(NNPA)—The sensational exposes about Rep. Maxine Waters have failed to relay an important fact to the public about why she arranged meetings between herself, a bank, and former Treasury Secretary Paulson. It had to do with trying to support the survival of the Black economic infrastructure, which had been hit hard by the financial crisis the country faced. Waters has for a long time been an advocate for Black businesses in the Congress, essentially because they had been marginalized and excluded routinely. Here, she took over the role of Parren Mitchell of Baltimore who was their champion, but who left the Congress with an illness.
I was invited to a meeting by Waters last November to provide a brief analysis of where we were as a community in the throes of the economic crisis to a small invited group of representatives of Black economic organizations. In the room were the leaders in fields such as automotive, banking, financial services, broadcasting and others. All told tails of ruin and destruction of businesses they were experiencing because of the inability to access capital.
The head of Black auto executives, for example, said that their dealerships in the General Motors system had dived from 63 to 26 and if there was no help from GMAC (which was receiving federal funds) it was lower. This testimony was laced with cries for help that were not being responded to at the White House, the Treasury Department or elsewhere in government. It seemed that the Black economy was on its own in the midst of this crisis.
This has been a relatively consistent state of affairs for Blacks who have not been able to enjoy the advertising, service contracts and other resources that other firms enjoy, and for them to be deprived of resources being handed by government to fix economic crisis smacks to me of institutional racism. After all, some of my tax money—and yours—was sent to GMAC, the General Motors Financial Corporation—to keep dealerships in business, but Black dealerships were being cut right and left in the process General Motors set up.
Well, this is the reason we should be concerned about the attempt to cut off the efforts of Maxine Waters to bring Black businesses into the room where the deals were cut with Treasury by charging her with ethics violations. There are much deeper issues here of importance to the Black community. In fact, the process of the Office of Congressional Ethics itself also smacks of institutional racism. We must believe that out of the 435 members of Congress, and the 36 cases brought before the OCE (most of which involved White members of Congress) that the process yielded the cases of two Blacks that were worthy of going to trial. This would mean that “the swamp” that Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted to drain in the House of Representatives was characterized by the indiscretions of Black members when we all know that is now the case.
As a result of this move by the OCE, both Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters have put the Democratic Party in a box because the two Republicans (including the infamous Republican chair of the OCE, Porter Goss) and two Democrats who proposed trials for them probably believed that they would make a deal, take some form of censure and move on. But they have decided to fight because of the OCE process, which leaked the charges to the media they believe are untrue, which has resulted in their public trial and prosecution. So, they’ve decided to fight to clear their names—right at the moment when elections are bearing down and the Democratic Party is not favored to hold on to most of its seats either in the House or Senate. The Republicans will probably use this issue against Nancy Pelosi as the symbol of the Democratic Party in the House, but it will not affect either the seat of Rangel or Waters. So, I disagree profoundly with Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post and his colleagues who say that the problem here is the “entrenched entitlement” of these individuals. They don’t seem to have a clue as to what the Black community is facing, either in the House of Representatives or in this current economic crisis, or how valuable Rep. Waters has been.
(Dr. Ron Walters is a political analysts and professor emeritus of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park.)