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Jobs Report Shows Slow, Steady Growth

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By Freddie Allen, NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Voters were still waiting to elect the next president of the United States when the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report, issued four days before the election, provided a glimpse into what the American economy might look like over the next four years.

The unemployment rate increased from 7.8 percent in September to 7.9 percent in October, but economists say that it was for all the right reasons. More workers rejoined the labor force and the economy added 171,000 jobs. In additional good news, the Labor Department amended the August jobs number from 142,000 to 192,000 and the September figures from 114,000 to 148,000.

Even with the uptick in the unemployment rate to 7.9 percent, economists point out that more people joined the labor force, which signals that “discouraged workers” are getting back in the game.

“If you’re out there looking for work and there is none, it’s harder to keep trying,” said Tim Sullivan, federal policy coordinator for United for a Fair Economy, a nonpartisan organization that promotes economic justice and equality. “Even, if you’ve stopped looking for work and you find out that your friend got a job you think, ‘Okay, well, maybe I can, too.’”

As more Americans find work and the economy climbs slowly out of the Great Recession, some economists wonder if the depression in the Black community will ever be addressed.

The Black unemployment rate increased from the September mark of 13.4 percent to 14.3 percent compared while the White unemployment rate that remained unchanged from over that period at 7 percent.

“It points out a glaring moral failing for the country that a lot of people would prefer to just ignore,” said Sullivan. “It’s easier to say that we live in a post-racial country. It’s easier to ignore it than to confront it.”

Economists caution against looking at the unemployment rate in a bubble, however. The share of the Black population that was employed improved from 53 percent in September to 53.4 percent in October. The share of the White population that was employed in October was 59.5 percent, a slight increase from the 59.4 percent in September.

The share of Black men with jobs increased from 57.5 percent in September to 58.1 percent in October compared to the share of White men, which saw a slight increase from September (59.4 percent to 59.5 percent).

However, the unemployment rate for Black women jumped from 10.9 percent in September to 12.4 percent in October, much of it attributed to the number of Black women looking for work. Like Black men, the share of Black women that found work also increased from 55.3 percent to 55.9 percent. The unemployment rate for White women didn’t change in October (6.3 percent) and the share of White women that were employed decreased slightly, from 55 percent in September to 54.9 percent in October.

Although the number of jobs created in October exceeded expectations, economists say that the economy is still years away from the pre-recession unemployment rates that Americans enjoyed in 2006 and 2007.

“A strong unemployment rate is going to be somewhere between 4 and 5 percent,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute based in Washington, D.C.

To reach the mark in five years, 230,000 jobs would need to be created every month.

Shierholz said that the damage was so severe from the Great Recession that the economy would have to add 330,000 jobs every single month for three years just to get back to a 5 percent unemployment rate.

She said, “We always need to keep in mind just how far we have to go.”

Some Groups Hope to Keep Young Voters Active

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By Maya Rhodan, NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Now that the elections are over, some youth leaders are hoping to keep their peers actively involved in civic affairs.

“Young folks are going to continue to drive the future and the direction of this country after the election,” said Sammie Dow, the National Youth and College Divisions Director of the NAACP. “Post-election is either going to come with folks who are angry about what happened in the election and are ready to organize or people who are really excited about what happened are ready to mobilize.”

By all accounts, that will not be an easy task.

“There are a lot of people on campus who were saying how they can’t wait for the election to end,” said Megan Sims, a sophomore at Howard University.

In the past three presidential elections, young voters ages 18-29 have proven pivotal in the election of national leaders. However, their engagement extends only slightly beyond their willingness to show up at the polls.

According to a 2010 survey of “millennials” by the Pew Research Center, younger voters are almost equally as likely to vote in every election, sign petitions, and contact elected officials regularly, as those in older age groups.

Sims, who voted for the first time this election, plans to stay actively engaged in politics beyond the Presidential race.

“I try to always stay on top of what’s going on in politics. You have to be aware of what’s going on,” she said. “ I want to be involved in reclaiming our legacy as Black people so we can do for ourselves and better ourselves to make a better community.”

Youth chapters of the NAACP across the country are going to address issues such as education, employment, imprisonment throughout the year in hopes of keeping young people engaged, Dow said.

While the overall unemployment rate was 7.9 percent in October, among African Americans ages 18-29, the rate was 21.4 percent, nearly three times the national rate, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

For those who have jobs, issues like how much money they’ll be able to save for retirement have led to additional worry, according to Brandi Richard, the president of National Urban League Young Professionals.

“The changes in the amount of money that we make because of the recession will impact how much we make over out lifetimes and how much we’ll be able to put back,” says Richard. “The issues that have been raised are so important you can’t not continue to discuss them.

This year the National Urban League Young Professionals plan to pinpoint the issues most affecting their community to create an agenda they can take to elected officials.

The agenda is set to include issues on retirement options, jobs in the public and private sector, and education.

Sims worries that a second Obama term may have a down side. She explained. “I feel like students will still be involved, but there will be a lot of students that say ‘I got him back into office, I did my part.’”

Student Loans Cause 36 Million to Drop out of College

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By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist

According to a new report, since 2009, 36 million Americans have attended college without earning a degree. Consequently, 850,000 individual private loans valued at more than $8 billion are now in default. With high and variable interest rates, these loans can cost students more in repayment than the actual cost of tuition. From 2005 to 2011 alone, private student loan debt more than doubled from $56 billion to $140 billion.

Among Black students who did not complete college, 69 percent cited high student loan debt as the reason. Soon after dropping out of school, these ex-students began struggling with repayment without the earning power a degree could have provided.

The report, The Student Debt Crisis, is authored by the Center for American Progress, an independent, nonpartisan institute. The October report analyzes key factors in this looming financial crisis including changes in debt over time, the role lenders have played in the current crisis, who has incurred debt and factors contributing to the rise of student debt.

Most of the $1 trillion in combined federal and private student loan debt can be attributed to the the increasing cost of college, the choice by state legislatures to make higher education a lesser priority in annual budgets, aggressive lending practices, and the recession cutting into the savings and earning power of families, the report stated.

“Students of color, particularly African-Americans are graduating with more student debt: 27 percent of black bachelor’s degree recipients had more than $30,500 in debt, compared to 16 percent for their white counterparts. And with Pell Grants facing cuts, many students of color who rely on these awards to help pay for school will be forced to borrow at even greater rates,” the report observed.

Among students of color who graduate, the report found that 81 percent of Black students and 67 percent of Latino students typically have one hand holding a degree and the other clutching multiple student loans that need to be repaid. Among young African-American college graduates under the age of 34, more than half – 56 percent – have delayed purchasing a home.

Further, the lengthy time it now takes for most new graduates to find employment brings another dimension to student debt challenges. While nearly 9 percent of recent White graduates are unemployed; nearly 11 percent of Black graduates and 13 percent of Latinos are unemployed.

Financial pressures have forced many state and local governments to make painful cuts, including in education. This reduction in funding left many institutions of higher learning with fiscal challenges. Some school endowments also lost funds as a result of the recession. As a result, most schools turned to raising the cost of tuition to replace needed revenues. To make matters worse for students, many state-sponsored scholarships and grants were reduced, if not eliminated.

As costly as college has become, there are still valid reasons to pursue higher education. According to Wilbert van der Klaauw, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the disparities in lifetime earnings are stark. Americans with degrees can expect their collective earnings to reach $2.3 million. For people that attended college but never completed a degree the lifetime expected earnings drop to $1.5 million.

The report concluded, “The overlap of the recent recession and the continuing rise in student debt has created a perfect storm that is overwhelming many borrowers.”

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at: Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

CBM Founder Outraged Paid Operative Evokes ‘Jim Crow’ Laws in Campaign Against Insurance Reform

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CBM NEWS WIRE

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – California Black Media (CBM) founder and Black Voice News publisher emeritus Hardy Brown is demanding an apology from Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court, who drew outrage this week for evoking one of the worst times in American history in his zeal to defeat an insurance reform initiative on Tuesday’s ballot.

In a shocking essay published Thursday by the Huffington Post, Court likened Prop. 33, which would make insurance discounts portable, to “Jim Crow” – a tragic period in the South when African-Americans were routinely brutalized by authorities bent on denying their right to vote, assemble or even attend school.

“Mr.Court’s determination to minimize the Black civil rights struggle, by employing the imagery of that ugly time in American history, is the height of racist cynicism and unthinking arrogance,” said Brown. “He has every right to engage in a scorched-earth campaign against insurance reform, but he is not free to soak himself in the blood spilled during that time. It is particularly offensive to me: I grew up in North Carolina during the actual time of Jim Crow, and have vivid memories of my firsthand experiences in that very ugly time in our history. I lived it. Mr. Court owes an apology to every African-American who shared my experiences, and all those whose families were affected by Jim Crow -- which, I can assure him, had nothing at all to do with auto insurance. Our history is not for sale and well-paid political operatives are not entitled to use it to advance an agenda that is antithetical to the interests of African-Americans.”

The online essay is not the first Court has drawn the ire of Brown and others for wrongly injecting race into the debate over Prop. 33. Last month, during a spirited debate with a supporter of the initiative, he chastised Rachel Hooper live on the air for holding her position in light of the coincidental fact that her husband is African-American. Informed by a fellow publisher about the little-noticed but stunning incident, Brown wrote an op-ed piece blasting Court for injecting race into a debate where it has no place, and offered an alternative view detailing the many ways that insurance reform could benefit Black consumers.

After Brown’s piece was published by the San Bernardino Sun, an unapologetic Court doubled down on his comments with a response carried in the same newspaper. In that essay, he sank even lower, invoking his own interracial marriage in a desperate bid to distract attention from a racist and sexist attack broadcast to an audience of thousands. He concluded his piece with a thinly-disguised attack on the Black press -- insinuating that Brown, whose newspaper’s sales staff had sold advertising to the Yes on 33 campaign, could not hold an independent viewpoint and was acting as a “paid spokesman.”

“Mr. Court, whose website lists no endorsements from African-American organizations or media outlets, has no place criticizing me for expressing an opinion about a basic kitchen-table economic issue – one that I arrived at independently,” said Brown. “Like most Black publishers in California and across the nation, I have spent a lifetime building a reputation for independence and strong advocacy for the community, and I will not stand by while someone who has no relationship at all with the Black community – outside his own home, apparently -- tries to demean the work that we do.”

Added Brown: “Instead of using buzzwords like ‘poor’ and ‘minority’ to exploit our community, raise fears that serve his own interests and make lots of money in the process, Mr. Court might be better served to consider making his case directly to the Black community through its most trusted source, the Black press – which he seems to have discovered only last week with a Google search. He routinely boasts about support from major daily newspapers -- which is ironic, since the Black press was formed out of frustration over the mainstream media’s refusal to plead our case. In 2012, Mr. Court is repeating that historic error by once again leaving African-Americans out of the conversation – talking about us and over us, but never to us.

“Given that he has now learned that we exist, I would encourage all of my fellow publishers to contact Mr. Court’s organization, Consumer Watchdog, for last-minute advertising to support his cause. That way, he can test both his newfound devotion to the well-being of the Black community, and his ridiculous and outrageous assumption that our opinions are somehow for sale.”

Contact Jaime Court from the Consumer Watchdog Group at 310.392.0522

Voter Intimidation Efforts Still in Play

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By Maya Rhodan, NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Although President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have duked it out in three televised debates and are running opposing ads in the waning days of the election, a nastier fight to intimidate Black voters is taking place away from the limelight.

“It has taken many disguises,” says Chanelle Hardy, senior vice president of policy at the National Urban League’s Policy Institute. “Robo calls, telling people the date has changed, telling people that there are criminal penalties for showing up without an ID or that if you haven’t paid your child support, you’ll be arrested are some of them.”

Last week, anonymous billboards popped up across Black and Latino neighborhoods in Ohio and Wisconsin, two battleground states. “Voter Fraud is a Felony! Up to 3 ½ years in jail and a $10,000 fine,” read the signs.

Although the nearly 200 signs have been taken down, Debbie Hines, an attorney and the blogger behind LegalSpeaks.com, says the efforts to intimidate are just pieces of a larger scheme to keep Democratic voters from the polls.

“It’s as if they said, ‘If the voter ID laws don’t work that well, lets make telephone calls, let’s follow them around, let’s put up billboards to intimidate them’,” says Hines.

Since 2010, state legislatures have been passing laws that make it more difficult to vote, such as requiring government-issued photo IDs and cutting back on the number of days citizens can vote.

But the latest efforts go far beyond that.

A Tea Party organization, True the Vote, and its Ohio affiliate, the Voter Integrity Project, have been urging conservatives to become poll watchers to make voting feel like “driving and seeing the police following you.”

They have also sought to remove 2,100 names from polling rosters in Ohio, many in counties President Obama won in 2008, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In fact, a number of instances have come to light recently, as reported by The Nation magazine’s Voting Rights Watch 2012, that prove there have been a number of efforts to blatantly discourage voters from getting to the polls, aside from the billboards in Ohio.

In Virginia, another battleground state, a contract employee of the Republican Party of Virginia was arrested recently for dumping voter registration cards. Voter information fliers in Arizona were printed in Spanish with the wrong election date.

Hardy of the National Urban League said such actions are part of a larger effort to keep people of color from helping to re-elect President Obama.

“In ‘08 we saw what we were able to accomplish – the Black vote was outstanding and similar to the White vote for once in our history,” Hardy says. “It’s clear from the timing of when the ID action were introduced that there were bad actors in our society who sought to keep that from happening again.”

Although supporters of the tougher voter requirements say it is an effort to reduce fraud, others said it is a solution in search of a problem.

“There’s been no data that shows that in person voter fraud exists,” says Hines, the attorney who is fighting increased voter restrictions. “It happens but you have a greater chance of being stricken by lightning than there being a person involved in voter fraud.”

According to a study by a Knight Foundation funded project called News21, there were a total of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000, only 10 of which involved voter impersonation—the very issue that led states across the country to enact strict voter identification laws.

“The intention of the suppressors is to shave off a small percentage of the Black vote to help Gov. Romney secure the win,” says Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorofChange.org, that organization that led the campaign to remove the intimidating billboards in Ohio. “But Black folks are used to feeling this kind of oppression and we aren’t afraid to fight back. And we know that it could have an opposite effect and end up getting people more mobilized.”

In an effort to prevent these voter suppression and intimidation practices from being successful, organizations from National Council of La Raza to the NAACP and even members of Congress are fighting back to make sure every American’s voice is heard on Election Day.

The National Urban League has been involved with getting voters educated about their rights and empowering citizens with the information that will ensure that their voice is heard on Tuesday.

“We’re hoping they don’t have as much of an effect,” Hardy says. “The folks who came up with the bad laws have generated more attention than they intended getting people more encouraged to vote early and absentee.”

Throughout the election season, Robison and ColorofChange have also been working to stop attempts to end early voting in Ohio, petitioning the Secretary of State and making sure members of the community stay informed about their rights.

“There are millions of dollars being spent by forces that do not share our values, that want to make our communities less safe, make our young people have a rougher time getting ahead by ignoring public education,” says Robinson. “We want to ensure that people know their rights and make their voices heard.”

In addition, members of the UN affiliated Organization for Security and Cooperation will be bringing in members from the international community to monitor the election.

Debbie Hines will be one of many attorneys on hand to monitor polls in states like Virginia, where she’ll be, to make sure “voters rights aren’t under attack.”

She says the most important note Blacks and other minorities should take away from the intimidation schemes is that their votes matter.

“I don’t think Blacks should take for granted the value of their vote,” Hines says.

“Because for Republicans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to get the laws passed, to do all of the things that they’re doing, our vote is valuable.”

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BVN National News Wire