- Created on 10 May 2013
Anyone despairing that Congress can’t get anything done should note last week’s swift vote to get furloughed air traffic controllers back to work. Congress can move very quickly and efficiently when it wants to and when its own comfort and that of constituents well-off enough to fly was affected.
Reduced unemployment benefits, children dropped suddenly from Head Start programs, poor mothers and babies losing food supplements, teacher layoffs, and cancelled meal deliveries for seniors didn’t move them—but airport delays as members headed out of town for their April recess were apparently unacceptable.
Poor 3- and 4-year-olds denied the early child development services that can help them succeed in life may not be able to call Congress, but we need to speak out for them to stop those cuts too. We know that eliminating a child’s early education investments now will increase his chance of going to prison later by 39 percent. And paying for that prison will cost all of us nearly three times more a year than it would have cost to provide him a quality early learning foundation to get ready for school. So I hope parents and grandparents and all of us will tell our members of Congress to “be careful what you cut” because some cuts create scars that last a lifetime and public costs that drive up budget as well as human capital deficits.
When Congress flies back next week they must stop the unjust across the board cuts imposed by sequestration. And the needed fix isn’t just moving around cuts from one part of a federal agency to another as Congress did with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Sequestration is dangerous policy that is hurting many children who are homeless and hungry, the unemployed, seniors, and others across the country. This slow death by a thousand indiscriminate cuts is hindering our still sluggish economic recovery. And while the jobs numbers released this week were better than expected, millions of Americans are unemployed and have been for long periods of time. Much greater improvements are needed with greater urgency. Sequestration must be repealed so that people already suffering in multiple ways from economic downturn are not hit further while they are already down.
The Coalition on Human Needs and others have been keeping close track of the impact of sequestration in local communities and have provided just a few examples of sequestration’s harmful effects:
- In Michigan, $150,000 in projected federal cuts to the Head Start program in Menominee, Delta, and Schoolcraft counties are forcing the closure of the program up to three and a half weeks early for 254 children and their families.
- College Station, Texas’s Head Start and Early Head Start will eliminate a 20-day summer instruction program because of a $99,000 sequestration cut. They will also reduce staff training, field trips, and food and eliminate child care for parents participating in training sessions.
- In Kentucky, the Jefferson County Public Schools are losing about $6 million in federal funding and projected cuts to Title I programs for low-income, special education, and Head Start children which could affect 300 teacher and staff positions, including reading tutors and other intervention specialists who help these children catch up.
- The Lebanon school district in Pennsylvania has a $334,000 shortfall from federal funding cuts for Title I schools even after the state provided extra funding to make up some of the sequestration cuts. School officials expect to lay off 20 elementary school teacher aides and will not fill vacancies for a literacy instructor and a 5th grade teacher. These cuts are on top of 22 positions eliminated in 2011.
- Starting April 28, about 400,000 long-term unemployed workers in California received a 17.7 percent cut in their federal unemployment benefits because of sequestration. The average weekly unemployment check of $297 in California faces an average payment cut of $52 a week. In February, California was tied with Nevada and Mississippi as having the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 9.6 percent.
- Faced with a nine percent sequestration cut, the Henry County Senior Center in western Illinois has shortened its transportation services for seniors by two hours per day, making it harder for them to schedule doctor appointments and food shopping. Worse, the center will need to cut back on some meal deliveries to homebound seniors according to Cassandra Schmoll, the center’s executive director.
- In New Orleans, a 17 percent decrease to the housing services budget meant the city was forced to rescind about 700 recently awarded Section 8 housing vouchers. According to officials, there were already 13,250 names on the waiting list.
- Approximately 3,400 AmeriCorps volunteers are expected to be cut, including 600 of the 8,000 AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, the service program designed to fight poverty. More than 1,600 seniors will lose Senior Companions who help prepare meals, drive them to medical appointments, and fill in for family caregivers. And 9,000 children will not be helped by Foster Grandparents who receive small stipends for mentoring youths in schools and juvenile justice and other community facilities.
These cuts are being or will be repeated in communities, counties, and states across our country along with cuts to legal aid societies, services for individuals with disabilities, and more.
While needlessly hurting those who need assistance most in this challenging economy, sequestration is also needlessly harming our national economic health by cutting benefits and jobs and causing furloughs.
The Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan arbiter of budgetary impacts, estimated in February that sequestration will reduce gross domestic product growth in 2013 by 30 percent compared to what would have happened without the indiscriminate cuts. This is expected to cost the nation 750,000 jobs.
While today’s jobs numbers help assuage fears of a sharp economic slowdown, the fact is that with 11.7 million Americans unemployed in April of 2013 and an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent—the 52nd consecutive month of unemployment at or above 7.5 percent—any policy that cuts jobs is a policy we cannot afford.
Our Congressional leaders need to make better choices but enough citizens must demand they do so. Don’t we want to remove more people from the unemployment rolls? Don’t we want to prevent more children from falling deeper into poverty and further behind? Instead of indiscriminate cuts under the guise of deficit reduction, we need a comprehensive strategy that includes a mix of investing in job creation and early childhood development and learning supports; tax increases for the wealthiest; and spending cuts to non-vulnerable groups to help strengthen the economy and meet the needs of children today and prepare for tomorrow’s workforce and military and future economic growth.
Tomorrow is today, so contact your Representative and Senators and urge them to repeal sequestration, get about the real business of strengthening our economy, and to be careful what they cut.
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.
- Created on 10 May 2013
For someone who seems to revel in being silent during the Supreme Court’s traditionally lively oral arguments – when a public display of his professional competence would be appropriate – Clarence Thomas’s out-of-court comments are extraordinarily revealing. They show a man whose exalted position has brought him no inner peace, a man who continues to see himself as being victimized by this or that person or cabal.
Last week, it came to light that during an early-April interview with C-SPAN, Thomas tried to diminish President Obama’s achievements. Asked about Obama’s being the nation’s first Black president, Thomas said, “I always knew that it would have to be a Black president who was approved by the elites and the media because anybody that they didn’t agree with, they would take apart.”
He went on to say “that will happen with virtually, you pick your person, any Black person who says something that is not the prescribed things that they expect from a Black person will be picked apart. You can pick anybody, don’t pick me, pick anyone who has decided not to go along with it. There’s a price to pay. So I always assumed it would be somebody the media had to agree with.”
Thomas didn’t identify which “elites” and which “media” he was referring to.
But presumably the latter doesn’t include Fox News or the Wall Street Journal and other conservative-leaning newspapers and publications nor the innumerable conservative pundits and talk-show jockeys that have been hammering Obama since he won the Democratic nomination in 2008.
And presumably the elites don’t include the long-list of wealthy conservative elites who’ve spent millions upon millions opposing the president’s initiatives and his re-election. But then, Clarence Thomas has never been one to let facts undermine his raging self-pity.
We’ve seen this facet of Thomas’s character ever since he used that ugly phrase, “high tech lynching,” during his 1991 Senate confirmation hearings. That phrase came from a man who had become a conservative favorite by asserting that Black liberals always unjustifiably blamed racism for Black Americans’ troubles.
We later learned by his own words that that self-pity had long been a part of his character, when he revealed that all through college and law school he never voluntarily spoke up in class because he felt classmates would make fun of his deep Southern accent.
One need not have gone to an elite college and law school, as Thomas did, nor be a psychiatrist, to have immediately considered that Thomas neither got over his embarrassment about his accent nor sought out a language specialist to help him get rid of it precisely because he wanted to hold onto it – the better to feed his seeing himself as a victim.
In fact, Thomas’s attempt to diminish the president just underscores what they have – and don’t have – in common.
Both men are products of elite colleges and law schools. But while Thomas hid behind a self-perceived “defect,” Barack Obama took an active role in the life of the institutions he attended. At Harvard, he sought and won membership on the law review, and then, the approval of the review’s members to be their president.
Clarence Thomas drew no job offers from law firms when he graduated in 1974. He’s claimed this was the result of the “taint” of affirmative action. But numerous articles over the years have shown that Thomas’s Black Yale Law peers have a decidedly different view of their experience.
One such article, in The American Lawyer, of June 2, 2008, “Did Affirmative Action Really Hinder Clarence Thomas?,” available on the web site Law.com, should be required reading. It found “in interviews with a dozen African-American lawyers who attended Yale in the same years” that they described their Yale experience “in largely positive – even glowing – terms.”
The most striking contrast between Clarence Thomas and Barack Obama, of course, is what they’ve done after law school.
Thomas, taken up by then-Senator John Danforth, a Missouri Republican, shortly after graduation, has been a government appointee his entire adult career – while declaring that Blacks as a group are too dependent on the government. With, at best, minimal qualifications he was appointed to the two most prestigious positions in the federal judiciary, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and less than two years later, the Supreme Court.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, spurned lucrative offers from law firms and potential federal court clerkships, to become a community organizer in Chicago. There, he began his career of standing for elective office at the local, statewide, and national level. His galvanic speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention instantly made him a future presidential contender. He won the presidency twice in the toughest kind of combat outside of actual warfare by out-thinking and out-organizing his Republican opposition to garner the approval of millions of voters.
Personal and professional jealousy is always unseemly – the more so in a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York Ciry. His most recent book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.
- Created on 08 May 2013
Although many networks continue to pretend that people on both sides of the political aisle are equally nasty toward each other in the name of
patronization balance, leave it to the National Rifle Association to blow such silly folklore to smithereens. This week, the Rev. Al Sharpton took shots at what he dubbed “The Right-Wing Horror P
- Created on 08 May 2013
Congresswoman Karen Bass, U.S. Representative for California’s 33rd Congressional District, and founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, has vowed to crack down on the student loan debt crisis, saying that just because borrowers use loans to get an education doesn’t mean they should be saddled with a lifetime of debt.
“Last month marked the one year anniversary of student loan debt crossing the $1 trillion mark — making it second only to mortgage debt. Americans now owe more in student loan debt then credit card or automobile debt with the past 10 years showing a staggering 511 percent increase.
“Many have tried to down play these facts or flat out deny there is a student loan debt crisis. They argue borrowers should take personal responsibility for what they owe and not look for a bail out from the government.
“Borrowers should bear responsibility for their loan obligations but it’s just wrong to say there isn’t a crisis or to somehow suggest that because these Americans chose to get a good education they should be saddled with a lifetime of debt.”
Rep. Bass has introduced a bill that would forgive federal loan debt of up to $45,000, provided the borrower has made payments consistently. She’s also enlisted the help of celebrity financial guru Suze Orman, who supports the proposed legislation.
Bass's editorial begins below:
If I've heard it once I've heard it a thousand times from my Republican colleagues: we have to stop passing debt onto the backs of future generations. There's plenty of room to debate how best to achieve that goal but not enough attention is being given to the crushing debt being placed on the backs of future generations from student loans.
Last month marked the one year anniversary of student loan debt crossing the $1 trillion mark -- making it second only to mortgage debt. Americans now owe more in student loan debt then credit card or automobile debt with the past 10 years showing a staggering 511 percent increase.
Many have tried to down play these facts or flat out deny there is a student loan debt crisis. They argue borrowers should take personal responsibility for what they owe and not look for a bail out from the government.
Borrowers should bear responsibility for their loan obligations but it's just wrong to say there isn't a crisis or to somehow suggest that because these Americans chose to get a good education they should be saddled with a lifetime of debt.
Ask any student loan borrower struggling to land their first job or who is underpaid in their current job and they will tell you the hardships they face making their student loan payments each month -- living proof that the crisis is real.
If their pleas aren't enough then perhaps a recent report from The Federal Reserve Bank of New York will help to quiet the skeptics. The report pointed out many young borrowers are refraining from making purchases that could benefit the broader economy such as homes or automobiles because paying down student loans will likely claim huge amounts of their income.
Given that the majority of the debt is owed by borrowers over the age of 30, delaying these big purchases to pay back increasing student loan costs can have long term impacts that undermine our economic growth.
Still not convinced? Perhaps the Department of Education's claim that over 13 percent of borrowers will default on their student loans within three years of entering repayment might change your mind.
If I still haven't gotten your attention then let's talk about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finding that there are now more than $8.1 billion in defaulted private student loans and even more in delinquency. A survey from the bureau found that thousands of students didn't understand the full cost of their loans or the risks they assumed when they took out those loans to pay for college.
Still don't believe? How about a recent TransUnion credit report study which noted that more than half of student loans are in deferred status with deferred loans representing almost 45 percent of all student loan balances.
Read more at Rep. Bass’ official website.
- Created on 07 May 2013
Last week, I had to make one of the most difficult announcements of my life—I told my family that I liked women, err, love women. Not knowing how my mother would react, I was relieved when she looked at me and said, “Boy, I knew that all along.”
My brothers and sisters all said that my coming out of the shadows and announcing that I am heterosexual would not change how they felt about me and that they would stand with me when all the media requests began to come in for me to be interviewed.
I knew I was heterosexual and liked women ever since I was a small child, but I have always been afraid to come out publically because I was taught that some things are to be kept private and discussed on a need to know basis.
Now that I have come out of the closet, I hope I can get special laws passed that will allow me to walk up to women in the workplace, as well as total strangers, and let them know that I am heterosexual.
Now that I no longer have to keep my sexual preference to myself, I feel so relieved of the burden I have been carrying throughout my life.
Now that I have come out of the shadows and can be who I really am, I hope that I can become a member of the homosexual church choir that my friend belongs to, despite the stipulation that open heterosexuals are not allowed to join. If I keep my heterosexually hidden and no one finds out, I could possibly join the choir.
But why should I have to hide who I am? That is not fair and it’s discriminatory. My homosexual friends want to force the Boys Scouts of America (BSA) to change its policy of not admitting homosexuals, atheists, or agnostics into the scouts; but not one of my homosexual friends are willing to join with me to fight my being excluded from their choir simply because I have publically come out as heterosexual. Anyone who doesn’t accept me for being heterosexual, must be heterophobic, a bigot, and hateful.
As a businessman, I am involved with several chambers of commerces; so now that I am out of the closet, I wanted to join and have my business certified by The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) so I could become more marketable to corporate America.
According to their website: “The NGLCC certifies lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender-owned businesses as Business Enterprises (LGBTBEs) and works to provide opportunities for LGBTBEs to build relationships and gain exposure within corporate procurement processes. Certification through the NGLCC Supplier Diversity Initiative (SDI) offers the opportunity for LGBT-owned businesses to make connections with America’s top corporations and each other.
By becoming certified, LGBTBEs enhance their business visibility with corporations seeking to do business with LGBT suppliers. Corporate partners can search for certified LGBTBEs through our exclusive LGBT supplier database as well as meet face-to-face with potential suppliers at NGLCC SDI matchmaking and networking events, which are held across the country throughout the year…”
I was told that I had to be homosexual in order to join. Again, per their website, the criteria for membership is: “Is your business at least 51% owned, operated, managed, and controlled by an LGBT person, or persons who are either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, exercise independence from any non-LGBT business enterprise, have its principal place of business (headquarters) in the United States, have been formed as a legal entity in the United States?”
What I find interesting is they wouldn’t tell me on the phone nor is it indicated on their website how they prove that you are homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered.
So, let me make sure I understand, they want the Boy Scouts of America to be forced to accept homosexual kids and adults; but yet, because I have come out as openly heterosexual, I can’t be certified by them as an LGBT business.
This is discrimination to the highest heavens. I am considering a lawsuit against them because I think the federal courts should force them to accept me and my lifestyle choices (despite them being a private organization). I have a right to join their organization. America should stand with me in my pursuit of chamber equality.
My God, this is the 21st century and yet a heterosexual still can’t join a homosexual group. I am hoping that I to, like Jason Collins (the homosexual NBA player), will get a call from President Obama. I to, hope that I can get saturated news coverage for a whole two days. I to hope Kobe Bryant, Bill Clinton, and Michelle Obama will give me a shout out on twitter.
I am brave and courageous for admitting that I like women and I think that all Americans who believe in equality should join with me for my civil rights. Where is the NAACP, the National Urban League, and the Congressional Black Caucus?
Do I not deserve dignity as much as homosexuals? I have lived my life in the shadows for far too long. Can you imagine living your whole life privately as a heterosexual? Just think of the trauma I have faced walking down the street and people not knowing if I were heterosexual or homosexual? No one should have to live their life like that. We are Americans and we are better than that.
So, I am asking Congress to launch an investigation to find out why no one is paying any attention to my coming out of the closet, why no media outlets are covering my declaration of my heterosexuality, and why homosexual groups refuse to allow me to join their organizations. How can we be the leader of the free world, but yet not give rights to heterosexuals? Our founding fathers must be rolling over in their graves.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223