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Black Americans and Mitt Romney

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(NNPA) Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s recent statement, “I’m not concerned about the very poor…. We have a safety net…. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it” has caused once again considerable debate about poverty in America. But for millions of impoverished Black Americans the focus should be on encouraging education, self-empowerment and economic development as a means of getting out of poverty rather than waiting on some non-caring presidential candidate to patch a gaping hole in the so-called poverty-prevention safety net.

In a democracy all citizens should have the right to run for President. Of course qualifications and experience are factors that voters should weigh when making a decision about who to vote for and to support. For over 45 million Black Americans, the 2012 elections are extremely important. We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and to take the November 2012 elections for granted. I keep emphasizing that it is counterproductive for Black people in the United States to be cynical or non-involved in the national political debate concerning the issues that affect the quality of life in the Black community across the nation.

Mitt Romney’s confession did more than expose his seemingly insensitivity toward the poor. It revealed Romney’s comfort with a certain percentage of the population that will according to his logic always remain in poverty in need of a safety net. Romney rhetorically joined the likes of Fox News commentator Bill O’Rielly who condescendingly reminded a national television audience that in the Bible it says, “The poor will always be with us.” African Americans do not always have to be poor! Again, what Romney said or what O’Rielly said should not come as a shock. Those statements just remind us that if we do not get ourselves up out of poverty, there will be no others that we should depend on to change the situation of poverty that too many continue to face in our communities.

Noted scholar and author Earl Ofari Hutchinson raised an appropriate question with respect to the absence of Black Americans who have some noticeable role in the Romney presidential campaign staff or support. Hutchinson observed, “The scorecard then reads like this: Gingrich, Santorum, and Paul, all have asked for and gotten endorsements and support from African-Americans. There is no record or evidence that the supposed more moderate Romney has asked for or gotten any black support or even taken a photo-op with some dutiful blacks. The question that will loom even larger as Romney closes in on the GOP nomination is. Where are Romney’s blacks?”

Romney’s comments on poverty, therefore, were not a mere slip of a politicians tongue during the heat of a tense campaign. He is not in touch with the reality that most Americans have to endure in 2012.

And in particular, Romney is so far out of the loop of reality when it comes to Black Americans’ state of existence, that it is cause for serious concern. The fact is for Black children and youth the poverty rate is nearly 40% as a direct of the systematic underdevelopment of the African American community during the last 50 years. Too many African Americans live in poverty today at a rate greater than one out of every four persons. Of course our economic and social predicament is not the result of statements by Mitt Romney. The point here is, however, that for the vast majority of Black people in America and throughout the African world, the candidacy of Romney for President raises serious implications about his stated sense of inclusion and of ‘caring’ and empathy for poor people in general and for poor Black people specifically.

Regardless of who emerges as the Republican nominee, Black Americans have to take a proactive responsibility to ensure the largest voter turnout in American history come this November. To all of the “playa haters” some of whom are White and Black who are trying to seduce Black people into the self-destructive lethargy of not voting, copping out, and non-civic engagement: “We will not be put asleep. We will remain wide awake. We are going to mobilize voter participation in record numbers in the face of voter repression in more than 30 states across the nation.”

Please do not underestimate the power and the importance of every vote this year. We have to join with others who share our interests for a better future for ourselves and for all people. The worst form of oppression is self-destruction and the fear of liberation. Mitt Romney has made clear where he stands. Where do you stand? How will you vote?

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is President of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and Education Online Services Corporation and can be reached at www.HSAN.org

Your Pharmacy May be in Danger

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(NNPA) The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering whether to allow a corporate merger thatcould result in great strides backward for African Americans and others suffering from economic and health ills.

Stick with me, because it gets a little complicated.

Express Scripts, Inc. (ESI) and Medco Health Solutions are giant, multi-billion dollar corporationsthat control prescription drug benefits for hundreds of millions of Americans. Known aspharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), these companies decide which pharmacies people can visit,what prescription drugs are available for purchase, and how much these medications will cost.They also decide how much community pharmacies will be paid for filling prescriptions.

The potential merger affects so many people, and raises so many antitrust issues, that the FTC isreviewing it to see if it should be allowed at all, and if so, under what conditions.

If these two companies are allowed to join forces, they will control the majority of the prescriptionmarket—and decision-making—in several key areas, including mail order and specialty pharmacy,and will dwarf the remaining PBMs in size and prescription volume. The increased level of market control will give the merged company the power to increase prices and push out rivals,including community pharmacies.

Don’t just take my word for it. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. When it comes to antitrustmatters, he is an expert. In a letter to Jonathan Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC, Kohl asks that the agency carefully scrutinize the merger. He cites concerns that the merger will reduce competition,raise prices for consumers, and threaten community and chain drug stores.

Kohl believes “the stakes for American consumers, health plan sponsors, and our nation’s networkof local pharmacies arising out of this transaction are very high…” He is right. And the stakes areeven higher for African Americans than for the average American consumer.

If prices go up, as expected under this merger, and community pharmacies are no longer able tocompete in the hostile climate created by the PBMs, African Americans throughout the countrywill lose access to needed medications and other pharmacy services.

This is disturbing in light of existing health disparities. African Americans are more likely to beafflicted with life-threatening diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer than whites. Infantmortality is higher. We are less likely to be immunized against common, easily-preventableillnesses. So the convenient, localized services provided by community pharmacies in our neighborhoods are especially important.

On top of that, consider the devastating effects of the recent recession on African Americans. Theunemployment rate for blacks in January 2012 was 13.6 percent, nearly twice as high the 7.5% unemployment rate among whites. Many African-Americans have lost their homes during the recession. And, even having a much lower household of wealth to begin with, blacks have lost agreater percentage of net worth, according to the Pew Research Center.

This means that the people most in need of quality health services are least able to affordthem. The ESI/Medco merger will make matters worse by increasing prescription drug pricesand causing community pharmacies to fail, including, notably, a number of minority-owned businesses.

One of the PBM companies, ESI, is already dropping popular pharmacies from its network, pre-merger. Yes, this is the same Express Scripts that recently dumped Walgreens, the nation’s largest pharmacy chain, eliminating access for the many people of color who live near these stores. But ESI does not care whether community pharmacies remain in its network, or even survive. Infact, CEO George Paz told Senator Kohl at a Judiciary Subcommittee hearing about the merger, “Ican’t stop certain pharmacies from going out of business.”

The other company, Medco, is requiring many of its customers to use mail-order pharmacies instead of retail pharmacies, deciding for patients in Big Brother fashion which pharmacy servicesthey can use. This also threatens community pharmacies. But don’t look to the company forsympathy. Medco CEO David Snow believes his pharmacy robots are better than your localpharmacist down the street, and if he has his way, you will no longer have a choice.

Viewed in light of existing health disparities and economic difficulties, and the indifference of thePBM executives, there are no benefits for African American consumers in allowing the merger toproceed, and there are many risks.

If the FTC gives the merger the “most serious review” requested by Senator Kohl, it is difficult tosee how they could possibly allow it to move forward.

Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®.Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

Letter to the Editor

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As a daughter of a World War II soldier, I was privileged and personally touched to participate in a ceremony at Arrowhead Credit Union Park awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor to five Inland Tuskegee Airmen in 2007. They were Buford Johnson; Harlan Q. Leonard Jr.; Laska H. Jones, Robert Boyd and Charles Ledbetter (posthumously).

These brave heroes fought prejudice and discrimination to fight the Nazis in the air. They represented the 996 airmen, crew and staff who trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama during World War II. Four hundred and fifty pilots were sent overseas and completed 1,578 successful missions.

Sixty-six men made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for our freedom.

Known as the Red Tails, this squadron of Black fighter pilots achieved an extraordinary feat. They not only overcame the racism, they went on to become one of the most respected and decorated regiments in history. They opened doors not just for Black Americans, but for anyone who aspires to achieve their dreams in the face of enormous challenge.

Their courageous story is well-chronicled in the new George Lucas film, “Red Tails.” The film’s release is a focal point for our celebration of Black achievement in American history this month. I hope many of you will see this film to honor the Tuskegee Airmen and to share their legacy with younger generations.

Wilmer Amina Carter Rialto
Wilmer Amina Carter is 62nd District State Assemblymember who honors veterans annually at a May appreciation reception.

Letter to the Editor

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The Moreno Valley City Council again voted to proceed with their previously dismissed validation lawsuit. The reason for the lawsuit is to get court approval to terminate the rights of the public to object to the financing.

And there are plenty of reasons to object.

This project involves the widening of Nason from Fir to Cactus. One of the biggest reasons to oppose this project is the hidden cost.

This $15 million project will cost about $38 million to repay.

The repayments will be made from funds traditionally used for street maintenance.

The city’s residents will be losing $23 million in annual street maintenance over the next 30 years that will instead be paid to interest.

That’s over 20% of the city’s annual general fund revenues. In the city’s long-range business plan (1/17/2012 study session) the report refers to the city’s significant deferred street maintenance liability. One idea is to use $1 million per year from the General Fund to maintain street quality. In other words if the city institutes this financing, the city is going to need to make up from the general fund the loss in street maintenance dollars.

The biggest reason to oppose this financing is because it shouldn’t be paid for with public monies. There is a development agreement between Iddo Benzeevi’s company (Benzeevi) and the city. That agreement requires Benzeevi to pay for street improvements that will impact his development in exchange for the elimination of his Development Impact Fees. Using public dollars to pay for improvements that Benzeevi is contractually obligated to pay for should be thought of as nothing less than a gift of public dollars to a private developer.

The city council already voted to pay for $23.3 million for streets running through and around his vacant property.

Streets that won’t be needed unless he develops.

By my calculations the Moreno Valley City Council just Gifted developer Iddo Benzeevi with $60 million dollars in public money to improve his property and the value of his property. I think the city of Moreno Valley has worked itself right up to the same class as the city of Bell and Vernon and the county of San Bernardino.

Some more little known information. The city council convened a secret committee to (vet) pick the current city manager. This committee met in secret for months before anyone from the public knew. None of us would have known, except Benzeevi and friends went to the press when it looked like his choice wasn’t going to be hired. Three of the committee members were on the Rancho Belago Economic Council Board of Directors.

A committee spearheaded by Benzeevi to further his economic interests in the east end of Moreno Valley.

Two own property or businesses that will be improved with this plan. Two received campaign contribution from the Moreno Valley Taxpayers Association who in turn received almost all of it’s money from Iddo Benzeevi and Jerry Stephens. We feel Benzeevi and friends got to pick the city manager that furthered their business and/ or economic interests.

Hopefully this information encourages you to become more active in city affairs. Moreno Valley City Council meetings are the first four Tuesday’s of the month (except holidays). The address fir City Hall Council Chambers is 14177 Frederick Street, meetings start at 6 PM.

Thank You,
Deanna Reeder

Is Mitt Romney a Racist? Part II

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(NNPA) I posed this question in an article written back in December 2007. I left it “open ended”. Lately, now that there is another presidential race going on interested people are starting to uncover this old article and make it contemporary. This is troubling to me so I guess I should put closure to the whole matter. First, let me answer the question: No, Mitt Romney is not a racist. As I researched history, over the years I have come to find that the opposite is the case. The Romney Family has a legacy of pro-civil rights, progressive activism and an understanding of how poverty and inequality can hurt people.

Stunned? Let me run it down and I believe you will find this story to be a great American success story. The Romney bloodlines are of immigrant English, Scottish and German descent. Mitt’s grandparents, Gaskell Romney and Anna Amelia Pratt were natives of Utah but moved to Mexico, Chihuahua State, and settled in one of the few Mormon colonies. They had six sons and one daughter. Mitt’s father, George W. Romney had a simple life in the beginning. Then, in 1910, the Mexican Revolution started and Mormon colonies came under severe attacks and constant threats.

The Romney’s arrived in the United States, near El Paso, as Mexican refugees. They were treated with scorn and became penniless. Soon they moved again to outside of Los Angeles. The Romney children were teased by other kids who labeled them “Mex”. Soon after that they journeyed to Idaho to try farming. They raised potatoes; sold most of them and ate the rest for substance. Finally, they arrived in Utah and settled in with the predominant Mormon community there.

Early life was rugged for the senior Romney but it instilled in him a strong work ethic. He passed that along to his children including Willard Mitt Romney whom we all know today. George Romney eventually started working for Alcoa Aluminum and the Aluminum Wares Association as a lobbyist and, thus, his political career was about to take off. He was also a genius business executive and would rise to the CEO position of American Motors. When Mitt was born in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 1941, George had gone up the “ladder” and would gain wealth that would be passed onto to his children and their families.

George joined the Republican Party and let it be known to all that he was a proponent of civil rights and would fight for equal opportunity especially for the “Negro”. He soon became Governor of the state of Michigan and he used his authority to help integrate the state. He demanded new, integrated subdivisions to be built near new auto plants like the Ford Willow Run facility so that Blacks could easily access the jobs that were provided. In 1963 he stated, “It was only after I got to Detroit that I got to know Negroes and began to be able to evaluate them and I began to recognize that some Negroes are better and more capable than lots of whites….Michigan’s most urgent human rights problem is racial discrimination – in housing, public accommodations, education, administration of justice, and employment.” He thus created the state’s first civil rights commission.

George not only supported Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement he actively cheered it on. When the Selma to Montgomery March went down, he organized a “solidarity march” in Detroit to show his belief in the values being preached. Keep in mind, he was Governor of the State. People noticed and on his last re-election as Governor he won over 30 percent of the Black vote. He stood tall for justice. When Barry Goldwater ran for President on the Republican ticket in 1964, George refused to support him as the candidate was opposed to the Civil Rights Act.

During all of this advocacy, his son, Mitt, was evolving as a man. He idolized his father and emulated his legacy. Mitt Romney lived amongst Blacks in metropolitan Detroit. He went to the prestigious Cranbrook School. That’s where basketball legend Chris Webber matriculated. One of our board members, Claude McDougal, is a fellow alumnus of the school.

Perhaps the greatest thing Mitt’s father did as an example to his son came in 1969. He became Secretary of HUD (Nixon Administration) and he quickly implemented Section 3 of the HUD Act (Equal Opportunity and Employment Program). It gave President Nixon fits but he did it successfully and it stands today.

Let me close with a quote from Mitt that shows the “fruit” doesn’t fall far from the tree: “I do not support quotas in hiring, government contracting, school admissions or the like. I believe our nation is at its best when people are evaluated as individuals. I do support encouraging inclusiveness and diversity, and I encourage the disclosure of the numbers of women and minorities in top positions of companies and government – not to impose a quota, but to shine light on the situation. We should always strive for the broadest representation of people, from all walks of life, at all levels of our companies, schools, and government.” Hmmm, sounds like a plan.

Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

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