September 22, 2016 

By Julianne Malveaux 

NNPA Newswire Columnist) 

Between the unemployment rate report that was released in early September, and the Census report on income and poverty that was released on September 13, President Obama and his team got great news about the economic status of the average worker. 

 

Incomes are up a whopping 5.2 percent between 2014 and 2015; it’s the first time incomes have increased since 2007. The poverty rate dropped 1.2 percentage points, to 13.5 percent, which translates into 3.5 million fewer people living in poverty. While the poverty rate is still higher than it was in 2007, this sharp decrease in the poverty rate is significant.  Between the unemployment rate report, which shows an unemployment rate at 4.9 percent, and the income and poverty report, which shows a 2.4 million increase in the number of workers, the Obama economic team can rightly assert that economic recovery has trickled down.

 

Still, poverty rates are way too high – almost one in four (24.1 percent) African American households lives in poverty.   The number of African American children in poverty, though falling, remains too high (31.6 percent).  And the number of people living in “extreme poverty” (with incomes at less than half the poverty line) is alarming – more than ten percent of African Americans (and 6 percent of the total population) live in extreme poverty.

 

The persistence of poverty, even in the face of good news, provides opportunities for those whose riches come from the exploitation of poor people. Those who provide payday loans are among the worst, because they set up a debt trap that it is almost impossible for poor people to escape from. Indeed, these predators treat the poor as profit centers and enrich themselves from other people’s misery. Even as we celebrate the economic progress of the past year, we must ensure that usurious payday lenders are curtailed by regulators who can restrict their ability to extract interest rates in excess of 300 percent from the very poor.

 

This is how it works – payday lenders provide “emergency” loans for those people who have more month than money, and who simply can’t make ends meet. The loans are small and the terms are usually something like $15 per $100 for 7 to 14 days.  The loan may be secured by a paycheck, a pre-dated check, or an automobile title.  If the loan is not paid back on time, a borrower may negotiate an “extension,” which requires more fees.  Repeated payday loans result in $3.5 billion in fees each year. 

 

The Consumer Financial Pro­tection Bureau (CFPB) is considering regulations to protect consumers from exploitation and usury from short-term loans and auto title loans.  A coalition of faith leaders has asked people, who have been affected by payday loans to comment on their website, FaithforFairLending.org, hoping that the CFPB will be influenced by the experiences that many have had with payday lending.

 

Rev. Sekinah Hamlin, who leads faith initiatives for the Center for Responsible Lending, says that faith leaders have mobilized, because they expect that the payday lending industry will fight any regulations to curtail their activity. The CFPB will be accepting comments about payday lending until October 7, and the Center for Responsible Lending (Respon­sibleLending.org) hopes that people will share letters and comments encouraging CFPB to curtail payday.

 

While it is important to curtail payday lending so that low-income borrowers can avoid the debt trap, the longer term solution to the debt trap is better pay for people who could access traditional credit options, or avoid debt altogether, if they earned reasonable pay.  The working families agenda that some in Congress have embraced (which includes an increase in the minimum wage, among other provisions to assist those on the bottom) is a step in the right direction.  The fight for $15, which would provide families at the bottom with incomes of about $31,000 a year, would also alleviate poverty and make it easier for people to make ends meet.

 

It is important that those of us who care about economic justice make our voices heard before October 7. To stop the payday loan debt trap and encourage the CFBP to issue regulations that will protect those who are so easily exploited, comment online at FaithforFairLending.org, or send your comment to The Center for Responsible Lending, Faith and Credit Roundtable, 302 W. Main Street, Durham, NC 27701. 

 

Tackling the payday lending issue, however, is only a small step toward economic justice. Those who want economic justice must also be committed to electing those who will implement a working families agenda. The economic good news that was released early this month does not mean that we are out of the woods around poverty issues. 

 

Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist. Her latest book “Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy” is available via www.amazon.com for booking, wholesale inquiries or for more info visit www.juliannemalveaux.com

Category: Opinion

September 15, 2016 

By Julianne Malveaux 

NNPA Newswire Columnist 

Are you ready to vote? Are you registered? These may seem like simplistic questions, especially for those who are aware, but every year some folks are denied access to the polls, because they didn’t register on time, or they moved and their address does not match the address the registrar of voters has, or SOMETHING. The Presidential election is likely to be a nail-biter, and there are local races that are also close. Your best bet is to make sure you know what the requirements for voting are in your state. Check out www.vote.com; the site lists the requirements for all 50 states. A few states allow voter registration on the day of an election, but most states require you to register between 11 and 30 days before the vote. Some states allow online registration, most allow registration by mail (with requirements about the date a registration is postmarked), and almost all allow in-person registration.

 

The terms and conditions of voting are still being negotiated in some states so it makes sense to stay on top of voting rules. A federal appeals court recently kicked discriminatory North Carolina voting terms to the curb, saying that that state discriminated against African Americans with “surgical precision.” Efforts to reduce the number of days available for early voting, or to eliminate Sunday voting, disproportionately affect African American voters. North Carolina Republians are deliberate and mindful in their attempt to sideline African American voters, since most African Americans are Democrats. They want to deliver their state to Donald Trump and they want to ensure that Senator Richard Burr and Governor Pat McCrory, both Republicans, are also re-elected.

 

North Carolina isn’t the only state with electoral shenanigans. Texas, Kansas, Georgia and Alabama have also implemented restrictive measures that are being appealed by civil rights groups, the League of Women Voters, the NAACP and others. Disputes revolve around things like absentee ballots, purges of inactive voters, and issues of whether ballots will count if they are cast in the wrong precincts. In our “Democracy,” it seems that we do more to discourage voters than encourage them, and while the voting process could be seamless, plans to prevent as many as 50,000 Kansas voters from going to the polls, for example, make no sense in a “participatory democracy.”

 

Some folks don’t want it to be participatory, though. Republicans now control most state legislatures, and have been passing voter suppression laws since 2010, when they began to take control of state houses. Civic participation organizations, like the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, and others, are fighting back, preparing to have people available to help voters, especially in battleground states, and with hot lines (1-866-OUR-VOTE) and other forms of voter assistance. In an election that is likely to be close, it is important that every voice be heard.

 

I’m still not clear why polling suggests that this vote is so close. Secretary Hillary Clinton, for all her imperfections, is a stunningly superior candidate to the bumbling Donald Trump who just recently praised Russia’s Vladimir Putin as a “better leader” than President Obama. Now, that’s just downright unpatriotic, not to mention short-sided, and tone-deaf. While folks are running Colin Kaepernick down for being unpatriotic, Trump gets away with comments that border on the treasonous, and is still considered a “credible” candidate for President. Really?

 

Donald Trump goes to one Black church and gets all kind of mainstream media coverage. Hillary Clinton visits numerous Black churches, and the mainstream media is absent. Donald Trump blusters his way through an interview with Matt Lauer on national security, and is hardly challenged and, certainly, never interrupted. Hillary Clinton offers substance to an extremely biased Lauer who was, at best, unprepared for the interview. Instead of getting kudos on her performance, too many have noticed that Hillary didn’t smile. National security is no laughing matter, folks.

 

We have stark choices in this election, but some of us won’t be making choices because we won’t be prepared to vote on November 8. Now is the time to make sure you are prepared. Are you registered? Where will you vote? Will you be out of town or unable to get to the polls on November 8? Can you do early voting or vote via an absentee ballot? These aren’t questions to ask on November 5, they are questions to ask now. Don’t shake your head on November 9 and say you didn’t like the outcome if you didn’t bother to vote on November 8. The stakes are high!

 

Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist. Her latest book “Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy” is available via www.amazon.com for booking, wholesale inquiries or for more info visit www.juliannemalveaux.com

Category: Opinion

September 08, 2016 

By Julianne Malveaux 

Donald Trump is fond of asking, often belligerently and in front of predominately white audiences, what African Americans have to lose by voting for him. He presents a vision of dystopia, where African Americans are all poor unemployed crime victims and he suggests he can change the game because Democrats have caused all this mess. Really?

 

A more interesting way to look at the contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is to ask what African Americans have to gain by voting for Clinton. I think the gains are massive. We gain a candidate who “gets race” better than most white people do. That doesn’t mean that she gets it perfectly, but it means that she is race-sensitive. Her race sensitivity will mean that, with the right agitation, she will be able to advocate for race-advancing policies.

 

She has engaged in productive conversations with the Black Lives Matter movement. She has acknowledged the legitimacy of “reparations”, a concept most mainstream Democrats would have eschewed two decades ago, when Bill Clinton was President. She seems more open to legislative solutions for racial wealth and income inequality than others have been. There is something to be said for being enthusiastic about a candidate that really “gets race.”

 

Hillary Clinton will repair the Voting Rights Act by fighting to restore those sections the Supreme Court struck in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder case. According to her website, she is also committed to setting a national standard for early voting, and to restoring voting rights those ex-offenders who should not be precluded from voting because of their prior crimes.

 

Hillary Clinton’s website indicates that she is committed to reform in the criminal justice system, and to undo some of the damage done from the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.

 

She gets lots of negative press from that legislation, but she was the First Lady at the time, not the President, and she had no vote.

 

Furthermore, the 1994 legislation must be contextualized. People were so panicked about rising levels of crime then that the majority of Democrats and the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for some of the draconian measures that triggered mass incarceration. Now, she is committed to reversing the trend, and she ought to have that chance. The contrast – a “law and order” candidate who is reading from the Rudy Guiliani “stop and frisk” playbook.

 

When we vote for Hillary Clinton we gain an advocate for working families. She is committed to raising the minimum wage, and has always been. She has been on record in rejecting the current federal $7.25 wage as insufficient, and has been on board (with some pushing for the Bernie Sanders team) for the Fight for 15.

 

According to Fortune Magazine, just more than half of all African American workers earn less than $15 an hour. These folks are beneficiaries of Hillary Clinton’s support to raise the minimum wage.

 

Hillary Clinton has been an advocate for economically marginalized people, women and children all of her adult life, and she will continue in that role as our President. Her early work with the Children’s Defense Fund is commendable. Her 1995 statement at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China that “women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights” is a paradigm shift from the way women’s rights have too often been sidelined in international discussions. She did not waver from her support for women’s rights during her tenure as Secretary of State. African American women are special beneficiaries when women’s issues are embraced.

 

Hillary Clinton is an education advocate. She wants to make preschool universal for every 4 year old in our country. She also wants to ensure that working families have affordable child care – paying no more than 10 percent of their income for child care. She also wants to make sure that child care workers are adequately paid, and would support women continuing their education with child care scholarships, and would expand campus child care programs. Many of these programs are efforts she supported while she was in the United States Senate. As President, she can push these programs with more force. Secretary Clinton has also pledged to increase K-12 opportunities, to close the achievement gap, to make college tuition more affordable, and to support HBCUs. Her choice for Secretary of Education will be important, and African American Clinton supporters need to ensure that her choice is not as tone-deaf on African American issues as President Barack Obama’s pick.

 

I would be disingenuous if I did not acknowledge the imperfections in the Clinton candidacy. The trust issue is a big issue and the drip drip drip of the emails that Bernie Sanders “doesn’t give a damn about” have a corrosive impact on her image.

 

But if you read past headlines, you’ll read that she has acknowledged mistakes around the emails, apologized, and said she wouldn’t do it again. Too many have vetted the Clinton Foundation and found no conflicts (and indeed a stellar rating from Charity Watch) in their work. The optics make many uneasy, especially when the media has a harsher approach toward Clinton than toward Trump, whose own Foundation ought to be better vetted, and whose failure to provide tax returns (or reasonable medical records) is an outrageous disregard for the American people.

 

We have everything to lose with Donald Trump, and we have an opportunity to gain so much with Hillary Clinton. I can’t guarantee that Hillary Clinton will implement all the things I think she should. Unless she has a friendly legislature, she will have to fight with Republicans, just as President Obama did. (She has a track record, from her Senate time, of playing the bipartisan game well. Paul Ryan, are you going to help a sister out?). That’s motivation to vote down ticket, to ensure that she gets the Senators and Congressional representatives that will help her with her agenda. Further, the base that is mobilized to vote must also be mobilized to agitate. The lesson of the Obama Presidency is that you won’t get fed in your mama’s house unless you bring your plate to the table. Just as the LGBTQ community pushed President Obama on their demands, so must the African American community push Secretary Clinton on ours. We can’t simply assume that she “gets it” even though we know she “gets it”. She is strengthened when her constituency makes focused demands about her action.

 

Politics is not a sport to engage in every four years or even every two. African Americans who want social and economic justice and systemic change must be fully engaged in the transformation of our political system by confronting politicians and demanding their action. From this perspective, Hillary Clinton represents an opportunity for our engagement. She a racially and culturally sensitive leader who will be an advocate for economically marginalized people, women, and children, and education advocate. She will do as much as we push her to do. She offers an opportunity that no other candidate does.

Category: Opinion

August 25, 2016 

BY JESSE JACKSON 

Donald Trump [recently] made a pitch for black votes in his own inimitable fashion. Speaking in a virtually all-white suburb of Detroit, he suggested that African-American communities are “suffering from Democratic control.”

 

“What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump. What do you have to lose?” he said to absent African-Americans. “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed.”

 

This appeal for votes will fall on deaf ears. Most African-Americans don’t live in poverty, even though too many do. Most have jobs, even though too many don’t. More people in poverty are white, young and female. Trump has little relationship with the black community and isn’t making any effort to create one. Most African-Americans consider him a bigot. (Four out of five African-Americans view him unfavorably, and slightly more think he’s biased against minorities and women.)

 

President Obama won over nine of 10 African-American votes in 2012 when he ran for re-election. The black community is obviously proud of the dignity with which he has carried himself in office and the values which his family displayed. Trump earned our contempt for continuing to question Obama’s birth certificate, trying to slur him as literally un-American. Not surprisingly, Trump polls in the low single digits — 2 or 3 percent — among African-Americans. He’s running fourth behind the Libertarian and the Green candidates as well as behind Clinton.

 

The African-American vote hasn’t always been Democratic. With Democrats anchored in the Jim Crow South, many African-Americans voted Republican before 1960. Dr. Martin Luther King’s father was a Republican voter. But Democrats reached out to African-Americans, and Lyndon Johnson championed the end of segregation, the right to vote and more. Democrats didn’t inherit black votes, they earned them. And recent efforts by Republican judges to disembowel the Voting Rights Act and by Republican state legislators and governors to limit the right to vote in ways that disproportionately impact African-Americans are teaching a new generation the same lesson.

 

African-Americans were a major part of the coalition that Hillary Clinton put together to win the Democratic nomination, and we will be a major part of the coalition she’s putting together to win the presidency.

 

But Trump does have a point. African-Americans have suffered significantly from the stacked deck that characterizes our economy. We were the biggest victims of what the FBI called an “epidemic of fraud” in the housing bubble. We lost more ground than whites in the Great Recession. We suffer higher unemployment, a racially biased criminal justice system and inadequate public schools. Recent reports showing that poor African-Americans in Milwaukee and in other cities are living in more isolated neighborhoods, with more segregated schools, worse household incomes and greater incidence of concentrated poverty than that witnessed in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963 near the beginnings of the modern civil rights movement are clearly alarming.

 

As the first black president, Obama enjoyed a deep wellspring of support among African-Americans. We had his back. Clinton will not enjoy that unstinting loyalty. African-Americans will be making demands — as Black Lives Matter has already done — and looking for results. If disappointed, they may never get back to voting for a Republican Party that seems intent on locking them out if not up, but they may end up staying home in larger and larger numbers.

 

We need a targeted program to rebuild our inner cities. We need investment in jobs, housing and schools, as well as massive criminal justice reform. Hillary Clinton, periodically, talks about the Rep. James Clyburn’s 10-20-30 plan. This calls for earmarking 10 percent of government spending for the 474 communities that have had 20 percent of the population in poverty for more than 30 years. As Clyburn notes, this isn’t a blacks-only program. These communities are both majority Democrat and majority Republican; they are urban and they are rural. They include Appalachian whites, Alaskan Native Americans, urban Latinos and more. 10-20-30 won’t solve the problems of Chicago’s South Side or Milwaukee’s north side, but it will demonstrate a clear concern for those struggling the most. That, along with reforming our criminal justice system and ending mass incarceration that has destroyed so many lives, would begin to revive hope. Without that, Clinton will find that our cities are tinderboxes, ready to blow.

 

Democrats are going to have to work to earn black votes again, not simply inherit them.

Category: Opinion

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