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U.S. Winning the 'War on Poverty'

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Nearly 50 years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty, a new report finds that robust social safety net programs are slowly leading the nation to victory.

According to the report, “Trends in Poverty With an Anchored Supplemental Poverty Measure,” the poverty rate has dropped 40 percent since 1967, as a result of provisions such as housing vouchers, free school lunch unemployment benefits, Social Security, food stamps, and more. Without these programs, the researchers find, the percentage of Americans living in poverty would be twice as high.

“Our research tells us that these programs are important for families struggling to put food on the table and find adequate shelter,” says study co-author Christopher Wimer, a research scientist at the Columbia Population Research Center. “For a family of four our measure puts the poverty threshold higher at about $25,000 a year, which is not going to go so far.”

The Census Bureau introduced the official poverty measure (OPM) in 1963 to aid in distributing federal aid. At that time it was based on income and the cost of food. Today, the measure is based on a family’s size, cash income, and ages of its members.

The study’s authors say that it’s an outdated and insufficient measure—not only are there non-cash types of income (such as food stamps or housing subsidies), but also the OPM excludes tax burden, and only considers families linked by blood, marriage, or adoption (same-sex partners or cohabiting couples with children, for example, do not count as family).

It seems the Census Bureau picked up on these deficiencies; in 2010 it introduced the supplemental poverty measure (SPM). This measure uses an improved threshold, a more inclusive tally of a family’s expenses and resources, and a broader definition of “family.”

Although the SPM is only intended for research use (the OPM is still used for federal spending), the authors contend that it offers a better picture of American poverty.

According to the OPM, the poverty threshold is around $23,000, and has been since the late ‘90s. The SPM offers a higher threshold, largely because it reflects changes in cost of living more acutely—and it also means more people qualify as poor.

To study poverty trends over the last 45 years, the researchers used today’s SPM threshold and applied it to American families’ household data since 1967 (adjusting for inflation). That year, the official poverty rate was 14 percent; and it hasn’t changed much since then, lingering between 11 and 15 percent over 45 years of data. But with the SPM, the poverty rate has steadily declined—in 1967 it would have been 26 percent. It’s come down to 16 percent as of 2012, which means that poverty has fallen 40 percent since 1967.

The measure also reveals the impact of anti-poverty programs and policies by examining the effect of taxes (tax requirements, breaks, and credits) and transfers (in-kind federal income, such as housing vouchers and free school lunch). Without including taxes and transfers in the SPM measure the poverty rate would have been 27 percent in 2012. In other words, tax breaks and safety net programs have saved 13 percent of lower-middle income Americans from poverty.

Elise Gould, an economist with think tank nonprofit, Economic Policy Institute also believes in the potential of this measure.

“We absolutely see that if we look at measures—even just the OPM—that if it had not been for these economic programs more people would be in poverty. All these programs like sick days, housing vouchers, child care credits, help lift people out of poverty,” she says. “And the SPM is absolutely the best thing today to examine that. Trying to recreate it back in time is a great undertaking.”

The researchers also calculated SPM-based poverty rates for the elderly, working age people, children, and for those in deep poverty (who live on 50 percent or less of the poverty threshold). Taxes and transfers have kept deep poverty around five percent since the ‘70s. Without them, that rate would be closer to 15 and 20 percent.

This study comes at a time when media spotlight has focused on the rising tide of poverty, especially for urban children. But this month Congress approved nearly $40 billion of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) over the next decade, starting last month. One in seven Americans will be affected.

“It’s not that we’ve solved the problems through these programs—there’s still 15 or 16 percent of the country living in poverty under our measure,” Wimer says. “But our research shows that programs like SNAP do a decent job of helping families meet their food costs, which clears room in the budget to pay rent.”

Gould, who also studies economic mobility, believes that while safety net programs are essential, they’re only half the battle.

“Government support has done an incredibly good job in helping people, but pre-tax and pre-transfer income for people really hasn’t changed a lot,” she explains. “You have to really think of ways to increase people’s income and that usually means better wages. When the economy is not doing a great job of serving and providing jobs for ordinary people, the government has to step in. With both aspects, you can do a fair amount to alleviate poverty in this country.”

U.S. Supported White Minority-Rule in South Africa

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By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

PRETORIA, South Africa (NNPA) – President Obama and former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush flew to South Africa to pay their respects to Nelson Mandela, the country’s first democratically elected president who died on Dec. 5 at the age of 95.

At the height of South Africa’s campaign against the warrior for majority rule in South Africa, the U.S. government’s behavior was far from respectful as it supported a regime that oppressed more than 90 percent of its people.

Under South Africa’s rigid racial segregation system known as apartheid, Whites were only 5 to 10 percent of the population but allocated 87 percent of the land to themselves, forcing other racial groups – Black, Coloured, and Indian – to live in segregated homelands away from Whites in the central cities. Officials denied people of color citizenship while maintaining an all-White government, prohibited Blacks from traveling outside their overpopulated segregated homelands without a passbook and operated segregated, unequal education systems that tracked Whites for professional jobs and Blacks for menial employment.

In 1947, South Africa passed the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act that prohibited marriage between persons of different races. A year later, it passed the Immorality Act, which made sexual relations with a person of a different race a criminal offense. When there were Black uprisings to protest minority-rule, anti-apartheid leaders were either arrested or murdered.

Yet, the U.S., which prides itself as the world’s foremost democracy, continued to support the violent apartheid regime.

“The C.I.A. actually colluded with apartheid,” Jesse Jackson said in an interview here. “That’s not anything we can be proud of.”

And the U.S. certainly shouldn’t be proud of the way it helped neutralize Nelson Mandela as he fought oppression.

As Amy Goodman, host of “Democracy Now!” radio program, said on MSNBC, “The U.S. devoted more resources to finding Mandela to hand over to the apartheid forces than the apartheid forces themselves.”

According to an op-ed in the New York Times, “The fugitive leader of the African National Congress was arrested in August 1962 while driving through the town of Howick, in Natal Province, disguised as a white man’s chauffeur. At his subsequent trial, he was sentenced to life in prison. Nowadays, of course, all shades of opinion in the United States are united in pleading for his release. Such pleas might be a little more heartfelt if it were generally appreciated that his arrest came as a result of a tip-off from the Central Intelligence Agency to the authorities.

“According to recent reports in The Johannesburg Star and on CBS News, Mr. Mandela was traveling to meet a C.I.A. officer who was working out of the United States Consulate in Durban, the capital of Natal. Instead of attending the meeting, the C.I.A. man told the police exactly where and when the most hunted man in South Africa could be found.”

The C.I.A.’s support of minority-rule in South Africa did not stop with the fingering of Mandela.

The New York Times article explained. “At the end of the 1960′s, the C.I.A. supplied advice and assistance in the creation of the infamous Bureau of State Security. In 1975, the C.I.A. worked closely with the South African military in their abortive invasion of Angola….”

Written in 1986, the New York Times article stated, “This summer, the American media carried well attested reports on the assistance being rendered the cause of white supremacy by the National Security Agency, which is responsible for the collection of communications intelligence. It is a matter of routine for this agency to comply with requests from Pretoria to monitor communications channels used by the African National Congress. This intelligence, which the Boers could not obtain on their own and which is invaluable to them for their war on the A.N.C., is handed over in return for data on Soviet shipping movements that Washington could gather, albeit more laboriously, by other means.”

Instead of challenging South Africa directly, the U.S. engaged in what it called “constructive engagement,” which was neither constructive nor engaging. The idea, originated by Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker, was that by maintaining diplomatic and military relations with South Africa, the U.S. could exert more influence over time. That did not work.

What worked was Black South Africans, in the streets of Soweto and through the African National Congress (ANC) fighting for their own rights. Blacks in the U.S. joined them by staging daily protests in front of the South African Embassy in Washington – led by Randall Robinson, Mary Frances Berry, Walter Fauntroy and Eleanor Holmes Norton, among others – and mobilizing divestment campaigns against U.S. companies doing business in South Africa. College students championed the issue on their campuses and Leon Sullivan, a Black board member of General Motors, created “the Sullivan Principles” for U.S. companies doing business in South Africa.

The divestment campaign spread around the world and pressure increased on the U.S. to take a larger role in dismantling apartheid.

Shortly after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, South African Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu visited Washington in 1984 and denounced construction engagement as “an abomination” that was “immoral, evil and totally un-Christian.”

Prodded by the Congressional Black Caucus, Congress passed a bill in 1986 imposing sanctions on South Africa if it did not meet five conditions, including the release of Nelson Mandela. Then-U.S. Congressman Dick Chaney voted against the bill. President Ronald Reagan vetoed the measure, calling it “immoral” and “repugnant.” Congress overrode Reagan’s veto.

The Congressional action did not end U.S. support of Pretoria.

In violation of a United Nations arms embargo, the Reagan administration invited top South African security officials to visit the U.S. The United States also vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have imposed economic sanctions on South Africa.

President Reagan placed Nelson Mandela on the U.S. international terrorist list, where he remained until 2008.

Democratic presidents also ran afoul of Mandela after he became president of South Africa in 1994.

During the Clinton administration, the State Department announced in October 1997 that it would be “disappointed” if Mandela followed through on plans to visit Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi, who had been a supporter the ANC when it was forced to go underground.

Speaking at a banquet in Johannesburg, President Mandela said, “How can they have the arrogance to dictate to us who our friends should be?”

The Clinton administration and Israel also objected to Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Armscor) selling tanks valued at $650 million to Syria.

“We will conclude agreements with any country whether they are popular in the West or not,” Mandela said in 1997. “The enemies of countries in the West are not ours.”

Especially when one remembers that the West has not always been Mandela’s friend.

Parents of Trayvon Martin in Discussions for Book Deal

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By Dorothy Rowley
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the parents of slain teen Trayvon Martin, have reportedly met with two publishing executives to discuss writing a book.

The book would be the first time since their son’s death that the couple publicly recounts his character and share their personal struggles and experiences during the trial of George Zimmerman, according to the New York Times.

Zimmerman, 30, was acquitted in July of second-degree murder in Trayvon’s February 2012 shooting death in Florida. He has had several subsequent minor run-ins with law enforcement.

One publishing executive told the Times that Martin and Fulton spoke extensively of race and religion during one meeting.

Publishers described meetings with Fulton and Martin as “somber” and “moving,” according to the Times report.

Jamaicans Among Top 10 Nationals Deported in 2013

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Special to the NNPA from CMC

CMC – The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency says Jamaicans were among the top 10 nationals deported in 2013.

In announcing the year-end removal numbers on Thursday, ICE said the top 10 deportees were from Latin American and the Caribbean.

One thousand, one hundred and nineteen Jamaicans were deported in fiscal year 2013 while 2, 462 nationals from the Dominican Republic were also deported.

The immigration agency said Mexico continues to be the leading country of origin for those removed, followed by Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The figures for Mexico show 241,493 deportees; Guatemala 47,769; Honduras 37,049; El Salvador 21,602; Ecuador 1,616; Brazil 1,500; Colombia 1,429; and Nicaragua 1,383.

ICE said 98 percent of the agency’s total removals were convicted criminals, recent border crossers, illegal re-entrants or those previously removed in line with agency’s enforcement priorities.

These figures highlight ICE’s ongoing commitment to primary immigration enforcement missions: the apprehension of criminal aliens and other immigration violators in the interior of the United States; and the detention and removal of individuals apprehended by ICE and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States,” ICE said.

ICE’s acting director, John Sandweg, said the 2013 numbers make clear that “we are enforcing our nation’s laws in a smart and effective way, meeting our enforcement priorities by focusing on convicted criminals while also continuing to secure our nation’s borders in partnership with CBP.”

World Bank: Caribbean Immigrants Abroad are 'Very Well Educated'

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Key source of investment capital; most are engaged in their birthplaces; are affluent with a “level of investment sophistication and business acumen

By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

As Caribbean nations continue to be buffeted by serious economic challenges, their “very well educated” Diasporas are well placed, and in many cases, are already investing in business ventures back home.

With 80 per cent of the Caribbean diaspora holding college degree; 65 per cent working in the private sector in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere; and a quarter described as well-off with either a net worth or annual incomes in excess of $100,000, “these affluent and accredited individuals are of critical importance in making informed investments back home,” according to a World Bank report. “They tend to have a level of investment sophistication and business acumen that promotes best practices among investees, demands accountability and results, and can have a major contribution to the development of Caribbean economies.”

Those conclusions were based on the results of a study conducted among almost 1,000 “self-identified members of the Caribbean Diaspora” who live and work in cities and town across North America and the United Kingdom with at least half based in New York, London, Toronto and Miami.

Interestingly, Jamaicans showed the highest level of interest in investing in their birthplace, with 62 per cent indicating they would put some of their resources in their homeland. Next were Trinidadians, with 34 per cent expressing such investment interest; Barbadians 24 percent; Guyanese 15 percent; Bahamians 13 percent; Grenadians 11 percent; Haitians 11 percent; Antiguans 8 percent; Dominicans 7 percent; and Kittitians 6 percent.

‘Over 85 per cent of Diaspora members give back to the Caribbean in some way, shape or form. While the majority send remittances, make donations, buy property or invest in a venture, many others are involved as volunteers or mentors” stated the report entitled, “the Caribbean Diaspora: A source for venture Investment?”

According to the World Bank: • Almost half of those interviewed had incomes between $50,000 — $100,000; slightly over one in five made $100,000-200,000; five per cent made more than $200,000; while one in three had an annual income that was between $50,000- $100,000 .

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