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Bipartisanship Needed More than Ever

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(NNPA) It seems like the more we watch our elected officials debate, argue and accuse, the more of the same keeps happening. For the sake of our future they need to come to terms with our dire economy and start managing our financial affairs. America is in great danger and no one seems to be very concerned. Iran will soon have nuclear weapons and China is building its military at a scary and phenomenal rate. Russia is as slick as ever and the whole Middle East is erupting. If we don’t remain strong, peace will soon go away.

President Obama has an excellent opportunity to build on his legacy. This term he needs to be a “healer” and cross the isle to negotiate the best path for America. Politics is supposed to be about compromising and negotiating. Both parties must begin an ebb and flow on the important issues that lay ahead of us. Let’s look at some of these make or break issues.

The last time we faced this upcoming financial disaster we called it “Taxmageddon.” We would not solve the matter or bring it to closure. Instead we kicked the can down the road and raised our debt limit. Now, we face it again and call it the “Fiscal Cliff.” The Fiscal Cliff becomes a reality on January 1. If Congress doesn’t come to terms with this matter soon, our economy will crash. Half of our military budget will be cancelled which would cause the loss of hundreds of thousand jobs and many business closures. Or, we can do like the last time which was to raise our debt limits and kick the can down the road again. A wise government would adjust our spending and revenues to begin chopping away at our $16 trillion debt.

The next financial trauma is the Dodd-Frank bill implementation. Senator Dodd and Congressman Frank steered this fiasco through Congress and then announced their retirements. President Obama signed it. It has done much harm in terms of capital access, business growth and job creation. By law, regulators must write 398 rules to fully implement the bill. So far they have issued 133 final rules (33 percent), proposed 133 more which are pending and another 133 are yet to be proposed. This bill is making banks too timid to lend money to businesses. Our major corporations are refusing to further invest in this nation and are considering growing their businesses abroad. It may end Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and force us to come up with a new way to provide mortgage financing to homeowners. We need to undo this law and start over using common sense.

International trade is another area that needs to pick up the pace of the new global market. The last administration closed on free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Columbia. Maybe the second Obama administration will be more robust. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is starting to get on the negotiating table. If completed, we will have free trade agreements (duty and tariff free transactions) with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The National Black Chamber of Commerce is all for this. After we complete it, let’s consider some of the larger African nations. Also, wouldn’t it make sense to include the European Union, our nation’s biggest trading partner? We are talking business development and sizeable job creation.

It would be very important to the Obama legacy if we were to arrive at energy independence. Yes, we know he is all for the “all of the above” strategy in meeting our energy needs through every means available. Again, we are talking about a serious number of new jobs and business development. We must build the Keystone Pipeline. We should expand the new technique of natural gas drilling – Fracturing or “fracking.” Off shore wells should now be allowed on all of our coastlines. We cannot become independent without these forms of energy gathering. The president is going to have to face this if he is to achieve his goal. He will have to do this with an absence of cap and trade legislation. That won’t happen and this position is non-negotiable.

If the new administration can work with Congress and complete the above, it would signal a new day for America. We are at risk and I pray that the turning point can happen sooner than later. It would be so nice to have some camaraderie and respect on Capitol Hill and a happy Wall Street. If we can just get it together within the next year, the economy would start turning around and may even start to boom in the second year of this administration. President Obama, Congress, it is all up to you. Let’s do it for the future of our great nation.

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

Republican Self-Hate

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(NNPA) Leading up to November 6, I found myself focused on the matter of voter suppression and electoral shenanigans committed by the Republicans. This concern was not for nothing. Prior to and on Election Day, there were myriad of attempts to subvert the vote, particularly the vote of people of color. On Election Day in Pennsylvania, for instance, there was a voting machine that would convert an Obama vote into a Romney vote (and this was captured on film). Frivolous voter challenges started well before Election Day itself, again targeting African American and Latino voters.

What was most striking about the 2012 election, then, was that in the face of this attack on our right to vote, there was something akin to a popular revolt by the African American and Latino electorate. Latinos voted more than 70 percent for Obama and African Americans 93 percent. But those figures do not tell enough. It was the turnout that was so significant. Despite efforts by the political right to dampen African American enthusiasm for Obama using the issue of same-sex marriage, this tactic failed dismally. And Romney’s cynical anti-Latino approach, as evidenced during this primary campaign, came back to bite him in the rear.

It was more than this, however. It was something that you had to feel if you waited in line to vote. I went three times to try to engage in early voting. The first two times the line was out the building and I decided to return at a later date. On the third time, I thought that I had arrived early enough only to discover that the line started well within the building. I was on line for two hours, and this was early voting. Around the U.S. there were stories like that one. People standing in line for seven hours in order to vote.

In effect what we saw was a counter-attack by the African American and Latino electorate against those who would attempt to disenfranchise us. The obvious intent to eliminate African American and Latino voters, rather than scaring us into submission and docility, energized us to turn out in record numbers. There are many lessons there and one is that we can actually overwhelm the other side by sheer numbers and audacity.

There were many other things about the election which I have reflected upon, but one is a question that I must pose to African American and Latino Republicans. It is simple: How can you associate with a party that quite consciously set out to disenfranchise African American and Latino voters? I must ask, what level of self-hatred must one have to actively support a party that purged voter lists to eliminate potential Democratic Party supporters, many of who were African American and Latino? I must ask, what level of self-hatred must one have to actively support a party that regularly used coded language in order to appeal to a racist impulse among many white voters?

Get back with me on that, okay?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is 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.

Postal Service Undeterred by Superstorm Sandy

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(NNPA) I have lived through several hurricanes and major storms. When you do not know whether your roof will hold together or whether you will get flooded out (and our basement was flooded in the 2011 hurricane), the anxiety is indescribable. Thus, when the government warns people to stay inside and off the streets, if you are in touch with reality, you take that seriously.

So, it was with great surprise that in the middle of Superstorm Sandy that I saw a postal van. Yes, the U.S. Postal Service, despite the federal government being closed on Monday, was somehow operating. The mail was delivered to us. Airline flights were being cancelled; subways had ceased operations; buses were not moving…and we still got our mail.

I had two immediate thoughts on seeing the postal van. The first was to applaud the courage of postal workers. I actually think about this regularly. They are really not joking when they talk about “neither ran, nor sleet…” will stop them. Here you had a letter carrier driving in the middle of a hurricane to make sure that we received our mail.

The second thought was quite different: What will happen if the postal service is dismantled and privatized? Let’s be clear: The agenda of the Republicans and of some Democrats is the privatization of the postal service. When you keep under-funding the postal service and making service cuts, it eventually creates a level of despair and frustration that will push the public to embrace privatization. This approach is called economic strangulation. This economic strangulation is what we have been witnessing, and not just recently. The act of cutting the hours of post offices, cutting employees, and reducing other services does not build popular confidence.

And, so I stood watching the postal van wondering what would happen if the postal service was privatized. Would a private contractor really care about delivering the mail under harsh conditions? Could we count on workers going beyond the call of duty? That is the real issue in privatization. It is not just that privatized facilities – of any sort – seek to reduce certain costs by cutting the wages and benefits of workers. No, it is more than that. Privatization changes the relationship of the workforce to the job that must be done, i.e., it changes their relationship to the public. The owners of these privatizing companies are not particularly interested in serving the public. They are interesting in making a profit. Their slogan would not be anything approaching “Neither rain, nor sleet…” will stop postal delivery. It will be more something like “As long as I can make an extra buck delivering the mail it will be coming at you.”

So, if you have been sitting on the sidelines while the future of the postal service has been discussed, think again, and just ask yourself whether you care whether you receive the mail that the Constitution promises. In watching the postal van drive off I hoped that this would not be the last time that I would see such dedication displayed.

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.

Bogus Climate Change Charges

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(NNPA) The environmental activist community slowly started during the Nixon administration. It morphed into a replacement for the anti-Vietnam War movement. Groups such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace saw a new angle to this. They wanted to recruit the civil rights activists into this cause. I remember Attorney General Janet Reno (in the Clinton administration) declaring to seek environmental justice. The groups quickly changed this to environmental racism. They are basically the same thing. The former says things are unequal in the fair implementation of environmental stewardship. The latter states the reason for the inequity.

We started looking into this since it was an incredible charge. After about a year of researching, surveying and interviewing people in authority, we came to the conclusion that to say violating environmental regulations or laws was solely the cause of racial hatred was a bit extreme. In fact, it was a ploy to put fear into people and gain support against targeted corporations.

The National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) decided to challenge such claims and actually demand proof. Hearings after hearings, debates after debates and speeches at various conventions soon turned the tide. The late Arthur A. Fletcher, when he chaired the Office of Civil Rights, did a review of the Environmental Protection Agency and found it to be, in fact, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Thus, it was the “kettle calling the skillet black.” The poverty pimps and other extremists soon backed off and started looking for other causes.

Vice President Al Gore was outdone. He started a new approach. The problem wasn’t necessarily environment racism but global warming. That is what is happening and we are going to become endangered by it. He delivered speeches, held seminars and gathered many of the aforementioned individuals to start changing “global warming.” He is still shouting this today. Whenever there is a hurricane, big blizzard, drought, tornadoes, etc. there is Al Gore shouting global warming. He was even awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his “work” proving global warming exists. Recently, he has emerged again claiming Superstorm Sandy was the result of global warming.

Actually, there is no sound science to support the claims of global warming. If you look at the last 10 years, there has been a sizeable drop in hurricanes/cyclones around the world. When we had congressional hearings on the claim, they would always end in a demand for irrefutable proof, i.e. scientific data and facts. It would never come.

The EPA would and still does “cook their books” when doing surveys and holding panels. For example, they will organize a panel to provide input by representatives of various organizations. These representatives represent organizations or institutions that receive grants and even unsolicited financial support from the EPA. They aren’t going to cut off their funding so their statements are nothing but conflicts of interest.

They love to beat up on our federal government and the citizens of the United States, saying we are polluters of the world. However, they are reticent when it comes to noting the environmental recklessness of such nations as China, Russia, India, Brazil and other growing industrial nations. The truth is the United States has come a very long way in improving our carbon footprint. The Clean Air Act has been a success in limiting our pollution levels. The threat is coming from these growing industrial empires that don’t have a governmental agency trying to stop their growth.

The cap and trade bill that this current EPA was trying to force upon American industry would have been an economic catastrophe. We proved it to Congress that it was a job killer and a major transfer of wealth from the United States to foreign nations that could care less about our future. It was defeated and now the EPA is coming back with individual rules that are nothing but pieces of the cap and trade bill. They are trying to sneak it in without constitutional legislation.

In regards to climate change, that is a no brainer. Certainly the climate changes as time goes on – sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. So far, there is no pattern that seems to be very detrimental to our earth. There is an ebb and flow and it takes time to see any significant detrimental trend. It is like Stevie Wonder wrote, “When you believe in things you don’t understand; you suffer. Superstition ain’t the way.” Climate change is an important subject and we should constantly monitor these trends and interpret them with good and absolute data. Factual information will always trump scare tactics. There is no need to deliberately make us suffer and force noticeable pain on our lives and livelihoods.

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

Support Mark Takano, California's 41st Congressional District

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On Monday, President Obama endorsed Mark Takano who is running for a seat in the U.S. Congress in California’s 41st district. With your vote, Mark will join me in Washington and fight for those in Riverside County and the Inland Empire.

This is an historic election because we have the opportunity and responsibility to re-elect President Obama and launch a successful second term that will allow the President to complete the work he’s started – to focus on jobs, economic growth and protecting social programs including Medicare, Social Security, and services for veterans and students.

President Obama cannot be successful if we don’t do our part to bring leaders like Mark Takano to the U.S. Congress that will work with the President. We need 25 seats to win back the Congress but that can’t happen unless you vote for Mark.

While Mark’s Republican opponent has played nice, he will be forced to join his conservative colleagues in setting an agenda that will oppose the President at all cost. This will not be good for you nor will it be good for America.

From the time when I was in the State Assembly and held town hall meetings on the State of Blacks in the Inland Empire, I’ve been proud to work with leaders like Assemblymember Amina Carter and Mark Takano to ensure our government responds to the needs of those in Riverside and beyond.

With a vote for Mark Takano, you send a leader to Congress prepared to fight for you each and everyday. Join Mark in winning back the U.S. Congress and supporting an agenda that moves us all forward.

Rep. Karen Bass is Member of the U. S. Congress representing California's 33rd congressional district. She made history when the California Assembly elected her to be its 67th Speaker and its first African American women leader.

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