President Carter and Ronald Reagan have locked horns over the state of the nation's economy, with both promising jobs to the black unemployed and assuring private business of incentives to regain or increase their profits.
Jobs are a central issue at the National Urban League convention, where the presidential candidates succeeded each other on the platform over three days here in attempts to win the disenchanted black vote -- a vote which is traditionally Democratic but which frustrated blacks say is up for grabs this year.
Mr. Reagan's proposal to create jobs by lowering the minimum wage for youth -- thereby making it financially attractive for employers to hire teen-agers -- was not greeted with wide approval at the convention of black and white business people.
And President Carter's answer to the soaring unemployment among black urban youth was vague. He said he will soon present a plan to the American people which will provide "literally millions of jobs . . . as we make American industry more vial and deal with our energy problems."
His program takes the attitude that invest ment of "private and public resources in energy, industry, and technology" will produce the needed jobs.
Mr. Carter's strategy, still undetailed, appears to be a more moderate application of "private enterprise" economic philosophy than the tax-slashing Kemp-Roth bill favored by Mr. REagan.
President Carter has opted for curing the American economy -- and he says simultaneously providing jobs -- by shoring up the business sector.
"We will strengthen the private sector, which is the heart of our economic system. And we will also rebuild our cities and educate and train our people."
The President called the Kemp-Roth plan, which would cut federal income taxes 30 percent in the next three years, a "soak the poor" tax. "It would be extremely regressive in nature, providing a person making $200,000 a year a tax break 35 times greater than a family making $20,000."
"It is even worse than a free lunch; it is sugar-coated poison. . . . Who are they trying to fool? . . . If they mean to eliminate at least half of all federal programs, why can't they tell us which ones?"
While Governor Reagan cited his record on reforming the welfare program in Califnia, President Carter listed his accomplishments for blacks: "Job Corps is up 157 percent. CETA programs, up 115 percent. Food stamps, up 99 percent . . . Funding for women, infants, and children programs is three times as great as it was in 1976 . . . We are moving to triple the amount of federal business going to minority owned contractors."
Reagan specifically promised what he called enterprise areas in large urban areas, where taxes and laws would be relaxed to allow development. He advocated support for the urban homesteading act which sells government-owned houses for $ 1 on the condition they be rehabilitated.
The Urban League's traditional moderation was jarred during the Carter speech when four hecklers were removed about every eight minutes when they interrupted the President's speech. It is the first time such a thing has happened in the league's 70-year history, delegates said, adding that there was great apprehension on the floor. The audience finally loudly booed the last speaker, President Carter.
"I hope Carter doesn's misinterpret it," said Darrold Hunt, one delegate. "IT means there is a lot of frustration out there if this can happen in an Urban League convention. One expects it in the South Bronx, but not here."
It did happen to candidate Reagan in the South Bronx the previous day when a restive crowd of ghetto residents drowned out his speech and ruffled his famous demeanor.
Courting the black vote, which in 1976 was the swing vote in many states, is not the easient task facing presidential candidates. But the Urban League is a seat of black power and a good host.
"It sounds to me like Carter is going to maintain the Nixonian philosophy to shore up the private sector," said one delegate. Another said: "The reaction of blacks to Carter is like a jilted lover. We worked our tails off for him in 1976 and we feel used."
Disillusionment with the economic situation has made many blacks disenchanted with the system. And a black push to get out this year's vote as in 1976 is more problematic. Political analysts say that this year the blacks are likely to vote with their fee and stay at home on polling day. President Carter's supporters would like to prevent this. And the Reagan task would appear to be even more formidable.