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Our National Debt Can Destroy Us

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(NNPA) It didn’t take long for us to get into this terrible state of debt. When Bill Clinton left the White House he was so proud that he left the nation with a surplus of funds. Here we are 11 years later with a debt that threatens our very existence as a nation. People this is a very serious matter and we all have to pay attention to it and resolve it. Instead of improving our state of affairs, Congress and the White House are posturing and, in fact, it is getting far worse. At the end of fiscal year 2008 (September 30, 2008) our debt was $5.8 trillion. At the end of fiscal year 2010, the United States had amassed over $9 trillion. We are expected to add another $1.5 trillion at the end of this year.

We don’t even have a budget to work with. This nation has not had a formal budget for the last two and one half years. It is irresponsible! We all have to pay our personal bills or risk going into financial ruin. The same applies for a nation. Our creditors expect to get paid and if we default the whole world will begin to withdraw any confidence in our word and wealth. The United States would become a pariah. There is much precedence. Remember the mighty Soviet Union? It fell not by war or revolution but because they became broke, which is where we are going if we do not get our fiscal business under control.

All it takes is discipline. Governor Mitch Daniels turned the fiscal state of Indiana for the better and he gave this simple explanation: “We spent less money than the money we received.” That sounds pretty simple, but the United States federal government is having a lot of trouble following that simple rule. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that tax revenue will rise from its current level to 18 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That is a problem in that our federal spending will rise to 24 percent. Thus, we will be spending 3 percent more than we make. It is a definite disaster, if we maintain status quo.

What’s even worse is that we may exceed our legal debt limit level. In the past, we just ignored that law by simply increasing the debt limit. That doesn’t solve a thing but, in fact, worsens the situation. Come this August 2, 2011 we will exceed our debt limit. Imagine you going over your Visa or Master Card limit. The card would cut you off and may cease giving any more credit with you forever. The U.S. biggest creditors are China, Japan and Saudi Arabia. These countries have historically been not too friendly with the United States and it is unlikely that they will give us a “pass”, if we default on our debt limit. China has already warned us to get our act together.

Equally troubling is the tenuous state of our AAA credit rating. The big scorer of national credit ratings is Moody’s. Moody’s has already warned us twice to get our fiscal policy in order – have a balanced budget, a positive policy and don’t exceed your debt limit. Our ignoring the warnings is going to have dire effects. For the sake of our national security, will Washington, D.C. act in a responsible manner? Our precious future is on the line. At the rate, we are going within 10 years we will be spending $1 trillion or more per year, just to pay the interest on our national debt.

Raising taxes won’t do it. We already are the second highest nation in the world with corporate taxes which, in the end, are passed onto to us, the consumers. Income and corporate tax increases will kill more jobs and too many Black communities are already suffering from record level unemployment rates. That would only transfer the problem. The issue is to cut the outrageous spending levels that our federal government commits at an ever growing rate.

We should lift the age requirement for Social Security eligibility. The discussion has been going on for at least 30 years. Raise it already! Look at every federal agency and begin reducing the spending. Even for Defense? Especially for Defense! It is almost half of our total budget and is filled with the most unbelievable waste. We could save much without hurting our national security. Let’s run our treasury responsibly and then enjoy our AAA credit rating, and encourage our businesses to again invest in America. Our Fortune 500 companies are holding back trillions of dollars because of our fiscal uncertainty.

Yes America, we have a serious problem and like our great legacy let’s begin to deal with it. Our children, grandchildren and their children are depending on us. There is no more an option to ignore it.

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

Children of Color Count Like Caylee

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(NNPA) Recently, a criminal jury acquitted Casey Anthony of murdering her 2-year old daughter Caylee while convicting her of the lesser charge of lying to police investigators. Ms. Anthony has been released from jail amidst an avalanche of animosity by observers of the case. Whether Casey Anthony was guilty of murdering her little girl has been the subject of a national discussion. Over the past year, the case of Casey and little Caylee has dominated news coverage on many television networks, most notably CNN.

Caylee’s case begs broader questions: Why do little white girls garner so much more media coverage after going missing than little Black girls? Why does the nation know the names of Jon Benet Ramsey and not, let’s say, Diamond Bradley or Yasmine Acree?

In a report by Kathy Chaney, writer for the Chicago Defender, the circumstances of four Black girls in Chicago received little, if any media coverage—local or national.

More disturbing was a Scripps Howard report that examined missing child statistics from 2000 to 2004 reported by Thomas Hargrove and Ansley Haman, in The Capitol Hill Blue. According to the authors, “For a missing child to attract widespread publicity and improve the child’s odds of being found, it helps if a child is White, wealthy, and under 12 years old.” Statistics within the study found:

• White children are only 50% of United States missing children, but 2/3 of Associated Press dispatches
• Missing Children under 12 years old are only 1/6 of all cases in America by 2/3 of national news stories
• White children account for 67% of Associated Press reports, and 76% of CNN reports, but only 53% of the 37,000 cases reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Defenders of the disproportionate reporting statistics cite state laws that differ around how evidence in children’s welfare issues can be released to the public. Such arguments are refuted by the fact that once children are known to be missing White children are disproportionately featured by national media campaigns. If there were more equity in national media reporting missing children of any color perhaps the “Amber Law” may have had a name such as Aisha or Asha.

In the case of Caylee Anthony, CNN “Nancy Grace” has nearly focused solely on the case of Casey Anthony since the 2008 murder of the 2-year old. At one point, a one-hour feature was solely devoted to the case.

As a result of the Casey Anthony case in Florida, “Caylee’s Law” has been proposed to: 1) make it a felony for parents/caregivers to not report the death of a child to authorities within an hour, whether or not the death was accidental; and 2) make it a felony for guardians to not notify police of the disappearance of a child within 24 hours.

While “Caylee’s Law” will help law enforcement in Florida—and potentially around the nation—the disproportionate level of care to the disappearances and deaths of children of color as opposed to White children cannot be legislated.

We as a nation must value life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ALL people, regardless of pigment.

Gary L. Flowers is the Executive Director & CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc.

No Extortion For Debt Ceiling Vote

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"We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

(NNPA) Rarely have the divisions in American politics been more clear - or more onerous. In less than a month, on August 2nd, if Congress refuses to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, the United States economy could be thrown into a fiscal tailspin that would eviscerate America's credit rating, lead to sky-high interest rates, rip a giant hole in the social safety net, jeopardize the well-being and savings of millions of working and middle class citizens and result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Majority leaders in the House and minority leaders in the Senate have taken the unprecedented step of linking a raise in the debt ceiling to the debate about deficit reduction and spending cuts. In effect, they are attempting to extort big cuts in programs benefiting working and middle class citizens while protecting exorbitant tax breaks for oil companies, corporate jet owners, and hedge fund managers. They say this is the only way they will agree to increase the debt limit. If they get their way, fiscal experts from Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke warn severe disruptions will occur. Beginning August 2nd, Social Security checks may be halted. Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment benefits may stop. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan may not get paid. And, hundreds of thousands of government workers may be laid off. This is no way to run the most trustworthy and powerful government in the world. And, it is no way to honor the hard work and sacrifices of its people.

It should be noted, that prior to this current showdown, the debt ceiling has routinely been raised almost 100 times since its establishment in 1917. Former President George W. Bush raised it seven times without objection while racking up trillions of dollars of new debt for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and big tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.

The Obama administration is not oblivious to the need for spending cuts. For months, Vice President Joe Biden has led bipartisan negotiations aimed at agreeing on a sensible deficit reduction plan. Progress has been made. But, recently several members of the so-called "Gang of Six," walked out of the negotiations because of ideological resistance to balancing spending cuts for the middle class with ending some tax breaks for the wealthy.

As they defend the rights of working-class Americans, I would urge them also to consider the recommendations included in the National Urban League's 12-Point Jobs Plan, "Putting Urban American Back To Work." The creation of Urban Jobs Academies to train the critically unemployed, or Green Empowerment Zones to locate manufacturing jobs in urban areas, could ease the transition to spending cuts.

So far, the President and sensible members of Congress have stood firm in their refusal to give in to ideological extortion. As the President said in last week's press conference, "Any agreement to reduce our deficit is going to require tough decisions and balanced solutions. And, before we ask our seniors to pay more for health care, before we cut our children's education, before we sacrifice our commitment to the research and innovation that will help create more jobs in the economy, I think it's only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up a tax break that no other business enjoys." We agree. Raise the debt ceiling, but not on the backs of working and middle class Americans.

Marc H. Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League.

South Sudan: An African American Opportunity

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(NNPA) Whenever there are advances for African freedom and self-determination, African Americans, in particular, should always be able to define mutual interests, opportunities and responsibilities to aid and assist our brothers and sisters in Africa. The Republic of South Sudan is the newest nation in the world and will become the 193rd member of the United Nations.

Independence Day for the Republic of South Sudan was as recent as this month. President Barack Obama stated, "A proud flag flies over Juba and the map of the world has been redrawn. Together, we can ensure that today marks another step forward in Africa's long journey toward opportunity, democracy and justice. I am proud to declare that the United States formally recognizes the Republic of South Sudan a sovereign and independent state upon this day, July 09, 2011. After so much struggle by the people of South Sudan, the United States of America welcomes the birth of a new nation." We agree with President Obama's perspective and analysis about the significance of the newly established Republic of South Sudan. But we would like to deepen our memory and perspective on this momentous achievement from an African American perspective.

Too often in contemporary times, Africa is still viewed by too many Americans as that far off place where centuries ago, millions of people were enslaved and forcibly brought to the Americas for the sole purpose of one of the most brutal manifestations of human slavery and economic exploitation that the world has ever witnessed in history. Yet for African Americans we are more and more aware of how our plight here inside the United States of America still involves our long struggle for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment. But for the grace of God and the sacrifices, toil, courage and steadfastness of struggle by past generations of Blacks in America and throughout the displaced African world, we would not be able to recognize and celebrate the progress today that African people and all people continue to make toward a more just and empowered humanity.

Our concern and care is for our brothers and sisters in both the Republic of South Sudan and those who remain in the Sudan, to the north of the Republic of South Sudan. The whole of the Sudan and including the Republic of South Sudan ought to be the focus for all who care about Africa. The 50 years or more of deadly, self-destructive civil war has caused so much misery and suffering. It is good now that the civil war, despite some continued violent border clashes, has finally ended with the declaration of independence and sovereignty of the Republic of South Sudan being officially recognized by the world community.

African Americans should see clearly that once again there are significant and immediate economic and growth opportunities in this new African nation. Of course, some of the world's economic powers are already lining up to go after the vast quantities of oil and natural gas that are known to be some of the world's largest discoveries located in the Republic of South Sudan. China has just announced that they will invest millions of dollars in infrastructure development for the South Sudan. The U.K., France, the U.S., and other post-industrialized economies have all expressed their desire to work on development projects in this valuable mineral rich nation. At a time of very high unemployment in the African American community, this is a great moment in history for African American business leaders to develop new business relationships with Africa, and in particular with nations like the Republic of South Sudan.

I believe the greatest resource, however, that is in the Republic of South Sudan today is not its oil or natural gas, but it is its millions of people who have high aspirations and hope for a better quality of life. Thus, if Black owned businesses: the Black Press, colleges and universities, churches and other institutions that serve our communities would reach out to the Republic of South Sudan, it would raise the potential for ongoing sustainable economic development and educational joint ventures to be established. Africa awaits Black America. Giving back to Africa will bring a long lasting benefit to our brothers and sisters in Africa as well as to our brothers and sisters in our communities across America.

President Obama in his statement about the Republic of South Sudan reminded us what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said about independence occurring in Africa. The President affirmed, "Decades ago, Martin Luther King reflected on the first moment of independence on the African continent in Ghana, saying, 'I knew about all of the struggles, and all of the pain, and all of the agony that these people had gone through for this moment.' Today, we are moved by the story of struggle that led to this time of hope in South Sudan, and we think of those who didn't live to see their dream realized. Now, the leaders and people of South Sudan have an opportunity to turn this moment of promise into lasting progress." As we salute the Republic of South Sudan, let's extend a helping hand. The future holds great promise.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. Is Senior Advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Educational Online Services Corporation.

From Subprime Mortgage to Student Financial Aid

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(NNPA) Yes, they are back. Some of the culprits who came up with the idea of subprime mortgage lending are back with a new and equally devastating hustle. As opposed to going into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to convince executives to corrupt an important process, they are going to the U.S. Department of Education. We lost over 35% of our net worth from the mortgage crisis. Our homes weren’t enough as now they are targeting the financial aid streams for Black students. If they have their way, we again will be financially damaged and our futures hurt all for the sake of quick money hustling. It is evil and it is racial, as it targets schools that serve minority communities the most. It is extremely important that we become active and vocal about this threat. The future of our children is on the line. Remember, you can be a political activist or a political victim – there is no in between. The following is my take on this urgent matter. Please read and begin your protest.

Nearly half of all students who pursue academic programs at for-profit college programs are minorities. Many are “non-traditional” students – single parents, veterans, full- or part-time working adults. Therefore, when federal financial aid is cut to for-profit schools, it will be minority and low-income students who are disproportionately hurt. Of course, this is exactly the opposite intent of the new Gainful Employment rule, which was ostensibly embellished to protect students from overwhelming debt. Yet the rule, released on June 2, after a year of acrimonious debate and over 90,000 public comments, is fundamentally flawed.

By singling out career colleges, where “high risk” students account for 51percent of the student population, it embodies a serious bias against minorities and the poor. Without federal student aid to attend a culinary arts or nursing program, for example, many minorities will be forced to abandon their studies. Tragically, at a time when unemployment figures in the African American community are in the double-digits (a staggering 41.6 percnet among African American teens, as compared to 24.2 percent of teens overall) and when, according to the College Board, just 26 percent of African Americans have at least an associate degree, it is our most vulnerable students who will be most hurt by this ruling – not helped.

Congress needs to stop this rule and go back to the drawing board. The fact that the department created this harmful rule is harmful enough, but how they went about doing it deserves close scrutiny and thorough investigations.

Good government groups such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have repeatedly uncovered a rulemaking process that was inappropriately guided by Wall Street short-sellers. Growing evidence shows an “inside job” of sorts, involving Wall Street financier, Steven Eisman, and Education Department executives, such as Deputy Undersecretary Robert Shireman, throughout the rule-making process. In Congressional testimony and in highly publicized presentations to the investment community, Eisman browbeat the for-profit college sector, “predicted” its collapse, and then handily profited on short selling the colleges’ stocks. The entire shady process was discovered through Freedom of Information Act requests and reported in the media.

The Department of Education has still not explained why it has unfairly made a scapegoat out of for-profit career colleges, on which minorities and low-income students heavily depend. The only rationale has been a discredited study by the Government Accountability Office. The Senate’s Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee staff pressured the Government Accountability Office at the eleventh hour to produce an investigative report on for-profit-colleges. The hastily produced report was later revised to correct at least 16 "errors" that prejudiced the findings against career colleges. Why has the Department of Education continued to rely on that discredited report to justify passage of the new rules? And, why do Senators continue to use inaccurate data on the Senate floor?

In the wake of ongoing requests by leadership in the Congressional Black Caucus and others, such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Urban League’s Mark Morial, Congress must draft comprehensive legislation that addresses the issue of America’s student debt across-the-board. It must create reform that is fair and effective and a remedy for colleges across the board -- not just the career college sector.

The National Black Chamber of Commerce calls upon Congress to conduct a thorough investigation into the improprieties in the rulemaking process, including the suspicious role of Education Department officials, such as Robert Shireman. A biased process produced a misguided and harmful rule and must be reversed by the Congressional Review Act or other means. Let us all rise to meet and defeat this challenge to the future of our children.

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

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