*Since Santa didn’t bring me a new car for Christmas and I don’t want to pay for one myself, last weekend I went to an auto auction to learn how the game works. I’ve been told you can get quality vehicles at wholesale prices.
*President Obama took much heat a year ago when he floated a series of proposed budget cuts that would have slashed programs for the poor. The cuts would have reduced funding or eliminated out right community service block grants that fund an array of community education, health and social service programs in poor, underserved, largely inner-city neighborhoods, cut programs in science, technology, youth mentoring programs, and employment and training assistance. The proposed cuts were just that, proposed, and there was little chance that any of them would go into effect. The proposals were mostly made to counter the forced concession that Obama had to make with the GOP on the Bush tax cuts, namely allowing them to stay in place for the wealthy, and to wring more spending concessions out of the GOP on unemployment benefits and health services.
Obama’s decisive election victory in November radically changed that. So far he has stood firm on his demand that the wealthy pay more, and has proposed an array of other tax hikes that would also squeeze more revenue out of the rich. The only major spending cut at this point that has raised eyebrows among Democratic supporters has been the $340 billion proposed cut from health care programs. But the cuts would not directly hit the elderly and needy. The cuts are mostly to health providers, and do not impact benefits. In addition, much of the public bought into the GOP’s bogus line that Obama’s alleged reckless spending was hopelessly drowning the government in a sea of red ink. Nervous foreign investors as well as a slew of financial experts and economists endlessly claimed that the budget deficit — projected to soar to nearly $1.6 trillion in the last fiscal year, a post-World War II record — would saddle the nation, with higher taxes; deeper cuts in education, health and social services; staggering permanent debt; and possibly even bankruptcy.
That doomsday scenario was part political hyperbole, part financial panic. Even then many economists noted that the claim of financial Armageddon was way overblown.
But Obama is not out of the woods on spending cuts, and neither are the poor. Though his proposals would protect programs that directly benefit the poor, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and food stamps, the GOP’s counter proposals don’t. As the deadline for reaching a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff creeps closer, the pressure could build for the White House to eye programs that it has firmly and repeatedly taken off the table for potential cuts. The two proposals put forth by both sides outline deficit reduction efforts in broad budget categories and are not entirely clear about whether cuts will hurt poor people or not. A small army of the nation’s leading business leaders have screamed loudly that a plunge over the fiscal cliff would be a disaster for business, wreck the nation’s credit rating and shove the nation back into deep recession. That must be avoided at all cost, they warn.
Obama’s consistent answer to that is that a deal can be cut by approving the tax hikes and revenue raising measures he’s proposed, as well as the major check that he wants to put on the endless runaway military spending on the other of the two wars that he inherited from Bush. This would bring the deficit under $1 trillion and would spare cutting programs that would devastate the poor and working class.
The political and social and economic consequences of the fiscal cliff debate on the poor are enormous. Surveys show that the ranks of the poor are still huge and that the wealth and income gap between the rich and poor is wider than in recent years. There’s also the greater public recognition that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, unemployment insurance and other government funded programs play a huge part in bolstering the economy, and American’s living standards.
The GOP’s favorite whipping program food stamps is a perfect example of that. It lifted nearly 4 million people, almost 2 million of them children, out of poverty if that aid been counted as income. Then there’s the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is a refundable federal credit for low- to moderate-income working Americans. The estimate is that this lifted nearly 6 million people, half of them children, out of poverty. These programs provide income for the poor that goes directly into spending on goods and services. This in turn creates jobs, spurs business expansion, and sharply boosts tax revenues for local, state and the federal governments. The poor far from being a drag on the economy fuel it with their spending. Obama’s budget does not hammer the poor. The GOP’s counter to it would. Obama’s proposals as they now stand are the only ones that keep the poor from barreling over the fiscal cliff.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.
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*Cornel West is the topic of conversation again after making his opinion known once more, but this time about Melissa Harris-Perry.
As we reported yesterday, he called her a “liar” and that “[s]he’s become the momentary darling of liberals, but I pray for her because she’s in over her head. She’s a fake and a fraud. I was so surprised how treacherous the sister was.”
The two have gone at each other in the past over their varying opinions on things like politics. But West has decided that she, along with her MSNBC peer, the Rev. Al Sharpton, are all a part of a plot to promote the Obama administration.
And since both West and good friend Tavis Smiley have taken arms against Obama and his apparent lack of concern regarding the poor, particularly African Americans, West is showing no mercy on the bandwagoneers.
Sharpton strongly responded in an interview with theGrio:
“Rewarded by who? I don’t know if having access to the Obama administration means that one is rewarded … All of these conspiracy theorists need to check facts more clearly.”
Rev. Sharpton also posed this rhetorical question, “[w]ho rewarded Tavis Smiley with his show? … Tavis can have a show [and] that’s fine. But if Dr. [Harris] Perry [and] I have a show all of a sudden it’s some kind of a conspiracy theory? … black people are not that stupid.”
Then the Rev. went on to add that many prominent civil rights leaders of the past have had access to presidents:
“This whole thing that I’m too close to the White House for a civil rights leader. Frederick Douglass had access to Abe Lincoln. Booker T. Washington had access to Teddy Roosevelt and Martin Luther King had access to John Kennedy to the degree that Kennedy told him the FBI was trying to do some things to Bayard Rustin and Jack Odell’s reputation. Andrew Young worked as the ambassador for Jimmy Carter. Jesse Jackson worked as an envoy for Bill Clinton. They need to study civil rights history. I don’t work for Obama. And every president has had civil rights leaders with access so now we get to the black president and there is a different set of rules. He shouldn’t have civil rights leaders he relates to. I think it’s surprising that scholars are not doing their scholarly inquiry here.”
Sharpton also finds West’s scathing critique of President Obama “personal.”
We are not arguing about issues here, we’re arguing about personality. I supported President Obama in 2008. And I support him now not because I got some reward but because we won the election. That’s what I supported him to do. He’s doing many of the things that I supported him for. Some of the things he can’t do because of being blocked. So how do you support somebody in the election, they win, and all of a sudden you’re against them? It’s almost like they have this psychological positioning that they have to always be outsiders rather than saying that the goals are to be achieved whether you do it outside, inside, or [a] combination… I’m oriented toward achieving goals for the people, not worrying about how I’m positioned.
There’s more, LOTS more of this story at TheGrio.
The C-SPAN live broadcast will air from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, Jan. 12 and will feature a panel of experts at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium.
Panelists scheduled to appear include Cornell West, Princeton University Professor and author; Suze Orman, a leader on personal finance; Michael Moore, Academy Award wining filmmaker; Barbara Ehrenriech, author of “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America”; Jeffrey Sachs, poverty expert and professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University; Majora Carter, Urban Revitalization Strategist; and Vicki B. Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America.
Smiley has long been an outspoken opponent about the lack of attention paid to the issue of poverty in America, and the talk show host and author said it is imperative that with the approaching presidential election, political leaders across the country as well as the president must take immediate action to confront the issue.
“There are three classifications of Americans: Either you are in poverty, you are near poverty or you’re part of the new poor,” Smiley pointed out during a press conference to announce the show.
“The new poor are the former middle class. More and more middle Americans of all races, colors and creeds are falling into the ranks of the poor. And so, the data is clear. The data underscores the fact that we’ve got to get serious about talking about poverty in America.”
“Four years ago, during the last presidential campaign, in three presidential debates between Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain, the whole world is watching—the word poor, the word poverty, are not uttered one time,” he pointed out. “The word poor is not mentioned, the word poverty doesn’t come up. Mr. McCain doesn’t say it, Mr.Obama doesn’t say it or talk about it and the moderator didn’t ask about it.”
Smiley said that the issue of poverty was not even discussed when the economy began tanking four years ago. “At that time, there was no conversation about the poor in this country,” he pointed out.
“Fast forward four years later, look at all the devastation, look at all the numbers,” he declared. “I committed to myself four years ago that we were not going to endure another campaign where poverty was ignored. I pledged to do everything I could along with others to make sure that poverty is not just on the agenda but does, in fact, get discussed.”
Smiley said that poverty numbers have hit the African American community particularly hard. “In the black community, we are now at depression era levels,” he declared. “It is as bad for black folks right now as it was during the great depression”.
And Smiley said he was recently able to talk to citizens grappling with poverty up close and personal. “Last summer Dr. Cornell West and I, as most of you know, took our poverty tour around the country, to 18 states and 11 cities. And now, this Thursday, we are taking the next step, which is to convene a national conversation about how to get traction on the problem of poverty in this country.”
Smiley continued, “You can talk about this issue without demonizing the president, without castigating dispersion on him, that’s why I said earlier and I want to be clear, there’s a bipartisan feeling that the poor don’t matter.
“The white house ought to do more, the Democrats have been spineless and milquetoast, and now you have Republicans like Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul who have just basically launched a verbal assault on the poor.
“Even as the economy starts to uptick, the numbers of the poor are going to grow … so, it’s coming from both sides and the bottom line is, our democracy cannot sustain itself under the weight of this kind of poverty.”
Smiley said that he and Dr. West are completing a book about poverty that will be released on April 17.
“The book is called ‘The Rich and the Rest of Us, a Poverty Manifesto.’ In the book, we are laying out exactly what has to happen to not just to reduce, but to eliminate and eradicate poverty in this country and what those who are in high office ought to be saying about the issue in advance of that book coming out,” Smiley said.
He continued, “Whoever the republican nominee will be, and Mr. Obama, there has to be a conversation at the highest levels in this country about the poor so that they are not rendered invisible.”
By Jasmyne A. Cannick
Now I’m not trying to hate on Occupy LA, but after looking at news photos of the recent goings on, I couldn’t help but think of the National Organization for Women—and we all know that NOW was never about the liberation and equal rights of Black women.
All that’s to say, if the center of corporate greed for activists involved in Occupy LA is a closed City Hall on the weekend—then we’re obviously battling two different types of corporate greed and collusion.
As a Black person, in my world, corporate greed isn’t found in the one part of town that’s vacant over the weekend. It’s found in the parking lots and doorways of the banks who are maneuvering around the system and finding new ways of extracting even more money from their customers. It’s found outside the homes and offices of the members of Congress who continue to ride in their taxpayer funded vehicles, driven by their tax payer funded chauffeurs, to their taxpayer funded jobs, all while ignoring the economic crisis that their taxpayer constituents are in. Corporate greed radiates out of the Korean owned swap meets, beauty supplies, and liquor stores that operate in mass in South Los Angeles. And don’t get me started on the check cashing centers that like the banks find motivation and revenue in preying on the poor.
If this protest is really about battling corporate greed and corruption let’s take it to the streets—not the neatly taxpayer funded manicured lawns of City Hall.
Start with demanding that the grocery stores in South Los Angeles look like and offer the same services and selection as those on the west side of town. Which I know may or may not be an issue for Occupy LA activists considering that many of its members live on the west side, but one for all and…
Be bold! Camp out at a foreclosed home in Watts handcuffed to the foundation and dare the sheriff’s to lock a poor family of out their home.
On Friday—payday for the few still working—occupy some space in front of a Bank of America, Chase, or Wells Fargo bank in mass and protest the new debit card fees.
Find out where members of Congress are going to be when they’re in town over the weekend and protest them. Demand a change! Demand jobs! Harass them to the point of compliance.
If this is really about Wall Street verses Main Street—go to Main Street, literally. I mean how many of the Occupy LA folks have ever really seen what Main Street in L.A. looks like these days?
For those Occupy LA folks claiming comprehensive immigration rights as a part of the overall efforts of the activists, it’s all good. But I’m going to need you to be a little more specific. Is it Latino immigration rights you’re concerned with, or immigration rights for all including the thousands of African and West Indian immigrants who call Los Angeles home? If it’s the latter, you haven’t done a good job of communicating that message to your darker skinned immigrant sisters and brothers who might have been willing to join you.
Until Occupy LA demonstrates some real efforts at changing the economic situation for all Angelinos and not just the few who can afford to take off from work or college to participate in a camp out in front of City Hall—they can expect little or no involvement at all from Blacks in Los Angeles.
You know our history and we’re about it. Either come hard or don’t come at all.
A former press secretary in California State Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives, Jasmyne A. Cannick writes about the intersection race, sex, politics, and pop culture from an unapologetically Black point of view. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at /jasmyne.
*Are you suffering from malnutrition? Are you receiving any public assistance or do not have access to emergency funds if you need them? Do you experience debilitating depression, so much so, that it has rendered you incapable of holding down a job or looking for one? What about XBox? Do you own one of those or have a computer to read this story on? What about DVD’s and a DVD player, do you have those too?
I ask these, seemingly, unreasonable questions because it appears that “poverty” has taken on a new face since the 60′s and 70′s. Back then, when someone was poor or living below the poverty line, THEY WERE REALLY FRIGGIN’ POOR! Nowadays, if you don’t own an XBox, don’t have a car or have less than 5 DVD’s in the house … you’re poor!
Back when there were …