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George Curry

Obama Should Reject Bush Tax Breaks for the Wealthy

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(NNPA) President Obama should set the tone for his next two years by insisting that the Bush tax cuts remain in place temporarily for 98 percent of Americans, but not the top 2 percent who already enjoy a disproportionate share of the benefits. All signs are pointing to the President caving in to obstinate Republicans in Congress who want to extend the cuts, set to expire at the end of the year, for everyone including the top 2 percent.

President Obama campaigned on a pledge to end the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of taxpayers, defined as an individual earning at least $200,000 a year and couples earning a minimum of $250,000. But it appears he is on the brink of breaking that promise. If neither President Obama nor Republicans are willing to take such a modest step of extending the tax breaks only to those who need them the most, they are not serious about wanting to reduce the deficit.

President Obama repeatedly reminds us that he inherited a mess from George W. Bush. And he is correct. “If not for the tax cuts enacted during the presidency of George W. Bush that Congress did not pay for, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were initiated during that period, and the effects of the worst economic slump since the Great Depression (including the cost of steps necessary to combat it), we would not be facing these huge deficits in the near term,” observed the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C.

In case no one has noticed, Bush has not lived in the White House for the past two years. And the person who does live there moved in after volunteering to clean up after the Bush circus left town. This should begin with President Obama stating that unlike Republicans, he will not serve as a mouthpiece for big business and people with big bucks.

“In 2010, when all of the Bush tax cuts are finally phased in, a staggering 52.5 percent of the benefits will go to the richest 5 percent of taxpayers,” noted Citizens for Tax Justice. According to the Treasury Department, extending the Bush tax cuts to the top 2 percent of taxpayers would cost $678 billion over the next decade.

“In the long term, many economists believe that investments in education, infrastructure, alternative energy and other public goods are far more beneficial to our economic growth than the parts of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy,” Citizens for Tax Justice stated. “This should not be surprising. Federal taxes were higher for most Americans at the end of the Clinton years, and the economy was performing far better than it is now. At very least, one can conclude that the Bush tax cuts did not result in the economic prosperity that their supporters promised would result.”

The federal deficit for fiscal 2009 was $1.4 trillion. It represents nearly 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the largest proportion of the economy since World War II. If nothing is done to curb the deficit, it is expected to remain near $1 trillion a year for the next 10 years. Mounting deficits requires borrowing more money from abroad and continuing to pay interests on those and other loans, leaving less money available to invest in future programs. Some call it mortgaging the future.

Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, and David Stockman, who was President Reagan’s budget director, advocate letting all of the Bush tax cuts expire on December 31. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the total federal, state and local taxes in the U.S. are among the lowest in the industrialized world, with only Turkey and Mexico lower.

The Republican solution to attacking the deficit, if it can be called that, is to cut non-security discretionary programs. A plan outlined by incoming House Speaker John Boehner would reduce such spending by $101 billion or 21 percent. Exempt from the cuts would be spending for defense, homeland security, military and veterans appropriations. There is no way to come close to making a serious dent in the deficit without touching many programs considered untouchable. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Social Security is projected to account for 21 percent of the federal budget, Defense 16 percent, Medicare 14 percent, Medicaid 10 percent, net interest 14 percent and other spending 22 percent.

Slashing budgets could have a devastating impact on many programs, including education. A 21 percent decrease in K-12 education funding, for example, would mean a loss of more than $8.7 billion. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said such a cut could mean reducing housing programs by $6.9 billion, children and family services by nearly $2.2 billion and the nutritional program for at-risk pregnant women, infants and children (WIC) by $1.6 billion.

Federal aid to cities and states would compound deep cuts already made at that level. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 46 states have balanced their budgets during this fiscal crisis by cutting funds to education, health and other programs for the needy.

Another GOP priority is to scuttle health care legislation. Estimates from the Citizens for Tax Justice demonstrate that the Bush tax cuts cost almost $2.5 trillion over the decade they wer enacted (2001-2010). The Congressional Budget Office says health care reform will cost approximately $1 trillion over the next decade which means the Bush tax cuts cost two and a half times as much as health care.

“Many of the lawmakers who argue that the health care reform legislation is ‘too costly’ are the same lawmakers who supported the Bush tax cuts,” Citizens for Tax Justice observed. And now they favor extending those tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 percent of the population.

President Obama should just say no to the Party of No.

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

What President Obama Should Do Next

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For Republicans, the November 2 midterm elections were about 2012, not 2010. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made that clear in a speech to the Heritage Foundation. He said, “…The fact is, if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill, to end the bailouts, cut spending and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all these things is to put someone else in the White House.”

Welcome to the 2012 slugfest. And with more than twice as many Democrats than Republicans up for re-electioon in two years, emboldened Republicans have their sights set on controlling the House, the Senate and the White House.

In order to stay in the White House, the President should adopt my 12-step recovery program:

1) Stop making concessions before entering into negotiations with GOP leaders – The recent Slurpee Summit has not been held at the White House and President Obama is already saying he’s willing the extend the Bush tax cuts to the top 2 percent of Americans, the group least likely to place those dollars back into an ailing economy. The time to make concessions is during the actual horse-trading, not in advance. President Obama and Republican leaders can’t even agree on what beverage to serve at the upcoming meeting. During the recent campaign, the President called Republicans “Slurpee drinkers” whose brains freeze when it comes to economics. When asked at a news conference about the possibility of a post-election Slurpee Summit at the White House, Obama replied, “I might serve -- they’re delicious.” But House Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner responded, “I don’t know about a Slurpee. How about a glass of merlot?”

2) Assemble a new communications team – It’s embarassing to see one of the most gifted speakers of this generation groping for words when trying to explain why the White House did a poor job of selling its accomplishments. Mr. President, read my lips: Your team has failed you – get a new one before it’s too late.

3) Ignore calls to move to the right – Whenever Democrats lose an election, there are inevitable suggestions that the party should move to the right. The last thing this country needs is two Republican parties. The underreported story of this election is that conservative Democrats, so-called Blue Dog Democrats, suffered the bulk of the losses, especially in House districts previously held by conservative Republicans.

4) Make conservatives put up or shut up – It’s one thing to campaign. It’s quite another to govern. Many Tea Party candidates, including those cross-dressing as Republicans, have pledged to balance the budget while exempting defense funding and entitlements that make up 85 percent of the federal budget. Insist that they give specifics on how they can possibly balance the budget by attacking only 15 percent of the budget.

5) Use Vice President Joe Biden as your attack dog – Many presidents have used their vice presidents as their chief defenders. Richard Nixon had Spiro Agnew and George W. Bush used Dick Chaney in that capacity. Unchain Biden as your Defender-in-Chief while you continue to be presidential, which suits your non-confrontational personality.

6) Realize the public still trust Democrats over Republicans on the big issues – A recent USA Today/Gallup poll showed that Americans trust Democrats over Republicans on most of the important issues facing America, including racial and ethnic discrimination, unemployment, the size and power of large corporations, health care, the environment and disengaging the U.S. from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The GOP was favored to deal with illegal immigration, the federal debt, terrorism and the size and power of the federl government. Even in the recent elections.

7) Strengthen the coalition between Black, Latinos and Asians – That coaltion was the key to Obama’s 2008 victory when the majority of Whites voted for John McCain. Latinos returned Democratic Senators to power in Nevada and Californaia. Democrats can’t be successful in 2012 without paying special attention to all people of color, who are expanding their share of the electorate.

8) Re-engage young voters – Like people of color and women, this is a critical part of your base. Looking forward to 2012, its necessary to mobilize young voters to counter the edge older voters provide Republicans.

9) Be a fighter (to be used in conjunction with Point #4) – Americans admire fighters, even if they disagree with them. President Harry S Truman was often depicted as giving his opponents hell. He explained, “I never give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.” President “No Drama Obama” needs to exude some fire. Ignore the fear that many Whites don’t want to view their president as “an angry Black man.” The bully pulpit is the last place you need to sound professorial.

10) Deploy First Lady Michelle Obama to more events – In many ways, Michelle Obama connects better with audiences than the President. Like her husband, she has two Ivy League degrees. Unlike the President, she comes across passionate and unscripted. It’s time to take her out of the garden and stop limiting her to speaking before groups concerned about obesity and military families.

11) Don’t be discouraged – Remember that Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, whose approval ratings were almost identical to yours at this point in office, suffered midterm shellackings but bounced back to get easily re-elected to a second term. You, too, can get your groove back.

12) Remain engaged with the Black Media – Part of the problem this year was President Obama’s effort to arouse the Black community came on “CP” Time. It was what former Nixon aide John Halderman called TL-square – too little, too late. Given the President’s lateness, perhaps this will end questions about whether he’s Black enough.

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

GOP's 'Pledge to America' is Replete with Lies

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(NNPA) Republicans have earned a reputation for being "the party of no." In an effort to assert there are programs and policies that they will say “yes”, the GOP issued its “Pledge to America.” The document should be renamed “The Plague on America.”

According to FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the GOP document “contains some dubious factual claims.” Below are excerpts from the report titled, “FactChecking ‘The Pledge.”

The Economy
Pledge, page 5: Our economy has declined and our debt has mushroomed with the loss of millions of jobs.

Fact: It’s true that the economy lost nearly 8.4 million jobs from the peak of employment in December, 2007 to the bottom of the job slump in December of last year. More than half (4.4 million) were lost before Obama took office. The economy has regained 723,000 jobs since hitting bottom, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Pledge, page 14: Private sector unemployment remains at or near 10 percent, jobless claims continue to soar, and the only parts of the economy expanding are government and our national debt.

Fact: It’s true that the unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, but that’s actually down from the peak of 10.1 percent reached last October. It’s also true that new claims for unemployment compensation – “jobless claims” – continue at a high level. But they are actually running eight percent lower than they did at their worst levels, so they are slowly declining, not soaring.

And it’s not the case that only government is growing. The opposite is true – the private sector has gained a net total of 763,000 jobs this year, according to the BLS. But at the same time, the total number of government jobs has declined by approximately 40,000, despite a transitory spike in hiring by the Census Bureau to conduct its decennial head count. That spike is now over. The decline in overall government employment is mostly due to public schools shedding 62,000 positions as local property tax rolls decline due to plunging real estate values.

Health Care
Pledge, page 26: The Obama Administration has been forced to acknowledge that the new law will force some 87 million Americans to drop their current coverage.

Fact: This is a misrepresentation. It’s true that the president over-promised when he repeatedly told Americans that "if you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan." As we noted shortly before the bill passed, he can’t make that promise to everyone. It’s also true that after the bill passed, the administration released estimates showing that only about 55 percent of large employers and 34 percent of small employers would be offering the same insurance coverage in 2013 as they do now, under "grandfathering" rules. That works out to about 87 million workers — more or less — whose policies are likely to change in some way.

But it’s deceptive of the GOP to claim that employers of these workers will "drop" their coverage. It would be accurate to say they are expected to change it. In many cases, policies will be replaced by more generous coverage, accompanied by government subsidies to help pay the premiums…

Stimulus Bill
Pledge, page 15: . . .the trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ was signed into law

Fact: The stimulus bill is a big one, but CBO says it won’t cost $1 trillion, even spread over 10 years. CBO’s most recent estimate puts the price tag to $814 billion. That’s higher than originally estimated at the time of passage, but still well short of $1 trillion.

Pledge, page 15: Despite the ‘stimulus’ and Democrats’ promises the unemployment rate would remain below eight percent, the unemployment rate climbed from 7.7 percent in January 2009 to 9.5 percent in August 2010.

Republicans have a point here, as we noted some time ago. Back in July of last year we wrote, “the original projections from President Obama’s economic advisers on what would happen with and without the stimulus plan are still off -- and significantly so.” But, nobody “promised” that unemployment would remain below 8 percent.

As we also wrote in June of last year, the White House explanation was simple: “They say President George Bush left them a worse mess than they realized" when Obama’s advisers came up with their predictions. And that’s true. The original chart – produced Jan. 9, 2009 — was based on economic projections that were in line with what private economists were forecasting. Those forecasts were being revised for the worse even before any stimulus money was spent.

And for the record, CBO’s experts calculate that the stimulus has had a positive effect on employment. In its most recent report on the measure, the agency estimated that in the second quarter of 2010, stimulus spending lowered the unemployment rate between 0.7 and 1.8 percentage points and increased the number of people working between 1.4 million and 3.3 million.

Pledge, page 14: Unless action is taken, a $3.8 trillion tax hike will go into effect on January 1, 2011 that will unravel these policies. A family of four with a household income of $50,000 a year will have to pay $2,900 more in taxes in 2011.

Fact: True, but misleading. What the Pledge fails to note is that Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress have consistently promised to extend the Bush tax cuts for all families making less than $250,000 a year, and singles making less than $200,000. It’s true that hasn’t happened yet, but the reason is that several House and Senate Democrats are agitating to extend the cuts for everybody, even those with the highest incomes.

Perhaps the next time, Republicans will pledge to tell the truth.

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

Black Vote is Critical to Retaining Democratic Majority in Congress

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(NNPA) With less than two weeks remaining before the Nov. 2 mid-term elections, President Barack Obama and his wife, Michele, are frantically reaching out to African-Americans, their most loyal supporters who continue to give the president a 91 percent approval rating.

The president and the first lady have phoned in to Black radio shows, met privately with African-American newspaper columnists and bloggers as well as appeared before Black audiences in an effort to drive home the president’s key message: “…Voter turnout is going to be critical. Our numbers and our ability to organize grassroots has to counteract those millions of dollars that are coming in trying to take this election.”

A report by David A. Bositis, senior political analyst for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, underscores the importance of the Black vote: “There are 20 competitive U.S. House elections where Black voters could potentially decide the outcome. Most of these districts are in southern states [15] and only three are held by Republicans. If the Democrats retain half of these seats, it would be difficult for the GOP to gain the 40 seats necessary to regain the majority of the U.S. House. Further, there are two GOP held seats in districts where Black voters are a substantial bloc [DE and LA] and every Democratic pickup will make the GOP’s goal of 40 more difficult to attain.”

A similar picture emerges in Senate races, according to the report titled, “In Anticipation of November 2: Black Voters and Candidates and the 2010 Midterm Elections”.

“There are 14 competitive U.S. Senate races in 2010 where the Black vote could have a major impact. Only four of these contests are in southern states, and eight of the [seats] are currently held by Democrats, while four Republican seats are open seat contests,” the report stated. “…If the Democrats win half of these seats, they most assuredly will maintain majority control in the U.S. Senate.”

Political commentators cite an anti-incumbents mood, the so-called enthusiasm gap between Democratic and Republican voters as well as the large amount of cash being given by anonymous donors to Republican candidates as factors that could lead to the GOP recapturing both the Senate and the House. However, they are underestimating the likelihood of the Black electorate turning out in large numbers because they perceive “their” president being attacked by the Tea Party and right-wing zealots such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

“This is a president who is very popular with African Americans and who is under attack from congressional Republicans,” Bositis said in the Joint Center report. “If anything, President Obama in 2010 is more popular with African Americans than President Clinton in 1998.” In that off-year election, Democrats won five additional House seats, something the party of a sitting president had not done in 50 years.

Another little-discussed factor that may improve Black voter turnout is the number of African-Americans seeking elective office.

Overall, 61 Blacks are running for federal office, including 37 Black incumbents, all of whom are Democrats. Tim Scott, an unopposed South Carolina Republican, will join the new Congress, the first Black Republican to join Congress since J.C. Watts left in 2003.

In addition to the seats now held by Black House incumbents or where one Black is being comfortably replaced by another, four Congressional seats are in play. In Louisiana, State Rep. Cederick Richmond is expected to easily reclaim William Jefferson’s old House seat from Republican Joseph Cao.

Dan Seals is competitive in Illinois, but faces an uphill battle to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Joyce Elliott, Arkansas’ first Black major party nominee for the U.S. House, and Allen West, a Republican seeking a House seat from Florida, are considered long-shots, according to the Joint Center report.

“There is one [incumbent] Black candidate running for governor, Deval Patrick; Patrick is in a tough three-way race, but definite a winnable one,” the Joint Center report stated. “There are two Black candidates for lieutenant governor, Anthony Brown [MD], who is the incumbent and favored to win, and Yvette McGee Brown, who is running with Ted Strickland in Ohio in a race rated as a toss-up; no Black Democrat has ever been elected to statewide office in Ohio. Kamala Harris is the first Black woman nominated by a major party to statewide office in California. She is running to succeed Jerry Brown as Attorney General, and has a good chance to be elected.”

President Obama is walking a political tightrope by distancing himself from racial issues while simultaneously mobilizing his Black Democratic base by letting them know that he speaks their language.

For example, in a meeting with some Black columnists last week, he said: “There’s the old saying that when America gets a cold, Black America gets pneumonia. Well, that’s true here, too. We have seen obviously a huge spike in unemployment in the African-American community, with all the attendant problems that go with that.”

When the Jackie Robinson analogy was used to describe his election, Obama tip-toed back into safe terrain.

“…It’s not something I think about,” he said. “It’s not something that members of the administration think about. I think that’s one of those things that you will look back on with some historical perspective. When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, my suspicion is, on a day-to-day basis, what he was worrying about was hits – and how was Brooklyn doing. He was thinking about winning games. And then after he retired, he could look back and say, well, that was something. I tend to just focus on getting hits and making plays.”

But whether President Obama continues to get hits or strikes out will be determined in large measure by whether African-Americans step up to the ballot box on Nov. 2.

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

A Long View of Bishop Eddie Long's Troubles

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(NNPA) Not surprisingly, embattled Bishop Eddie Long turned to the Bible to defend himself against charges by four men who filed suit last week in which they charged that as teenagers, Long showered them with money, expensive gifts, cars, and international travel to entice them into having a sexual relationship with him.

On Sunday, Long told his parishioners at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, in suburban Atlanta, “I want you to know one other thing. I feel like David against Goliath. But, I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.”

If the charges against Long are true, another passage in the Bible involving David might be more appropriate. David’s seduction of Bathsheba is recounted in 2 Samuel 11. While walking on the roof of his house David, king of Israel and Judah, saw Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, bathing.

Verse 4 reads: “And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her...”

When Bathsheba sent word to David that she was “with child,” David ordered Uriah home from battle, hoping he would have sex with his wife and think that he had impregnated her. But, Uriah chose to remain on the battlefield. David then ordered his general, Joab, to leave Uriah stranded in battle. After Uriah was killed, David married Bathsheba but was later punished by the Lord.

At this point, it is unclear which David story best fits Eddie Long. Serious questions have been raised about his actions and judgment. It will be fairly easy to corroborate whether the teenagers traveled to the places they say they went with Long, whether they received expensive gifts, and the number of times they talked to him on his cell phone.

In his suit, Jamal Parris, now 23, said Long insisted that he call him “Daddy” and coerced him into having sex with him. Two other plaintiffs – Maurice Robinson and Anthony Flagg – said on some trips Long registered under the pseudonym Dick Tracey.

Accurint, a database owned by LexisNexis, lists a Dick Tracey as living at the Lithonia, Ga. address of Eddie L. Long, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Initially, Long engaged in sexual touching during their encounters and then escalated the activity to oral sodomy and other acts of sexual gratification,” the Parris suit alleges. “Long would discuss the Holy Scripture to justify and support the sexual activity.”

If the allegations are true, it would represent the height of hypocrisy. Long has strongly and repeatedly denounced homosexuality. His church offers counseling to encourage homosexuals to go straight. And in 2004, he and one his associate pastors, Rev. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led a march to Dr. King’s grave to support a national constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and to protect marriage “between one man and one woman.”

When New Birth was chosen as the funeral site for Coretta Scott King, then-NAACP Chairman Julian Bond refused to attend the services because of Long’s anti-gay views.

If found guilty, Long would join a long list of prominent religious leaders who have engaged in sexual misconduct, including Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Jim Baker, Elijah Muhammad, and former National Baptist Convention President Henry J. Lyons. Institutions such as Boys Town, Congress, the Boy Scouts, and the Roman Catholic Church have also been rocked by sexual scandals.

Although Long did not directly deny the allegations against him while speaking at his church on Sunday, his attorney, Craig Gillen, earlier issued a statement saying Long “categorically denies the allegations.”

Long said twice during the sermon Sunday that he was not a perfect man, which wasn’t the perfect comment to make under the circumstances.

In addition to raising questions about how the Black church addresses homosexuality, the Long controversy will undoubtedly renew concerns about so-called prosperity preachers who seem to place acquiring material wealth ahead of spiritual development.

In 1975, it was disclosed that Bishop Eddie Long Ministries, Inc., the charity Long established, made him its largest beneficiary, providing him with a salary of at least a $1 million a year over four years, a $1.4 million home and use of a $350,000 Bentley.

The opulent lifestyle of mega-church stars continues as the U.S. poverty rate increased to 14.3 percent in 2009, up from 13.2 percent in 2008. A quarter of all Blacks – 25.8 percent – live below the poverty line, which is defined as approximately $22,000 for a family of four.

Proverbs 31:9 reads, “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy (King James Version).

Bishop Eddie Long is entitled to the presumption of innocence as he prepares to defend himself in the judicial system. In the meantime, he and all other religious leaders should carry out the Biblical admonition to place the plight of the poor and needy ahead of material extravagance and aberrant behavior.

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


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