Just because Congressman Bennie Thompson is a member of the same party as Barack Obama, that doesn't mean he won't criticize the Democratic president's administration.
Yesterday, officials from the White House and various federal agencies participated in a forum on the African American community at Jackson State University. Thompson had tough words for the feds in his introductory remarks.
"People don't want to go into the tough communities. Guess who lives in the tough communities?" Thompson said. "For those of you that work for the government agencies, you're going to have to do a better job at outreach. You can't sit in an air-conditioned office all the time and not go out and see the people."
In a pre-recorded message, Obama encouraged participants to be hard on his emissaries, representatives from the White House, U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Treasury and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Previous meetings took place in Las Vegas, Nev., and Cleveland, Ohio.
"We can either settle for an economy where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of people barely get by, or we can build an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules," Obama said in the minute-long message.
Around 300 citizens and community and civic leaders attended the morning session, which centered on how the Affordable Care Act, which Obama championed, attempts to address health disparities between whites and people of color.
Dr. Cara James, who directs the Center for Medicare Services' office of minority health, said the high rates of heart disease and obesity--to which African Americans are particularly vulnerable--result from a how generous states are in determining eligibility for the partially federally funded Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance programs.
"Where you live matters," James said.