Category: Opinion Written by Harry C. Alford
HARRY C. ALFORD
(NNPA)—During my research on street gangs, one thing became clear: They are the primary source for drug distribution. The crimes conducted by these street gangs on a daily basis also include murder, bribery, extortion, robbery, carjacking, prostitution, human trafficking, and money laundering. Some gangs concentrate on some of these crimes but all of them have drug trafficking as their number one activity. This makes them truly a menace to our society. Yet, we ignore them for the most part. We tend to be blind to their destruction and terror. There are 1.4 million street gang members (2011) and we act like they don’t exist.
There are more than 2.1 million men and women incarcerated. The majority are there for drug related-crimes. Approximately 650,000 persons are released from our jails/prisons each year but at least 52 percent will return within three years for parole violation or a criminal act. It is a social disgrace to have that many human beings incarcerated and then they get into a “revolving door.” The cost of housing a state prisoner can be as high as $45,000 per year. Wait—it gets worse. It is so disappointing that when we persuade a company to hire some of our youngsters for on the job training they cannot pass a drug test. During the Katrina rebuilding, we warned potential job applicants that they would be tested for drugs and urged them to become clean. For many it was too late because they were hooked and couldn’t shake it.
Dealing is a very big “business” for many drug dealers and unlike many other sectors in the U.S., business is booming. The gang leaders don’t have a recruiting program; they “draft” top prospects. One day, my aunt in Los Angeles asked her grandson if he were in the Crips. His reply was, “Grandma, I have no choice; it is Crips or die.”
And these young members have quotas to fill. They must push dope and get as many hooked as possible. The Peoria, Ill. Chamber of Commerce once did a job study for Black youth (18–30). The number one employer was the city government; number two was the local utility company and number three was the illegal drug activity. Peoria has a population of approximately 100,000 persons. No place of any size is immune from drug trafficking. I could not find credible estimates of how large the illegal drug business is in America but with certainty it is at least $250 billion per year. I bet we would be surprised where some of it ends up.
My brothers and sisters we have an extreme problem that needs urgent fixing. I would like to see Black elected officials become more active about addressing this problem. It is my firm belief that withdrawal programs are not the end solution. We need to come together and do something radically progressive. Nothing that has been tried in the past has improved this “illness.”
The time has come for bold, Americana style action. The first thing we should do is legalize drugs. Treat it like liquor and cigarettes by taxing it to the limit and regulate it wisely. The demand for illegally transported drugs will soon dry up and the use of street gangs will be a public danger. We could close many prisons and reduce enforcement officers along with parole and probation officers.
The next thing we need to do is to write new legislation. Organized street gangs are already being broadly prosecuted as racketeering enterprises. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) should be amended to explicitly include street gangs with certain, severe prosecution of their leadership. Everyone knows who the leaders are and where they live. A good example of this is how authorities are currently going after the street gang MS–13.
According to the Associated Press, “The Obama administration declared the ultra-violent street gang MS–13 to be an international criminal group ….The aim is to freeze it out of the U.S. financial system and seize what are estimated to be millions of dollars in criminal profits from drug… and other crimes committed in this country”.
Let’s form a taskforce like the old “Untouchables.” Make them forfeit their assets, bust up their leadership and strongly police our banking system that plays along with some of the vast money laundering that is taking place. If we follow the money and clean up the inside corruption, we will begin to turn the tide. Imagine our nation becoming a populous of people living productive lives once again. Right now we are just seeing our cultures and neighborhoods slide into oblivion. It is not something so great that we cannot manage. Some common sense, a lot of courage and a taste of vision could change it around. God bless us.
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 April 2013 06:03
Category: Opinion Written by George E. Curry
GEORGE E. CURRY
(NNPA)—Even before President Obama released his budget proposal this week for the next fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, preliminary details about his plan to effectively cut Social Security cost of living increases has caused a firestorm among supporters who now feel betrayed.
Under the plan, Obama would shift the way federal benefits are indexed from the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to the “chained” CPI, gradually reducing benefit payments. Without getting overly technical, the chained CPI — a way of indexing living costs — has grown on average by about 0.3 percentage points per year more slowly than the official CPI. Social Security actuaries assume the gap between the two CPIs will continue to average 0.3 percentage points per year in the future;
Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich said in a MoveOn.org press release that “Social Security is not driving the deficit, therefore it should not be part of reforms aimed at cutting the deficit.” He added, “The chained CPI, deceptively portrayed as a reasonable cost-of-living adjustment, is a cut to Social Security that would hurt seniors.”
White House officials point out that the chained CPI would not affect initial Social Security benefits because they are based on wages. It is the subsequent cost of living increases that would be affected.
According to an analysis by the Associated Press, Social Security benefits for a typical middle-income 65-year-old would be about $136 less a year under the new indexing. At age 75, annual benefits would be $560 less. At 85, the cut would be $984 a year. While that might not seem huge to some, it represents a significant loss of income from the elderly living on a fixed income.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) shares Robert Reich’s outrage.
“If Obama is serious about dealing with our deficit, he would not cut Social Security—which has not added one penny to the deficit,” Sanders said in a statement posted on his website. “Instead, he would support legislation that ends the absurdity of one out of four profitable corporations paying nothing in federal income taxes. He would also help us close the offshore tax haven loopholes that enable large corporations and the wealthy to avoid paying $100 billion a year in federal taxes.”
Social Security payments and COLAs are not limited to the elderly. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, approximately 6 million children under age 18 (8 percent of all U.S. children) lived in families that received income from Social Security in 2011. That includes children who received their benefits as dependents of retired, disabled, or deceased workers as well as those who live with parents or relatives who received Social Security benefits.
Democrats are irked that Obama is breaking a pledge he made in 2008 not to cut Social Security. And regardless of how he couches it, that’s the net effect of his action.
“You can’t call yourself a Democrat and support Social Security benefit cuts,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “… The president has no mandate to cut these benefits, and progressives will do everything possible to stop him.”
Critics note that any “savings” from the chained CPI would go into the government’s general fund, not the Social Security Trust Fund. Therefore, it does nothing to “strengthen” Social Security.
“It’s not the president’s ideal approach to our budget challenges, but it is a serious compromise proposition that demonstrates that he wants to get things done,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Friday.
As I have noted in this space before, Obama is an Apprentice Negotiator. We saw that in 2012 when Republicans goaded him into extending the Bush tax cuts. In a failing effort to garner Republican support, Obama keeps offering up programs cherished by progressives, sometimes before the negotiating begins.
President Obama’s new proposal also calls for placing a 28 percent cap on tax deductions and other exclusions. Because the change would raise taxes of the wealthy, GOP leaders are expected to reject the plan.
Social Security provides monthly benefits to more than 50 million retired workers and workers with disabilities, their dependents, and their survivors. Obama faces considerable opposition from his own party, largely because of the importance of the popular retirement program.
“Social Security benefits play a vital role in reducing poverty,” observed the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “Without Social Security, 21.4 million more Americans would be poor, according to the latest available Census data (for 2011). Although most of those whom Social Security keeps out of poverty are elderly, nearly a third are under age 65, including 1.1 million children.”
(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the NNPA. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 April 2013 06:01
Category: Opinion Written by Julianne Malveaux
(NNPA)—Unemployment rates were “little changed” in March 2013—they were either holding steady or dropping by a tenth of a percentage point or so. The unemployment rate dropped from 7.7 to 7.6 percent representing a steady, if painstakingly slow, decrease. This declining unemployment rate was reported with some circumspection because even as the rate dropped, nearly half a million people left the labor market, presumably because they could not find work. Further, in March, the economy generated a scant 88,000 jobs, fewer than in any of the prior nine months. An economy that many enjoy, describing as “recovering,” has not yet recovered enough to generate enough jobs to keep up with population increases.
Of course, there are variations in the unemployment rate, which is 6.7 percent for Whites, but 13.3 percent for African-Americans. Hidden unemployment pushes the actual White rate up to 13.8 percent and the Black rate to 24.2 percent. More than 4.6 million Americans have been out of work for more than 27 weeks.
I parse these numbers on the first Friday of each month and note the vacillations in these rates. In the past four years, we have seen a downward drift in rates, but it neither been as rapid or as inclusive as we might like. We know that, in spite of talk of economic recovery, job creation is stagnant, not keeping up with increases in the population. In no month have we created the 300,000 jobs we need to “catch up” and push unemployment rates down.
We should pay attention to unemployment vacillations, but we might also consider the human cost of unemployment. Those who are unemployed experience malaise, displacement, and often depression. This malaise, or worse, affects dynamics in families, workplaces, and communities.
Some workers exhale when they dodge the bullet of a layoff. Next, they inhale when they realize that, thanks to layoffs, their workload will increase. In families and communities, the unemployment of just one person has a series of unintended costs for those close to them.
Speaking to the National Association of Black Social Workers conference last week, I reminded them that social workers are among those who bear the burden of unemployment. These committed public servants work with the threat of layoffs in their worksites, given sequestration and state budget cuts. Yet they are also challenged to advise those who have experienced the fate they may have to grapple with themselves. As employment is cut among social workers, others are forced to take on larger caseloads. Unless some of these social workers are superhuman, there will be clients who will slip between the cracks.
Heretofore, we have mostly looked at unemployment data as a reflection of the number of jobs our economy generates. We’ve also looked at those who hold them, those who lose them, and what this means in terms of poverty, education, and community health. We could expand our understanding of the employment situation if we looked at those who bear its burden.
There are politicians who rail that people are unemployed because they are lazy. The fact is people are unemployed because the economy is not generating enough jobs. The French philosopher, Albert Camus, mused, “Without work all life is rotten.” Everybody wants to be useful; and until “use” is defined as something other than paid employment, many will feel marginalized because of their vocation situation.
When unemployed, people hear about our “recovering” economy. They wonder what is wrong with them. We all need to wonder what is wrong with an economy that generates such unemployment. We need to wonder about an economy that has soaring stock prices and robust corporate profits, while so many individuals are struggling financially. We need to do more to include those at the margins into the vitality of our “recovering” economy. And we need to understand that if one in four African-Americans and one is six of the overall population, experiences unemployment, this is not a personal problem, but a societal one. Will our society fix it, or let it roll? And who pays?
(Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 April 2013 05:59
Category: Opinion Written by Ben Jealous
Coming the day after the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the new unemployment numbers show that unemployment is still high—and remains much higher for African Americans.
One thing hasn't changed in the last half century: if you're a person of color, you're more likely to be unemployed. Even though the Black unemployment rate fell by .05 percent this month, it still sits at nearly 13.3 percent, nearly double the overall rate.
This gap in employment has led to an economic divide between the richest and the poorest in America that is about as bad as in the divide in Rwanda and Serbia. The top 20 percent of Americans earn 50.2 percent of income, while the bottom 20 percent earns just 3.3 percent. Yet Congress continues to do nothing to directly address unemployment.
This is a dangerous trend. Recent studies—including one by the International Monetary Fund—show that countries with higher levels of economic inequality have slower growth rates, and that "economic inclusion corresponds with robust economic growth". Urban economies affect the prosperity of the entire surrounding region, and ultimately the country as a whole.
As our country grows more diverse, we must also acknowledge that economic inequality is closely tied to race, due to decades of past and ongoing discrimination. And this inequality undermines the racial progress that we have achieved.
As Dr. King asked in 1968, "What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn't earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?"
In the last year of Dr. King's life, he was organizing the Poor People's Campaign. He endorsed the Freedom Budget, a document that called for massive investments in public works and infrastructure, job training and education programs, and a higher minimum wage. The Budget insisted that smart investments in our most vulnerable citizens will spur economic growth.
Unfortunately, this plan never moved forward. But its message proved prophetic, and Dr. King's economic agenda is still relevant today. A strong and sustainable economic recovery requires an economic climate in which all Americans—regardless of race or class—can expect hard work to be rewarded with a steady job. This is not a partisan issue—it is an American issue. And Congress needs to act now.
Earlier this year the National Black Leaders Coalition came up with solutions for fixing the current unemployment crisis. They included implementing important parts of the American Jobs Act to revitalize urban areas; funding the Urban Jobs Act to create youth jobs programs; and increasing the minimum wage. These policies echoed King's recommendations 45 years earlier.
In 1962 Dr. King said, "There are three major social evils in our world today: the evil of war, the evil of economic justice, and the evil of racial injustice."
Fifty years later, need to recognize that inaction is not a policy option; it has been tried; and it hasn't worked. Let's try something new. Let's recommit ourselves to Dr. King's economic principles and advance an economic agenda that bridges our nation's divides and fosters an economic recovery in which all can benefit.
(Benjamin Todd Jealous is president and CEO of the NAACP)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 April 2013 10:07
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