A+ R A-

More Commentary

More UFO Sightings than Voter Fraud Cases

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) Prior to the 2012 elections, I found myself in a discussion with a colleague concerning Republican efforts at what has come to be known as “voter suppression.” I was informing this person, who is well educated, that voter fraud is not a problem of any significance in the U.S.A. This individual rejected my contention, arguing that he was aware of countless examples of alleged fraud and that the efforts to make voting more difficult were justified.

A fascinating article in Mother Jones from July 2012, which I only just discovered , contains the sorts of ammunition that is needed in this debate, ammunition that really can not only end the argument but open up the real question: Why are the Republicans trying to make it more difficult to vote?

The article, by Hamed Aleaziz, Dave Gilson and Jaeah Lee ["UFO Sightings are more common than voter fraud," www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/voter-id-laws-charts-maps] contains this little factoid at the end: Between 2000 and 2010 there were 649 million votes cast in general elections; 47,000 UFO sightings; 441 Americans killed by lightning; and 13 credible cases of in-person voter impersonation.

How is it possible that with no evidence of massive voter fraud that legislators around the nation have moved to narrow voting? The answer, to a great extent, has to do with race. First, the people making the allegations tend to be White and rich. They are playing into the growing fears among many average Whites that the U.S. is becoming a Black and Brown nation, and, to be honest, they are scared. Many of them still cannot understand how it was that a Black man became president of the United States.

Second, the criminalization of Black America and the assumption that we are up to no good – as demonstrated most recently in the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin – opens up the door to the belief that African Americans are somehow involved in trickery and voter fraud. We do not have to have ever done anything. It is more about what many Whites believe that we are capable of doing that matters.

Yet voter suppression, which is not going away, is about more than the antipathy of many rich Whites for Black people. The voter suppression laws are not aimed solely at African Americans. They remain part of the larger scheme to neutralize the growing majority in this country, a majority of people of color, youth, women and working people, that threatens the privileges of the rich and (in-)famous. Thus, we not only have voter suppression but we have gerrymandering of electoral districts to ensure that certain districts remain in the hands of Republicans and that cross-racial political coalitions are less likely to be built.

The issue of voter suppression not only remains critical, but will especially be so in the 2014 elections. Being mid-term elections, turnout tis always lower than in presidential years under the best of circumstances. If you add to that the great difficulties that the average voter can anticipate in voting, the situation goes from bad to worse. This means that voting rights activists will have important challenges that include:

  • Voter registration
  • Ensuring that the voters have the proper documents
  • Constructing monitoring and protection mechanism to guarantee our rights and
  • Helping to bring forward compelling candidates who speak to the issues of the grassroots and, thereby, encourage greater turnout.

To this we should add one more task. Each time that you encounter an elected official who suggests that greater efforts need to be taken to stop alleged voter fraud, please ask them to provide you with documented evidence of a pattern of abuse. Please ask them to provide you with documented numbers. Please ask them to provide you with proof of convictions.

And, if they cannot provide any of this, please ask them to shut their trap.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author or “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

The GOP's Whites-Only Gambit

E-mail Print PDF

By Lee A. Daniels
NNPA Columnist

The Republican Party, which has lost the last two presidential elections by appealing to the worst racial attitudes of White conservative voters, has come up with what it declares is a winning strategy for 2016: Appeal to the worst racial attitudes of White conservative and White Democratic-leaning voters.

The conservative echo chamber of political operatives and pundits has even produced a, to coin a phrase, white paper explaining how doubling down on its failed national strategy of 2008 and 2012 will work in 2016. More about that later.

One might consider that notion a modern version of the 1956 Southern Manifesto, the Congressional segregationists’ call for “massive resistance” by White Southerners to the 1954 Supreme Court Brown school desegregation decision. Or an updating of GOP standard-bearer Richard Nixon’s adoption in the late 1960s of a “Southern Strategy” of appealing to Whites made anxious by Blacks’ civil rights victories.

Or, one could say it’s just a continuation of the stance against Democratic presidents the GOP adopted during the Clinton presidency in the 1990s – in the words of former Republican congressman, Vin Weber: a maximum ideological polarization. That attitude is a far distance from the claims GOP leaders made in the weeks between President Obama’s re-election victory last November and his re-inauguration in January.

Then, they promised they had learned the benefits of “outreach” to the groups that made up the winning Democratic coalition – particularly women, Blacks, Latinos and gays and lesbians. Why, the Republican National Committee (RNC) even produced in March a much ballyhooed report that called for the party to leave its “ideological cul-de-sac,” confessing that the party had “lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”

And how was that critique received by the GOP party faithful? Well, Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk-show maven whose tail still wags the Republican dog, immediately announced it showed the RNC had been “totally bamboozled,” and GOP Congressional leaders comments’ about it were tepid at best.

In fact, the GOP’s actions and words beyond the RNC exercise underscored again that the party continues to be driven by a callous ideology that has prompted Republican legislators to double down on all the things which contributed to the failure of the Republican ticket in 2012: to enact more legislation restricting women’s right to an abortion; to pass more so-called voter identification measures to suppress the Black vote; and to bellow their opposition to efforts to enact sensible immigration-reform measures.

Nothing exemplifies the GOP posture more dramatically and more crudely that Steve King, the Iowa Republican Congressman. King, whose specialty is making vicious jibes about women and people of color, last month denigrated the DREAM Act legislation that would establish an arduous, long path to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants. “Some of them are valedictorians – and their parents brought them in. It wasn’t their fault,” King said, then added, “… But for every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds – and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

Realizing they had a public relations disaster in the making, the GOP leadership disavowed King’s comment. But the fact is King’s anti-immigration stance and that of the GTOP itself are one and the same: Both are designed to appeal to Whites anxious by the growing population and electoral clout of Black Americans and Hispanic Americans.

The solution essentially proposed by Sean Trende, a conservative pundit, and seconded by several of his fellow conservatives, is to minimize trying to broaden the party’s appeal to Blacks and Hispanics and concentrate on building the White conservative voter turnout.

Trende’s argument, laid out in four lengthy articles from June 21 to July 6 on the blog, realclearpolitics.com, is well worth reading because it clearly reflects the political decisions the GOP leadership has already made to continue its past practice of just pretending to be interested in “outreach.”

Black Americans would do well to pay special attention to Trende’s June 25 article, which predicts a decline in both Black voter turnout and the actual number of Black votes going Democratic. The piece contains many assumptions about how Blacks will vote when Barack Obama is no longer at the head of the ticket that are wishful thinking – but that, nevertheless, progressive Blacks and Whites need to consider.

But there is an even more urgent question Trende’s predictions about the Black vote raises but which he ignores: How much are his expectations of a decline in the Black vote in 2016 election dependent on the success of the voter suppression laws Republican-dominated state legislatures have put in place?

Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.

Labor Unions at another Crossroad

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) Next month, the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions in the U.S., will hold its convention in Los Angeles. Breaking with tradition, the AFL-CIO will be opening its doors to community-based organizations, limiting the number of plenary speakers, and seeking to focus its resolutions on “action items” such as proposals that aim to produce a specific outcome rather than general statements. In preparation for the convention, “listening” meetings have been held around the country in order to seek greater input from labor activists regarding the future of the union movement.

The September convention arrives at a critical moment for labor unions specifically and workers generally. The attacks on unions, orchestrated by the political Right and their corporate allies, have been intense in the extreme. Restrictions on the right to organize; restrictions on, if not the outright elimination of, the right to public sector collective bargaining; the expansion of so-called “right to work” laws (actually right to be greedy); along with the reorganization of global capitalism, have heightened the wealth and income gaps in the U.S. and in much of the capitalist world, and driven the living standard of the average worker back to a late 1960s level (after factoring in inflation).

Labor unions, while resisting these attacks, have had great difficulty accepting the extent to which they must undergo change in order to address the crisis they face. While more than half of non-union workers would like to join labor unions or employee associations, they frequently do not think of the labor union movement as being a movement for anyone other than those already in unions. What the unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO will have to grasp is that if they are to re-emerge as a vital force, millions of workers will need to see in them a vehicle in the fight for economic justice. If they are simply viewed as a lobby they are toast.

The challenge for the union movement is daunting, but not insurmountable. They must engage their own members in a broad discussion about what is happening in the economy, not only in the U.S.A. but globally. They must tackle the manner in which race, ethnic and gender prejudices/discrimination, have torn workers apart to the benefit of the employer class. And more than anything else, they must be perceived as being organizations that are fighting on behalf of workers, whether those workers happen to be in unions or not. This includes, but is not limited to, working to create a voice and vehicle for the unemployed, that segment of the population which is being cast aside by corporate America.

While the AFL-CIO’s pre-convention efforts are noteworthy, they will meaningless without results. Exiting the convention, there will not only need to be powerful resolutions, but there will need to be a commitment to substantive change in the manner in which unions operate. This is not a time for great rhetoric but timid action. This is a moment for audacity in the face of the arrogance of the rich.

Unions risk little in forging audacious change. Their very existence has been called into question as a result of the offensive that they have experienced at the hands of corporate America.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Double Standard on Using the N-Word

E-mail Print PDF

By Raynard Jackson
NNPA Columnist

I typically don’t write about professional athletes doing stupid things because I have absolutely no interest and it serves no purpose. But Riley Cooper’s actions from last month can be very instructive and deserves my attention.

Riley Cooper is about to begin his fourth season as a wide receiver with Philadelphia Eagles of the N.F.L. The 25-year-old was born in Oklahoma City and raised in Clearwater, Fla. He played football for the University of Florida. By all accounts, he is a very good receiver and has been a model teammate during his years in the league.

Last month, he attended a Kenny Chesney concert in Philadelphia. He was denied backstage access before the concert and became visibly angry based on the video that has gone viral. In the video, Riley can be seen and heard telling security (who cannot be seen in the video and is said to be Black), “I will jump that fence and fight every nigger here, bro.”

After the video went viral, Riley issued a series of tweets apologizing for his actions and words, “I am so ashamed and disgusted with myself. I want to apologize. I have been offensive. I have apologized to my coach, Jeffrey Lurie, and Howie Roseman and to my teammates. I owe an apology to the fans and to this community. I am so ashamed, but there are no excuses. What I did…Was wrong and I will accept the consequences.”

The chairman and CEO of the team, Jeffrey Lurie issued this statement on behalf of the team, saying: “We are shocked and appalled by Riley Cooper’s words. This sort of behavior or attitude from anyone has no role in a civil society. He has accepted responsibility for his words and his actions. He has been fined for this incident.”

The team then posted a statement on their website: “In meeting with Riley yesterday, we decided together that his next step will be to seek outside assistance to help him fully understand the impact of his words and actions. He needs to reflect. As an organization, we will provide the resources he needs to do so.”

What Cooper said was stupid. But, what I am having a problem reconciling is the reaction of the public in general and the team and N.F.L. in particular.

I have had many professional athletes as clients and friends and spend a considerable amount of time with them both in public and in private. I am appalled at how freely the word nigger is used by these athletes in mixed crowds. Riley is White, but I can assure you that his Black teammates use the word nigger around him—on the field, in the locker room, and when they are together privately.

I am not making a judgment as to whether it is right or wrong; I am simply sharing my personal interactions with professional athletes in various settings. This is the dilemma the Black community has created for the broader public. We give rappers, entertainers, and other Blacks a pass when they use the word nigger, but then want to hold a White person to a different standard. There must be one standard when it comes to the usage of this word – it is not acceptable for anyone, under any circumstance to use it. Period.

Team management and N.F.L. officials hear the word used on the sidelines every Sunday during the games and every now and then league microphones picks up the word being used on the field during live games. Coarse language is part and parcel of the N.F.L., but is not for public consumption.

So, why is there no outrage by team and league officials when they hear these words on the sideline? Oh, I forgot, this feigned outrage over Cooper’s comments were caught on camera and the outrage is more of a public relations response—to protect their sport’s brand.

My point is very simple: If we in the Black community didn’t use the word nigger, then others wouldn’t feel comfortable using it, either. Cooper is totally responsible for what came out of his mouth; but the Black community is responsible for making him feel comfortable saying it.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.

Don't Let Auto Dealer Markups Take You for a Ride

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently issued a warning to banks, finance companies and credit unions that they will be held accountable for discrimination in auto lending. In announcing its intention to hold auto lenders accountable for illegal, discriminatory markups, CFPB also published a bulletin detailing ways lenders should incorporate practices designed to honor fair lending laws.

At the crux of CFPB’s concern is a practice known as “dealer reserve” or “dealer participation.” Both are synonyms for a markup on financing cost that is typically hidden from the consumer. The fact that consumers are unaware of the additional interest makes it difficult to negotiate prices fairly with full information. These fees add more cost to the consumer and more profit for the dealer.

For consumers, it’s an important action. Rather than waiting for discrimination to occur, CFPB’s oversight intends to stop biased pricing before it happens. It should also be welcome news for consumers with problematic credit. The potential buyers at the greatest risk are those who lack other financing options. Adding vehicle financing to an auto purchase enables dealers to raise the loan’s interest rate and keep some or all of the difference as commission. As a result, these consumers typically receive the worst deals.

Keep in mind that interest rate markups occur at the dealers’ discretion and many times have no relation to actual credit risk. Financial exploitation is a form of discrimination.

The Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act gave CFPB the authority to supervise more than 150 of the nation’s largest financial institutions, including those with $10 billion in assets. This supervision applies whether the lender is a bank, credit union or an affiliate. In 2012, 15.7 million auto loans contributed to $783 billion in consumer debt. Car notes are also the third largest source of household debts, after mortgages and student loans.

It is also yet another sign that discriminatory actions will persist in the absence of strict enforcement. Just as HUD oversees the Fair Housing Act, communities of color are legally protected from discriminatory practices through the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). The ECOA makes it illegal for a creditor to discriminate in any aspect of a credit transaction on the bases race, color, religion, national origin, gender, marital status or age.

Despite these laws, some lenders continue to ignore the spirit, if not the letter of the law. Research by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) released in 2011 found that discriminatory auto lending pricing was evident. A series of class-action lawsuits challenged how African-Americans and Latinos disproportionately received interest rate markups more frequently and to a greater degree than their similarly-situated white counterparts.

CRL also found that consumers pay more than $25.8 billion in interest rate markups over the lives of their loans. Beyond higher mark-ups, poor credit ratings can lock consumers into finance rates so high that repossessions become the norm rather than the exception.

Through an analysis of 25 auto finance companies that together accounted for 1.7 million vehicle finance accounts by the end of 2009, CRL discovered that although vehicle sales declined by 20 percent from 2007 to 2009, the total markup volume during this same period grew 24 percent from $20.8 billion in 2007.

Now, thanks to the CFPB’s watchdog role if or when financial violations occur, dealers are assured that swift enforcement will be taken.

Further, it just makes sense for consumers to shop for the best auto lending rates, just as consumers are encouraged to shop for the best mortgage rate for a home. Most importantly, consumers should be keenly aware that the convenience of buying and financing a vehicle from a dealer will likely be more costly than if financing and sales were handled separately.

Shopping for financing first enables consumers to learn their credit scores, current competitive rates on loans and how much of a loan is affordable in comparison to their other expenses and debts. Deciding up front the household comfort zone for new debt and how long it should last, would lead to loans that are better managed and affordable.

CRL salutes the CFPB for exercising their power to ensure that the marketplace is fair for all consumers. Just as the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision held that in education, separate was inherently unequal, the same can be said of lending: let it be equal.

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at: Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Page 23 of 91

Quantcast