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George Curry

Obama's Showdown with 'Teapublicans' is Just Beginning

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(NNPA) Believe it or not, President Obama’s decision to finally stand up to Teapublicans – a Republican Party hijacked by Right-wing Tea Party zealots – in the latest standoff over the Affordable Care Act and the debt ceiling was the easy part.

Next comes the real fireworks over the budget. And, judging from the past, the Democrats are likely to wave the white flag of surrender, even before the first shot are fired.

Don’t forget that although Obama campaigned on the promise of extending the Bush tax cuts only for individuals earning less than $200,000 and couples making less than $250,000, which would cover 98 percent of all taxpayers, he eventually capitulated under Republican pressure, extending the Bush-era rates on incomes below $450,000 for families and $400,000 for individuals.

And in his unsuccessful effort to reach a grand bargain with House Speaker John Boehner in 2011, according to leaked confidential documents, Obama expressed a willingness to support cuts to TRICARE, the health insurance program for the military and military retirees; Social Security, Medicare, housing, nutritional assistance and other social programs.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explained why he, too, feels Obama will cave in to Republican demands.

“He’s already put on the table a way to reduce future Social Security payments by altering the way cost-of-living adjustments are made – using the so-called ‘chained’ consumer price index, which assumes that when prices rise people economize by switching to cheaper alternatives. This makes no sense for seniors, who already spend a disproportionate share of their income on prescription drugs, home healthcare, and medical devices – the prices of which have been rising faster than inflation. Besides, Social Security isn’t responsible for our budget deficits. Quite the opposite: For years its surpluses have been used to fund everything else the government does.

“The President has also suggested ‘means-testing’ Medicare – that is, providing less of it to higher-income seniors. This might be sensible. The danger is it becomes the start of a slippery slope that eventually turns Medicare into another type of Medicaid, a program perceived to be for the poor and therefore vulnerable to budget cuts.

“But why even suggest cutting Medicare at all, when the program isn’t responsible for the large budget deficits projected a decade or more from now? Medicare itself is enormously efficient; its administrative costs are far lower than commercial health insurance.”

Equally troubling are the signals the president is already sending on the budget.

“Keep in mind that the budget that we are going to pass under any deal is going to be the Republican budget. It will have cuts that are much more substantial than Democrats would prefer,” Obama said in an interview with New York’s WABC-TV two days before the government reopened. “The Democrats have not asked for anything to reopen the government. The Democrats haven’t asked for anything for paying our bills on time.”

The last time I checked, the Senate and the executive branch were controlled by Democrats. Republicans control only the House. And the only reason they control the House is because of gerrymandered congressional districts. In the last election, House Democrats received more votes than House Republicans. So why does President Obama feel that the nation will be stuck with a “Republican budget”?

Second, Obama correctly noted that Democrats have not asked for anything to reopen the government or raise the debt ceiling. And, as Congressman Gregory W. Meeks of New York observed, that is the problem.

Meeks told Politico, “At no point have we said what our demands are. All you’ve heard was what their demands are. Maybe we should put down what our demands are of what we need and what we want because there’s things that are important and dear to us also, and then the negotiations start from there.”

The tragedy is that Democrats usually won’t stand firm even when public opinion is on their side. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press conducted a survey in March asking: What is more important, taking steps to reduce the national debt or keeping Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are?

According to Pew, 55 percent favored keeping Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are 34 percent preferred taking steps to reduce the national debt, and 11 percent said both are equally important.

Yet, Obama is willing to make concessions on Social Security and Medicare.

With no demands on the table, it’s impossible to know what, if anything, is important to the Democratic Party anymore. That’s not the case with the Teapublicans. Love or hate them, they have clearly and forcefully stated they want to privatize Social Security, turn Medicare into a voucher system, and want deep cuts in social programs. They have not only articulated their priorities, they have demonstrated with the shutdown how far they are willing to go to fight for their misguided beliefs.

What are Democrats willing to fight to the end for? If you find out, please let me know.

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.

Dr. Ben Carson: 'Gifted Hands,' Foot in Mouth

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(NNPA) Dr. Ben Carson became the darling of conservatives earlier this year by stridently attacking the Affordable Care Act with President Obama sitting just a few feet away. Carson, who was serving as the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast at the White House, said,

“Here’s my solution: When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record, and a health savings account to which money can be contributed – pretax – from the time you’re born ’til the time you die. When you die, you can pass it on to your family members, so that when you’re 85 years old and you got six diseases, you’re not trying to spend up everything. You’re happy to pass it on and there’s nobody talking about death panels.

“Number one. And also, for the people who were indigent who don’t have any money we can make contributions to their HSA [Health Savings Account] each month because we already have this huge pot of money. Instead of sending it to some bureaucracy, let’s put it in their HSAs. Now they have some control over their own health care.”

Predictably, the Right wing rushed to embrace him. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the crew at Fox News were ecstatic that a prominent Black neurosurgeon shared their world view. Jonah Goldberg, a columnist for the Right-wing National Review, compared Carson to racial apologist Booker T. Washington. David Graham, writing in The Atlantic, called him Herman Cain without the “personal skeletons.” And the conservative Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed under the headline, “Ben Carson for President.”

Carson became a paid contributor to Fox News, was hired to write a weekly column for the Right-wing Washington Times, and became in demand as a speaker at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and any national event that attracts more than three conservatives.

Professionally, Carson is no dumb man. He earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his M.D. from the University of Michigan. At the age of 33, he became director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the youngest major division director in the school’s history.

In 1987, he led a 70-member surgical ream that separated twins who had been joined at the back of the head. After the successful 22-hour surgery, Carson gained national recognition. His autobiography, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, was published in 1992. The book recounts how his mother, Sonya, reared him and his older brother, Curtis, after she and her husband, Robert, divorced when Ben was 8 years old. In 2009, TNT released a television movie with the same title as his book, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Ben Carson. In 2008, George W. Bush presented Carson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Carson has made several controversial remarks after his appearance at the White House. In March, he said on Fox TV: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA [North American Man/Boy Love Association], be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition.”

Under pressure, Carson withdrew as commencement speaker for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He also apologized for “not the best choice of words,” called his critics racist, and then apologized again.

Of all of his outrageous comments, his latest one ranks among the most egregious.

Speaking at a Voter Values Summit, Carson said, “I have to tell you that Obamacare is, really, I think, the worst thing that’s happened to this nation since slavery. It was never about healthcare, it was about control.”

First, the Affordable Care Act does what its proper title implies – it makes health care affordable to millions of people, including the uninsured. If making insurance more affordable, not allowing insurance companies to reject people with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to remain on their parents’ insurance policies until they are 26 years old isn’t about healthcare, the esteemed neurosurgeon doesn’t know the definition of healthcare.

Second, any idiot knows that having access to healthcare is not worse than slavery.

Enslaved Africans had no rights, as the Supreme Court ruled in its 1857 Dred Scott decision, “which the white man was bound to respect.” They were brutalized, degraded, whipped, killed, and raped at the whim of the slave master. Marriage was not recognized and the slave codes in various states made it illegal to teach Blacks to read or write.

The Affordable Health Care Act is worse than that?

It’s a ridiculous comparison. At the rate he is going, Carson’s photograph will be slapped on boxes of rice. Dr. Ben will be more appropriately known as Uncle Ben.

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.

Yes, Mental Illness Affects 'Us'

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(NNPA) On Monday, Sept. 16 the news was shocking: A contract employee who worked at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., later identified as Aaron Alexis, killed 12 innocent people in the facility before he was killed by police.

For many African Americans, our first thought was: “I hope it wasn’t one of us.”

On Oct. 3, there was another disturbing incident in the nation’s capital: An unarmed woman with her 1-year-old child in the car, drove her vehicle into barriers outside the White House and on Capitol Hill before being shot to death by police.

Again, we thought: “I hope it wasn’t one of us.”

And the next day brought additional bad news from Washington: A man poured gasoline over his body and set himself on fire on the National Mall. He died the next day.

Once again: “I hope it wasn’t one of us.”

In each case, it was one of us. Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard gunman, was Black. Miriam Carey, the 34-year old dental hygienist from Stamford, Conn. was an African American. And the unidentified man who burned himself to death on the Mall was also Black.

More important than their race, Aaron Alexis, Miriam Carey and possibly the man who set himself on fire suffered from a mental disorder. And that’s something we have been reluctant to discuss. But it’s time for that to change.

In an interview last year on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” Dr. William Lawson, professor of psychiatry and chairman of psychiatry at Howard University College of Medicine, discussed some of the factors in our refusal to seek help for mental problems.

“Many African Americans have a lot of negative feelings about or not even aware of mental health services,” he said. “They are not aware of the symptoms of many mental disorders, or they may believe that to be mentally ill is a sign of weakness or a sign of character fault.”

That attitude permeates Black America, regardless of income level.

“In places like Los Angeles and New York, everyone and their pet has a therapist, yet even among the wealthy and elite, many African Americans continue to hold stigmatizing beliefs about mental illness.” Monnica Williams wrote in Psychology Today.

“For example, a qualitative study by Alvidrez et al., (2008) found that among Blacks who were already mental health consumers, over a third felt that mild depression or anxiety would be considered ‘crazy’ in their social circles. Talking about problems with an outsider (i.e., therapist) may be viewed as airing one’s ‘dirty laundry,’ and even more telling is the fact that over a quarter of those consumers felt that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate even among family.”

Williams observed, “African Americans share the same mental health issues as the rest of the population, with arguably even greater stressors due to racism, prejudice, and economic disparities. Meanwhile, many wonder why African Americans shy away from psychotherapy as a potential solution to challenges such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, marriage problems, and parenting issues. As a Black psychologist, it is troublesome that so many African Americans are reluctant to make use of psychology’s solutions to emotional hurdles.”

And when Blacks do seek help to get over those emotional hurdles, they tend to do so later, when treatment might not be as effective as it may have been if they had sought help earlier.

In addition to our antiquated attitude toward mental health, medical professionals also share part of the blame.

A fact sheet by the National Alliance on Mental Health notes:

* African Americans in the United States are less likely to receive accurate diagnoses than their Caucasian counterparts. Schizophrenia, for instance has been shown to be over diagnosed in the African American population;

* Culture biases against mental health professionals and health care professionals in general prevent many African Americans from accessing care due to prior experiences with historical misdiagnoses, inadequate treatment and a lack of cultural understanding; only 2 percent of psychiatrists, 2 percent of psychologists and 4 percent of social workers in the United States are African Americans; and

* Overall sensitivity to African American cultural differences, such as differences in medication metabolization rates, unique views of mental illness and propensity towards experiencing certain mental illnesses, can improve African Americans’ treatment experiences and increase utilization of mental health care services.

Dr. Sarah Vinson, who created website BlackMentalHealthNet.com, said mental illness takes a high toll on African Americans.

In an Emory University posting, she said: “Untreated, mental illness can cause strained relationships, social dysfunction, and numerous other problems that can end up in divorce, unemployment, and suicide.”

(In addition to Dr. Vinson’s website, further information on mental illness can be obtained from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Minority Health and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.)

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.

The Truth about 'Obamacare'

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(NNPA) Major provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into effect on Tuesday and, like all new programs, there was a certain amount of uncertainty and confusion. But making things worse are the deliberate lies that have been told by what some call Obamacare.

To shift through the various charges, I turned to our friends at FactCheck.org for an independent, nonpartisan analysis. Here, in their words, is what they found:

Claim: 8.2 million Americans can’t find full-time work partly due to Obamacare.
FactCheck.org says: False.

This assertion from the Republican National Committee echoes other conservative claims that the law is hindering part-timers from finding full-time jobs. But the RNC’s 8.2 million figure was the total number in June of part-time workers in the U.S. seeking full-time work — what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls ‘part-time for economic reasons’ — and there’s no evidence from BLS numbers that the law has had an impact on such workers. There were more in this “part-time for economic reasons” category in March 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law (9.1 million). The latest figure, from August, is 7.9 million.

Claim: The law is a job-killer.
FactCheck.org says: Overblown.

It’s true nonpartisan economic analyses have estimated a “small” loss of mainly low-wage jobs because of the law. But as one expert told us, there hasn’t been much analysis of this impact of the law because, he believes, economists think the impact will be minimal. Still, Republicans have continued to push the idea that the law will have a significant effect on jobs. This claim made our “Whoppers of 2011” list, and it has continued to be pushed in various forms — with the latest being the claims about part-time work.

Claim: Premiums are going up because of the law. Premiums are going down because of the law.
FactCheck.org says: It depends.

Our short answer — “it depends” — may be unsatisfactory to readers, but whether you’ll pay more or less than you would have without the law depends on your circumstances. Are you uninsured and have a preexisting condition? You’ll likely pay less than you would have otherwise. Are you uninsured but young and healthy? You’ll likely pay more (without accounting for any subsidies you may receive). Are you insured through your employer? You likely won’t see much change either way.

Claim: All of the uninsured will pay less on the exchanges than they could now on the individual market, even without federal subsidies.
FactCheck.org says: False.

President Obama made this claim at an Aug. 9 press conference, saying that beginning Oct. 1, the 15 percent of the population that’s uninsured would be able to “sign up for affordable quality health insurance at a significantly cheaper rate than what they can get right now on the individual market.” Obama went on to emphasize that that was before including federal subsidies. “And if even with lower premiums they still can’t afford it, we’re going to be able to provide them with a tax credit to help them buy it,” he added. But even Obama’s secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, has acknowledged that young persons would likely pay more and older Americans would likely pay less on the insurance exchanges.

Claim: You won’t be able to choose your own doctor.
Claim: The government will be between you and your doctor.
FactCheck.org says: False.

These claims are variations on the fear that the government will be taking over health care — choosing your doctor, telling him or her what treatment to administer, etc. But the law doesn’t create a government-run system, as we’ve said many times. It actually greatly expands business for private insurance, by about 12 million new customers, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. And individuals will choose their own doctors, just as they do now.

Claim: If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.
FactCheck.org: Misleading.

Obama has repeatedly made this claim, and the White House continues to use the line on its website. The law doesn’t force Americans to pick new plans or new doctors, but the president simply can’t make this promise to everyone. There’s no guarantee that your employer won’t switch plans, just as companies could have done before the law. And if you switch jobs, your new work-based coverage might not have your doctor as an in-network provider, either.

Claim: Congress is exempt from the law.
FactCheck.org says: False.

Congress isn’t exempt from the law. In fact, members and their staffs face additional requirements that other Americans don’t. Beginning in 2014, they can no longer get insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, as they and other federal employees have done. Instead, they are required to get insurance through the insurance exchanges.

For the complete report, go to: http://www.factcheck.org/2013/09/obamacare-myths/

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.

Selling Out Black College Football to Make a Buck

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(NNPA) I cringed as the scores came in over the weekend. Ohio State 76, Florida A&M 0. Florida State 54, Bethune-Cookman 6. Miami 77, Savannah State 7. Our HBCUs have traded their proud, rich football heritage for money. And I don’t think it’s worth it.

There’s only one reason our HBCUs schedule games against schools whose head coaches make more than their entire athletic budgets: they earn a big payday, even if that means being publicly humiliated along the way.

The irony is that the SEC wouldn’t continue to have a lock on national football championships were it not for their Black players. And it wasn’t all that long ago that Blacks were as unwelcomed in the SEC as they were at KKK rallies. But when Sam Cunningham ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries in 1970 when the University of Southern California routed Alabama 42-21 in Birmingham, the conference got the message that they couldn’t win without Black talent.

Until then, if Black athletes wanted to play in the South, they had to attend HBCUs. It was never a question of talent. More than 1,200 players from Black colleges have played in the NFL, including 150 who have made it to the Super Bowl. NFL stars from HBCUs include: Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley), Michael Strayhan (Texas Southern), Walter Payton (Jackson State), Art Snell (University of Maryland Eastern Shore), Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Richard Dent (Tennessee State), Bob Hayes and Willie Galimore (Florida A&M), Donald Driver and Steve McNair (Alcorn State), Deacon Jones and Harry Carson (South Carolina State), John Stallworth (Alabama A&M), Mel Blount (Southern), Larry Little (Bethune-Cookman), Rayfield Wright (Fort Valley State), and L.C. Greenwood (University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff).

Grambling’s Paul “Tank” Younger went to the L.A. Rams and became the first HBCU player to make it in the NFL. Grambling has four players in the NFL Hall of Fame: Willie Davis, Junious “Buck” Buchanan, Willie Brown and Charlie Joiner. Eddie Robinson coached Jim Harris, the first Black quarterback to start in the NFL and be named MVP of the Pro Bowl, and Doug Williams, the first Black quarterback to start in, win and become MVP of a Super Bowl.

Football has always been a part of my life. I played quarterback at Druid High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala., was quarterback and co-captain of my football team at Knoxville College in Tenn., landed my first job in journalism at Sports Illustrated and wrote my first book about Jake Gaither, the legendary football coach at Florida A&M who won 85 percent of his games over 25 years and never had a losing season.

I still love the game and have deep respect for Gaither, Robinson and John Merritt at Tennessee State, the giants of a bygone era.

To fully appreciate the depth of athletic talent at Black colleges in those days, imagine all of the Black football players at the University of Florida, Florida State and the University of Miami on the same team. That’s exactly what Florida A&M had in the segregation era. When Bob Hayes, FAMU’s double-gold medal winner at the 1964 U.S. Olympics and future Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, joined the team, the only time he got off the bench was when they played the national anthem.

Gaither said that because of segregation, the only way he was able to prove the quality of his players was when they turned pro. That was true until Nov. 29, 1969 when Florida A&M played Tampa University in the first game in the Deep South between a Black college and a predominantly White university. FAMU, the underdog, won 34-28.

Unfortunately, most of our Black youth don’t know about the glory days of Black college football. I tried to help fill the gap in 1977 when I wrote, Jake Gaither: America’s Most Famous Black Coach. Recently, Vern Smith, a screenwriter and former Atlanta bureau chief for Newsweek, wrote a screenplay based on my book. We’re in the process of shopping the script, hoping to present the real story about Black college football.

The best known movie about Black college football is “White Tiger,” a made-for-TV movie starring Bruce Jenner as the first White quarterback at previously all-Black Grambling College, now Grambling State University. In the movie, Harry Belafonte plays the role of Coach Eddie Robinson. The fact that a White actor was the star in a movie about Black college football is proof that Hollywood was never serious about telling our story.

According to the Census Bureau, 53 percent of the Black population is under the age of 35. That means that more than half of African Americans were born after 1978. They don’t know anything about Jake Gaither, Eddie Robinson or John Merritt. All they see are the lopsided scores on Saturdays. Vern Smith and I hope to get our movie made if for no other reason than to let them know that it wasn’t always this way.

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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