November 21, 2013
By Zenitha Prince
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
President Obama’s Nov. 14 nomination of an African-American man to become the government’s top civil rights lawyer has been applauded by many in the Black and civil rights communities.
Debo P. Adegbile, who has served as senior counsel to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee since July, is the nominee for the Department of Justice’s assistant attorney general for civil rights.
Adegbile is one of the premier civil rights attorneys and would serve admirably in the role if his nomination is approved by the U.S. Senate, said his former colleagues at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where he worked since 2001.
“Debo has precisely the type of broad civil rights experience that is required at this pivotal moment in our country,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund, a separate entity from the NAACP, in a statement.
“Our country needs someone like Debo with significant experience in voting rights to protect the deeply held American value that each person has the right to a voice in our democracy. Debo has worked tirelessly to ensure that our nation lives up to its promise of equality for all Americans,” Ifill continued.
In his years-long tenure at the Legal Defense Fund, Adegbile served in various roles including as special counsel, acting president and director-counsel, associate director-counsel and director of litigation, associate director of litigation, and assistant counsel.
While there, he also made two appearances before the U.S. Supreme Court to defend the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder and Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder. He also represented evacuees from Hurricane Katrina in the first post-Katrina federal voting rights lawsuit.
Prior to joining the NAACP, he was an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison from 1994 to 2001. This is the same law firm that Jeh Johnson, recently appointed secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, was a partner.
“As we navigate the new Civil Rights-era, Debo offers precisely the type of leadership necessary,” Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said in a statement Nov. 15. “From reforming America’s criminal justice system to expanding equality for all Americans, Debo has the civil rights experience and expertise needed to head the Division. Debo’s integrity, professionalism and respectable reputation as a legal practitioner and litigator are evidence that he is the right person for this incredibly important role.”
“Members of the Congressional Black Caucus strongly support President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile and encourage our colleagues in the Senate to confirm him for this position without delay,” Fudge said.
The son of immigrants from Ireland and Nigeria, Adegbile’s success came after growing up in abject poverty, including periods of homelessness, in New York City. Through scholarships, loans, and the sweat of his brow, Adegbile worked his way through college and law school, eventually obtaining a bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College and a law degree from New York University School of Law.
Peers say his upbringing has informed his commitment to defending and upholding the rights of the most vulnerable in our society.
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said Adegbile is in “a class of his own when it comes to understanding the application and enforcement of complex civil rights issues.”
“Millions of Americans rely on the Civil Rights Division to enforce housing, education, and employment discrimination laws, hate crime laws, the Violence Against Women Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the core civil rights statutes that allow all of us to take part in the fullness of American life,” Henderson said in a statement.
“Adegbile’s skill set, talents, and experience make him the perfect choice to head the Civil Rights Division,” he added. “We call on the Senate to swiftly confirm him.”
City New Service
Thousands of University of California health care workers alleging unfair labor practices took part in a one-day strike today at hospitals in Westwood, Santa Monica, Irvine and across the state — a job action UC officials said reduces patients to “bargaining chips” in a work dispute.
Patient care technical workers and service workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 planned to picket throughout the day at hospitals, including Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, UC Irvine Medical Center and UCLA Medical Center Santa Monica. The union represents more than 22,000 UC hospital workers across the state.
Labor rallies were held on the UC Irvine campus and at UCI Medical Center in Orange.
“They went really well,” said Ebony Meeks of AFSCME, who participated in the Orange County rallies. “And they were well-attended.”
About 250 union members participated in the rally at UCI and another 250 rallied at the hospital in Orange, Meeks said.
“We’ve been marching since 6 a.m. and we’ll be marching until 6 p.m. We’re energized and ready to go,” Meeks said.
Union officials accuse hospital administrators of harassing and intimidating workers who advocated for “safe staffing standards” by taking part in a two-day walkout in May.
AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said union members have “both the legal right and more responsibility” to stand up for the safety of students and other patients.
“By attempting to silence workers, UC hasn’t just repeatedly broken the law — it has willfully endangered all who come to UC to learn, to heal and to build a better life for their families,” she said.
Dr. John Stobo, senior vice president for UC Health Sciences and Services, countered that money is at the heart of the dispute, not concern for patients.
“By calling for a strike for a second time in seven months, AFSCME leaders again are putting patients at UC medical centers and student health centers in the middle of a labor dispute,” Stobo said. “This is completely inappropriate and unfair to the people we are here to serve. Our patients and students are not bargaining chips. They deserve better.”
Stobo said the university made updated offers to the union earlier this month “and showed significant movement on wages pensions, health care benefits and other issues. AFSCME rejected all of our offers.”
“We have the highest standards of excellence and we will continue delivering care that meets those standards during this strike,” he said. “Still, this strike by AFSCME will hurt the very patients the union claims to be protecting, which makes us believe it can only be about one thing — money.”
Stobo noted that more than 100 patients have had elective surgeries canceled due to the strike, and one patient will have a planned kidney transplant delayed.
Union officials said they were committed to patient protection, saying they have formed a task force to handle emergency needs at the hospitals during the strike and have exempted dozens of critical care workers from taking part in the walkout.
Members of the California Nurses Association had been scheduled to join the walkout in a show of solidarity, but it announced over the weekend it had reached a tentative contract deal with the UC system and would not be taking part in the strike.
Patient care technical workers include technicians for ultrasounds, X-rays, MRIs, mammograms and other tests, radiation therapists for cancer patients, pharmacy technicians and respiratory therapists, according to UC.
On Tuesday, a judge in Sacramento issued an injunction limiting the number of workers who can take part in the strike to ensure employees who perform essential functions remain on the job.
UCLA Health officials said the hospitals in Westwood and Santa Monica were open, although 20 percent of elective surgeries scheduled for the day have been postponed. About 325 replacement workers and “redeployed” administrative staff filled in for striking workers, according to UCLA.
The striking union represents about 3,800 employees in the UCLA Health System.
November 14, 2013
By Ashahed M. Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call
‘Since our being brought in chains to the shores of America, our brain power, labor, skills, talent and wealth have been taken, given and spent toward building and adding to the civilization of another people.’
From ‘Message to the Blackman in America’ by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad
Pooling resources to achieve a common goal is a universal concept that makes a lot of sense. The concept has been espoused by many, practiced by some, and makes Muhammad’s Economic Blueprint critical for survival today. Why? Analysts say the wealthy elites and politically powerful have forgotten about Black America, and the poor in the United States.
“I think that it is time for people to realize that the people that run the country have really abandoned us and unless we start to taking matters into our own hands—and I’m not talking about taking up arms—unless we start taking matters into our own hands and start to do for ourselves collectively, then I think we’re going to be lost,” said Michael Yates, an economist, labor educator, and associate editor of the Monthly Review magazine.
Mr. Yates was one of several economic professionals representing various schools of thought and ethnic backgrounds, who met with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in Phoenix, Arizona in the early part of 2013 to discuss Muhammad’s Economic Blueprint. The Blueprint calls on 16 million Black wage earners to give 35 cents a week to a national treasury. In one year the fund would amass $291 million to be invested first in farmland and then in other industries and projects.(Visit economicblueprint.org for more information.)
Black America suffers poverty and want
Muhammad’s Economic Blueprint
Many factors contribute to the dire conditions existing in Black households that already experience disproportionate levels of poverty and food insecurity when compared to Whites.
Statistics don’t tell the full story, however, they can’t be ignored.
The most recent U.S. Census found median Black household income to be $33,321, much lower than White median household income which stands at $57,009. Over one-fourth of Blacks, (27.2 percent) live in poverty compared to 9.7 percent of Whites. Of that group of Blacks in poverty, 12.7 percent live in a condition referred to as deep poverty, defined as earning less than 50 percent of the federal poverty threshold.
According to the most recent data available from the United States Department of Agriculture, 15 percent of the American population or 47.8 million people, are participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP), each receiving an average of $133 per month.
Although that number seems large, according to Feeding America, a nationwide advocacy group working for food security and fighting hunger for all Americans, many who participate in SNAP are still forced to turn to food banks to fill their nutritional needs since what they receive amounts to less than a $1.50 per person, per meal.In several states, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Tennessee, the percentage of the population using SNAP is over 20 percent. The average gross monthly income for households participating in SNAP is $731with the average net income being $336.
Thirty-seven percent of those participating in SNAP are White, 22 percent Black, 10 percent Latino, 4 percent Native American and 2 percent Asian. A remaining 19 percent of SNAP participants are of unknown race or ethnicity.
While statistics show there are many of all races and ethnicities in need of crisis level intervention and assistance, the Black condition is especially dreadful.
How legacy of slavery haunts Black economics
Economist and political analyst Cedric Muhammad believes slavery did something to Blacks that was not done to any other people as it relates to the prevention of the establishment of a savings tradition, which subsequently resulted in the lack of generational wealth.
“Slavery robbed us of a cultural savings tradition which we could practice on a mass level. You will find the ‘gae’ executed among the Koreans; ‘susu’ among West Africans; ‘partners’ among Jamaicans; ‘ekoub’ among Ethiopians and Eritreans; ‘hui’ among the Chinese and ‘kenjinkai’ in Japanese culture—all of which channel pools of savings into essential economic activities like investment and charity,” said Mr. Muhammad. “Though we had mutual aid societies, fraternal orders and churches during and after slavery which provided assistance to widows and children and even led to the creation of banks, Black Americans have never had an informal cultural tradition to build upon like these, which reinforced the importance of savings and investment and which connected wage earners, entire families, whole neighborhoods and business networks.”
Minister Farrakhan has also repeatedly spoken about the evils of the sharecropping system which kept Blacks who worked in the field during slavery in a state of perpetual debt.
Cedric Muhammad said it was fitting that the Economic Blueprint was launched in Tuskegee, Alabama, the town made famous by Booker T. Washington who through his establishment of the National Negro Business League and his work at Tuskegee Institute (later to become Tuskegee University) identified and implemented effective ways to merge the entrepreneurial class with the agrarian class in moving towards economic progress. Land as a central focus of the Economic Blueprint is key, he noted.
“The focus of the strategy on physical capital has been land ownership and through policy and culture, to disconnect us from farming and agriculture. That dealt two fatal blows because without land you cannot have an economic system and without farming you cannot control the quality of what is designed to nourish you. No people can survive or prosper who do not own what is under their feet or control what goes into their mouths. So despite our progress in politics our employment, wealth and health disparities remain,” said Mr. Muhammad.
Mr. Yates agrees with the Nation of Islam’s heavy emphasis on land acquisition as the logical first step in the strategy after pooling economic resources.
“I think that’s an important issue, the German playwright Bertolt Brecht said ‘first feed the people.’ Before anything don’t talk to me about high-minded notions until people get fed, and how are you going to feed people in a society like this? First of all a lot of people don’t know how to access the food of any quality. A lot of people are too poor to feed their families even in this richest country in the world. And then a lot of the food that we get is contaminated in one way or another,” said Mr. Yates. “I think land to produce food first and there’s other things you can do with land of course, but I think food production would really be critical,” he added.
Another reason the economic resources of the Black community—though substantial—appear to lack the same power as the dollars that flow within other communities has been the various strategies to generate income and wealth, which are not sustainable.
Doing for self: The way to success
Charles Bowlds, 63, is the founder and director of The African American Connection, a support system and network for Black retail merchants, along with other businesses. The AAC member merchants are aided with resources dealing with management, financial record and tax management, strategic business planning as well as other operational and marketing tips. The AAC has been in existence since 1995.
Mr. Bowlds grew up as a member of the Nation of Islam in the 60s, implementing the “Do for Self” principlesmade famous by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
The economic principle of supply and demand and survival are universal principles, said Mr. Bowlds, however, for too long, the Black community has used only the temporary fix of having a job and only poor strategies and techniques to generate income.
“A job does not have any transferrable wealth,” Mr. Bowlds continued, “If I get fired, terminated or laid off, that’s it!”
Since Blacks are typically the “last hired and first fired,” being tied to a job provides only a temporary economic remedy. As an example of a poor model to generate income, Mr. Bowlds mentioned multilevel marketing, which he describes as “nothing but a scourge” in Black communities.
“We have to create a system that accommodates the process of meeting our economic disparities. You’re not going to find that in Harvard Business School,” said Mr. Bowlds. “Their teachings are designed to empower them and to perpetuate their interests,” he added.
Black entrepreneurs and others working to shift the Black community’s business paradigm and generate wealth must learn from the mistakes of the past, which means connecting the entrepreneurial spirit to the consumer needs and demands of the Black community, said Mr. Bowlds.
“We build things and then we invite others in that don’t have our best interests at heart. Every system that we built for self-reliance was infiltrated and eventually was destroyed,” Mr. Bowlds noted.
Cedric Muhammad believes if implemented properly, the Economic Blueprint “in one fell swoop would introduce a savings tradition into the lifeblood of the entire mass body.” Blacks can make a cultural shift that will provide a mechanism for meeting financial needs and achieving financial aspirations, he said.
“Anyone who receives a wage or allowance of some kind, or who simply looks down on the street and finds coins is capable of giving 5 cents a day and 35 cents a week. It is perhaps the most beautiful aspect of what the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is asking us to do: the Economic Blueprint is totally inclusive, regardless to class, gender, status or region—it leaves none of our 42 million behind,” said Mr. Muhammad.
For more information regarding Muhammad’s Economic Blueprint or to make your contribution, go to http://www.EconomicBlueprint.org.
By Charles D. Ellison
Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune
Deep beneath the surface of endless partisan wrangling between the White House and Congress is the Social Security debate. And while it’s considered one of the most complex and intricate policy issues in Washington, it’s also one of the more consequential discourses in modern American politics.
It’s simple: the U.S. population is rapidly aging. The more it ages, the more concerns over issues such as Medicare and Social Security nudge themselves into the forefront of election cycle talking points. According to the Census Bureau, there are now 41 million Americans aged 65 and older. That growing bloc skyrocketed more than 15 percent between 2000 and 2010 — compared to an overall less than 10 percent increase for the entire U.S. population. Senior citizens now constitute 13 percent of the total population, outpacing their 12 percent in 2000 and 4 percent at the beginning of the 20th century.
These population trends provide the background noise for an endless debate on the viability and future of Social Security. Stakes are high, considering more than 56 million people, or one in every six Americans, collect some type of Social Security benefit. More than three-quarters of recipients are retirees or elderly widows or widowers, in addition to nearly 20 percent who receive disability insurance and another four percent who are the younger survivors of deceased workers, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
It amounts to nearly 20 percent of the population that’s on Social Security. Critics of Social Security view it as a gigantic welfare program or entitlement that’s sapping the country’s economic future. Such rampant opposition to Social Security has prompted the Obama White House to meet conservatives in the middle on the issue, with a proposal from the president to change how annual benefits are calculated.
Politically, Obama’s Chained CPI proposal seeks to placate budget hawk Republicans who wouldn’t mind doing away with Social Security altogether. Fiscally, it could become another legacy feather in the cap for the president if it saves $230 billion over 10 years as planned — and further shaves a disastrous deficit created by his predecessor George W. Bush.
But, hidden in the rhetoric and a string of meetings between Congressional negotiators attempting to hammer out a grand post-shutdown budget deal — in an effort to avoid yet another shutdown in 2014 — is the question of how the nation arrived here in the first place. Social Security, created in the mid-1930s as a poverty-busting program under President Roosevelt, was supposed to act as a virtual savings account. The expectation from most American workers is that Social Security should be sitting there waiting for them after dumping countless dollars into it from years of payroll taxes.
So, how did it suddenly become a parasitic entitlement program munching off the federal budget? How does a savings account turn into a checking account in the red?
Policy guru Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, CEO of Global Policy Solutions, compares it to a bank that essentially watches over the funds account holders deposit into it. “Social Security does not contribute a penny to the national deficit because the dedicated funds that workers contribute to it are credited to the Old Age and Survivor Disability Trust Funds,” Rockeymoore contends. “Overall, the trust funds are expected to be in a surplus position until the year 2033. After this time, there will be a shortfall of 25 cents on every dollar of promised benefits if Congress fails to come up with a plan to enhance Social Security’s revenues.”
In many ways, Social Security was intended to function as a stand-alone and self-financed program: it simply collects payroll taxes from workers and employers and pays benefits to eligible retirees, disabled workers, spouses and surviving spouses and children. That’s how Dan Adcock, Director of Government Relations and Policy, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, sees it. “Rather than a drain on the economy, Social Security has been shown to have a multiplier effect, so that local areas see an impact from the program on their economies that can be as much as double what is paid in benefits,” saidAdcock.
But, the Heritage Foundation’s Romina Boccia contends that the view of Social Security as a sort of retirement account is misguided and somewhat false. Boccia points out that, in reality, Social Security is operating on a pay-as-you-go system — whereby worker payroll taxes go toward paying the benefits of current retirees. In other words, a 35 year old worker who believes a portion of their payroll taxes is going into their own individual retirement account is being duped — that money is really going towards paying the benefits of their 85-year-old grandmother.
“The Social Security trust fund is therefore a debt obligation for taxpayers, not an asset,” Boccia said. “This is the biggest federal spending program in the budget today and its now permanent; and growing cash-flow deficits are putting an increasing burden on the overall budget.”
“Congress spent all the excess revenues when Social Security was running surpluses, and now repaying those revenues is adding to deficits.”
Therein lays a mysterious question rarely raised in heated debates on the topic. So, basically, it was acting as its own self-sufficient, stand-alone until Congress went dipping into it?
Jim Zelenski, a professor at Regis University in Denver, Colo., tries to explain while arguing that Social Security should be “completely off the table in any budgetary negotiations.” According to Zelenski, the Social Security Trust Fund has acted as a lender — its accumulated a $2.6 trillion surplus balance since 1984, largely from payments by anyone who has worked a day to 29 years since that time. Unknown to most, they’ve also been investing in U.S. Treasury Bonds. Hence, the government’s General Fund is the borrower — the U.S. Treasury has issued those bonds.
“Enemies of Social Security are trying to trick citizens into thinking that the $2.6 trillion is an obligation of Social Security, but it’s the other way around,” said Zelenski. “In fact the $2.6 trillion is an asset of the Trust Fund.
Social Security, incidentally, is prohibited from borrowing, at least that’s the view of Monique Morrisey of the Economic Policy Institute. Hence, Morrisey argues, it doesn’t really contribute to the public debt because it has dedicated revenues and must operate in a long-term balance.
Morrisey calls Social Security “off budget.”
“Social Security only contributes to the public debt to the extent there’s a substantial transfer of general funds into the system, as happened during the recent temporary payroll tax cut,” Morrisey notes, referring to the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011, which extended the then 4.2 percent Social Security Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) tax rate for employees to wages paid after Dec. 31, 2011 and before March 1, 2012. That cut was extended again in 2012.
In the meantime, aging population trends will send ripples across the electoral landscape. “If reforming Medicare and Social Security persist as policy issues, the votes of older persons may increasingly be affected to a much greater degree than in past elections,” said Dr. Robert Binstock of Case Western Reserve University. Fascinated by the rise of senior voters in Congressional midterms, Binstock dove into an intense examination of highly active and habitual swing voters that could determine electoral outcomes.
“One can say with reasonable confidence that in their respective upcoming election campaigns, both parties will target older voters with Medicare and Social Security issues,” Binstock said.
Polls are seeing it too. According to the most recent weekly YouGov/Economist survey, Medicare and Social Security tied for second to the economy when respondents aged 65 plus were asked to rank the importance of major issues today. But, when asked which issue is the most important to them, old-age respondents put Social Security at the top and the economy in second place.
Political strategists, watching the polls closely, are sure to make note of that.
November 07, 2013
By Deepti Hajela
The Rev. Al Sharpton said he and other civil rights leaders had a “brutally honest” meeting November 4 with the CEO of Macy’s over racial profiling, and demanded that the department store lay out how they will guarantee the practice doesn’t happen before the holiday shopping season begins.
The meeting with CEO Terry Lundgren follows an incident in which an actor on the HBO series “Treme” was detained by police after buying his mother a $1,350 Movado watch. Robert Brown filed a lawsuit last month after he said he was stopped inside Macy’s flagship Manhattan store last June because he is black.
Brown’s accusation came after two other black shoppers said they were racially profiled and detained by police after making expensive purchases at Barneys New York.
In a statement, Macy's said it doesn't tolerate discrimination of any kind and “considers its loss prevention policies to be among the very best and most progressive in the retailing industry.”
In the meeting with Sharpton, “the company reiterated its deep commitment to diversity and inclusion,” the statement said, adding that the company expressed its intention to hold itself to high standards in dealing with customers and law enforcement to provide the best shopping experience.
Sharpton, who met with the CEO of Barneys last week, said civil rights leaders felt “particularly offended” over allegations concerning Macy’s, citing a $600,000 settlement that Macy’s reached with the New York attorney general in 2005 over racial profiling complaints. The store had also agreed to change its security practices.
“This was a particularly biting meeting because we frankly resented having to come here again,” he said.
Sharpton said he was told by Macy’s executives that the store did not racially profile customers, and that Macy’s employees weren’t responsible for Brown being detained by police.
“Barneys said they didn’t make the call, Macy’s said they didn’t make the call,” Sharpton said. “Until they find the invisible man, we may recommend we be invisible in their stores.”
The New York Police Department disputes those accounts. Commissioner Ray Kelly has said it is standard practice for retailers to call police if they believe crimes have been committed.
Sharpton said Macy’s need to make it clear how they will guarantee profiling won’t happen, because “we are not going to go through the holidays and have people shop where they are going to be profiled.”
He said Macy’s had agreed to respond to his request by Wednesday. A Macy’s representative did not respond to an email to confirm the timeline.
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