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George Curry

Mandela Opponents Trying to Re-write History

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(NNPA) Many conservatives who actively opposed Nelson Mandela’s protracted struggle to establish democracy in White minority-ruled South Africa are trying to rationalize their past criticism by either ignoring their earlier public statements or trying to place the struggle for a democratic society in South Africa in a Cold War context.

Leading the way, not surprisingly, is radio commentator Rush Limbaugh.

In a 1972 broadcast, Limbaugh said, “When Nelson Mandela or one of these terrorists sees America, they ask, ‘How did they do this in less than 230 years? We’ve been around here for centuries, and we still can barely muster working toilets.’ It is this that the terrorists see, folks ? and it makes them envious.”

That same year, he accused Mandela of having a “Black and White” world view and viewed Americans as “a bunch of White racists who hate people of color.”

In an article, titled, “Limbaugh Whitewashes His Past Attacks on Mandela To Claim He’s Conservative,” Media Matters observed that Limbaugh is trying to recast Mandela as a Black conservative.

The watchdog ground stated, “On the December 6 edition of his radio show, host Limbaugh argued that Mandela ‘had more in common with Clarence Thomas than he does with Barack Obama,’ claiming that he was more like American conservatives because he ‘insisted on compliance with his country’s constitution,’ whereas liberals, Limbaugh asserted, only care about ‘skin color and oppression’ and view the U.S. constitution as an obstacle.”

Conservatives can’t run away from their record.

Former Vice President Dick Chaney can’t run away from the fact that as a Congressman, he voted against a bill that would have imposed sanctions on South Africa until it met five conditions, including the release of Nelson Mandela.

Right-ringers who try to elevate Ronald Reagan to sainthood can’t run away from the fact that he vetoed a bill that would have imposed sanctions on the minority-ruled country. His veto, the only one of his administration, was overridden by Congress. Reagan had Mandela placed on the U.S. international terrorist list, where he remained until 2008. In addition, the U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have imposed sanctions on South Africa.

Columnist William F. Buckley, Jr. can’t run away from his words, either.

He wrote, in 1985: “Clearly some of the current campaigning against South Africa is a fad, a moral Hula Hoop, fun for a while.”

Conservatives enjoyed trying to taint Mandela with the C-word.

Conservative David Swindle wrote an article under the headline, “Communist icon Nelson Mandela Dead a 75.”

In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela made it clear that he accepted help from wherever he could get it at the time. And while the United States steadfastly supported the White minority-controlled South Africa, others –including PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Cuban President Fidel Castro and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi – stood with Mandela.

When Ted Koppel tried to get Mandela to denounce those unpopular figures during an interview, he refused, saying he supported people who supported South Africa’s Black majority.

Instead of supporting majority rule in South Africa, President Ronald Regan said in 1981 that as long as White South African leaders were making a “sincere and honest” effort to bring about racial progress, the United States should not be critical.

He asked, rhetorically: “Can we abandon a country that has stood by us in every war we have ever fought, a country that is strategically essential to the free world in its production of minerals that we all must have?”

Describing Mandela as a communist – and using that as an excuse to support minority rule – was a red herring. The United States has supported communist and socialist leaders of other countries – as long as they were perceived as serving the interests of the U.S.

Mandela noted our country’s hypocrisy.

“American conservatives of the era recognized the brutal repression of black South Africans by the whites, but ultimately determined that ending that system was less important that preserving South Africa as an ally in the Cold War,” Media Matters stated. “They pointed to Mandela’s ties to South Africa’s Communist Party and his history of violent activism and warned of dire results if he were freed and the apartheid government overthrown. (In his statement at the opening of the 1964 trial that ended in his imprisonment, Mandela explained that his African National Congress worked with communists toward the common goal of ‘the removal of white supremacy.’ He compared this to the United States and Great Britain allying with the Soviet Union during World War II).”

Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum even tried to equate Republicans’ opposition to the Affordable Care Act to Mandela’s struggle in South Africa.

Appearing Dec. 5 on The O’Reilly Factor, Santorum said, Mandela “was fighting against some great injustice, and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives, and Obamacare is front and center in that.”

Some politicians have no shame.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

WWRDH: What Would Republicans Do on Healthcare?

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(NNPA) Many ardent conservatives are critical of the Affordable Care Act or what they derisively call “Obamacare.” But what are they proposing that proves that they care about uninsured Americans?

The Tampa Bay Times’ “Pundit Fact” team discovered some interesting findings when they approached that question indirectly. Specifically, the newspaper looked at the main Republican alternatives to the Affordable Care Act and the patient diagnosis under the GOP proposals was not encouraging.

“Not all but most of the nine bills on our list use the tax code to put more money in citizens’ pockets on the condition that the money will be spent on health care,” the newspaper stated. “We found three basic approaches that potentially address insurance affordability.”

• Overhauling health care tax deductions;
• Refundable tax credits and
• Health Savings Accounts

On overhauling health care tax deductions, the newspaper said, “The most generous proposal comes from the conservative Republican Study Committee, which put forward a bill with 100 cosponsors. H.R. 3121 would give a $7,500 deduction to individuals and a $20,000 deduction to families.

“We saw two big catches here. You would need to have insurance in the first place. Plus, the bill would eliminate the biggest tax break households enjoy today, the portion of their premiums paid by their employer. Getting rid of that $170 billion tax benefit would be a tough sell and a dramatic change to employer-provided insurance.”

As for the refundable tax credits, it was noted that they “are like tax deductions, with the big difference that you can claim the credit even if you don’t have taxable income. H.R. 2300 from Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., offers a maximum tax credit of $5,000 for families making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $47,000 a year.”

The paper said, “The proposal from Price would make credits payable in advance. In other words, you could use the federal credit even if you didn’t have the money up front to pay for insurance.

“While the details are different, this resembles the program put forward by President George W. Bush. A 2005 study of the Bush plan by the Tax Policy Center, a joint project by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, found that ‘lower-income individuals experience the largest declines in uninsurance rates’ under the Bush proposal.

“However, of the 45 million people uninsured then, Bush’s $3,000 tax credit plan would have helped only about 2 million people who made less than 200 percent of federal poverty and just a bit over 3 million overall.”

The third option – Health Savings Accounts – fared no better.

The Tampa paper said, “Thomas Buchmueller, a health economist at the University of Michigan, said it is a major undertaking to provide insurance to those who lack the money to pay for it.

“’Tinkering with tax deductions and making health savings accounts more attractive is not going to change that basic fact,’ Buchmueller said. ‘Roughly half of the Affordable Care Act coverage gains come from expanding Medicaid. I don’t see anything in these proposals that would do much for the people who will gain Medicaid under the ACA.’”

Like so many issues, Democrats and Republicans differ in fundamental approaches.

“One of the widest gaps between Democrats and Republicans is the basic understanding of what it means to offer a plan to people of limited means,” the Florida newspaper observed. “For Democrats, a plan is an identified insurance policy, whether public, as in expanded Medicaid, or private, as in buying subsidized private insurance through a web-based, highly regulated marketplace. For Republicans, a plan is anything that makes buying insurance more affordable, however the person finds the policy.”

After a terrible 2-month rollout, the Obama administration finally may be in a position to silence some of its legitimate critics.

A report issued Sunday by the Health and Human Services Administration disclosed that the primary website, HealthCare.gov, has been successfully overhauled and is now able to support more than 800,000 consumer visits a day.

Among the improvement cited:

• The deployment of 12 large, dedicated servers;
• Significantly upgrading memory to improve response time;
• Reducing response time from around 8 seconds in October to well under 1 second;
• Reducing the error rate from approximately 6 percent in November to .75 or three quarters of one percent; and
• Expanding the amount of time the system is up from 42.9 percent in October to above 90 percent.

“The new management system and instrumentation have helped improve site stability, lower the error rating below 1%, increase capacity to allow 50,000 concurrent users to simultaneously use the site and will help drive continuous improvement on the site,” the report stated. “While we strive to innovate and improve our outreach and systems for reaching consumers, we believe we have met the goal of having a system that will work smoothly for the vast majority of users.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

'Nuclear Option' Launched Against Intransigent Republicans

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(NNPA) After repeated Republican obstruction, Senate Democrats boldly stood up to Republicans by pulling the trigger on the nuclear option, a parliamentary maneuver that means most executive branch nominees now can be approved by a simple majority rather than the 60-vote supermajority in effect throughout President Obama’s term.

Although Democrats hold a 55-45 majority in the Senate, Republicans had been able to block many of President Obama’s court nominees and appointments by requiring a supermajority for confirmation. Now, however, senators can no longer filibuster nominees to executive branch posts or the courts, with the exception of the Supreme Court. Legislation can still be filibustered as well as other Senate actions.

More than 10 percent of federal judgeships are vacant. The number considered “judicial emergencies” has increased by 85 percent since President Obama assumed office in 2009, according to a report issued in October by Alliance for Justice, (AFJ), a federation of more than 100 organizations devoted to making sure the federal judiciary advances core constitutional values, preserves human rights and unfettered access to the courts, and adheres to the even-handed administration of justice for all Americans.

“Our data show that the overwhelming majority of the blame for this crisis rests squarely with Senate Republicans,” said AFJ President Nan Aron. “Where there still aren’t nominees, it’s usually because Republican Senators are refusing to recommend qualified candidates to fill vacancies in their home states. And where there already are nominees, Republicans continue their unprecedented ‘obstruction of justice’ by continuing to stall those nominees.”

According to the report, 90 percent of all current vacancies without a nominee are in states with at least one Republican Senator. Fifty-one percent are in states with two Republican Senators.

“That’s no coincidence,” Aron explained. “Republicans have cynically abused Senate tradition and refused to approve proposed nominees in their home states. Without that approval – which requires returning a ‘blue slip’ – the Senate Judiciary Committee won’t hold a hearing on a nominee. Then these same Republicans turn around and blame the president for not nominating anyone to fill the vacancy.”

The opposition to President Obama is unprecedented.

“Before Obama, 20 executive branch nominees were filibustered. Under Obama, 16 have been filibustered,” the Washington Post noted. “… If current trends continue, they note, it’s entirely possible Obama could end up seeing more of his executive-branch nominees filibustered than every other president in history combined.”

The Alliance for Justice report found, “President Obama’s nominations have brought near parity between Democratic-appointed judges and Republican-appointed judges. Since the end of the Bush Administration, the percentage of Republican-appointed circuit court judges dropped from 61.3% to 49.1%, and the percentage of Republican-appointed district court judges dropped from 58.6% to 50.3%.” It explained, “The president has appointed the highest percentage of women (42%) and minorities (38%) in history.”

Republicans are needlessly stalling the nominations. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell conceded, Obama’s nominee to become Secretary of Energy was eventually approved, 97-0; Secretary of Interior, 87-11, Secretary of Treasury, 71-26, Secretary of Commerce, 97-1, and Secretary of Transportation, 100-0.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a speech, “That’s the whole point. They don’t have anything. There’s nothing wrong with these people. There’s nothing wrong with their qualifications. They [Republicans] simply want to stall what goes on.”

If Republicans could have their way, they would stall until the next president is elected, hoping that person will be a Republican.

The breaking point came when Senate Republicans blocked three nominees – Patricia Millett, Cornelia “Nina” Pillard and Robert L. Wilkins – to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which reviews many actions taken by the executive branch and is considered the second most powerful court in the nation. All three are imminently qualified and emerged from committee hearings unblemished.

Finally, Democrats went nuclear. Now, confirmation should be easier for Obama’s appointments to head the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Housing Finance Agency and other agencies.

In addition, the change gives Obama a better chance of making progress on issues he listed in his inaugural speech, including immigration reform, climate change, income inequity and gun violence.

However, this will not mark the end of Congressional gridlock. House Republicans appear to be still captive of the ultra-conservative Tea Party and their counterparts in the Senate are still intent on opposing Obama’s initiatives.

Even with the nuclear option, GOP Senators plan to actively oppose President Obama. That’s fine, but at least the minority will no longer be able to thwart the will of the majority.

Some Republicans say the latest move will make them less inclined to cooperate with Democrats. It’s hard to imagine bipartisanship being much lower than it is. This “do nothing” Congress has enacted only 49 laws, the fewest since such records were first kept in 1947.

And some Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, say they will change even more rules once they regain the majority. Majority rule is all Senate Democrats were seeking. They had been bullied long enough by the radical minority.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

Republicans' Crocodile Tears over Health Care

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(NNPA) Republicans have no shame. After House Republicans voted more than 40 times to block implementation of what they derisively call Obamacare, they have the temerity to complain that the Obama administration flubbed the Oct. 1 rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Fred Upton (R-Mich,), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who voted against the Affordable Care Act, held a hearing on “the failures and issues surrounding the implementation of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) health insurance exchanges.”

Do Republicans who were willing to shut down the federal government because they couldn’t repeal the ACA want us to believe they honestly care about why the health care program had problems during its initial rollout?

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) isn’t buying it.

He said, “For the last few years my Republican friends have called the Affordable Care Act a ‘job killer,’ a ‘threat to liberty,’ and that it would ‘pull the plug on Grandma.’ They have said things like ‘We have to do everything in our power to prevent Obamacare,’ and ‘Obamacare. Get rid of it. Period.’

“All of the sudden, our friends on the other side of the aisle have forgotten this, and are now focused on the successful implementation of the law and the problems it faces. This is encouraging, and I hope this is a sign that we can work together on this critical issue.”

Don’t hold your breath.

While acknowledging that his administration “fumbled” the ball when it came to the Oct. 1 rollout, President Obama has become a serial apologist. He has personally accepted the blame when, in fact, few are asking where was Chief of Staff Denis McDonough during all of this. His primary job is to protect the president and he, along with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, failed miserably.

If the White House staff had studied the rollout of Romneycare in Massachusetts, they would have discovered that it, too, had a shaky start, getting only 123 signups in the first month; 2,289 after two months and 36,167 after 11 months. Yet, Mitt Romney, America’s Biggest Looser, has the gall to criticize the federal health law that was patterned after the one he proudly signed and later tried to disavow.

Friendly fire has come from Bill Clinton, the man who temporarily lost his Arkansas bar license for lying about having sex with a White House intern. He’s in no position lecture President Obama and anyone else about keeping their word to Americans.

Furthermore, Obama did what Clinton attempted and failed – he got health care reform legislation passed by Congress.

It was certainly needed.

According to a report by the Commonwealth Fund, “As previous studies have shown, health care spending in the U.S. dwarfs that found in any other industrialized country. In 2009, U.S. spending reached nearly $8,000 per capita. The other study countries spent between one-third (Japan and New Zealand) and two-thirds (Switzerland and Norway) as much.”

A press release accompanying the study noted, “There were 2.4 physicians per 1,000 population in the U.S. in 2009, fewer than in all the countries in the study except Japan. The U.S. also had the fewest doctor consultations (3.9 per capita) of any country except Sweden. Relative to the other countries in the study, the U.S also had few hospital beds, short lengths of stay for acute care, and few hospital discharges per 1,000 population. On the other hand, U.S. hospital stays were far more expensive than those in other countries – more than $18,000 per discharge. By comparison, the cost per discharge in Canada was about $13,000, while in Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, France, and Germany it was less than $10,000.”

It added, “Prices for the 30 most commonly used prescription drugs were a third higher in the U.S. compared to Canada and Germany, and more than double the amount paid for the same drugs in Australia, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.”

The new law will give Blacks more access to health care.

A report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, titled, “Health Coverage for the Black Population Today and Under the Affordable Care Act,” found: “Nationwide, just over one in five (21%) of Blacks do not have health insurance. However, the likelihood of being uninsured varies widely across states, ranging from 9 percent of Blacks in Delaware to 30 percent in Louisiana. Uninsured rates for nonelderly Blacks are particularly high in the South. The largest uninsured nonelderly Black populations reside in Florida (718,800), Texas (613,100), and Georgia (594,600). In addition, Blacks comprise a large share of the uninsured population in the District of Columbia (52%), Mississippi (48%), and Louisiana (42%).”

As much as Obama, in his words, fumbled the ball, there is no reason to forfeit the game, especially in the first quarter.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

Time to Raise Minimum Wage

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(NNPA) The first federal minimum wage of 25 cents an hour was established in 1938. Since then, it has been raised 22 times. It’s time to increase the floor for the 23rd time, from its current $7.25 to at least $10 an hour.

According to the Center for Economic Policy Research, the value of the minimum wage peaked in 1968. If the minimum wage had been indexed to the official Consumer Price Index each year, the minimum wage today would be $10.52. The last time the minimum wage was raised was in 2007, when it was raised from $5.15 to $7.25.

Still, there is resistance.

Republican leaders say raising the minimum wage will cost jobs. But opponents, such as Washington Post columnist Jared Bernstein, argue that rather than job loss, employers compensate by charging higher prices and increasing productivity.

Another common myth is that employers shouldn’t be forced to pay young people the minimum wage. But 88 percent of workers who would be affected by raising the minimum wage are at least 20 years old and a third are at least 40 years, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

EPI found that of the workers who would benefit from the raise:

* The average age of affected workers is 35 years old;

* 88 percent of all affected workers are at least 20 years old;

* 35.5 percent are at least 40 years old;

* 56 percent are women;

* 28 percent have children;

* 55 percent work full-time (35 hours per week or more);

* 44 percent have at least some college experience.

The federal minimum wage is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act. There are approximately 3.6 million workers, or 4.7 percent of all hourly paid workers who are at or below the federal minimum wage of 7.25 an hour. Employers are allowed to pay students and the disabled – defined as those “whose earning or productivity is impaired by age, physical or mental deficiency, or injury” – less than the minimum wage. It also places limits on workers who derive part of their income from tips.

A study by the Congressional Research Service found that 40 percent of those earning the minimum wage or less work in “food preparation and serving related occupations.” It also discovered that 72.2 percent have at least a high school diploma and 8 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities testified before Congress in February: “I would note that over recent decades, the minimum wage has been allowed to erode and is now 20 percent lower, after adjusting for inflation, than in the late 1960s. For this and a number of other reasons (relating in part to globalization of the economy), wages for low-paid jobs have fallen.”

A fact sheet by Economic Policy Institute found, “A disproportionate share of minorities will benefit from a minimum wage increase. African Americans represent 11% of the total workforce, but are 18% of workers affected by an increase. Similarly, 14% of the total workforce is Hispanic, but Hispanics are 19% of workers affected by an increase.”

Washington State has the highest state minimum wage at $9.19, indexed to inflation. California enacted a law that will raise its minimum wage to $10 over three years. Some cities have wages that are even higher. The minimum wage is $10.55 in San Francisco. And in the recent election, New Jersey voters approve a constitutional amendment increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25.

Where city or state minimums exceed the federal standard, workers receive the higher wage.

The movement to increase the federal minimum wage has stalled in Congress. In March, the House voted 233 to 184 against raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015, with all Republicans voting in the majority.

Two Democrats, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. George Miller of California have sponsored legislation, called the Fair Minimum Wage Act, to raise the federal minimum wage. The hope to overcome past opposition by adding some sweeteners for small businesses, including allowing them to deduct the full cost of equipment and expansion up to $500,000 in the first year.

In his State of the Union address in February, President Obama proposed a federal minimum wage of $9.

The EPI study stated. “When describing who would see a raise if the minimum wage were increased, it is important to look at everyone who earns between the current minimum wage and the proposed new one, as well as workers earning just above the new minimum wage (who would likely also see a small pay increase as employers move to preserve internal wage ladders). The typical worker who would be affected by an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015 looks nothing like the part-time, teen stereotype: She is in her early thirties, works full-time, and may have a family to support.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

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