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Unexpected Consequences Can Hurt Black America

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(NNPA) As the saying goes, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. This has been the plight of Black America since our emancipation from slavery. Big policy is decided without adequate consideration of our situation or positive inclusiveness of the outcomes. Allow me to journey back into history and also current activity to explain my point.

Social Security Program: It sounded so good. An employee will have a part of his income deducted and put into a retirement investment program and the employer would put up a portion also. The money would be there at the time of retirement (age 65) and disbursed monthly to the retiree. The very big problem is this: Blacks’ life spans are much shorter than Whites. This means that Blacks will receive much less of the money they put in and Whites will receive a disproportionately greater amount. A great amount of Blacks will not receive any benefits at all as they will die before they are eligible to retire. Much of this sinister formula was known to the architects of the Social Security program and most Blacks were void of the knowledge. It was a major transfer of wealth in a very subtle manner. A very big hustle indeed!

The Interstate Infrastructure Program: During World War II, General Eisenhower marveled at the German Autobahn (their freeway system). He emulated it with the interstate freeway system for the United States. When the freeways came to urban areas they went to the line of least resistance – the Black neighborhoods. Black retail establishments everywhere were subject to eminent domain and bulldozed over for infrastructure improvement. From the Fillmore in San Francisco to Black Bottom in Detroit they were done in forever in the name of freeways and new development. Some of our greatest neighborhoods and cultural centers were lost forever.

The Great Society: There was nothing “great” about this. In fact, our deficit and annual budgets are suffering from the largesse of charity. It was a great narcotic to our victims of poverty rather than a solution. It told the masses to sit down and be taken care of rather than rising up and empowering themselves. The end result has been a trans-generational dependency on welfare and public housing living rather than a positive transition from poverty to self sufficiency. African Americans as a people are burdened by the weight of helplessness and dependency to the point of distinction. Somehow we must throw this “yolk” from our “neck” and begin to stand tall and strong.

Ethanol Promotion: They should have done their historical perspective on this. Henry Ford commissioned George Washington Carver to develop ethanol from peanuts to relieve our dependence on oil (manipulated by John D. Rockefeller) for our cars. The great scientist Carver worked diligently on it at Tuskegee University but went to his grave without successfully mass producing it. Yet, here we are in the 21st century trying it again. It just doesn’t work and what is worse it adversely impacts the rest of our economy. The subsidies (billions of dollars) given for ethanol production has caused a great shortage in corn production for the rest of our agricultural markets. The end result is that groceries, fuel and energy prices are going through the roof and there is no significant improvement on our carbon emission footprint. This is a supreme mistake and failure that causes Black families/consumers more harm than others in that we have fewer dollars to waste and to be exploited. When they catch a cold we will get pneumonia. Ethanol has been a direct assault on Black families.

Higher Energy Costs / Less Energy Consumption: This assumption by environmentalists and progressive politicians is very flawed. It does not take into account that staying warm, air conditioned, cooking, and traveling to essential places is necessary and basic to common living. There are many who feel that if we skyrocket energy prices, i.e. $8.00 per gallon gasoline and triple the average household energy bill people will lower their consumption levels. They don’t take into account that you must travel to work, eat every day and protect your family from ill health. While Whites may sell their summer cabins, Blacks cannot afford a home at all and move into shelters or the streets. While Whites may sell one of the family cars, Blacks will not be able to buy a car at all. This strategy is totally out of touch but yet it exists. That is why they have the oil moratorium in the Gulf Coast while the world cost of oil is rapidly increasing. That is why they have onerous EPA regulations without justification. That is why they are proposing to cut energy assistance (LIHEAP) in the new budget.

This is why the National Black Chamber of Commerce is forming a new division to be a watchdog on such policy and measure the impact on Black America.

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

Yee Blasts UC Regent for Trying to End Collective Bargaining

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A day after University of California Regent David Crane penned an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle calling for an end to collective bargaining for public sector employees, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) condemned the remarks as a direct attack on working families.

“I thought we had already seen the height of arrogance by UC Regents,” said Yee. “It is time for Regent Crane to put away his Wisconsin playbook and come down from his ivory tower.”

“While the Regents have approved million dollar contracts for their top administrators, they allow many UC workers and their families to live in poverty,” said Yee.

“Now, Regent Crane wants to take away their only avenue to earning a livable wage and a respectable retirement – their collective bargaining rights.”

For UC service workers, wages are as low as $13 an hour and 96 percent are income eligible for at least one of the following public assistance programs: food stamps, WIC (women, infants, and children), public housing subsidies, and reduced lunch. Many work two or three jobs to meet their families’ basic needs.

At the same time, the UC Board of Regents has consistently provided double-figure raises to their top administrators.

The latest example is a “retention salary adjustment” for UCLA Medical Center CEO David Feinberg. Feinberg’s salary was recently increased by an additional $160,300 per year to $900,000. The Regents also voted to award him an additional $250,000 annual retention bonus.

With his annual Medical Center incentive payment, Feinberg's annual compensation is now $1,330,000 per year. UC President Mark Yudof also pulls in seven figures with his salary, housing, and benefits.

Crane argues in his op-ed that “collective bargaining for public employees in California changed the balance of power and - most importantly - gave public employees power over their compensation and benefits.”

“The only public employees at the UC that have any real power over their compensation are the top executives,” said Yee.

“The Regents consistently cater to the elite and ignore their unionized workers – nurses, janitors, technicians, bus drivers, teaching assistants, and others. Collective bargaining is vital in addressing this disparity and fighting the unconscionable acts of UC administrators.”

Crane, a resident of San Francisco, was appointed to the Board of Regents by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (RLos Angeles) during his final days in office. Crane awaits confirmation by the Senate this year.

The Growth of Black-Owned Businesses: Entrepreneurship by Necessity

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(NNPA) "I had to make my own living and my own opportunity! But I made it! Don't sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!" – Madam C.J. Walker, trailblazing African American businesswoman.

There is a silver lining in the dark cloud of the great recession. A new Census Bureau report reveals that from 2002 to 2007 the number of Black-owned businesses in the United States increased by 60.5 percent to 1.9 million – more than triple the national rate. According to Census Bureau Deputy Director, Thomas Mesenbourg, “Black-owned businesses continued to be one of the fastest growing segments of our economy, showing rapid growth in both the number of businesses and total sales during this time period.”

The reasons for this are many, beginning with the long history of African American entrepreneurship in response to poverty, high unemployment, and discrimination. Consider the case of Madam C.J. Walker, the daughter of slaves who, in the early 1900s, turned her dream of financial independence into a hair care and cosmetics business that revolutionized the beauty products industry, created good paying jobs, and made her a wealthy woman and philanthropist.

Like Madam C.J. Walker, many African Americans may have turned to entrepreneurship in the years covered by the Census Bureau study because of high unemployment in our communities. The fact is, Black unemployment never got back down to where it was before the recession in 2001. So in effect, what we are seeing is a bit of entrepreneurship by necessity. There’s also an economic independent streak, particularly among emerging generations in the Black community. Building a business gives great satisfaction and cushions them from the shock of losing jobs because of economic down cycles.

New York State leads the country with more than 204,000 Black-owned businesses, followed by Georgia and Florida respectively. From 2002 to 2007, nearly four in 10 of these businesses operated in the health care and social assistance; and repair, maintenance, personal, and laundry services sectors. The retail trade and health care and social assistance sectors accounted for 27.4 percent of Black-owned business revenue.

The survey also found that in addition to an increase in the number of Black-owned businesses, annual sales increased by 55% to $137.5 billion.

I recently called on federal, state, and local governments to develop a “hyper-focus” on Black- and minority-owned businesses. Every city, county, and state needs to have a plan that focuses on small and minority business. There is a spirit of entrepreneurship out there that needs to be nurtured and energized.

While the Census Bureau report is generally good news, we know that Black businesses still make up only seven percent of all companies and they tend to be smaller and have lower gross receipts than other businesses. Black-owned businesses are also often hampered in their revenue growth by a lack of capital, connections, and contracts.

What I hope this report says loudly and clearly to the investment community is that you are missing an emerging market in the United States. If minority businesses are growing at a faster clip than overall businesses, imagine what the growth rate would be if those barriers were eliminated or lowered. We need the investor community to look at this report and recognize that they are missing an incredible opportunity.

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

Letter to the Editor

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By Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter –

No one is happy with the steps needed to balance the state's budget. The Governor's budget proposal hinges on a special election in June to extend a package of temporary tax measures for five additional years.The Governor pledged that taxes would not be raised without the consent of the voters.

A two-thirds vote of the legislature is required to place the tax extensions on the June ballot, but some elected representatives oppose allowing the question of temporary tax extensions to go to the voters.

Voters deserve the opportunity to choose how to finance state government. Working together as Californians we will get through these tough times.

As we share in the blessings of our state, we must also share in the sacrifices.

California's voters can weigh the potential consequences of failing to extend some taxes. But voters won't get this chance if legislators block the measure from the June ballot.

Tell your State Senator or Assembly Member that you want the opportunity to decide how to raise and spend your tax dollars. Urge them to vote to place the Governor's tax package on the June ballot.

If we all do our part we can get California through this crisis.

Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter (D-Rialto) is Assistant Majority Policy Leader for the 2011-2012 session of the California State Assembly. She represents the 62nd District which includes Colton, Rialto, Muscoy, Bloomington and parts of Fontana and San Bernardino.

Why the Federal Government Lacks Black Business

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(NNPA) The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. We are going into 47 years of this great law but the memo has never been circulated around to federal employees who deal with the massive procurement system of the federal government. From one presidential administration to the next nothing of substance seems to happen in terms of Black businesses winning procurement dollars. There is a lot of corruption, discrimination, and bullying that disallows a small Black business to get a foothold. There needs to be a massive overhaul in how diversity in federal procurement should be set up. Here is some food for thought to change this pitiful state of affairs.

Forty-seven years and we cannot do more than two percent of the total for Black owned businesses in any given fiscal year. There is a lack of accountability. Growth and robust activity should rest on the shoulders of agency secretaries – the President’s Cabinet. It should affect their bonuses and annual evaluations. Likewise, Deputy Secretaries should bear the same burden. If this were to happen you would see a great amount of attention given to the issue. Procurement officials would be pushed into good performance and pitiful performance would not be tolerated.

The Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) is at every agency. However, I have been in D.C. for 19 years and may have met eight of them at best. They hide behind their desks and just count the years before their retirements. This position should change from a career type hire to a political hire. Each OSDBU would have four to eight years to make his mark and set his legacy. The political hires should have a good amount of entrepreneurial experience and understand what the Black business owner is going through. Laziness and corruption should not be tolerated and the Secretary of each agency must watch and measure the activity of his respective OSDBU.

“Small Disadvantaged Business” (SDB)? I was shocked when my sons requested a SDB certification application for one of their companies. The Small Business Administration (SBA) wrote them back saying that they no longer certify companies for SDB status. Their reason was that SDB’s probably wouldn’t win any federal contracts anyway. Isn’t it confusing that we have an office there in each agency to help SDB’s and the SBA is eliminating any certification for them. Thus, they are going to rely on self-certification and that will open the door to mass fraud and corruption. It will contaminate the reporting process.

In regards to reporting, there is much room for updating. The SBA and federal agencies love to aggregate their contracting numbers. They want to hide the paltry performance they do in Black business procurement. They don’t want to directly answer any inquiries about Black business procurement by announcing or reporting what minorities per se are doing. “We are doing 10% with minorities or 15% with minorities and are meeting our goals.” We want to know exactly what they are doing with Black firms not Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians, etc. They love to hide their anemic performance with Black firms.

Then we need to stop the games played by major federal contracting firms. How much SBA is in on this is yet to be determined. Are they that corrupt or that stupid? Contracts, many of them no bid, are let out in amounts of billions of dollars. Before the contract is awarded the SBA comes in and does a review of the subcontracting list for utilization of small businesses inclusive of minority and disabled veteran owned businesses. The prime contractors will go out and verbally agree with Black businesses to utilize them on the massive contract. The SBA comes in and sees the printed list of small and minority owned businesses and approves the contract. Funny thing, after the prime contractor has the contract he never speaks to the Black contractor again. It was all a written sham. Does the SBA include these forecasted numbers in their reports like they actually happened? Right now I have two such complaints against Lockheed and Fluor corporations on Department of Defense projects. We may file suit, if the SBA won’t “buck up”.

One of the worst agencies is the Department of Transportation. An example would be their Federal Highway Administration that does less than 1.2% with Black businesses (their figures). We can’t get business at airports like we used to and the new high speed rail they are proposing will not have a minority business program at all. Yet, the SBA awards this agency with their “Agency of the Year Award” for the last three consecutive years. What are they thinking?

The above would be a start to improvement. What if the Congressional Black Caucus would form a taskforce and analyze quarterly reports from each agency? Would Pelosi put them in “time out”?

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

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