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Maligning Federal Employees

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By Julianne Malveaux

NNPA Columnist

Congress is on fire to balance the federal budget, and they don’t care who they take as prisoners in the process. There are at least two proposals to freeze federal salaries for yet another year (they have been frozen since 2011), and to continue to demonize federal workers as do-nothing folks who don’t need raises. Meanwhile, President Obama has asked for a minimal half percent a year increase while many in the private sector are seeing wages rise. Of course, everyone is struggling with unemployment rates rising to 8.2 percent. Still, it is onerous that federal employees seem to be bearing the brunt of this budget crisis.

It is even worse when we understand that African Americans make up 17.4 percent of the federal workforce, compared to 10.1 percent of the civilian labor force. Of course, the higher the pay grade, the fewer African Americans. Whatever the pay grade, it is clear that African Americans are far more likely to get proportional pay in the federal government than in the private sector. Thus, proposals to cut federal pay disproportionately affect African Americans. Somebody could perhaps argue that cuts are race neutral, but I’m not buying. The fact is that the federal government has been most open to African American workers, and most willing to offer relatively equal pay.

Too many would like to characterize government workers as ineffective without looking at the fact that most federal government and private workers do their jobs and then some. Everybody can tell trifling somebody-done-me-wrong songs, but the real deal is most works do their best. Those members of Congress that target federal workers ought to look long at hard and the results they get form the folks who process Social Security checks, manage veterans’ benefits, move money from the federal government to state and local governments, and manage the process. These folks need kudos not the killing remarks that suggest that they don’t earn their money.

It’s a rough job market and many, including federal employees, make the choice to take pay freezes instead of looking for other work. Are we losing some of our best employees, though, when we impose a freeze for the third year in a row? It may be hard for some others to sympathize with folks who have steady and well-paid employment, but at the same time, who wants to work without appreciation or a raise? Does our Congress cut off our nose to spite our face by targeting federal employees?

As a CEO, I’ve had to preside over the difficult task of imposing pay freezes and hoping that my staff would understand that frozen pay is better than no pay or layoffs. At the same time, I shudder when I think that our federal government cannot appreciate, even in a small way, those who keep our trains running, our balls in the air, our elders compensated, our work done. Half a percent is a small amount, and it hits those at the bottom, not the top. How can Congress push to maintain Bush tax cuts, but fail to raise wages for federal employees.

There are two reasons that I am passionate about this. First, although many federal workers earn more than $150,000 a year, too many, mostly Black women, are at the GS-1 to GS-4 level, earning less than $40,000 annually. These women raise families, send children to school and overcome odds. They need a raise. They aren’t going to get it from a Congress that demonizes government workers, and that is a tragedy. Secondly, African Americans are more likely to get fair treatment from a civil service system than from the ordinary labor market, and it seems that this is a reason that some legislators seem to go after government employees.

While Congress must be prudent about our budget, they shouldn’t take it out of the hide of government workers, especially those at the very bottom. There is no fairness in freezing government salaries while other salaries rise.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Black Women Don’t Have the Luxury of Staying Home

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By Julianne Malveaux

When Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said that Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life,” Romney behaved as if she had just hit the lottery. She smugly made the media rounds talking about how hard it was for her to raise her five sons. And she’s right.  Stay at home moms work extremely hard to cook, clean, run a shuttle for their children and their various activities, participate in school activities like “Room Mom” and “Cookie Mom.” How do I know, having never had chick or child?  A very dear friend, a Harvard-educated lawyer, has been mostly home with her children, one of whom is my godson, for the past decade or so, and it shows.

I digress. Hilary Rosen misspoke when she said Ann Romney had never worked. What she could  have said is that Ann Romney never needed to work in the paid labor market.  Even when Mitt Romney was in graduate school, they survived by living on the returns from their investments, according to them. So it isn’t that Ann Romney never worked, it is simply that she was never forced to.

This entire conversation is a blast from the past, reminiscent of articles that I wrote in the 1980s.  Even then this was a mostly White women’s’ conversation since few Black women have or are married to the kind of wealth that would allow them to stay home.  Conservative stay home moms often say that people have to make sacrifices to stay at home, perhaps cutting out luxuries such as restaurant meals and extra clothing.  But unless food is a luxury, there are Black women who are in the labor market simply because they have no choice.

The official unemployment rate among African Americans is 14 percent.  The actual rate is more like 26 percent, and in many inner cities the Black male unemployment rate is nearly 50 percent.  This is a burden to African American women who often don’t have the economic assistance they need to raise a family. As a result of this burden, nearly 40 percent of African American children live in poverty, too often supported by a single mom (more than 40 percent of African American households are headed by women).

While there is a group of African American stay-at-home moms called Mocha Moms, and there is little data to suggest the size of the African American stay-at-home mom population, it is clear that historically, African American women had no choice but work.  I am not invoking ancient history when I reference the women who, as maids, were paid to take better care of their employer’s children than they could possibly take of their own.  And then they often paid, I part with used clothes and leftover food substituting for cash.

Patriarchal tradition kept White women home, while White men were paid a “family wage” that was, by definition, enough to support a whole family. Such patriarchal tradition was not economically present in the African American community.  Few African American men were paid a family wage, but instead something like a subsistence wage. Women needed to work to help keep the family together.

Until the late 1980s, the labor force participation of African American women exceeded that of White women, which means that proportionately more of us were working.   African American women’s earnings often make the difference between poverty and comfort for their families.  Mommy wars?  Give me a break.  Let’s talk about survival wars.

Even those African American families who have been blessed with higher education and “good jobs” are well aware that African Americans are “last hired, first fired”.  Too many so-called middle class families are a paycheck or two away from poverty.  Last time I checked, African American households had only 2 percent of our nation’s wealth, hardly a cushion to fall back on, with few investment returns to live on when no one is working.

Tuesday was Equal Pay Day, which counts the extra days women have to work to earn as much as a man did last year.  This hits women of all races, but it may hit African American women harder. We can only laugh and shake our heads at Hilary Rosen’s faux pas and Ann Romney’s smugness.  We working African American women, stay at home or in the paid labor force understand that “life for us ain’t been no crystal stair”.  Educated or uneducated, middle class or working class, the labor market has never been a level playing field for us, and our salaries show it.  Mommy wars?  We fight survival wars in the workplace and in this economy.

Julianne Malveaux is president of Bennet College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

If You Have A One-Person Corporation, You Still Need To Have An Annual Meeting

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By Richard Nevins

Many small business owners are too busy running their business to hold an annual meeting of their corporation. In California, a corporation can be owned and operated by a single individual, so having an annual meeting can be like talking to yourself. If you have created a corporation, you have probably received many official-looking letters that appear to come from a state government agency. These letters cite the California state laws that require an annual corporate meeting and they cite the state laws regarding the problems facing your corporation if you fail to have a record of your corporation's annual meetings. These letters also include an offer to prepare the minutes of your annual meeting for a modest fee of $100 to $150.

The problem with these letters is that they are just advertising-through-intimidation. While it is true that all corporations are required to have an annual meeting of the shareholders and the board of directors, it is not true that the minutes of these annual corporate meetings have to be on file with some state agency. The annual meeting is not a public matter and the minutes do not have to leave your office files.

In a one-person corporation, having an annual meeting may seem like a waste of time, but it most definitely is not. All of the legal, financial and tax benefits of having a corporation are only available if the corporation is treated and recognized as a separate entity from the person, who created it. One of the greatest benefits of having a corporation own your business is that your family home and your personal property can be protected if there is anyone decides to sue your business. A properly formed and operated corporation is an important element in any asset protection plan.

The corporation's ability to shield you from personal liability is lost if the existence of the corporation is not documented. Under the law, a corporation has all the legal rights and protections of any human. However, since the corporation is not human, the only proof that is exists is based on its documents. The minutes of the annual meeting is one its most important documents.

During this meeting, the shareholders elect the board of directors, who in turn hire the corporation's president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. All of the major actions taken by the corporation should be approved or ratified by the board of directors and described in the annual minutes.

If important tax matters are properly documented in the annual minutes, then the corporation has an additional level of protection if there is an audit by the IRS. The annual meeting should include participation of the company's tax-preparer, because some valuable corporate tax benefits are required to be documented before the end of the tax year. The company's business lawyer should also be requested to review prior actions and to assist with future plans.

Richard Nevins has been an attorney for 18 years. His law firm provides legal advice in estate planning and small business law. For more information about trust and wills, please see the website for Richard Nevins at www.RiversideTrustLaw.Com. Attorney Nevins is also available to speak to your organization about trusts and estate questions. You can contact his office to arrange for a seminar at (951) 750-6630 or by email at Richard@RiversideTrustLaw.Com.

Tiger back on the prowl?

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Woods appears ready for Masters this week.

By Leland Stein III

At the risk of sounding like a homer, it was great watching golf again (lol). Especially since Tigers Woods was in the hunt for a win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando. I’m not trying to minimizing the efforts of so many great golf professionals on the PGA Tour, including the up and coming group of young golfers that is making the sport as competitive as ever.

But for me, there is something – I have to use my ‘60’s vocabulary here – groovy about seeing Woods in his red shirt and black pants prowling the final 18 holes with a chance to win; it gets me kind of excited and eager to watch a slow game like golf on television. My wife was even watching the tournament off and on with me. She would periodically yell at me, “Is Tiger still in the lead?”

Now I’m pretty sure this was not just happening in the Stein household, but in many homes across the country. The documented PGA television rating when Woods is in contention clearly shows that the Stein household is not alone in this.

I’m sure thousands of others are wondering if Woods is really back and if this is his very real first step to getting back towards reclaiming world golf domination with his five-stroke victory at Bay Hill?

By ending his 30-month winless famine and triumphing for the 72th time on the PGA Tour, Woods showed that he’s quite capable of finishing first in an elite stroke-play tournament against a strong field.

He had not won since September 2009 and I was questioning if he had lost his mojo. I think that is what bothered me the most about Woods decent into the golf abyss. Surely any man that gets caught cheating on his wife is put in a position of scorn.

However, I was totally shocked that Woods let the media and public perceptions affect him so greatly that he appeared to lose his self-confidence and self-esteem. Now to be balanced, he did have very real injury problems that required surgery. Surely that had a negative effect on his ability to swing his clubs and negotiate a golf course.

But the style in which Woods won at Bay Hill is what got me giddy. He built a lead through the first three rounds with inspired all-around play. Final day competitor Graeme McDowell tried to make it interesting after Woods’ first-hole double bogey pushed his lead to three. However, Woods seemed to regain his mojo at Bay Hill. Yeah he tossed a club after a bad hit off a tee, and, the camera caught his cussing at himself after a makeable putt he missed. I like that passion. The fact of the matter is that is the type of energy it takes for any superstar athlete to ascend to the elite level.

We will all soon see if Woods’ rebirth is worthy of a cigar as the golf crown jewel, the Masters, start this week and he’ll be the favorite. Woods has never really given credence to the fact he has been on a protracted slump, instead he has always said he feels he can still win and every time out he expects to or at least tries to win.

No matter, after the Bay Hill win there was obvious joy in his demeanor and spirit as he walked off the course to rousing cheers. "It does feel good,” Woods told reporters just before signing his card. “It feels really good. It's been a lot of hard work."

Woods finished at 13-under 275 for his 72nd PGA Tour win, one short of Nicklaus for second place on the all-time career list. But that's not the record Woods wants. He has 14 majors, four short of the Nicklaus standard, and he tries to end a four-year drought at the Masters this weekend. For me, Woods at the 1997 Masters drowning in tears while in a prolonged embrace with his father, Earl, who was recovering from heart bypass surgery and ignored doctor’s orders by attending, took precedence for me over Tiger being the first man of color to win a major championship. He set a tournament-record 18-under-par 270 at the very young age of 21. He has won four Masters Titles overall. Leland Stein III can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII Tiger Woods at the Buick Open in 2009. – Andre Smith photo

We Are All Trayvon Martin

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By Dr. Julianne Malveaux

NNPA Columnist

I have two nephews that I love with an amazing passion. Anyi, 28, is a Los Angeles based comedian, who kinda looks like me and acts like me. He is my absolute escort of choice when I am in Southern California. Armand, 25, is an Oakland-based aspiring writer, and a 2008 graduate of University of California, Santa Cruz. Both of these young men are well over 6’3”, but neither carries any extra weight. Both of them wear hoodies. And both of them have had unfortunate run-ins with so-called law enforcement officers that have tainted the way that they see law and order. Whenever they share their stories with me I am sickened by their experiences and our nation’s myopia about the way young Black men are treated because of a series of sick stereotypes gone amuck.

A few years ago Anyi, then working for Berkeley-based Youth Radio, parked his dilapidated car in the public transit parking lot and headed to meet colleagues who were also taking the train to an assignment. A police officer followed him, said his car was stolen, pulled a gun on him, forced him to his knees, even as his colleagues begged the officer to stop. What I remember from Anyi’s account is that he had dirtied his “clean white shirt” when he was forced to the prone position. As it turned out, the officer had miscued one digit in the license number, looking for a new Toyota, not an ancient jalopy. There was never an apology, nor any discipline for the officer who, unfortunately, happened to also be a young African American. Indeed, from our family there was gratitude that Anyi had so many witnesses around him that the police officer could not pull a Trayvon on him. But here is the deal. The experience embittered Anyi. It reminded him that the police are not his friend. This is post-racial America. You can shoot and kill a young Black man in a hoodie then claim self-defense because you find him threatening. There was a case, perhaps three decades ago, when a White man was able to claim disability because he was “afraid” of working with Black people. What if each of us could claim disability because we are afraid of working with hostile Whites? Instead, we suck it up each day and walk into a world where we know that our race makes us suspect. Hoodie or not, we are all Trayvon Martin.

In other words, there is still a manufactured fear of a Black presence in our nation and in our world. We have an African American president who has been assailed, not because of his mostly moderate politics, but because he happens to be of African descent. We have an attorney general whose motives have been maligned because of his race. And we have a baby boy walking the streets with iced tea and some candy, whose height and hoodie made him suspect to a deranged White man (yes, it is possible to be White and Hispanic) with a temper and a history of domestic violence who disobeyed 911 orders and took his gun out to get vigilante justice. If George Zimmerman had an ounce of integrity he would turn himself in instead of hiding out. But Zimmerman is not the problem. The climate, these “stand your ground” laws are more the problem. What if we, Black people, chose to stand our ground?

Once upon a time, we did. In Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, a young Black man, Dick Rowland, happened to jostle a White woman elevator operator, Sarah Page, in the office building where they both worked. The unintentional contact was too much for the crazy White powers that existed and they threatened to lynch Rowland, who fled to Greenwood, the area once called Black Wall Street. Black men rallied to Rowland’s defense, with a militia that threatened White power. Whites responded by rioting against Black people and holding us in concentration camps. It is likely that bombs were dropped on the Black community by our own government (see the work of Dr. Kimberly Ellis), but the newspapers documenting the attacks can now not be found. A wealthy community was eliminated, but in the words of poet Claude McKay, “If we must die, let it not be like hogs, haunted and penned to this in this inglorious spot. …Like men we’ll face the murderous cowardly pack, pressed to the wall, dying but fighting back. “ Find McKay’s Harlem Renaissance poem and ruminate on it.

We are all Trayvon Martin. When do we start fighting back in an organized, disciplined, focused and effective way?

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