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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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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.”

Obama Can Get Re-Elected without a Majority of Popular Vote

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By George E. Curry, NNPA Editor-in-Chief

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Even if President Obama loses the popular vote on Nov. 6, as some national polls are projecting, he could still get re-elected by winning in the Electoral College, where he currently holds an edge over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

If that scenario plays out, it would mark the third time that has happened in the nation’s history and the first since George W. Bush entered the White House in 2000 after losing the popular vote to Former Vice President Al Gore, Jr. by 500,000 votes.

“The Electoral College is a process, not a place,” the U.S. Electoral Colleges notes on its Web site. “The founding fathers established it in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.”

States have the same number of electors as they have members in their congressional delegation. In addition to the 535 members of Congress, the 22nd Amendment provides that the District of Columbia is allocated three electors and treated like a state under this process.

A majority – 270 of the 538 electors – is needed to become president and vice president. Generally, electors are selected by the candidate’s political party and can be counted on to support the party’s nominee. With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, all states have a winner-take-all system. That’s important for large states, such as California, which has 55 electors or 20 percent of the votes needed for victory.

The names of electors generally appear on the presidential ballots in most states. States tabulate the votes of electors in December of an election year before forwarding results to Congress for a final count.

A 2009 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), titled, “Electoral College Reform: 111th Congress Proposals and Other Current Developments,” stated: “…This system has elected the candidate with the most popular votes in 48 of the 52 presidential elections held since the 12th Amendment was ratified in 1804. The four exceptions have been negatively characterized by some commentators as Electoral College ‘misfires.’

“In three instances (1876, 1888 and 2000), the Electoral College awarded the presidency to candidates who won a majority of electoral votes, but gained fewer popular votes than their principal opponents. In a fourth case (1824), the House of Representatives decided the contest by contingent election because no candidate had an electoral vote majority.”

Unlike Gore, who accepted the results after the Supreme Court halted the counting of ballots in Florida and handed down a decision favoring Bush, House Republicans would likely use the outcome to increase their partisan attacks on President Obama. They would most likely call for abolishing the Electoral College, a position they did not take when Bush assumed the presidency after losing the popular vote.

By design, the U.S. Constitution is not easily amended. Proposed amendments must be approved by a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate and passage by three-fourths of the states, usually within seven years. Over the past 200 years, more than 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College. None have been passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

The CRS report noted, “In the final analysis, given the high hurdles – both constitutional and political – faced by any proposed amendment, it seems unlikely that the Electoral College system will be replaced or reformed by constitutional amendment unless its alleged failings become so compelling that large concurrent majorities in Congress, the states, and among the public, are disposed to undertake its reform or abolition.”

Under the present system, a joint session of Congress will be convened on Jan. 6 to officially count the electoral votes. The vice president and president of the Senate preside over the session and announce the official tally.

In the unlikely event that neither Obama nor Romney receives the 270 electoral votes needed to become president, the Republican-led House of Representatives would pick the president and the Democratic-controlled Senate would select the vice president. That means Romney would probably be elected president and Joe Biden would likely remain as vice president. Few political scientists expect that to happen. Going into this week, Obama was leading in 11 polls taken in battleground states, Romney was ahead in four and two were tied.

Every president re-elected in the last 50 years returned to office with a larger share of the popular vote than they had received in their first term. If Obama loses the popular election to Romney, he would be the exception. And if he loses the election and wins in the Electoral College, the strained relations between Republicans and the White House is likely to grow worse.

Mark Mckinnon, a political strategist for George W. Bush, told the Washington Post, that if Obama returns to the White House in that manner, “the Republican base will be screaming that Romney should be president, and Obama doesn’t represent the country.” He added, “It’s going to encourage more hyperpartisanship.”

Anti-Black Attitudes Increased Over Past 4 Years

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By George E. Curry, NNPA Editor-in-Chief

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Slightly more than half of all Americans – 51 percent – express anti-Black attitudes, an increase of 3 percent over the past four years, making it more difficult for President Barack Obama to win next Tuesday’s popular vote, according to a poll conducted for the Associated Press.

The results, which were released over the weekend, showed an even greater increase in racism when implicit racist attitudes were measured. In those findings, the number of Americans with anti-Black sentiments increased from 49 percent when Obama was first elected in 2008 to 56 percent today.

“The last Democrat in the White House said we had to have a national discussion about race,” Frederick Harris, director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, told the Associated Press. “There’s been total silence around issues of race with this president. But, as you can see, you still have polarization. It will take more generations, I suspect, before we eliminate these deep feelings.”

Even though anti-Black attitudes may hurt Obama in the popular vote, he is still favored to win the Electoral College and return to the White House.

The survey of anti-Black attitudes was conducted Aug. 30-Sept. 11. In a similar survey conducted last year, 52 percent of non-Hispanic Whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes, according to AP. That figure increased by 5 percent when the implicit test of anti-Hispanic views was administered.

The survey was conducted for the AP by GfK Custom Research in cooperation with researchers at Stanford University, the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan. It had a sampling error of approximately plus or minus 4 percentage points.

“The poll finds that racial prejudice is not limited to one group of partisans,” the Associated Press stated. “Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism (79 percent among Republicans compared with 32 percent among Democrats), the implicit test found little difference between the two parties. That test showed a majority of both Democrats and Republicans held anti-black feelings (55 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans), as did about half of political independents (49 percent.”

In gauging explicit racism, researchers measured how people responded to such words as “friendly,” “hardworking,” “violent” and “lazy” when applied to different groups. To measure implicit racism, researchers used various photos to assess deeper feelings. The survey was conducted online because respondents tend to be more honest on line than in face-to-face sessions with interviewers.

“We have this false idea that there is uniformity in progress and that things change in one big step. That is not the way history worked,” Jelani Cobb, director of the Institute for African-American Studies at the University of Connecticut, told the Associated Press. “We’ve seen progress, we’ve also seen backlash.”

That backlash has been on display on bumper stickers, in the president being portrayed as an ape or monkey and references to watermelon rolls rather than Easter egg rolls at the White House.

During the Republican national convention in Tampa, two alternate delegates were ejected from the convention after they tossed peanuts at a Black CNN camerawoman and said, “This is how we feed animals.”

Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, a top Romney surrogate, has made a series of race-tinged comments. He said Obama needs to “learn how to be an American,” characterized the president as “lazy” and said former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Obama because of the president’s race, not his policies.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter tweeted after the third debate between Obama and Romney: “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.” She used the word again the following day, saying if Obama is the smartest guy in the room, “it must be one retarded room.”

After groups representing the mentally challenged objected to her use of the term, Coulter said she would not be bullied by the “language police.” While many justifiably criticized the commentator for using the offensive term, most commentators seemed less concerned that she had used the R-word to describe the president of the United States, who happens to be a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School.

In an interview Friday on “Piers Morgan Tonight,” Coulter denied the term retarded is offensive. She said in the interview, “It’s offensive to whom? Moron, idiot, cretin, imbecile, these were exactly like retard, once technical terms to describe people with mental disabilities. Changing the word doesn’t change the definition. I was not referring to someone with down syndrome. I was referring to the president of the United States.”

And that’s precisely the point.

Donald Trump revived the birther movement by falsely asserting that President Obama was not born in the U.S., despite a long-form birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii after it had been admitted as a state. More recently, Trump offered to donate $5 million to Obama’s favorite charity if he would release his college records and passport applications before Tuesday’s election.

At this point four years ago, Obama trailed Republican presidential nominee John McCain by seven percentage points among White voters. According to a Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll released last week, Obama trails Romney by 23 percentage points. Among White voters, the former Massachusetts governor leads the president 60 percent to 37 percent.

Romney holds that lead over Obama even though 48 percent of White voters interviewed said as president, Romney would do more to help the wealthy than the middle class. By comparison, most White voters said Obama would favor the middle class over the wealthy.

“There is no way to tell from these findings what role, if any, racial prejudice may play on either side of the racial gap,” the Washington Post observed. “But the data suggest that concern about the economy is amplifying the division, as Obama’s decline in support among white voters appears to be closely linked to views of his handling of the economy. And yet minorities have suffered unemployment and housing foreclosures in the current economy as well.”

In recent years, Democratic presidential candidates have not done well among White voters. With 43 percent of the White vote in 2008, Obama did better than John Kerry in 2004 and tied Bill Clinton who won 43 percent of the White vote in 1996. Among Democrats seeking the presidency, Obama and Clinton won the largest share of White voters in 20 years.

But with Obama winning 80 percent of the Black and Brown vote, he – like Bill Clinton – doesn’t need a majority of the White vote in order to win the White House. And the good news for Obama is that he is performing better among Whites in key battleground states. In Ohio, for example, a Time magazine poll found Obama trailing Romney by only six percentage points among White voters.

David Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said with the nation’s rapidly changing demographics, this is the last election in which Republicans can be competitive nationally by appealing strictly to White voters.

He told the Washington Post, “The formula they have right now is a long-term loser.”

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