Category Archives: Federal Budget

Unconditional, unrequited love? | By Kevin Alexander Gray

(Note: edited version, “Obama and Black America: Who Has Whose Back?”’ published in August 2011 edition of The Progressive | updated data –WashPost/ABC News Poll: Big Drop In Black Support For President Obama )

“I’ve said to you on many occasions that each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality. We’re split up and divided against ourselves. And there is something of a civil war going on within all of our lives. There is a recalcitrant South of our soul revolting against the North of our soul.”

—Martin Luther King, “Loving Your Enemies,” November 17, 1957

I ran into Congressman Jim Clyburn at Brookland Baptist Church, here in Columbia, during the 2010 midterm election season while campaigning with South Carolina Green Party senate candidate Tom Clements. As we all exchanged pleasantries, I jokingly mentioned to Jim that I had gotten his campaign mail with the picture of him and President Barack Obama on it. He seemed genuinely pleased, so much so that he walked me over to check out the special poster he had at his campaign material table. The poster was also of Clyburn with the commander-in-chief. Clyburn appears to be making a point in the President’s ear. Obama looks and leans as though he’s listening. The U.S. flag is in the background. At the bottom of the poster read the caption: “JIM HAS THE PRESIDENT’S EAR, AND WE MUST HAVE THEIR BACKS!!!”

Clyburn didn’t really need Obama’s help in getting reelected in his safe district, which is 57 percent African American. And he’s never had any serious opposition to his seat. But it would have taken some help from Obama for him to keep his spot as the second-ranking Democrat in the House after the drubbing their party took in the midterm elections. That help was not forthcoming. When the dust settled, Clyburn wasn’t even offered the minority whip job, which went to Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Clyburn was given the new title of assistant Democratic leader. Clyburn has fewer staff than before, he is no longer involved in vote-counting, nor is he a key party messenger. Clyburn’s demotion has not sat well with the Congressional Black Caucus, which he used to chair. But it typifies Obama’s indifference to African Americans across the board.

Last December, when he was polling in the mid-nineties among blacks, during a White House press conference a black reporter asked Obama about grumblings among the black leadership. He replied: “I think if you look at the polling, in terms of the attitudes of the African-American community, there’s overwhelming support for what we’ve tried to do.”

Yet even as he boasted, that same month the black unemployment rose from 15.7 percent to 16 percent, almost double the Dec. 9% national rate (Aug 2011- 9.1%). Black male unemployment rose from 16.3 percent to 16.7 percent as 1.3 million black men were out of work. For black women it jumped from 12.7 percent to 13.1, or roughly 1.2 million unemployed black women. And the unemployment rate for black teens stood at a staggering 46.5 percent (by contrast, the rate for white teenagers was 23.6 percent).

When Obama entered office, the black unemployment rate was 12.6 percent. But rising unemployment still didn’t dampen black optimism going into his second year. According to a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University poll conducted Jan. 27-Feb. 9 of this year, 85 percent of blacks said they were optimistic about the future course of the economy while 72 percent of white held that view. Eighty-four percent of blacks felt hopeful about their personal financial situation, compared with 73 percent of whites.

Obama and Black AmericaObama is right that the African American community gives him overwhelming support, but it’s not as overwhelming as it used to be. In the most recent polls blacks see “the economy” or unemployment as the nation’s top problem with one in seven or 2.9 million African Americans out of work — the highest number in nearly a quarter century. And some economists argue that 16%+ rate isn’t the “real” or accurate rate. They say that if one takes into account those people who want work and cannot get it and have stopped looking, those not counted such as the 900,000 incarcerated black men and women, and those recently released from the military– the “real” underemployment rate may be 25% or higher.

Back in 2008, nearly all (95 percent) black voters cast their ballot for Obama. Presently, they give him approval ratings just above 80 percent although there are polls with higher numbers.

Blacks still seem to have Obama’s back, but does he have theirs? Continue reading

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Filed under American Politics, American Progressive Politics, Black Culture | United States, Black Politics, Civil Rights, Economics, Federal Budget, Foreclosure/Housing, Obama Administration, Pan Africanism | Afrocentrism | Africana Studies, The Bush Administration, The Obama Administration, white supremacy

Ralph Nader | Obama’s Surrender to Insurance and Drug Companies

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Ralph Nader (photo by John Murray)

By RALPH NADER

Never much of a fighter against abusive corporate power, Barack Obama is making it increasingly clear that right from his start as President, he wanted health insurance reform that received the approval of the giant drug and health insurance industries.

Earlier this year he started inviting top bosses of these companies for intimate confabs in the White House. Business Week magazine, which proclaimed recently that “The Health Insurers Have Already Won” reported that the CEO of UnitedHealth, Stephen J. Hemsley, met with the President half a dozen times.

These are the vendors. They and their campaign slush funds cannot be ignored in the power struggle over the legislation percolating in the Congress. One public result of these meetings was that the drug industry promised $80 billion in savings over ten years and the health insurance moguls promised $150 billion over the same decade. Mr. Obama trumpeted these declarations without indicating how these savings would be guaranteed, how the drug companies could navigate the antitrust laws and what was given to the health care industry by the White House in return.

We have now learned that one Obama promise was to continue the prohibition on Uncle Sam from bargaining for volume discounts on drugs that you the taxpayer have been paying for in the drug benefit program enacted in 2003.

(Ralph Nader photo by John Murray)

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Filed under American Politics, American Progressive Politics, Economics, Federal Budget, Health care | Insurance Issues, Obama Administration, The Obama Administration

A Global Week of Solidarity with the Unemployed | September 20- 25

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"G20 flyers" by Bail Out The People Movement
“G20 flyers” by Bail Out The People Movement

 A Global Week of Solidarity with the Unemployed
September 20- 25

(During the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, PA)

Yes to Jobs & Human Needs; No to War & Wall Street Greed

 Sunday, September 20 – Rally & March for a Real Jobs Program

  • Building a Tent City in Pittsburgh for the Unemployed & Supporters the weekend before the G-20 Summit
  • Organizing Caravans of Unemployed People and Supporters to Converge on Pittsburgh during the week of September 19-26
  • Marches, Protests and Events Before and During the G20 Summit addressing demands such as: Bring the Troops Home from Iraq & Afghanistan Now! &  Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, World-Renown Political Prisoner, Journalist, Activists and ‘Voice of the Voiceless!”

http://bailoutpeople.org/

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Filed under Actions, Actions | Events, American Politics, Black Politics, Civil Rights, Community Economic Development, Economics, Events, Federal Budget, For the Workers, Foreclosure/Housing, Human Rights, Labor, Obama Administration, Peace, Protest

Putting their careers before our economy

From James, Gabriel, Clarissa, William, Dani and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team.

The Obama stimulus plan provides desperately needed money to help turn the economy around. But six Republican governors want to block some of that money from reaching their states–they’re trying to score political points instead of letting the money go where it’s needed most. Help us call them out:

http://colorofchange.org/sixgovs/?id=1672-704486

Mark Sanford

Mark Sanford

First, they attacked the expansion of unemployment benefits–assistance directed to those hit the hardest by the economy. Now they’re going further, led by Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina who says he’ll block $700 million for schools and public safety in his state. It could mean up to 7,500 teachers in South Carolina losing their jobs.1

With your help we can hold these governors accountable–but time is running out. The deadline for governors to accept the full range of stimulus funds is rapidly approaching. Can you add your voice? It only takes a second:

http://colorofchange.org/sixgovs/?id=1672-704486

Rick Perry

Rick Perry

It’s incredible. President Obama’s stimulus package provides money for states to help stabilize families and keep the economy moving. Some of that money is to help states extend unemployment benefits for people in dire need of help. There’s also money to prevent schools from facing cuts as states tighten their budgets. But a handful of Republican governors–Bob Riley of Alabama, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Rick Perry of Texas, Sarah Palin of Alaska, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana–are putting politics over people.2,3

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

All six governors have threatened to turn down the unemployment expansion funds, and most critics see their actions as partisan grandstanding. Four are 2012 presidential contenders,4 and one is facing a tough primary challenge for reelection.56 They also claim that taking the stimulus money would leave their states in debt when it runs out in three years. But that argument rings hollow–state legislatures could reduce benefits to pre-stimulus levels at that point. They all have a vested interest in seeing Obama fail. They’re attacking the President’s policies to increase their own profile and to cozy up to the most die-hard conservatives.

Now, Gov. Sanford of South Carolina is going further with this political posturing, and there are indications that others may follow.7 Sanford says he wants to use money meant for schools, health care, and public safety to pay down his state’s debt. This would in no way stimulate the economy of South Carolina.

Sanford has said that if he can’t use the money to pay down debt, he’ll reject it. That would seriously harm South Carolina’s economy, affecting everyone in the state–but it would have a disproportionate impact on Black people in the state. Schools in many Black communities in South Carolina already suffer from years of neglect.8 And in every state where GOP governors are threatening to block stimulus funds, Black unemployment is at least twice the rate of White unemployment.9

Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal

Bob Riley

Bob Riley

Haley Barbour

Haley Barbour

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Filed under Actions | Events, American Politics, Community Economic Development, Economics, Federal Budget, The Obama Administration

Education Stimulus Plan: The 1 Percent Solution

By Rev. Jesse L. Jackson

One of the most impressive proposals advanced by President Barack Obama to aid college students is the creation of a new American Opportunity Tax Credit worth $4,000 in exchange for 100 hours of community service. While that program is still in the developmental stage, the Rainbow Coalition offers a plan that will immediately benefit students holding college loans.

We’re calling it “The Rainbow PUSH Education Stimulus Plan.” It is a simple-yet-sweeping plan to help families finance college costs that are steadily putting higher education out of the reach of most Americans. Our proposal is that students holding and applying for college loans should be offered interest rates that do not exceed 1 percent – the same favorable terms now being offered to large corporations under the federal bailout plan.

What we are seeking is fundamental fairness. Our nation’s largest banks and financial institutions – including Bank of America, Citigroup, and JP Morgan – are borrowing money from the federal government at a rate of less than 1 percent. However, students are generally forced to borrow for their education at rates in the range of 4 percent to 8 percent. Many are financing their education with credit cards that carry rates of 20 percent or higher.

Before graduating seniors can launch their families and careers, they are already saddled with excessive debt. To make matters worse, if students miss payments in this fragile economy, their credit score declines, forcing them to pay the highest interest rates for cars, homes and other necessities — if they can qualify at all. Yet, financial institutions with what is tantamount to bad credit reports are being rewarded with tax-supported, low-interest loans.

Lowering student loan interest rates to 1 percent directly addresses affordability, one of the most pressing problems facing our country. According to a report issued by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, the cost of attending college has risen nearly three times the rate of the cost of living. After being adjusted for inflation, college tuition and fees rose 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, far outpacing increases for medical care, housing and food. During this same period, median family income rose 147 percent.

As financial aid shifted from direct grants to loans, borrowing for higher education has more than doubled over the past decade. Meanwhile, the U.S. is falling behind in the global economy. Approximately 34 percent of young American adults are enrolled in college, putting the U.S behind Korea – which has a 53 percent rate – Hungary, Belgium, Ireland, Poland and Greece.

Moreover, by the year 2020, the United States will need 14 million more college-trained workers than it will produce, according to the National Center on Education and the Economy. A report issued by the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University observed, “We are losing ground and jobs to other countries – for example, China and India. Our nation’s ability to sustain long-term economic success increasingly depends on the very children we are not educating now.”

And the children we are not educating are mostly people of color. Every year, 1.2 million children do not graduate from high school. Of those, 348,427 are African-American and 296,555 are Latino. College graduation rates are equally dismal. Only 31 percent of Latinos and 48 percent of African-Americans complete some college, compared to 62 percent of Whites and 80 percent of Asians.

If we are to increase the college graduation rate for African-Americans, we cannot ignore economic inequality:

* The total median income for a White family was $64,427 in 2007. The total for a Black family was $40,143, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

* The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 6.1 percent of the overall U.S. labor force was unemployed in the third quarter of 2008; 11.4 percent of the Black labor force was out of work. Those figures are considered conservative by most economists and do not include discouraged people who have quit looking for work.

* 10.6 percent of the White U.S. population in 2007 lived below the official poverty threshold ($21,000 for a family of four), compared to 24.4 percent of the Black population, the data said.

Affordability takes on larger significance when one considers that the average annual cost of attending an in-state public university is $17,336. The figure for private universities is $35,374 per year.

The report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education found: “On average, students from working and poor families must pay 40 percent of family income to enroll in public four-year colleges. Students from middle-income families and upper-income families must pay 25 percent and 13 percent of family income, respectively.”

As we can see from the foregoing data, the issues of college affordability and access to higher education are inextricably linked to the very future of our nation. Placing a 1 percent cap on college loans will remove a major obstacle for millions of students who want to attend college but can’t afford it.

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Filed under Education Policy, Federal Budget