A+ R A-

More Commentary

Troubled Waters on the Mighty Mississippi

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) The Mississippi River is a great blessing from God. Besides being the largest river in our nation, it is a major vehicle of commerce. It borders the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. In addition, its tributaries reached out to a total of 31 states. A significant amount of ports handle the robust amount of shipping that occurs 24/7 on this magnificent consortium of water.

A few years ago, the Asian Carp invaded the Mississippi River through fishing farms that flooded into the river. There was movement from some groups to cut off the Illinois River from flowing from the Mississippi River into Lake Michigan to prevent further spread of the fish. We joined in the fight against this radical solution. Eventually they found ways to stop the spreading of this unwanted species without killing commerce throughout the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. There was just no way they were going to shut down any part of the Mississippi River. That’s how important it is.

Now we have a different crisis. The area along the northern end of the river is facing a drought. It rivals the drought of 1989. It is threatening reduced commerce along the river. The reduced depth of the river is making shipping somewhat prohibitive. Companies in the navigation industry along these rivers are now shipping less material by “light loading” fleets which make each load less profitable. In addition to the low levels of water, rocks known as pinnacles are emerging through the shallow levels and risking serious damage to the vessels.

If the Mississippi River becomes closed to commerce, that will also affect shipping on the Ohio and Missouri rivers and make the Great Lakes a one way shipping vehicle. It would halt hundreds of millions of tons of essential goods and commodities such as corn, grain, coal, petroleum, chemicals and many other products important to the national economy. Cargo valued at more than $7 billion, including 300 million bushels of agricultural products and 3.8 million tons of coal could experience serious delays that will have a ripple effect and damage all of our local communities. Let’s not overlook the likelihood of five barrels of domestically produced crude oil not being shipped and purchases of imported crude oil will increase by about $550 million as a result.

This situation is a job killer. Lost of jobs and skyrocketing of consumer prices will further hurt our weak economy. However, there is a simple solution to this state of misfortune. All the president has to do is to instruct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue, in fact increase, the flow of waters coming from the Missouri River dams and reservoirs. Right now the Corps is scheduled to actually stop these flows of water by mid-December through the spring. They aren’t scheduled to dredge and remove the rock pinnacles located between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill. until late spring. Shutting the water flows now and waiting to dredge and remove the pinnacles is a blueprint for disaster. The president can do this by simply declaring an emergency and implement the Stafford Act. If there ever was an emergency, this is it.

The protocol for having the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manage the water system of the Mississippi River was created as a result of the Great Flood of 1927. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover became immensely popular for successfully managing this task. It was the biggest reason he was elected president in 1928. However, he segregated the victims by race and broke many promises made to the Colored Advisory Commission. This caused much disappointment among African Americans who were predominantly members of the Republican Party. The emergence of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his first lady, Eleanor, who reached out to African Americans changed the whole demographic. Blacks started moving over to the Democratic Party.

We need more of a public outcry on the river situation. Pleas for the president to react accordingly have come in writing by the governors of Illinois, Missouri and Iowa. Fifteen U.S. Senators have also written pleading for the president’s action. Also, 62 members of the House of Representatives have written, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus (Elijah Cummings, Lacy Clay, Cedric Richmond, Bennie Thompson, Emanuel Cleaver, Terri Sewell, Danny Davis and Bobby Rush).

It is time for all of us to show big time concern. Call your senator, congressperson, governor and talk it up on your favorite radio talk show. Write to people as I am doing now. We don’t need additional hits to our economic situation. The nation is fragile and good stewardship with rapid action is needed.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

Another Look at the Republican Party

E-mail Print PDF

“Any time you throw your weight behind a political party that can’t keep promises it made you during election time and you’re dumb enough to continue to identify with that political party, you’re not only a chump but traitor to your race.” – Malcolm X

By William Reed
NNPA Columnist

(NNPA) What’s your personal political ideology and most important value? Do you agree that certain political parties and issues are more important to Blacks than Whites? A political party typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating candidates with aligned political views and trying to seat them in political office. In your political alignments, are you getting what you need and deserve in return, and not chump change?

It was a Republican president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The Republicans Party was the party of most Blacks prior to the 1960s, including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. Some of the founding fathers of the NAACP were Republicans as was the party that desegregated the South’s schools and implemented America’s affirmative action programs. Republicans believe in the free enterprise system. The Office of Minority Business Enterprise, a federal agency dedicated to minority business, was established by Republican President Richard Nixon in March of 1969.

African-American history is most often presented through liberal political lens that skew contributions and examples of African Americans outside the liberal mainstream. Black Americans have been taught that Republicans are racist and care nothing about Black empowerment. Black Republicans are often labeled “insufficiently Black.”

In truth, the history of the Republican Party’s relationship with Blacks is one of a bright start followed by steady decline. Unfortunately, a reliance on family and faith has become a casualty of the modern welfare state, contributed to the destruction of family cohesion and supplanted faith in God with faith in government. Black conservatism is a political and social movement rooted in communities of African descent that aligns largely with the American conservative movement.

Since the Civil Rights Movement, the African-American community has generally fallen to the left of the political spectrum and has aligned itself on the side of liberalism, but Black conservatism emphasizes traditionalism, capitalism, free markets, and social values consistent with the context of Blacks and their religious beliefs. “Our goals promote freedom for all and encouraging entrepreneurship,” says Donald Scoggins of the Republicans for Black Empowerment. In light of 2012 election results, Scoggins is on a mission to retool the Republican Party. He’s seeking to raise profiles and awareness of Black Republicans and their number of elected officials. Scoggins invites inquires via Donelsco@aol.com.

Allen West is an example of an elected Black Republican. Atlanta-born West, who was defeated for re-election this year, is known for comments alleging that Democratic “handouts” to the poor have resulted in a “modern form of slavery” and rejects Black History Month honors the achievements of African-Americans throughout history and that is a good thing.Unfortunately, a reliance on family and faith, which allowed many African-Americans to survive the horrors of Reconstruction, racial injustice and violent acts of discrimination, has become a casualty of the modern welfare state, which has contributed to the destruction of family cohesion, supplanted faith in God with faith in government and fashioned many African-Americans into a Democratic voting bloc that has not improved the lot of the impoverished among them.

While African-American history is important, the way it is most often presented through a liberal political lens skews the contributions and examples of African-Americans who do not toe the liberal line.One especially sees this in the civil rights establishment’s response to Justice Clarence Thomas and more recently to Rep. Allen West, R-Fl “the idea of the safety net becoming a hammock.” West’s point is that Democrats who claim to care so for African Americans, in reality, have done them a grave disservice by perpetuating myths of Republican racism and addicting them to a government check instead of liberation through education and strong families. Heritage Foundation data supports West saying: “The public’s dependence on the federal government shot up 23 percent under President Obama.”

Since the 1930s, the Democratic Party has put forth and promoted social liberal and progressive platforms; and for more than 40 years Blacks have increasingly aligned themselves with Democrats rarely questioning social policies rooted in low expectations and government dependency; economic and tax policies that stifle economic growth, job creation, personal savings and investment; and education policies that refuse to subject public schools to the competition of “school choice.”

Blacks are naïve if they continue in their status and low regard among either of the dominant parties. The Democrats, led by President Obama, plainly ignore Blacks, while the Republican establishment disrespects and disregards us. But, apparently Blacks cannot envision leveraging our voting bloc into party platforms, policies and programs that reflect Black Americans’ needs and wants.

William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.

Retail Employment and the Wal-Mart Effect

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) I remember one of my first jobs. I was a senior in high school in Mount Vernon, N,Y., a suburb of New York City, and I got a job at a sporting goods store. The pay seemed decent, at least that is how I remember it. But what was noteworthy was that older adults worked in the store and had worked in the store for some time. No, I don’t mean retirees who are forced to work because their Social Security is not enough; I mean non-retirees who had made a life for themselves in the retail industry.

It was not uncommon to go to major stores and find employees who had made a career in the retail industry. But it was not just major stores. There were plenty of smaller stores like the sporting goods store that employed me that held onto employees.

Like many other industries in the USA, retail underwent changes that have produced an entirely different work environment and work force. In efforts to secure greater profits, salaries have been reduced, hours altered (and in many cases sliced), and the target workforce has become either younger adults or senior citizens. In either case, the employers do not have or promote the expectation of employment longevity. The bottom line is that it has become less and less possible for a worker to make a living working retail. This is the portion of the workforce that has been described as being the underemployed, i.e., those who have a job (whether part-time or full-time) that simply cannot sustain their living standard.

We have been hearing more and more about the horrendous working conditions at Wal-Mart. While Wal-Mart is a leader in the new retail industry—with a very vulnerable workforce—it is not standing alone. They have succeeded in promoting a precarious employment environment for their workers and, in doing so, have helped to set a pattern for the rest of the industry. As opposed to unionized retail workers of days gone by who might have had pensions and healthcare, with Wal-Mart you have no unions, few benefits, and an excessive amount of vulnerability.

I wish that Wal-Mart was the only such employer. Retail employers are failing to invest in their workforce. Claiming that they will not be able to compete, they have attempted to keep the salaries/wages of retail workers low. They are even prepared to accept a transitory workforce where it is not expected that a worker will stay for long. The problem, at least from the standpoint of the worker, is that you may sicken of a particular employer but rather than social mobility up, you as a retail worker live the life of the lateral pass, going from employer to employer, but rarely rising to a respectable living standard.

The reality is that this situation will not change until and unless retail workers win unionization. As long as employers can compete against one another on the basis of who offers the lowest wages, retail workers will not only be pitted against one another but will find themselves caught in an employment maelstrom, whirling around and around, eventually sinking.

As consumers we are being taught to close our eyes to the conditions of retail workers, only looking for the best bargains, but here’s my question, to paraphrase the words of the late president of the United Auto Worker, Walter Reuther: If we keep letting the condition of retail workers sink so that there are alleged bargains for the consumers, who will be in a position to buy the products?

I don’t see this question asked and answered on the business pages of my local newspapers. How about you?

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. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Obama Stands by Susan Rice

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) All U.S. United Nations ambassadors sit in a perpetual hot seat. That comes with the assignment and to be periodically involved in public controversies is not out of the ordinary. Yet with the growing unprincipled and ultra-partisan attacks on the integrity, intelligence and competence of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, those who believe in freedom, justice, and equality cannot sit back and be silent in the face of these putrid political and undeserved personal attacks on the good character and reputation of Ambassador Rice.

Even though Rice has been one of the most effective and articulate U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations in recent memory, Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina are leading the misguided campaign against Ambassador Rice in the wake of the controversies surrounding the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. We all mourn the loss of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and the other three Americans killed in Benghazi. Those responsible for the killings should be brought to justice.

But instead of demanding that an emphasis be put on finding and apprehending those responsible for the violence, Republicans have a contrived fixation on besmirching the leadership and character of Ambassador Rice. The question is why? What are the Republicans really trying to achieve by continuing their political campaign to tarnish the good name of Ambassador Rice?

Both McCain and Graham have announced their opposition to the possibility of President Barack Obama nominating Rice to serve as the next U.S. Secretary of State. Graham stated, “I don’t trust her. I think she was a political choice, telling a political narrative, and either she didn’t know the truth about Benghazi—so she shouldn’t have been on T.V. – or she was spinning it…… I don’t think that’s a good resume to be Secretary of State.”

McCain claimed, “My judgment at this time is that four Americans were killed, and the information that our U.N. ambassador conveyed was clearly false…. There was overwhelming evidence that it was completely false. And she should have known what the situation and circumstances were and not tell the world on all Sunday morning talk shows.”

The fact is, however, on those Sunday morning talk shows after the tragedy in Benghazi, Ambassador Rice reported exactly and accurately the information that she had been given by U.S. intelligence officials at the early stages of the investigative analysis. This information was well known by McCain and Graham, yet they have persisted in attempting to undermine both President Obama and Ambassador Rice.

It is as if that McCain, Graham, Romney and many other Republicans are still sore losers because of the outcome of the 2012 national elections. President Obama stated, “But when they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me…. If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me – and I’m happy to have that discussion with them.”

Ambassador Rice also made it clear, “When discussing the attack against our facilities in Benghazi, I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community …. I made clear that the information was preliminary, and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers.”

President Obama should continue to stand up for Ambassador Rice with strong fervor and renewed determination not to be sidetracked from pushing his national and international agenda forward. As the president contemplates his new cabinet, certainly Ambassador Rice should be considered for further duty. In fact, the recent controversies have only resulted in making Ambassador Rice as stronger diplomat and public servant loyal and committed to the president’s leadership and direction. During the next four years, it is obvious that the forces of backwardness and regression will have to be challenged vigorously.

We support President Barack Obama and we stand with Ambassador Rice today and into the future. Now is the time for strong leadership domestically and internationally. American politics needs more balance from the opposition party, but it clear that the Republicans have yet to repent.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is president of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and Education Online Services Corporation and can be reached at drbenjamin.chavis@gmail.com

Democracy on Trial

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) On Election Day, I found myself thinking about Venezuela. In the context of a hotly contested race for the presidency of the country, all reports indicated that the Venezuelan elections were handled smoothly with very few problems. This was true despite constant warnings in the U.S. media that the Venezuelan elections would somehow be undermined by the incumbent administration of President Hugo Chavez.

Now contrast that with the U.SA. and tell me what sorts of conclusions you arrive at. For two years we have had Republican-dominated state legislatures seeking to reduce the opportunities for people to register to vote and vote. There have been efforts to curtail early voting and voting on Sundays.Teams of right-wingers were put together to show up at polling places with the objective of challenging alleged fraudulent voters, but in effect, to intimidate voters. And, of course, we had various problems with voting machines, such as the now famous machine in Pennsylvania that kept changing Obama votes into Romney votes.

I would suggest to you–and maybe I am taking a risk in raising this–that it appears that we have a problem with democracy right here at home. How can efforts to reduce the number of those who can vote be justified? Why should organizations fear the undertaking of voter registration? Why should early voting be curtailed?

While it is the case that many of the efforts at what has come to be known as voter suppression were blocked by the intervention of the Justice Department and the courts, it is not time to rest easy. Keep in mind that the forces that were attempting to block our vote have not disappeared. They are still very much with us, just like a virus that has entered our system. In addition, the US Supreme Court will be considering aspects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act with the aim of ascertaining whether it needs to be weakened in light of the nearly 40 years of its existence. Right-wingers – and the National Black Chamber of Commerce – are suggesting that the protections offered by the Voting Rights Act are no longer necessary. After watching the 2000, 2004, 2008 and now the 2012 elections, I am uncertain how anyone could arrive at such a conclusion.

The fight for voting rights is far from over. The Republicans were stung by the results of November 6 and I think that it is a fair guess to suggest that they are not going to fold up shop. With the changing demographics of the U.S.A., they will seek to return to power and in order to succeed, they will need to knock some of us out of the batter’s box, i.e., they will need to reduce the number of voters that they see as pro-Democratic.

Voting rights is not about being pro-Democratic. It is about being pro-democracy. African Americans, Latinos, Asians and many White allies stood up in the face of electoral shenanigans and insisted that they be heard. Over the coming months we will be called upon to make our voices heard loud and clear on voting rights. Silence on this matter will certainly mean that the idea of democracy in the U.S.A. will take a further hit, this time perhaps a mortal blow.

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. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Page 43 of 97

BVN National News Wire