too much pressure; it is like torture. We can’t take breaks or drink water or go to the toilet. The supervisors are on our backs all the time,” she said. “They call us donkey, owl [a creature associated with evil], dog and insult us … make us stand in front of everyone, tell us to go and die.”

According to Indian government figures, the national textile industry is worth £35bn a year and employs 35 million people. Garment exports are worth £21bn. But human rights campaigners accuse international brands of subcontracting to firms paying poverty wages to the people who make their clothes.

A spokesperson for Texport denied setting unachievable targets and said abuse of workers was not tolerated. Gap said: “These allegations describe conduct that violates our Code of Vendor Conduct. We are looking into this matter and will take appropriate action with our vendors, depending on our findings.”

The Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), which organised the tribunal, wants companies to pay a minimum living wage of 12,096 rupees (£138) a month, equivalent to 58p an hour. But the tribunal heard that a factory supplying Gap and Next paid as little as 26p an hour. The supplier – Pearl Global, based in Gurgaon, in Haryana state – admits it has underpaid workers for overtime and has required them to work illegally long hours, but said it had now repaid them. It insists it complies with the legal minimum wage, though evidence submitted to the tribunal by one worker indicated that he was paid below the legal rate.

Pearl Global was first exposed by the Observer for rights abuses in 2010 when it traded as House of Pearl, but it has continued to operate and supply the brands under its new name.

Many workers at the tribunal claimed that long hours and poor health and safety conditions made them ill. One worker said that a colleague was electrocuted by a bare wire last year in a factory supplying Gap. Ashok Kumar Singh, 29, who works for Gap supplier Modelama Exports in Gurgaon, gave evidence that he was paid just 5,097 rupees a month (24.6p an hour), although the legal minimum rate for his job was 5,300 rupees.

He said workers were taught to lie to auditors sent to check up on working conditions. “Before a visit they gather all the workers around and tell them what to say. If we don’t say what we are told, we are fired,” he said, adding that some workers had been dismissed after complaining to auditors about conditions.

Workers who failed to meet targets were verbally and physically abused, he said. “They call us motherfuckers and push us around and some people get slapped by supervisors and managers,” he said. “I feel the companies look at the workers like enemies.”

The tribunal, in front of an international jury, took evidence in person from workers and will consider written evidence compiled at regional hearings.

Gap and Next were accused of using suppliers that paid below the minimum legal wage, paid below the legal rate for overtime, and required workers to work excessive and illegal overtime. They also faced allegations, along with H&M and Walmart, of using suppliers that verbally abused staff, while there were allegations of physical abuse against a supplier for Gap, H&M and Walmart.

H&M sent representatives to the tribunal and insisted it was committed to improving working conditions. “The social and environmental responsibility that we take puts H&M’s sustainability work ahead of the field in the fashion industry worldwide,” said a spokeswoman. “We clearly see these issues as industry problems that need to be addressed at industry level by government, suppliers, trade unions, workers, buyers, etc.”

A spokesman for Next said: “Next identified that Pearl Global was falling well short of the group’s standard codes of practice in 2010. As a result, Next ceased using this supplier in 2011, after making a determined effort to bring about major change at Pearl Global. Next last reviewed the supplier in July, when the decision to remain disengaged from it was maintained. Next has no plans to recommence manufacturing at Pearl Global.” Anannya Bhattacharjee, international co-ordinator for the AFWA, told the tribunal that despite the recession the garment industry continued to bring in profits. She said workers continued to suffer “shocking, inhuman conditions” and were being paid poverty wages. “Nothing can be more important than a decent living wage for workers working day and night to clothe the world.”.

Latin America’s income inequality falling, says World Bank

Category : Business

Region now has as many middle class people as those who are poor thanks to rapid growth in incomes, study reveals

Income inequality is falling in Latin America even as it rises elsewhere in the world, according to a World Bank study that encourages government intervention to reduce the wealth gap.

Over the past 15 years, more than 50 million people have risen into the middle class, which is now – for the first time – about the same size as the population of poor in the region, says the report, which was unveiled on Tuesday.

For decades, Latin America was notorious for some of the widest income gaps in the world, but a combination of favourable economic conditions and interventionist policies by left-leaning governments in Brazil and other countries has brought it more closely in line with international norms.

“This is not just a statistical anomaly. It is a significant reduction in inequality,” said the World Bank’s regional chief economist, Augusto de la Torre.

He said Latin America remains one of the most unequal regions in the world, but it one of the only places where the gap is closing.

“There is some sort of convergence. Latin America is approaching the norm of advanced economies, but unfortunately, advanced economies are approaching the norm of the Latin America model,” De la Torre said during an online press conference to mark the release of the report

He said the main reason for the reduction in inequality is not a compression of income from the rich at the top, but because of a rapid growth in the incomes and spending power of those at the “bottom of the population pyramid”.

About 30% of the region’s population is now in the middle class, which the World Bank defines as those who have less than a 10% chance of falling back into poverty. This is similar to the proportion who are classified as poor. In between is the biggest group, the 38% who are considered “vulnerable” because they live just above the poverty line on an income of between $4 and $10 a day.

The authors of the report emphasised that the gains are still fragile because many people could easily slip back into poverty. Some have increased their spending power through greater access to credit rather than higher-paying jobs. A substantial factor in the economic gains of recent years has been extra demand for commodities from China, which has slowed this year.

“It is a remarkable phenomenon. But we in Latin America must not sing victory yet because it has been accompanied by very strong tail winds in the last few years, very favourable international conditions,” said De la Torre. “If they become much less benign, we must be particularly vigilant to pursue policies that preserve what we have gained.”

The report, titled Economic Mobility and the Rise of the Latin American Middle Class, recommends improvements in public education and healthcare as a way of consolidating the upward mobility of the population. Currently, one of the biggest gaps is not in spending power, but in access to decent social services. In many countries, poorer families have no choice but to put their children in low-standard schools and their sick in poorly-funded hospitals, while the middle class spend substantial sums on private education and health care.

The World Bank’s president, Jim Yong Kim, emphasised the role played by the private sector, which he said creates 90 percent of jobs in developing countries.

But he said the great strength of the story in Latin America was that countries that have self-consciously focussed on reducing inequality have also experienced rapid economic growth.

The recently appointed head of the World Bank – a major lender to developing nations – said he has passed on the same message this week to Haiti, which has the worst inequality in the region and the worst access to education and healthcare in the region.

He described Haiti’s current system as a brand of “market-based capitalism that nobody wanted to see”.

“I made very clear to them that the evidence from the rest of Latin America is that their path to growth has to include many, many more people. It has to open access to the market, to education and to health services to a much broader sector of society. That is not because equality is good and inequality is bad; it is because that is the path to growth,” Kim said.

Gender pay gap ‘could worsen’

Category : Business

The pay gap between men and women is at risk of worsening for the first time, an equality group warns, as a survey shows a woman can earn £423,000 less over her career.

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Barack Obama and the paradox behind his African American support base | Gary Younge

Category : Business

The ascent of the first black president has coincided with a steep descent in the economic fortunes of black Americans. But that hasn’t impeded their outward optimism about Obama

When Barack Obama was contemplating a run for the White House his wife, Michelle, asked him what he thought he could accomplish if he won. “The day I take the oath of office,” he replied. “The world will look at us differently. And millions of kids across this country will look at themselves differently. That alone is something.”

Four months after he was sworn in, at least one kid saw himself differently. It was May 2009 and 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia had gone with his dad, a black ex-marine, to the Oval Office for a family photograph with the president.

With him were his mum, Roseanne, and his older brother, Isaac, 8. The boys were allowed to ask Obama one question each. The parents had no idea what they were going to say. Isaac asked why the president had got rid of the F-22 jet fighter. The president said because it cost too much. Jacob asked:

“I want to know if my hair is just like yours.”

He was so quiet, Obama asked him to repeat the question. Jacob obliged.

Obama said: “Why don’t you touch it and see for yourself?”

He bent down lowered his head so that it was within Jacob’s reach.

Jacob paused. The president prompted. “Touch it, dude!” he said

Jacob reached out and rubbed the presidential pate.

“So, what do you think?” Mr Obama asked.

“Yes, it does feel the same,” Jacob said.

The White House photographer snapped the moment. “Every couple of weeks the White House photographers change out the photos in the West Wing,” Michelle Obama said at a fundraiser in September. “Except for that one. So if you ever wonder whether change is possible, I want you think of that little black boy in the Oval Office of the White House touching the head of the first black president.”

The symbolic resonance of Obama’s victory for black Americans has not diminished. At rallies the hawkers are still there with T-shirts setting him alongside Martin Luther King, setting his logo within Superman’s crest or insisting: “I like my coffee black. Like my president”. According to Gallup 90% of African Americans intend to back him and they plan to turn out at the same rate as white voters. No other block of voters is more loyal.

No other block of voters is more optimistic. Over the past few years polls have consistently shown that African Americans are more likely than any other group to be bullish about their own future, to think the country’s best days are yet to come and that the economy is already recovering.

A Pew survey in January 2010 indicated that the percentage of black Americans who thought blacks were better off than they were five years before had almost doubled since 2007. There were also significant increases in the percentages who believed the standard-of-living gap between whites and blacks was decreasing. No wonder they love the president.

There was only one trouble with these assessments. They weren’t true. African Americans, as a group, are far worse off now than they were when Obama came to power and the gap between whites and blacks in terms of wealth and income has increased under Obama’s tenure. The overall rate of unemployment may be close to where it was when Obama took office, but black unemployment is up 11%. Meanwhile the wealth gap has doubled during this recession with the average white American now having 22 times more wealth than their black counterparts. So too has the educational achievement gap with the rate at which white Americans graduate from high school growing at a far faster clip than black students.

“We haven’t seen much of the stimulus trickle down to our people here,” Mark Allen, a Chicago-based community organiser who used to work alongside Obama, told the Washington Post. “I liked the community organiser Obama better than President Obama … Democrats say Barack has got 90% or whatever of the black vote wrapped up. What they don’t tell you is it’s 90% of those who actually come out and vote. What if it’s 90% of just 30 or 40% who vote?”

In short, Jacob’s odds of getting a decent job when he gets older actually got worse since he felt the president’s hair, while the gap between his life chances and his white schoolmates widened and his odds of going to prison remained pretty much the same. In empirical terms “the change that [has been] possible” for Jacob and his family under Obama has been change for the worse. One can argue about the cause of those changes and the degree to which Obama bears any responsibility for either creating them or fixing them. But one cannot argue about the fact of them: the ascent of America’s first black president has coincided with the one of the steepest descents of the economic fortunes of black Americans since the second world war both in real terms and relative to whites.

Herein lies the dual paradox. The group that has fared worse under Obama is not only the group most likely to support him but also the most likely to feel optimistic about the deteriorating situation in which they find themselves. And why has that loyalty to the president yet to be fully tested? What do they know that the numbers don’t show?

Discussing this dilemma within the black community can be tantamount to heresy. Wagons circle, messengers are shot, ranks close, critical faculties are suspended. “Too many black intellectuals have given up the hard work of thinking carefully in public about the crisis facing black America,” Princeton professor Eddie Glaude told fellow academic Fred Harris recently. “We have either become cheerleaders for President Obama or self-serving pundits.” Not only are criticisms shunned but even constructive critiques are unwelcome. At times it seems like questions as to how his tenure has affected black communities either should not be asked or, at the very least, should not be answered honestly.

“I have friends,” says Virginia state delegate, Onzlee Ware from Roanoke, who is an ardent Obama supporter, “who, if I bring [his shortcomings] up as an intellectual conversation, they say I’m a traitor.”

There are some sound reasons for this. The first is the overt racism that Obama has faced from a significant portion both of the political class and the public as a whole. There are plenty of reasons why one might oppose Obama that have nothing to do with race. When you look at how the things they accused the Clintons of – killing people, smuggling drugs from abroad, embezzling – the Obama’s are not unique in being the targets of a right wing hyper-caffeinated lie machine.

Nonetheless, the nature of these particular lies and attacks have, as often as not, been rooted in race. Half of white Americans in one Pew survey shared the birthers’ doubt that Obama was born in this country. The percentage of Americans who believed he is a Muslim has doubled since he took office. After the president produced his long-form birth certificate, Donald Trump demanded his college transcripts (claiming he was not smart enough to get into an Ivy League school). Newt Gingrich branded him the “food stamp president”. Southern congressmen shout “liar” while he’s speaking, Romney surrogates question his connection to “Anglo-Saxon values”.

Far from his election signalling a post-racial era of equality it has exposed and unleashed a visceral level of intolerance that has produced the most racially polarised electorate for at least a generation. Having alienated blacks and Latinos, a recent poll revealed that Romney’s support is 91% white – that’s a higher proportion than any candidate since Bush’s father stood in 1988 and may yet surpass it.

Meanwhile a recent AP poll revealed that, if anything, racist attitudes have hardened in the country since Obama’s election. The poll showed that “51% of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48% in a similar 2008 survey”. The proportion who express anti-Hispanic feelings is roughly the same. That’s within the margin of error. But what’s clear is that it’s not going down. Anyone who seriously believes Obama’s election ushered in a new period of racial harmony simply hasn’t been paying attention.

In this atmosphere many African Americans become understandably defensive. Under such sustained racial onslaught the space for free-wheeling conversation and constructive criticism becomes limited because the issue has shifted from what Obama has done to who he is. Given the nature of the attacks the need to defend Obama’s right to be in office at all eclipses any more nuanced conversation about his actual record.

Moreover much of the criticism Obama has faced from the black community has been either ridiculous or self-defeating. Last year former Princeton professor Cornel West led a well-publicised assault insisting that Obama has “a certain fear of free black men”.

“It’s understandable,” he said. “As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening … He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.”

Essentialising Obama’s racial and cultural makeup in such a way makes the very mistake that the right makes – assessing Obama not on what he does but by who he is.

It also harps back to an era of black political leadership, where black politicians emerged from the church or historically black colleges, and fought not to win office outside the black community (white people wouldn’t vote for them) but to put the needs of that community on the agenda. There was, in a previous generation, a sense of ownership that black communities had over their politicians that no longer exists. This is partly progress. Ivy League universities will admit them, corporations will hire them, funds will come to them, white people will now vote for them. A whole range of opportunities are open to politicians of Obama’s generation that were created by Cornel West’s generation.

But that, in turn, has changed what it means to be a black politician and what, if anything, we mean when we talk about black politics. Unlike, say, Jesse Jackson or Martin Luther King, Obama was not politically produced by the black community, but presented to it after he had made his way through the mostly white elites. His political ties to the black community are not organic but symbolic. His arrival in the political class is hailed as the progress of a community when in fact it is the advancement of an individual.

“[Obama] is being consumed as the embodiment of color blindness,” Angela Davis, professor of history of consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told me in late 2007. “It’s the notion that we have moved beyond racism by not taking race into account. That’s what makes him conceivable as a presidential candidate. He’s become the model of diversity in this period … a model of diversity as the difference that makes no difference. The change that brings no change.”

That is why criticisms of him for “not doing enough for his own people” both miss and devalue the point. The demand to close the racial gaps bequeathed by centuries of discrimination is not a sectional interest but a national one. Demands for equality and racial justice should be made to any president of whatever race or party.

Obama should do more for black people – not because he is black but because black people are the citizens suffering most. Black people have every right to make demands on Obama – not because they’re black but because they gave him a greater percentage of their votes than any other group, and he owes his presidency to them. Like any president, he should be constantly pressured to put the issue of racial injustice front and centre and if black people aren’t going to apply that pressure then nobody else will.

But in fact precisely the opposite has been happening. With Obama in the White House African Americans representatives have been backpedalling. Black politicians, too, have held their fire.

“With 14% unemployment, if we had a white president we’d be marching around the White House,” said the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Emmanuel Cleaver. “The president knows we are going to act in deference to him in a way we wouldn’t to someone white.” That’s pathetic and counterproductive. These are the very people who are now showing up with empty hands and trying to galvanise the black community to go to the polls.

Their reticence is partly explained by the fear of a backlash. “If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us,” Maxine Waters, a California Democrat in the House, told a largely black audience in Detroit last year. But then that’s what leadership is about. Explaining to those audiences that there are large numbers of people lobbying for Obama’s attention, including people with huge amounts of money and power. If the black community wants it they must demand it.

Some have spoken out. In August after a month-long round of job fairs organised by the CBC across the nation John Conyers, the longest serving black American in Congress said. “We want [Obama] to know from this day forward that we’ve had it. We want him to come out on our side and advocate, and not to watch and wait … We’re suffering.” Unfortunately it was followed by little in the way of action.

In the absence of that pressure Obama has felt little need to focus his attention on the problem, even rhetorically. In his first two years in office he talked about race less than any Democratic president since 1961. In all of his state of the union speeches he mentioned poverty just three times: last year’s was the first since 1948 to not mention poverty or the poor at all. When he did talk about it it was to preach better parenting, healthy meals and greater discipline.

At a Congressional Black Caucus meeting in September he told his former colleagues: “Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying.” Compare that to the meeting he had with bankers not long after he was elected when they thought he was going to impose serious regulation. “I’m the only thing standing between you and the pitchforks. I’m not out there to go after you,” he told them. “I’m protecting you.”

This would not be the first time that the black Americans have shown great loyalty to a Democratic president who did not return the favour. Bill Clinton is still revered even though when he ran in 1992 he made a special trip back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector – a black, lobotomised inmate so mentally incapacitated that when given his last meal, he opted to save the dessert for after the execution. When in power he signed off on a welfare reform that would prove devastating to large numbers of black families, especially women. He presided over an economic boom Obama does not even have that.

It may be in this mixture of realism and low expectations that one can understand where logic of optimism in harder times. That black Americans are doing worse than everyone else, and that the man they elected to turn that around has not done so, does not fundamentally change their view of how American politics works; almost every other Democratic president has failed in a similar way while Republicans have not even tried to succeed.

Conversely the fact that a black man might be elected president, that enough white people might vote for him and that nobody has shot him, really has changed their assumptions about what is possible. Jacob’s story from the Oval Office is new and inspiring; the story of his odds of success beyond that moment are wearily familiar.

The day Obama took office, the world may have looked at black America differently, but black America has yet to look at Obama differently. When he went from being an aspiration to a fact of political life, the posters that bore his likeness in socialist realist style over single-word commands like Hope, Believe and Change should have been replaced with posters bearing the single-word statement: power. As Frederick Douglass said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”