Category: Opinion Written by Julianne Malveaux
(NNPA)--The right wing seems determined to associate President Obama with any government program that helps people on the bottom. Thus, the term Obamacare was used to attack the health care program that President Obama fashioned and worked with Congress to approve. While Obamacare is not perfect, it brings more people into the health care system, and further solidifies the safety net that many have attempted to fray.
Now these folks are running with the term “Obamaphone,” which speaks to the fact that President Obama has simply extended a Lifeline plan that was authorized by Republican President Ronald Reagan when it was clear that those who were either isolated by poverty or by their rural status needed telephones to connect themselves to the world.
The Reagan program used taxes on some of us to provide telephones for the rest of us. People were able to get a telephone that offered basic service for a basic fee. With the onset of technology, Lifeline customers had the option of getting a landline phone or a cellular phone. This is not an Obama initiative. It began in 1996.
Those who get a subsidized telephone have numerous restrictions. They don’t get to choose their phone, but are offered whatever is available, usually a refurbished phone. They get 250 minutes a month if they get a cell phone. The 250 minutes is about four hours a month, or an hour a week. Is this really some kind of rip off, or is it a reasonable way to bring people on the periphery to the center? What do you do with no phone when there is a medical emergency or even a job call? Absent Lifeline, you are yet again a peripheral citizen.
Obamaphone? Give me a break. Until the Tea Party began to hold sway on our national consciousness, Republicans were among those who embraced the notion that every American should have basic telephone service. Now, anything associated with government assistance is associated with President Obama, despite the fact that both Democratic and Republican presidents have attempted to assist people at the bottom, albeit with different levels of energy.
Let’s not forget that it was Democratic President Bill Clinton who pushed the “welfare reform” that limited government assistance to 60 months or five years. When President Clinton, long a favorite among African-Americans, proffered a 1996 reform that I described as “welfare deform,” several of his African-American supporters excoriated him. He weathered the storm, as did the public assistance program. Still, nobody describes it as Clintonwelfare. It was an ill- conceived and pandering policy change that allowed President Clinton to brag that he’d gotten “tough” on public assistance.
Associating President Obama with government support to the poor is a subtle way of associating people of African descent with public assistance, and with the pejorative term “welfare.” This is a most understated form of racial coding, a coding that enabled former Congressman Newt Gingrich to describe President Obama as a “food stamps” president and to falsely assert that President Obama “put” more people on food stamps than any other president in history. Does Mr. Gingrich remember the Great Recession that the scion of his party, former President George W. Bush, enabled, or is he too busy purchasing jewelry for his blushing bride of a decade to pay attention to our nation’s economic situation?
One in six Americans lives in poverty. More than one in four African-Americans and Latinos live in poverty. One in 10 of all Whites live in poverty. The Great Recession and economic restructuring have kicked these diverse groups of poor people, many who are grateful for food assistance, to the curb. President Obama has been responsive to this group of people to the extent that a hostile Congress has allowed it.
If I were President Obama, I’d be flattered by descriptions of Obamacare and Obamaphones. I would not even mind having food stamps being described as Obamafood. Would we prefer to describe poverty as Romney starve, or sequester starve? Make it plain. Associating President Obama with health care, Lifeline telephones and healthy eating is to his credit, not his detriment.
(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 Wednesday, 17 April 2013 09:25
Category: Opinion Written by CNN
by Andrew M. Mwenda
CNN) -- So finally, Madonna's honeymoon with Malawi has ended with a spat. Malawi's minister of education accused Madonna of "bullying officials" and exaggerating the extent of her charity in the country.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 April 2013 17:22
Category: Opinion Written by George E. Curry
(NNPA)—There has been much discussion about the big picture items in President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal 2014. If the devil is in the details, as politicians like to say, some parts of Obama’s budget will mean hell for some needy citizens.
Before getting into the details, let’s talk approach. As I have often said, I am not a fan of some of the tactical approaches Obama takes. I understand that his reasoned approach—as opposed to the meat cleaver style of House Republicans—is far better than the GOP alternative. Still, it makes no sense to offer a compromise position in advance of actual negotiations.
A report by the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank that analyzes government policy and programs, notes, “It is unusual for a President to include these kinds of compromise policies in his budget. Typically, the President’s budget would include policies that are more akin to an opening bid in a negotiation—that is, the President’s budget generally reflects his preferred policies. This budget, in contrast, reflects the President’s position at a stage of the negotiations after several rounds of offers had been made. This budget differs significantly from the approach taken in earlier Obama budgets.”
Clearly, compromises will have to be made at some point—even compromises President Obama will not want to make—but this is not the time to make them.
Robert Greenstein, president of CBPP, said: “Politically speaking, I had thought that the White House should not put these concessions in its budget, as distinguished from offering them in bipartisan negotiations if and when Republicans agreed to dedicate substantial savings from curbing tax credits, deductions, and other preferences (known as ‘tax expenditures’) to deficit reduction. The Administration took a different approach. Having done so, it is appropriately insisting that the part of its budget that contains the President’s last offer to Boehner is an indivisible package—that policymakers cannot cherry pick the budget cuts on their own, as some Republicans are already suggesting, without taking the accompanying revenue increases.”
Given President Obama’s overtures, one would think reasonable people would meet him half way. But the operative word is “reasonable.” Instead of also making concession, Republicans have become even more recalcitrant.
“When it comes to deficit reduction, the playing field is not level,” Greenstein stated. “The President is sticking with his final offer to Boehner despite the anger that it’s creating in his party and his political base due to the chained CPI and other proposals.
“The Speaker and other Republican leaders, however, have buried their last offer to Obama in December and are ignoring the fact that it included $400 billion in revenue increases beyond what policymakers enacted at the start of the year. They now brand any new revenues as unacceptable. The contrast between the President’s approach and that of Republican leaders is striking.”
Beyond the political wrangling, there is plenty to be concerned about.
“The budget proposes to replace sequestration for all years—2013 through 2021—with other deficit-reduction measures. While most of the proposed deficit reduction is in the form of higher revenues and lower entitlement spending, the budget also reduces funding for discretionary programs by $200 billion below the already austere caps set in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA),” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report states.
“The $200 billion in proposed cuts are evenly split between defense and non-defense programs, consistent with the President’s December offer to Speaker Boehner. Non-defense discretionary programs include a broad set of government functions, such as education, public health, law enforcement, veterans’ health care, housing supports for low-income families, and scientific and medical research.”
Calling the non-defense discretionary program funding “ill-advised,” The center’s report noted, “The BCA funding caps already significantly constrain this area of the budget. In fact, under the BCA caps, spending for non-defense discretionary programs is on track to reach, by 2016, its lowest level on record as a share of the economy (these data go back to 1962). This area of the budget, which has been cut significantly in recent years and is not a driver of longer-term deficits, would be cut still more deeply under the President’s budget.”
In addition the CBPP said, “The budget would increase the income-related premiums paid by upper-income beneficiaries and gradually expand those premiums to cover a larger fraction of beneficiaries. It would also increase cost-sharing for new beneficiaries by raising the deductible for physician services, introducing co-payments for certain home health care services, and introducing a premium surcharge for those who purchase Medigap supplement plans that provide near-first-dollar coverage (which encourages greater utilization of health care services).”
There are plenty of good things in the president’s proposed budget, including his plan to expand early education and infrastructure investments, but Obama needs to break his addictive habit of making major concessions to Republicans before sitting at the bargaining table with them.
(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 Wednesday, 17 April 2013 06:00
Category: Opinion Written by CNN
By LZ Granderson
GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (CNN) -- If September 11, 2001, was the day everything changed, then April 15, 2013, serves as another reminder of that change, of our frailties and of a new reality in which "it can't happen here" has been replaced by "it can happen anywhere."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 April 2013 16:15
Category: Opinion Written by NNPA News Service
by William Reed
(NNPA)--CNN contributor Roland Martin, who departed the network on April 6, has been named the National Association of Black Journalists’ (NABJ) 2013 Journalist of the Year.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 April 2013 10:01
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