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Fixing the Social Security Disaster

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(NNPA) The pyramid building of our Social Security System is beyond completion. In fact, it takes three young workers to contribute the retirement funds for one retiree. The pyramid is going to be inverted before long. Congress has borrowed so much of the Social Security coffers for other things that it will be impossible to survive as it now stands. Yes, the time to do something is now or our credit rating will be downgraded again shortly. People, we are in a real economic mess. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are the three big monsters and I strongly urge our political leaders to become courageous and take the leadership needed to save our nation.

How do we change Social Security for the better? There is already a model. The nation of Chile started its current system decades ago and it works! The first thing we should start doing is to not mess with anyone’s contributions. What you put in is what you will eventually take out plus any interest that is accrued. Merging everyone into the same pot is hideous. What is even worse, our present system does not allow your contributions to be assignable to your heirs. Children under 21 can get some proceeds but after that papa’s or mama’s social security bank will close. The money is gone and the family gets no legacy.

In Chile you can choose how you want to park your social security contributions. The money is guaranteed and when you die, regardless of your age, the money passes on to your loved ones. Speaking of death, Black males have the lowest lifespan. Thus, for the most part Black families get very little from the social security program as we know. We contribute from the start with our first paycheck and all of that is gone forever when we die if our children are grown up.

Why do we tax our businesses with FICA (social security tax)? That money doesn’t go to anyone’s social security account. It goes to the greedy federal government. Our businesses certainly pass the amount of FICA to the consumers – that’s all of y’all. In Chile businesses aren’t burdened with FICA taxes.

Please don’t be afraid. I am not proposing that we all start this plan immediately. Obvious, it is too late for our senior citizens. But what if we gave an option to this plan for people the age of 45 or lower? Yes, a choice for each worker. They did this in Chile and a few started using this private account plan. Today, over 90% of the working population of Chile chooses the private plan. They are building wealth via a handsome retirement account and businesses are being taxed like they were before. The Chile model is a success and we need to start moving in that direction. Today, our parents work hard their entire lives and when they die at a faster and greater rate than any other race in this country all we have left is a funeral to pay for. Uncle Sam pockets the money (their accrued social security)!

It just isn’t fair and it doesn’t work at all. The baby boomers are going into retirement and it will be impossible for this nation to cover their social security retirement. Which way should we go? We need to begin a new system like that of Chile. The infusion of new businesses starting from less taxation and the guaranteed inheritance that will be passed on to surviving family members would be immense.

The current system amounts to Blacks passing their built up social security pots onto whites who live noticeably longer lives. We are getting very little for the money we put in. It should be ours! Your heirs should enjoy this and it should not be taxable as you have already paid your taxes and we should have another “death tax” system.

We should find some champions in Congress to start this “ball rolling”. It will take a lot of educating but the sooner we start, the sooner we begin ending the current mess. Our current debt will be our downfall if we don’t start managing our economy in a better way. Ignoring a system that doesn’t work isn’t going to make things better. Kicking the “can” down the road is over. The road has come to an abrupt end and we better channel our programs so that they can actually work and be beneficial to our future.

We can have a private account system that will make your contributions guaranteed and assignable to your heirs. The system we have now is not really guaranteed. It is going to collapse to the detriment of everyone. In the name of saving America let’s begin a new and better way.

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

A Tale of Two Cities – or Two Parties?

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(NNPA) It really isn’t a contrast of two distinct cities. Charlotte, North Carolina and Tampa, Florida have a lot in common. They are National Football League cities with a recent history of growth and cutting edge technology leading to much business growth. They are two southern cities on the economic move and striving to become even greater. Because of this they were each selected to become the venues of two of the most important conventions in our recent history. Charlotte will become the venue for the 2012 Democratic National Committee Convention. Likewise, Tampa will become the venue for the 2012 Republican National Committee Convention. This is where the two comparisons start to contrast significantly.

Tampa won an NFL franchise as well as a Major League Baseball franchise by being a diverse community. It prides itself in this and promotes it as a selling point when it bids on conventions such as the RNC Convention. Living up to this commitment, it presented its minority business inclusion program to the RNC for 2012. The Republican Party adopted it totally. We will discuss the significance of this later.

Charlotte, likewise, has won an NFL franchise as well as a National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise because of its progressive and diverse policy. Here is where the contrast begins. They won the 2012 Democratic National Committee convention and soon presented their in place program. It was soundly rejected by the DNC. The Democratic National Committee wanted no part of a diversity program. It got so contentious that the DNC stated “No diversity or no convention.” The city government of Charlotte was dumbfounded and confused how such a large organization would take such a racist stand.

It should come as no surprise. The DNC has a long track record of discrimination in its business opportunity practices. You can go back to the Dixie Crats segment of this party that would refuse any Black participation at its conventions and even in 2008 refused Black vendors from participating in the procurement opportunities of it convention. The procurement opportunities are reserved for the “good ol’boys” and they are lily white. It is the legacy of the DNC – Jim Crow business practices. The Ku Klux Klan and the DNC were hand in hand on much of the political history of this nation. A lot of that still sticks and it shows its ugly head today in Charlotte, NC at its upcoming convention. I challenge them to change their racist ways. I am waiting.

In contrast to the DNC racist operandi, the RNC has a beginning with diversity. The co-founders of the RNC were diverse. It included the great Black orator Frederick Douglas who challenged the incorporators every step of the way to include Blacks. He was successful. Another champion was the great Booker T. Washington who stated “Faith, education, entrepreneurship and communication” were the four keys to Black empowerment. He was so convincing that moguls such as Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford funded his National Negro Business League which was the forerunner to the National Black Chamber of Commerce and started 10 years before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, invited him to the White House for dinner. This enraged the lily white Democratic National Committee so much that they formally protested and started rival groups to oppose Mr. Washington – the NAACP and Urban League.

Here we are today with the DNC blocking a great city, Charlotte, who has a program to include all of its citizens in the business opportunity process, by resisting any semblance of equal opportunity. This city is struggling economically like the rest of us but even CNN has done a recent study on the Black middle class of Charlotte. They are disproportionately hurting by this downturn in our economy. Here comes the DNC to pour “salt” onto those wounds. They want no part of Black entrepreneurs participating in the business opportunities of their convention. They have Black groups strung out and bought off to their rhetoric and absolutely do not have to share any business exchanges with the “coloreds”. They sing the music and we dance. It is a shame but until we become aware of this hustle we will continue to suffer.

Just how much opportunity does a political convention offer? Think of a Super Bowl. It brings billions of dollars to a city. The dollars flow from the hotel owners to the shoe shine stands and everything in between. A national political convention is equal to 12 Super Bowls. Twelve times the amount! So, what is possible for Tampa is an economic boom that will bless all segments of its population. What Charlotte has is a potentially missed opportunity for its minority businesses and job creation for all because an outsider comes to town and is adverse to diversity – simply racist.

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

African Ambassadors Dazzle Black Entrepreneurs

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(NNPA) It was a day that we had planned for months. The National Black Chamber of Commerce® felt that the time to get very serious about Africa had come. There have been ups and downs in our visits and progress over the last decade but the “stars” are now aligned. All of Africa is on our radar but the priority right now is Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan (the 54th nation of the continent). We are putting together a formal Strategic Plan as to how we will integrate our willing business owners with the talent and opportunities of these nations.

We had sounded the call to our fellow entrepreneurs to come and hear about the opportunities and join in our plan to act. Last week, at our 19th Annual Conference in Miami, FL over 270 African American business owners sat down to hear formal presentations from the ambassadors of Kenya and Botswana, the Honorable Alkaneh Odembo and Tebelelo Mazile Seretse respectively. When they finished everyone was asking themselves why didn’t I know this? Kenya and Botswana are ready for us!

The opportunities lie in every industry you can think of. Africa, per se, is increasing its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by eight percent annually. No other continent can say that. Kenya is in double digits. Botswana has one of the most transparent governments in the world. All children receive free education from K through college. There is no need for special immunization when you travel and you don’t even have to obtain a visa. The last trips we made to Nairobi, capital of Kenya, we did not have to receive shots for malaria – they have dealt with it. Both nations have some of the greatest national parks and the vast majority of safaris in the world occur in these two nations.

Botswana is totally democratic and prides itself in sending contestants to worldwide beauty pageants and often winning the grand prize. The Ambassador stated “We have the prettiest women”. Stability is there and it is surrounded by South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is very strategically located and the call for business start ups is constant. They want our expertise to come in and produce jobs and increase their GDP even further. Their currency is stable and you can bank in U.S. dollars. A ready, educated workforce awaits you and it will take only five days to receive a business license.

Kenya is a much more heavily populated nation (40 million). Its population is over 85 percent literate and, like Botswana, English is the national language. Again, a well-educated and trained workforce. The Vision 2030 Program is a formal scheme to turn this nation into a middle class population within the next 20 years. The Plan is documented with milestones and that is where we can set our strategy and implement our action plans. Visiting Nairobi is like visiting any American city with a population of six million people. You won’t find more friendly people than those of Kenya. Remember the population of Kenya matches the Black population of America. That is the market that presents itself with such amazing opportunity. The populations of the nations I have aforementioned collectively have a population of 300 million people – ten times that of the United States. The markets are enormous!

Banking challenges are beginning to lessen. The mixture of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, EXIM Bank, OPIC, Trade Development Administration, Asian Development Bank, various Middle East programs and the enormous banks of China offer many vehicles for financing of projects. It is becoming very popular for companies, large and small, to get an LLC business status from Hong Kong. This opens up the door for the Asian Development Bank and various China funds. We are engaging with the nation of Bahrain to access financing for projects we will do on the African continent.

Ambassador Odembo caught everyone’s attention when he exclaimed “It has been a mistake for traditional western nations to ignore the opportunities of my continent. We look forward to the Investment Brigade coming from America and led by the National Black Chamber of Commerce.” Yes indeed. We are going on a trade mission to Botswana at the end of this October. Kenya? We have now established the process. Whenever we get over seven businesses ready to travel we will lead them via a trade mission on an ongoing basis. You should have seen the one-on-one interviews our conference participants were having with the Commercial Attaches of these two nations after their Ambassadors gave their presentations. It’s on!

Our entrepreneurs are pumped up and they have a right to be. The Motherland is calling and we will now answer that calling after 400 years. It’s a new day for the 54 African nations and you can take part in this economic revolution.

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

Power of Black Consciousness in 2011

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(NNPA) Whatever is on your mind or in your spirit and soul, it is an expression of your consciousness. Your state of mind should be governed about how you feel about yourself, family, community, race, tradition, history, humanity, values and principles, and the overall quality of your life in the context of your quantitative ability and capacity to provide for yourself and love ones. Fifty years ago, back in the 1960's, in particular for Black Americans, there was an emerging, self-determined Black consciousness movement that first affirmed the humanity of Black people in America, Africa, the Caribbean and throughout the Pan African world. It is timely, I believe, to ask the question today: "What is the state of Black consciousness of African Americans in 2011?"

Another fundamental purpose of the evolution of the Black consciousness movement was to expose the falsehood, myth and destructive stereotypes of white supremacy, both in its historical and contemporary institutionalized forms. Of course, the Black consciousness movement in the 1960's also had its antecedents in the Pan African movements for Black solidarity, liberation, self-determination, freedom, justice, and equality during the previous 500 years of the systematic slavery, colonization and oppression of African people throughout the world. Any study of the history of Black literature, our writings and spoken words over the last six centuries shows the central theme of the love and passion of Black people for liberation, freedom and justice universally not only for all people of African descent, but also for all people in the diversity of God's creation.

The purpose and focus of this column is simple: Black Americans cannot afford to be idle spectators while others in America have a clear agenda for power, money, prosperity and empowerment, both politically and economically. In other words, we need to be re-awaken to the importance of having a Black consciousness and perspective about all that we do and desire. The truth is we should not be upset with other ethnic and racial groups when they express and organize around their own self interests. The problem is when we as a people appear to be hesitant or reluctant to state clearly and strategically an agenda for the empowerment of the Black community. Each generation of Black people in America and throughout the world must rise to the occasion unapologetically to state our priorities, issues and interests.

The first place to reject the persistent poverty that continues to engulf millions of African Americans is in our own consciousness. Yes, that's right, we have to reject and combat the poverty mentality that exists is too many of our own minds. The fact that poverty persists in the African American community even amidst the current economic recovery across the nation is problematic. But we should not be narrowly convinced by the forces of our oppression that our situation is hopeless and beyond redemption. Our situation can and will change for the better, but it will require much more to raise the consciousness of African Americans with a stronger spiritual fortitude together with an irrepressible sense of self-determination and Black consciousness.

I remember well, and we should never forget Steve Biko and the BCM (Black Consciousness Movement) in South Africa. The youth of South Africa, first through the ranks of the young activists of the ANC (African National Congress), and secondly the youth who joined Biko and the BCM all worked together to raise the level of consciousness among the masses of Black people in South Africa to the point that the weakness of the apartheid was exposed and dismantled. These young people and others had made up their minds that they were not going to tolerate that brutal form of racism any longer. Nothing is more powerful than a mind that is made up. That's the power potential of Black consciousness. Before Steve Biko was beaten to death by officials of the apartheid regime, he wrote a truth that warrants repeating now: "The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

Today the Tea Party and other right wing elements are determined to confuse and to destabilize the mind set of Black people. Currently in many states there are acts of voter suppression in an attempt to prevent a large African American voter turnout in the 2012 national elections. Continuous negative campaigning tactics and media advertising are also aimed at dulling the sensibilities of African Americans to sustain a nonproductive syndrome of hopelessness and apathy. Just at the time when we should all be mobilizing and organizing around the core issues that impact the quality of life of Black people and all others that remained oppressed, we appear too splintered, divided and immobilized. This is due partly to the low level of overall Black consciousness among millions of African Americans in 2011. At the end of the day, however, through the use of the Black Press and other progressive media outlets, we can begin to increase once again the level of Black consciousness.

During a recent broadcast of Fareed Zakaria, the scholar David McCullough, who has written extensively on the effectiveness of various Presidents of the United States, was interviewed. Zakaria asked McCullough how President Barack Obama was doing in comparison to other U.S. presidents? McCullough, as a noted historian, said the President Obama was doing an outstanding job thus far given what he inherited from President George Bush in 2009. But what caught my attention more was McCullough's assessment about how presidents and other leaders are to be ultimately evaluated in the eyes of history. MuCullough said, "It is in the power of the spoken and written word." Let's check out where we are today in terms of the quality of the content of our culture in language, art, politics, economics and spirituality? What are our youth speaking about? What's on the mind of our elders? Articulation of the word is a function of knowledge, experience, education, faith and wisdom. Yet, how we speak and write is also a function of one’s consciousness.

Thus, the power of Black consciousness in 2011 and into the future will be measured by how effective Black people and leaders will stay focused and active on the agenda to rid the world of poverty, misery and oppression in the pursuit of liberation, freedom, justice, equality, prosperity and empowerment for all.

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

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.

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