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NUL Report: Black America Remains in Crisis

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NPA) – When it comes to the equality in America, a new report by the National Urban League says that Blacks are missing nearly 30 percent of the pie.

The annual State of Black America (SOBA) report compared how well Blacks were doing in economics, health, education, social justice and civic engagement.

In the introduction to the report, Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, wrote that “on many fronts, Black America remains in crisis – and we see justice challenged at every turn.”

Morial added: “The world watched as non-indictments of the police officers responsible for the deaths of unarmed Black males including Eric Garner, Michael Brown and John Crawford signaled that police accountability for taking Black lives was reaching a modern-day low – and that the widespread and dangerous mistrust between law enforcement and too many communities of color in America was reaching a new high.”

Morial also expressed concerns about separate and unequal resources in schools, double-digit unemployment in the Black community and continued attacks on voting rights.

The Black equality index increased from revised score of 71.5 percent in 2014 to 72.2 percent in 2015. In 2005, the Black equality index was 72.9 percent.

Higher scores in social justice (56.9 percent reported in 2014 report vs. 60.6 percent in the 2015 report) and health (78.2 percent vs. 79.8 percent) fueled the rise in the index. The economic indicator also rose slightly from 55.4 percent to 55.8 percent.

“The education (from 76.7 percent to 76.1 percent) and civic engagement (from 104.7 percent to 104 percent) indexes both declined slightly,” stated the report.

The report said that fewer Blacks are falling victim to violent crimes and a lower number of Black high school students are carrying weapons, which had a positive affect on the social justice index. The report also credited the Affordable Care Act and a decline in binge drinking for helping to improve the health index.

However, the report found that gaps in unemployment and homeownership widened.

“With an index of 65 percent, the smallest Black–White unemployment gap was in the Providence–Warwick, RI–MA metro area, where the Black unemployment rate was 13 percent and the white rate was 8.5 percent. Last year’s most equal metro—Augusta–Richmond County, Ga.,–S.C.—fell to #13 this year as the Black unemployment rate increased from 13.3 percent to 16.5 percent and the White unemployment rate was essentially unchanged.”

Toledo, Ohio’s Black unemployment rate was 22.6 percent, the highest rate among the metro areas in the study.

The National Urban League also reported that the, “Black and white incomes were least equal in San Francisco–Oakland–Hayward, Calif., where the gap was 42 cents on the dollar.”

Morial wrote that 2014 was a catalytic year propelled by cataclysmic circumstances, “little accountability for law enforcement responsible for killing unarmed Black men, teenagers and children; a continual assault on voting rights; widening economic inequality gaps; and an increasingly partisan education debate far more rooted in political agendas than in putting our children first.”

Morial continued: “While we celebrate the tremendous progress and transformation of our nation, we have a continuing need to be vigilant, to persevere and to protect past gains. We must not allow the forces of division, intolerance and right-wing extremism to turn back the hands of time.”

Parents: Children will have it Harder than they Did

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – A majority of American parents believe their children will face a harsher coming-of-age than they did, according to a new survey – and no one feels this more acutely than Black parents.

In a recent NBC News State of Parenting Poll, 63 percent of parents felt their children would face more problems growing up than they did. For Black parents, the figure was 72 percent.

“That feeling is real…that children growing up today are growing up in a more complex society, with respect to issues like racism, institutional racism, structural racism, and the educational system, and growing inequality,” says George Garrow, executive director of Concerned Black Men National, which seeks to enrich the lives of Black children and parents through mentorship and community-building.

“We as adults are being affected by these things, and if we’re being affected then young people certainly are. Our kids are being raised in a time where…the kids are not going to have the opportunities that we had 25 years ago, 30 years ago.”

Parents who had little faith in today’s education system were likelier to foresee greater challenges for their children. These parents of little faith were in the minority, however. In the case of Black parents, 51 percent rated their child’s education as “good,” on a scale from “excellent” to “poor.”

Most of the parents who rated their children’s education experience as “fair” or “poor” also believed that their children would have a harder time growing up. Only 18 percent and 9 percent of Black parents gave “fair” and “poor” ratings, respectively, but Black parents made up the largest share of both ratings.

The outlook on growing up was bleak even among the satisfied parents, 57 percent of whom still felt their children would face more problems.

“I always thought…we’d be, now, in an era of better schools. But when you look at the terrain we’re not there yet…particularly with Black kids and the schools they are going to,” Garrow said. “While we may live in a society with greater options for some, those things haven’t necessarily materialized for Black children, and Black families.”

Interestingly, 51 percent of all parents felt that school would not prepare their children for the job market unless their child also went to college. Further, a sizeable 86 percent said their children would need more than a high school degree to achieve The American Dream.

Although many parents believed the journey to adulthood would be harder for their children, 53 percent also believed that their children would be the same or better off once they grew up. While Black parents were most likely to worry about their children’s present experiences, they were also more likely to be optimistic about their child’s future than White parents were—but not more optimistic than Hispanic parents. Additionally, younger, Democrat, and/or low-income parents were more optimistic than older, Republican, and/or higher-income parents; Black people tend to fall into the former categories. (Political independents are evenly split).

While the worry about modern childhood remains high, research suggests the sentiment is declining with each generation, as the standard of living gets better. In the 1998 results of this same survey, 78 percent of parents believed their children had more problems.

At the same time, outlook on the future of the next generation seems to have remained steady. Over the past few years the Pew Research Center has surveyed approximately 2,500 parents with similar questions. From 2008 to 2012, roughly half of parents believed their children would have it better off when they reached adulthood. Interestingly, roughly 60 percent of the same respondents believed that they had a better standard of living than their parents did at the same age.

At a time when the nation is rallying against unchecked police violence on Black people (among a host of chronic social and political problems), Garrow points out that Black families have to dig deep to find optimism for the future. But, he also believes that positive adult involvement and community building are the keys to helping children navigate an increasingly complex society.

“We can no longer live under the idyllic notion that kids—as long as they don’t get into trouble, as long as the ‘behave themselves’—that they’re going to grow up to be responsible citizens, be educated properly, and have opportunities in life. All of our kids are at risk,” Garrow says.

“[The finding] is really tragic because it should not be this way. Each society should be able to build upon the successes of the previous generation. …[W]e really need a reality check to determine what we need to do so we at least have a chance at offering our kids a better life.”

Republican Budget Would Shred Safety Net

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The Republican House budget will shred the social safety net designed to protect the most vulnerable citizens, severely cutting programs ranging from student loans to food stamps, according to a nonpartisan think thank.

“The budget would cause tens of millions of people to become uninsured or underinsured, make it harder for low-income students to afford college, shrink nutrition assistance, and squeeze many other such programs,” writes Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). “Consequently, it’s sure to significantly increase poverty, hardship, and inequality.”

In an effort to balance the federal budget without raising taxes or restoring them to pre-recession levels, House Republicans plan to shrink spending in a variety of areas—especially health care and anti-poverty, food assistance, and housing assistance programs. The cuts will total $5.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

The House of Representatives Budget Committee’s proposal would drastically reduce or end federal funding to such programs, or reform them into state-run or meager versions of themselves.

Under this plan, the Affordable Care Act would be completely defunded, sacrificing the $1 trillion in federal income it generates through taxes, and also eliminating states’ expanded Medicaid. The CBPP finds that 14 million Americans would be left uninsured. The uninsured rate for Black people in particular has dropped from 24 percent to 16 percent, in the two years since ACA implementation.

Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other health programs would also lose $1 trillion in funding by 2025. Greenstein, who has served three presidential administrations before creating CBPP, points out that this cut comes on top of the losses from repealing health care reform.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is slated to lose $125 billion. In 2013, Black people were 25.7 percent of all SNAP recipients; the same year, a national-representative Pew Research Center survey conducted the same year found that Black people were twice as likely as Whites to have used the food stamp program at some point in life.

The proposed budget would retain these and other mandatory safety net programs through federal block grants. Full responsibility for managing the grants and running the programs would be left to state governments. The CBPP asserts that block grants would not be enough on their own for most states to adequately administer these programs, and low- to moderate-income families would suffer most for it.

Medicare would lose $148 billion over the next decade, and would become a “premium support model” voucher system, in which seniors can choose their own insurance plan via marketplaces (similar to the current Affordable Care Act). Medicare would apply each recipient’s benefits directly to the insurance company he or she has chosen.

Black seniors with Medicare tend to have significantly lower-than-average incomes and savings as well as more chronic health conditions than others, making Medicare much more critical to their survival. As wealth gaps widen and health disparities persist, the need for effective Medicare will likely continue or deepen for Black retirees in the future.

In addition to weakening social programs, the proposed House budget also caps the maximum Pell Grant award limit for outstanding low-income college students, on the grounds that the recent expansion of what constitutes “need” shortchanges the most needy students.

There would be $759 billion less for discretionary funding. This money supports non-mandatory, but important provisions, such as job training opportunities, early childhood programs, climate change and renewable energy research, scientific and medical study, transportation, and more.

The only increased spending would go toward the War on Terror, which would see an additional $20 billion over the next 10 years.

In addition to spending less, the budget plans to revamp the tax code to secure new federal revenue. The proposal provides scant details on how this will be done.

The CBPP points out that the government already misses out on $1 trillion per year through waivers, credits, and tax breaks that disproportionately benefit the upper class; this is more than double the cost of the non-defense discretionary programs previously mentioned.

“Cutting only spending entitlements while shielding tax entitlements would be highly regressive,” Greenstein writes in a separate analysis of the budget. “It also would constitute a highly selective approach to so-called ‘entitlement reform’— cutting entitlement programs whose benefits go principally to poor and middle-class families, while asking for no deficit-reduction contribution from the entitlements that are heavily skewed to people at the top of the income scale and include some particularly wasteful and special-interest-oriented programs.”

Budget resolutions are only a blueprint for a future detailed appropriations bill that will allocate every penny and eventually reach the White House for signature.

Families USA, a national health care consumers group, said the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act would be devastating.

“The Affordable Care Act is the most significant health care reform since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid half a century ago,” it said in a statement. “In just five years, it has reduced by one-third the portion of the population that is uninsured. Approximately 16.4 million uninsured Americans have gained health coverage.”

President Barack Obama has long asserted that he would veto any bill that spells an end to the Affordable Care Act. He also told a White House audience of educators last week that there would be “a major debate” on any attempts to divest in education. The stalemate will likely result in another partial or full shutdown this fall.

Greenstein warns: “If [the Committee’s] policies were to become law, ours would be a coarser, more mean-spirited nation with higher levels of poverty and inequality, less opportunity, and a future workforce that’s less able to compete with its counterparts overseas.”

Giuliani Supporting Loretta Lynch Nomination

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In recent weeks, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, claimed that President Barack Obama didn’t love America, blamed the president for creating the atmosphere that led to the shootings of two police officers being shot in Ferguson, Mo., and said that he should speak more like the beleaguered Bill Cosby on issues of race.

There is one issue, however, that he is in total agreement with President Obama — Loretta Lynch’s qualification to become the next attorney general.

“Loretta Lynch is more than qualified. She’s over-qualified to be the attorney general,” said Giuliani. “She is as well-qualified as some of the bests attorney generals that we’ve had.”

During a call with reporters last Friday, Giuliani admitted that he didn’t often agree with President Obama, but whether the president is a Republican or a Democrat he is entitled to his choice.

The former mayor and presidential candidate said that the confirmation process has become distorted over time.

“Republicans torture Democrats and Democrats torture Republicans. Who started it? Only God knows and it has now become the Hatfields and McCoys,” said the former New York City mayor.

Giuliani said that he was impressed by the way that Lynch, as a United States attorney in New York, prosecuted cases to protect New York City and, on the few occasions that she had to investigate the city, she was fair.

“She makes decisions on the merit,” said Giuliani. “She’s not a political operative in any sense.”

Lynch, who was first confirmed as a United States attorney during the Clinton administration in 1999 and again during the Obama administration in 2010, has also undergone three FBI background investigations.

Giuliani joined a chorus of lawmakers, law enforcement officials and civil rights leaders urging Senate Republicans to confirm Lynch.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), called the delay in confirming Loretta Lynch political.

“The politics that Republicans have played with her nomination are deplorable and opposition to her nomination is nothing more than a political ploy to once again use any means necessary to show their disdain for President Obama,” said Butterfield. “This is a travesty. We should not deny the president of the United States his choice of a qualified candidate.”

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of 200 civil and human rights groups, said that the Senate Republican majority is using every excuse it can find to delay or obstruct Lynch’s confirmation.

“And the one thing these excuses all have in common is that none of them have anything to do with the nominee herself,” said Henderson. “We know that senators can walk and chew gum at the same time and that this is just the latest turn in what has been the most mishandled and manipulated confirmation process in memory.”

Even Eric Holder, the current attorney general who was held in contempt of Congress on a Republican-majority vote in 2012 over a gun trade investigation, recently quipped that the Republican Congress has delayed the Lynch confirmation because they discovered a new fondness for him.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that when it comes to the Senate calendar, Loretta Lynch was being asked “to sit in the back of the bus,” and that the delay was, “beneath the decorum and dignity of the United States Senate.”

Louis Freeh, a partner of Pepper Hamilton, LLP and a former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), agreed that politics is driving opposition to Lynch’s nomination.

“The nomination is being held up for political reasons. Some of the senators didn’t like her answers on immigration,” said Freeh. “The fact of the matter is that she supports the immigration policies of the president. What nominee would come before the Senate for the attorney generalship who did not support the policies of the president? Nobody has made any credible arguments about her competency her independence or her integrity.”

Freeh continued: “You don’t want any attorney general to start his or her tenure there otherwise qualified with that sort of a cloud.”

Giuliani said that the president is entitled to appointments that agree with his point of view and that playing partisan politics over nominations not only impedes the ability of any president to get his job done, but also discourages people from going through this process.

“It is a golden opportunity for my political party to show that we’re going back to the original intent of the framers of the Constitution in the way that the confirmation process should work,” said Giuliani. “Maybe, just maybe, if we have a Republican president two years from now we can appeal to the Democrats to do the same thing.”

Increased Black Home Ownership Would Slice Wealth Gap

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Researchers studying the affects of public policy on the racial wealth gap estimated that the median wealth of Black households would rise 451 percent if Blacks owned homes at the same rates as Whites.

“With policies that advance the rate of Black and Latino homeownership to the same rate as White households, Black median wealth would more than quadruple and Latino media wealth would more than triple,” said Catherine Ruetschlin, a senior policy analyst at Demos, a public policy group that advocates for political and economic equality.

A joint effort by Demos and the Institute on Assets and Social Policy (IASP), a research group that advocates for economic opportunity, security and equity for individuals and families, detailed the key factors in housing, education, and the labor market that have contributed to the racial wealth gap for generations.

The report by said that the median Black household had $7,113 in wealth holdings compared to the median White household, which had $111,146 in wealth holdings in 2011.

“Black households hold only 6 percent of the wealth owned by White households, which amounts to a total wealth gap of $104,033, and Latino households hold only 8 percent of the wealth owned by White households, a wealth gap of $102,798,” stated the report. “In other words, a typical White family owns $15.63 for every $1 owned by a typical Black family and $13.33 for every $1 owned by a typical Latino family.”

According to the report if public policy eliminated racial disparities in income, the median Black wealth would grow $11,488 and if disparities in college graduation rates were eradicated, median Black wealth would grow $1,313.

Thomas Shapiro, the director at IASP, said that the racial wealth gap is one of the most critical issues as the United States moves into the 21st century. Shapiro said that researchers designed a new tool called the “Racial Wealth Audit,” to get a real, objective handle on the impact of policy on wealth accumulation in the United States and what the racial wealth gap really looks like.

Tamara Draut, the vice president of policy and research at Demos, said that while researchers and policy analysts have been heartened by the burgeoning debate surrounding rising inequality in the United States and the implications that it has for all of our standards of living, the underlying racial divide that underpins so much of the inequality in this country is less understood and less talked about.

“In addition, Black and Latino college graduates saw a lower return on their degrees than White graduates: for every $1 in wealth that accrues to median Black households associated with a college degree, median White households accrue $11.49,” stated the report.

Black families also experienced lower returns on the income that they earned, when compared to White families.

“If households of color had the same wealth returns estimated for White families with similar incomes, the racial wealth gap would decrease by 43 percent,” said Tatjana Meschede, the research director at IASP. “To make progress in closing the racial wealth gap, policies need to address both income inequality and differential wealth returns to income.”

Meschede said policy recommendations to address income inequality included raising the minimum wage, the creation of a federal jobs program and increasing unionization.

“Homeownership is the largest reservoir of wealth and financial stability that American families have,” said Thomas Shapiro, the director at IASP. “It’s just that it is so inequitably distributed at this point in time in the value of wealth that it creates.”

With the creation of the Federal Housing Administration in 1934, the United States government sanctioned lenders to use “redlining” to systematically deny Blacks access to that reservoir of wealth for decades.

“While redlining was officially outlawed by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, its impact in the form of residential segregation patterns persists with households of color more likely to live in neighborhoods characterized by higher poverty rates, lower home values, and a declining infrastructure compared to neighborhoods inhabited predominantly by White residents,” stated the report. “Discriminatory lending practices persist to this day. When households of color access mortgages, they are more often underwritten by higher interest rates.”

Draut said that some economists and lawmakers have drawn the wrong conclusions about what happened during the financial collapse and that misunderstanding is preventing faster progress towards the policies that we need.

“We know that lower-income homeowners can afford homes, stay in their homes and not be subject to foreclosure, if they have safe, traditional mortgages,” explained Draut. “The defamation of wealth and the resulting foreclosures were really due to the aggressive marketing and selling of toxic mortgages to communities of color that directly put their homeownership status in danger.”

Shapiro expressed concerns about some of the current conversations taking place on Capitol Hill and at the Treasury Department around financial reforms in the housing industry, adding that some policymakers have floated the idea that prospective buyers should take on more risk, possibly in the form of larger down payments.

“Those are precisely the kinds of reforms that will continue to block families of color from homeownership,” said Shapiro.

In order to close the wealth gap, Ruetschlin said that policies that perpetuate differences in homeownership rates and returns should be changed.

The report recommended stricter enforcement of housing anti-discrimination laws, authorizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make it easier for struggling homeowners to modify loans and lowering the cap on the mortgage interest tax deduction.

Ruetschlin said that, the investor class and international governments increasingly point to widening inequality as a real threat to economic stability and that the amount of wealth a family holds affects their ability to survive that shock when volatility occurs.

She explained, “Growing inequality can really undermine stability overall and make it even harder for an increasingly large portion of the population to weather those shocks when they come.”

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