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Oppressive Taxation

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(NNPA) Blacks in America pay their taxes without protest nor demands for equal representation. We do this to a serious fault. We get nothing in exchange for giving our few and precious capital resources. It is, in effect, colonialism. Our federal and local governments tax us in a manner that is supposed to provide services and fair trade. However, the many billions of dollars spent by our federal and local governments are denied to our businesses. Our unemployment doubles or triples that of Whites because of this. Our businesses cannot grow at a representative rate and, thus, we cannot create jobs for our population. Our quality of life does not have a chance under such a system. We must start demanding more and refusing to go along with this economic exploitation.

The Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce has done an analysis of how this system works. The State of Illinois is about to raise its state income tax from 3 percent to 5.25 percent. This will have a greater impact on the exploitive system against a certain segment of the population – us. The following is their take on this and the National Black Chamber of Commerce endorses their analysis.

The effect of an Illinois Income Tax increase on the Black Community Illinois is considering increasing the Income Tax rate from 3 percent to 5.25 percent. This document is an attempt to estimate the effect on this increase on the Illinois Black Economy.

1. Governor’s Estimated 2011 Illinois State Income Tax Receipts: $8.6B
2. Total Illinois Households – 4.8M
3. Total Black Households – 676,000 or 14 percent
4. Total Average Income per Household - $56,000
5. Average Income per Black Household - $35,000
6. Yearly State Income Taxes paid by Black workers @ 3 percent – $774-$860M or 9-10 percent
7. Yearly State Income Taxes paid by Black workers @ 5.25% – $1.35B-$1.50B

Economic Effects of Increased Taxes on the Black Community
If the Illinois State Income Tax rate increases from 3 percent to 5.25 percent, the Black community would pay an additional $580M to $645M in state taxes every year. This means the Black community that is already financially stressed would lose approximately $600M in purchasing power every year or $2.4B in four years.

What are Blacks getting for this investment?
The majority of this $2.4B is going to pay other people’s bills. Even though Blacks contribute approximately 10 percent of State Incomes Taxes, a larger percentage of sales taxes and a much larger percentage of lottery purchases, the State of Illinois does very little business with Blacks likely less than 1 percent of spend.

Martin Luther King once said that “Of the good things in life the Negro has half; of the bad things he has a double share”. That still holds true today for our people.

If jobs come from small business and the State and others are not doing business with our businesses, where are our jobs supposed to come from? Unless the State starts to do business with Blacks in proportion to our population this is a bad financial deal for Blacks. The Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce says that there should be NO TAXATION WITHOUT PARTICIPATION. We urge our Representatives to look at this deal carefully. Taking $2.4B from working Blacks to subsidize others is not going to help us rather it will damage an already fragile community.

Yes, the state legislature should vote against this tax increase unless the state will set aside the $200 million in procurements for Black owned businesses. That is the only way to make this taxation representative of the Black population of Illinois. This is just Illinois. We should do such an analysis for each and every state in the nation. Likewise, we need to do it for the federal government as well. Why are our economic indicators the lowest of all ethnic groups in the nation? A big contributor to that fact is right here. Our levels of government are economically sucking on us like the British did the 13 colonies – that led to a revolution. Let’s correct this so we don’t have to do anything drastic. The change must come or we will continue to just lay in the abyss.

Your legislative Black caucus should start understanding this and hopefully, one day, our Congressional Black Caucus will have a clue about this situation and start progressive action. Kudos go to the Illinois Black Chamber for this analysis. Each Black chamber should do such an analysis and share it throughout their respective state. The time for ECONOMIC EQUITY has come!

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

When the White Press Attacks a Black Voice

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(NNPA) Information is indeed power and one of the most powerful instruments is the press. Manipulators try their best to influence the press and use it for their own advancement and also against their rivals and enemies. Smear campaigns and propaganda are as apparent today as ever. Fox News has a strong conservative bent while MSNBC is strongly liberal with CNN being a little soft towards the left. They deliver the news with no shame and let it be known their political preference. All other stations do the same and the newspapers can even be worst. When race becomes an issue, it gets even uglier.

Such is the case with Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC). The press is continually attacking him from all sides. The top Democratic operative is Barack Obama, a Black man, and the other side now has a Black man. It is way too much and something has to give. The “bull’s eye” is focused on Mr. Steele and he is criticized for anything they can get their hands on. Actually, he is doing a fantastic job. He has taken the Republican Party to the greatest election victory in history—winning 690 seats--but, still, that isn’t good enough. They want him out because his voice is too strong and happens to be Black. The White press fears a Black who is accumulating power and fame. Mr. Steele has certainly done that in the last two years and they are scared to the max instead of being happy.

I learned this fact early in my career of activism. If you want to become notorious start a movement that forces change. They, the press, will follow you and do their best to find dirt, scandal and any other kind of wrong against you. When we started making changes in the way Indiana did business with Black entrepreneurs, the White Indiana democratic leaders brought out their big weapons – writers at the Indianapolis Star newspaper and a few local newscasters. They jumped on me like white on rice. In the beginning it was kind of shocking to have your picture on the front page of the newspaper and an article about how bad or pitiful you might have been. It would be all lies but they didn’t care because the intent was to smear.

The above assault would have intimidated the average person but to their dismay it was encouraging to me. I wasn’t from Indiana and my wife’s family was free and independent and beyond being hurt by them. In fact, they encouraged me to push on as they had my back. Local Black politicians and church leaders told me they knew the deal and do not let it deter me as they were there to support my efforts. I am forever grateful to them. The abuse from the White press was actually rallying the Black community around my cause and eventually gave birth to the National Black Chamber of Commerce. We could create our own power and depend just on ourselves to get the mission accomplished.

Eventually, it dawned on me to begin to fight back. The weapon I used was there all the time – the Black press. I started interviewing with the six Black newspapers in Indiana on a regular basis and started writing articles attacking the lying, conniving White press. My audience was totally Black and they knew exactly what I was talking about. It got to the point that no matter what the Indianapolis Star or evening news station would report the Black community would not pay it any attention as my word was being delivered properly in the Black newspapers. After a while my White enemies started reading Black newspapers on a continual basis to see what we were saying about them. They went on the defensive and that meant we were going to win. We did!

A few years ago I was in Indianapolis and ran into the reporter who wrote the worst articles about me. Pat Traub was in a bar and was having a few drinks. I sat down by him and struck up a conversation. He was no longer a reporter for the Indianapolis Star so I asked him “Why did you write those ruthless, lying articles about me?” He replied, “That was what I was paid to do. It was just my job – nothing personal”. Yes, my people, it is just a very cruel game and a ploy to gain or maintain power which turns into money.

So, the next time you notice the White press going after a brother or sister who is leading something please understand it is a ruthless game. Take it with a grain of “salt”. Wait and hear the other side of the story.

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

Happy New Year!

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“Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.” Oprah Winfrey

At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2011, Oprah Winfrey made history with the launching of her new television network, OWN. As the first African American woman to launch a major television network, Oprah’s amazing ascension in the broadcast world is emblematic of the progress we have made in Black America and the hopes we all hold for an even brighter future. It is my fervent wish that in 2011 we will all push forward to realize our own dreams, especially those of us who have been struggling to find jobs.

The year 2010 brought us more than our share of challenges – from a horrific earthquake in Haiti to a devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We were riveted by the dramatic rescue of 33 men trapped for months in a Chilean mine. We were shocked by the Wikileaks massive dump of secret information. Young Americans continue to make the ultimate sacrifice in two major wars. We saw a dramatic shift in Congress with Republicans capturing control of the House and gaining seats in the Senate. And, we begin this New Year almost like we began the one before; with unemployment in many communities of color nearly double the national rate of 9.8 percent.

Double-digit unemployment rates have been a reality for urban communities -- which also tend to be communities of color -- since August 2008 for African Americans and February 2009 for Latinos. In fact, African-American unemployment has been at or near 10% since December 2001. Last year, the African-American unemployment rate was on average 1.8 times higher than that of Whites. African-American median household income was 62% of that earned by White households and African Americans were more than three times as likely as Whites to live below the poverty line.

Without jobs, families are more likely to lack health insurance and access to affordable health care. Their educational opportunities are also limited, and the possibility of achieving the dream of homeownership grows further out of reach.

President Obama has made repairing our struggling economy his number one New Year’s resolution. While recent data shows our economy is on the rebound, he said “Our most important task now is to keep that recovery going. As President that’s my commitment to you: to do everything I can to make sure our economy is growing, creating jobs, and strengthening our middle class. That’s my resolution for the coming year.”

The National Urban League begins its second century resolved to help the President fulfill that promise.

With the 2012 election now in sight, this year gives the President, the Congress, and all of us, one more chance to get it right.

Congratulations Oprah. Here’s to success and happiness for everyone in the New Year.

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

Thank You Letter from Supervisor Josie Gonzales

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Dear Hardy Brown
I open this letter thanking you for your most kind and encouraging support of my efforts to become Chair of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors in 2011 (posted Dec. 1, 2010).

I was raised to believe that hard work and public service are simple elements of a decent life – one that I have been blessed to live. All of us search for ways to give our time and answer the call to serve and help others, no matter how great or how small. I admit, becoming an elected official was not part of my original plan; however, I embraced this new direction after realizing that I might better serve the people of San Bernardino County as part of a bigger plan.

As I took the oath of office in 1998 to become Councilwoman in the City of Fontana, I pledged then, as I do now, to maintain the highest ethical standards – to work with honesty and integrity – in order to best represent the people who have placed their vote of confidence in me. As Supervisor, I believe that the same expectation of representation extends to all who live in the county, not just those who reside in my district. This 13-year journey has taken me from the City of Fontana’s Planning Commission, to its City Council, and now to the County Board of Supervisors – a position in which I have had the honor to serve for the past six years. As we look to the new year, the Board of Supervisors will once again select a Chair to lead the county for the next two years. As a matter of equity to the Districts, county policy states that “…selection of nominees for the position of Chairman shall be on the basis of seniority of members who have not served as Chairman…” (No. 01-07) As the current Vice Chair, and most tenured member of the Board, I stand ready to be the next Chair.

The Chairmanship is a profoundly unique position that carries with it a great deal of responsibility, as well as challenges. The Chair must find ways to balance the needs of the entire county – which is no small feat considering our vast geographical breadth and diversity. Yet, I see these challenges as opportunities to build consensus and unify our communities under a shared vision.

Through a collective effort, my colleagues and I will put the people’s interests first as we resolve matters, while exemplifying a dignified political strength and unity. This effort will get us through today’s difficult times, as well as prepare us for tomorrow’s promising future.

My tenure as a public servant has garnered within me the true meaning of public service. It is with this knowledge and experience that I denounce those whose only intent is to tear down and impair a government that is working to promote and strengthen the economic viability of its people. Together, we can prevail against the obstacles and rightfully uphold the ideal of what is good and decent.

With God’s grace, and my colleagues’ support for my Chairmanship, I pledge to work with the Board to preserve the process by which we at the county deliver our mandates.

A new chapter has begun in San Bernardino County. I look forward to the promise of working with Supervisors Mitzelfelt, Rutherford, Derry, and Ovitt as we lead this county towards new horizons.

Josie Gonzales, Vice Chair San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, 5th District

FCC Appears to Find Middle Road to Hope

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Our nation certainly turned a corner two years ago with the election of our first Black President. Aside from the obvious historical progress made, for the first time in a long time Americans overwhelmingly expressed feelings of excitement, optimism, and hope about the future. We were looking for positive change that would drive us forward and President Obama was determined to deliver.

His vision for the future included a number of noble goals to get this country back on track -- including the 21st Century promise of opportunity made possible through universal broadband connectivity.

Getting connected online would provide a much-needed lifeline for struggling communities of color while empowering all Americans to survive and thrive in the new millennium and beyond. President Obama announced this priority on the campaign trail and received an excited and approving nod from Americans when he reaffirmed the goal once elected. He distributed marching orders, and it seemed that we were well on our way toward achieving an historic technological advancement that would strengthen our great nation from the bottom up.

Unfortunately, the road to becoming a connected nation has not been without potholes.

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its National Broadband Plan, providing a roadmap to get everyone online as the President had directed. However, the months that followed have been absorbed by the highly contentious net neutrality debate, preventing any real progress. This effort has largely been driven by extremist groups that appear to have interests other than those of the greater public in mind.

The resulting gridlock has needlessly delayed and distracted from making positive change that would benefit all Americans -- and minority Americans in particular -- in the classroom, in the work place, in the home, and far beyond. It has stood in the way of job creation and investment that is essential to turning things around for us all. And, as weeks and months pass without clarity or forward progress, it seems that we see and hear less and less of the excitement, optimism, and hope that overflowed two years ago.

It looks like things may change, though, and not a moment too soon.

Chairman Genachowski announced this week that the FCC will address proposed rules to preserve the open Internet at its December 21 open meeting. The proposal on the table appears to reflect a mainstream compromise on net neutrality, which aims to ensure that the Internet remains a powerful platform for innovation, job creation, and economic opportunity without overregulation that could harm internet deployment and costs. My hope is that this compromise will provide closure to this debate that is absolutely necessary in order to move forward to achieve the Chairman's stated goal of increasing "certainty in the marketplace and spurring investment both at the edge and in the core of our broadband networks" -- things that must happen for the broadband marketplace to fully participate in our economic recovery efforts. As the Chairman said this week, the Internet has allowed for "wondrous contributions to our economy and our way of life."

As publisher of the LA Sentinel and Chairman of National Newspaper Publishers Association, representing more than 200 African American newspapers -- giving voice and providing information to 19.8 million households who read the Black Press of American weekly -- I applaud the efforts of the FCC. However, I encourage Chairman Genachowski, and in particular Commissioner Clyburn, to swing wide inclusion's door and make real the economic empowerment equalizer broadband access pledges, especially where it concerns the full participation of minority owned media enterprises, technology firms, advertising, and other Black-owned businesses.

Universal connectivity holds even greater promise of opportunity and possibility today thanks to new and evolving technological innovations. It is because of this investment in innovation that millions of Americans have already adopted broadband -- and African Americans lead in wireless mobile device adoption. But, this isn't good enough -- we need to connect every American. I realize the idea isn't new -- but even though we have the technology as well as a solid plan to connect everyone to the technology, we still have a long way to go before we get where we need to be. As we put the net neutrality debate behind us we need to focus on implementing the National Broadband Plan that will enable us to move forward once and for all.

It's not too late. We can restore those good feelings of excitement, optimism, and hope that I mentioned -- but we have got to shift our focus to efforts that will make a real difference... right now.

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