Category: Opinion Written by Jesse Jackson
Morehouse College, one of the most distinguished historically Black colleges—with graduates like Dr. Martin Luther King, former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, film director Spike Lee and others—literally shut down for spring break this week. As its 2,000 students took their break, every member of the faculty and staff was furloughed without pay as the college struggles to balance its books.
The crisis at Morehouse, which will hit other historically Black colleges and universities even harder, results from the combination of foul economic times and continued cuts in support for students and colleges at the federal and state level.
African-Americans have dramatically less wealth than White families. To pay for advanced education, students piece together grants, work, family contributions and loans. Morehouse lost 200 students, part of 10,000 students in HBCUs affected, when the Department of Education suddenly tightened eligibility requirements for Parent Plus Loans that lend to eligible parents to help pay for their children’s college costs. The average Plus loan at Morehouse was $22,000 in 2010-11. Add to that the fact that college costs are rising, while the level of Pell grants is not, and colleges and faculties will be hit by the across-the-board “sequester” cuts at the federal level.
Morehouse is like the canary in the mine — an early warning signal. Student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion dollars, greater than credit card debt. A quarter of African-Americans graduate with debt over $30,000, along with 16 percent of White students. Student debt can’t be erased in bankruptcy, or because of loss of a job.
About half of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. In worse shape are the 30 percent of college students with loans who fail to graduate, often because they can’t afford to continue. Student loans can be deferred, meaning that no payments are due, but the interest keeps building up. Eventually, they must be paid back, although defaults are rising.
Burdened with debt, graduates find it hard to pay for a car, a place to live and health care. They find it virtually impossible to save anything for the future.
President Obama understands that educating the next generation is vital to this country’s future. In his first address to Congress, he pledged that “by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” He then signed into law the largest increase in student aid since the GI Bill at the end of World War II.
But since then, rising college costs and declining federal and state support have pushed more costs onto students and their parents. Advanced education or training is increasingly imperative and unaffordable.
We will pay far more in the future for failing to educate this rising generation than we will save in cutting support for them. We need a National Commission on College Affordability to review the rising costs of and the declining support for colleges and advanced training programs. It should recommend how the rise in college costs can be slowed and how to ensure that students are not priced out of the education they need nor condemned to debt servitude to get it.
That good students are forced to drop out of a distinguished school like Morehouse because they can’t afford it is a warning sign. The furlough of Morehouse employees is a wake-up call. We need action before good schools fail and more good students are locked out.
(Keep up with Rev. Jackson and the work of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition at www.rainbowpush.org.)
Last Updated on Friday, 29 March 2013 10:16
Category: Opinion Written by CNN
by Cynthia Tucker
(CNN) -- Like giddy teenagers, Republican activists have fallen for another charming, personable and accomplished black conservative. Dr. Ben Carson is the newest object of their crush, which was born of a desperate need to attract more black men and women as high-profile standard-bearers.
You can't blame Republican loyalists for swooning over the doc, a renowned surgeon who rose from poverty to head pediatric neurosurgery at Baltimore's famed Johns Hopkins Hospital. If wooing voters of color were simply a matter of finding an attractive black face with an inspiring personal story and an impressive resume, Carson would be hard to beat.
But black voters tend to be more discerning than that. They have shown an unerring instinct for rejecting condescension and dismissing tokenism. There are many black Americans who admire Carson for his professional accomplishments (I'm one of them), but that admiration is unlikely to translate into votes.
One of the reasons is that Carson doesn't seem to know black Americans' political values very well. In his most recent book -- a political tract called "America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great" -- he writes: "Many African-Americans voted for Obama simply because he was a black man and not because they resonated philosophically with his policies." In fact, black voters have been increasingly allied with the Democratic Party since the 1960s when Lyndon Johnson pushed through significant civil rights legislation. Al Gore received about 95% of the black vote in 2000, John Kerry about 93% in 2004.
Moreover, Carson seems to have adopted the view, popular among so many ultra-conservatives, that the Democratic Party appeals to voters who shun the work ethic.
Talking to The New York Times recently about his conservative views, Carson described himself as a "flaming liberal" in college who later became disaffected with the Democratic Party. "One thing I always believed strongly in was personal responsibility and hard work," he said. "I found the Democrat Party leaving me behind on that particular issue."
That notion -- fallacious though it is -- is at least as popular among black conservatives as among white ones. I've been hearing it from black Republicans for at least two decades. Several years ago, I interviewed a black conservative running a doomed campaign for a suburban Atlanta congressional district. She had no prior political experience, no policies to advance, no program to sell. Her platform consisted of her belief in hard work, which she contrasted, at least implicitly, with black Democrats' supposed preference for sloth.
That view is as puzzling as it is infuriating. It may charm those white conservatives who hold stereotypical views of black Americans, but it bears little resemblance to the realities that inform their choices at the ballot box.
In his memoir, "Gifted Hands," and in his motivational speeches, Carson talks about his impoverished childhood and his remarkable semiliterate mother. Married at 13 only to later divorce her philandering husband, she enforced high academic standards for Carson and his brother while working two or three jobs as a maid or nanny -- and battling debilitating depression.
Carson eventually got into Yale and became, at 33, the youngest person to head a department at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is famous for separating conjoined twins.
That's a compelling and powerful tale. But it differs from those of other hardworking black people I know only in the degree of success that Carson attained as a result, not in the measures of ambition, industriousness, discipline and self-respect his mother instilled in her children.
Yet black Americans know better than to believe those traits are enough to guarantee success. History taught us better. Just look back over the last decade and a half. In 2000, according to the U.S. census, less than a quarter of black Americans -- 22.5% -- lived in poverty. By 2010, that number had risen to 27.4%. Was there a sudden outbreak of indolence among black folk over that period? Or were there outside forces that conspired to knock them back down the economic ladder?
As long as the Republican Party refuses to acknowledge that, it will have little to offer workers of color -- and declining appeal to younger whites. They, too, understand the limits of self-reliance.
To be helpful to the GOP, Carson would have to remind them of the caprice of capitalism and the generational reach of racism's barriers. Instead, he sounds like the standard-issue Ayn Rand acolyte, no different from Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan. He opposes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and supports a flat tax. For good measure, he's also a religious conservative who disputes evolution.
It's no wonder that conservatives have started to trumpet him as their Great Black Hope. Psychologists believe that romantic interest increases when people mirror each other's gestures. Carson perfectly reflects the beliefs of his suitors.
Still, this romance is unlikely to blossom into a long-lasting love affair. There are too many misunderstandings, too many unspoken expectations, too many half-baked assumptions. And some of those half-based assumptions are Carson's.
Editor's note: Cynthia Tucker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, is a visiting professor at the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 April 2013 16:07
Category: Opinion Written by CNN
by LZ Granderson
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Late one night, in the summer of 1958, three police officers opened an unlocked door of a small home in rural Virginia, walked into the bedroom and pointed a flashlight at a couple sleeping in the bed.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 17:56
Category: Opinion Written by Julianne Malveaux
(NNPA)—I never considered the late Rodney King anything of a philosopher, but as one observes Washington shenanigans, especially around fiscal matters, it seems that Brother King had a point. Can we all just, maybe, get along?
In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the Senate finally passed a budget by the narrowest of margins, 50-49. Four Democratic Senators jumped ship to side with Republicans, probably because they are facing tough election fights in Republican leaning states. Still, it was great to see some vision from this Senate, which called for a $1 trillion in tax increases and $875 billion in program cuts. Unlike proposals presented by the likes of Paul Ryan, who would eviscerate social programs, the Senate offers a budget that cuts social and other programs more carefully and thoughtfully. Since this is the first budget the Senate has passed in four years, one might think that they should be congratulated. But the passage of a Senate budget is only the first step. Now, the Senate and the House of Representatives have to find some common ground.
Former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-Wis) chairs the House Budget Committee and he chairs it like he thinks he is still running for office. He claims that he can save $4 trillion more than Democrats by turning Medicare into a voucher program and slashing Medicaid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps), and other safety net programs. How will the Senate and House resolve their differences when Republicans basically refuse to bargain, and Democrats will give away the store if given an opportunity? If half of the Democrats in the Senate had the backbone of House Republican Majority Leader John Boehner, the people of the United States would be in a better position.
We can’t get along if we go along with nonsense such as a voucher program for senior health. As it is, some hospitals are closing or consolidating, largely because of the number of poor and elderly people who use those facilities. While Ryan is talking slash and burn, Obamacare, albeit imperfect, expands health care possibilities for everyone. We can’t get along with cuts in SNAP that leave more people hungry. The average monthly income for those who receive SNAP assistance is less than $700. That means families who receive this benefit are working part-time or not at all, not an unusual occurrence when the unemployment rate remains higher than 7 percent overall and 13 percent for African-Americans. We can’t get along with proposals to cut educational funding, knowing education opens doors for generations to come.
How, then, will they fill the gap between the lean budget passed by Senate Democrats, and the austerity budget passed by Republicans? It is up to we, the people. A few weeks ago, a friend proposed organizing a March that would bring thousands to Washington as these budget deliberations continue to remind the Senate and the House that we are watching them. As this is the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, many marches are being planned to commemorate that critical date. But it might also be meaningful if Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign were also reenacted. Dr. King’s vision of bringing thousands to occupy government offices to highlight the needs of the poor was never fully realized, and the current gap between the House and Senate suggests that the poor will be more harshly treated now than they were two generations ago.
When one contrasts the House Budget with the one that comes from the Senate, one realizes that there are two starkly different visions of our country. We were presented with these stark choices when Mr. 47 Percent Romney faced off against President Obama. One could hardly call our president a flaming liberal. People chose the humanitarian Obama vision of the world instead of the elitist austerity that Romney exemplified. The people have spoken, but the politicians can’t hear.
The people are talking, the politicians are posturing, and millions are wondering how they will survive if a Ryan budget passes. Why can’t we all get along?
(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, 28 March 2013 09:16
Category: Opinion Written by Louis 'Hop' Kendrick
LOUIS 'HOP KENDRICK
A friend and reader of the New Pittsburgh Courier called me after reading part 2 with a reminder of a comment she made when I had just been appointed to being the director. She is a Black female activist in the Delta Sorority, Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church and the overall community. Her name is B.J. Sampson. I was reminded that she stopped me and said, “You are inheriting a hornet’s nest, I wish you luck. I am praying for you.”
Some of the readers may not understand the concern about the MBE/WBE/DBE program. Just read on; you will. The columns will deal exclusively with the government organizations and the staggering sums of taxpayers’ dollars being spent and local businesspersons—White and Black—are denied legitimate opportunities to share in them.
Who are these governmental bodies? Allegheny County, and their authorities, Allegheny County Community Colleges, Alcosan, Port Authority Transit, Allegheny County Airport. In the City of Pittsburgh there are the URA, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, Public Parking Authority of Pittsburgh, and Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh.
The first step to become a MBE/WBE/DBE is certification. Let’s examine it. There are organizations that will certify anyone for a fee so certification by itself can be questionable. How is the determination made as to who is a legitimate MBE/WBE /DBE, what is the process? For example as I scrutinized lengthy lists of awarded contracts and particularly minorities and women, surprisingly they were located across the country, 18 states to be exact. The states were Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Illinois, New York, Virginia, Michigan, California, Minnesota, Missouri and Massachusetts. I have asked the question, “How is the determination made about these corporations and their legitimacy?” The answer is that we accept the certification from the state they are located in. Is that sufficient, because in Allegheny County there are firms that certify anyone for a fee; am I to believe that does not happen across this country?
These contracts are major contracts some exceeding a million dollars. Do these contractors even have an office in Allegheny County? In my personal opinion it borders on criminality when so many are denied an honest chance to participate in the American Dream.
There was a period of time that the government was able to use set asides to enable some with a legitimate chance at a contract, but it was declared unconstitutional. Next was the term best faith effort and that gave the giant contractors a green light to deny almost anybody by simply stating we put forth our best effort and were unable to find anyone. They award you a contract and you are unable to secure a bond or funding and they simply state we provided them with an opportunity and they were unable to perform, and they get away with it because those allegedly responsible simply don’t care.
I have been informed that there are about 1100 persons in Allegheny County registered as MBE/WBE/DBEs. Let us assume that is accurate, then I wonder why less than a hundred have ever had a contract, and it generally is the same persons who receive contracts. I wonder why. Don’t you?
In February 2013 Governor Corbett released a report awarding $16 million for six local projects, and in the very near future he would release an additional one hundred and nine million dollars for an additional 54 projects. That is a total of one hundred and twenty five million dollars. This is our money, taxpayer dollars. These funded projects usually hire people, in theory, who are to make sure that Blacks and women share in the contracts and after every job completion the figures are astounding, because they somehow reflect a percentage that’s questionable. If every certified company were awarded a contract it would not equal the statistics that are published. Almost everyday these individuals contact me and others and 99 percent of them have no contracts and never had one.
I attended a yearly affair a couple of weeks ago that in theory gives those in attendance the impression they can be afforded an opportunity for a contract. At least 30 individuals said to me that they come not expecting anything, just hoping.
Why is the MB/WBE/DBE program so dismal, can it be changed, who is responsible for these flawed programs? If it can be changed, when will it be changed, who will change it, what will it take to change it? These answers will be provided in future columns.
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(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum page.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 10:19
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