- Created on 01 May 2013
Suppose one of the key committees in Congress scheduled a hearing on one of the country’s most debilitating economic problems – the long-term unemployment that’s ensnared millions – and none of the committee members showed up?
That’s almost what happened last week when the Joint Economic Committee’s April 24 hearing opened with just one of its members, Senator Amy Klobuchar, (D-Minn), the vice chair, in attendance. At various times later, three of the committee’s eight other Democrats – Sen. Christopher Murphy, of Connecticut; Rep. John Delaney, of Maryland, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, also of Maryland – showed up. None of its nine Republican members did.
Of course, it’s standard on Capitol Hill for committee members to miss congressional hearings. Their aides have briefed them on the issues and testimony of the witnesses beforehand; and their time that day may appropriately be better spent meeting with constituents, lobbyists, donors, other politicos, or even another congressional committee that had scheduled a conflicting hearing.
Nonetheless, the near-completely no-show hearing acquired a powerful symbolism once a National Journal reporter who was there tweeted a photo of the long, curving impressive-looking dais of mostly empty chairs.
It made the visual points that a voluminous and growing file of research has been cataloging since the Great Recession peaked and the economy began to recover four years ago. First, the recovery has moved too slowly to pare the number of the long-term jobless – those out of work for six months or longer – from what continue to be unprecedented levels. That failure has produced a growing fear that many Americans in this predicament – now numbering 4.6 million people – may never find jobs again.
In turn, that has raised the prospect that today’s long-term unemployed are becoming a large, permanent out-of-work class whose joblessness will undermine the nation’s economic productivity and whose need for financial help will not only exert a tremendous drain on the government’s treasury and private-sector coffers alike but also contribute to Americans’ growing pessimism about their own and the country’s economic fairness and political leadership.
And, finally, and most damaging, the tweet powerfully suggested that the Congress just doesn’t care about the long-term unemployed.
The symbolism became even more potent the following two days when the Senate and the House hurriedly approved, and the president hurriedly signed, legislation that forestalled any possibility the air traffic control system would be disrupted by sequester-driven budget reductions. Critics of the action contrasted Congress’ quick reaction to complaints from the business sector about airport delays with its studied ignoring pleas to show equal mercy to those who depend on government social programs – such as the long-term unemployed.
Keith Hall, one of the congressional committee’s witnesses, succinctly described some of the alarming statistics used to describe the long-term unemployment crisis. Hall, a former head of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, now directs a research center at George Mason University.
Although the number of long-term unemployed has fallen from its peak above 6 million four years ago, it remains the largest number of long-term unemployed America has endured at any one time since the Great Depression of the 1930s. More worrisome, two-thirds of this group has been jobless for more than a year.
It’s widely accepted that, generally speaking, the longer individuals are jobless, the more their connections to viable job networks will fade and advances in technology will outpace their skills. That belief is a major reason employers, as numerous studies show, are loath to hire unemployed workers who’ve been jobless for even just six months. That reasoning means that in today’s economy a great majority of the long-term unemployed have almost no chance of finding another job.
The Joint Committee’s own report suggests recommendations, which are similar to those of many economists and other observers. Governments at the local and state as well as the federal level must forge policies that promote economic growth and encourage private employers to hire more people. Governments also must undertake new projects, such as rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, that would enable them to hire more of the unemployed. The public and private sectors must “modernize” the community college system so that those institutions can help retrain older workers and prepare new ones to meet today’s employment requirements.
It will come as no surprise that Black American (and Hispanic-American) workers are disproportionately likely to be among the long-term unemployed and the very-long-term unemployed. That grim reality underscores the raft of statistics that show that, in fact, black Americans have been beset by a crisis of high mass unemployment and long-term unemployment for more than four decades. That crisis sharply divided African-American society into an “opportunity sector” and a “crisis-ridden sector.”
For years those scholars and activists who argued that this was not a matter of Black inferiority but of economic shifts in the labor market and persisting racial discrimination, were largely ignored. I wonder: Now that the crisis of mass long-term unemployment has crossed the color line, will the larger American society take the same stance?
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.
- Created on 30 April 2013
I was on “Washington Watch with Roland Martin” last week. This is a weekly TV show that deals with Black political issues, among other things. The roundtable discussion was very lively, but I was amazed at my fellow panelists’ response to something I said.
Americans somehow have this strange notion that all discrimination is bad. But it isn’t. We discriminate every day. You choose one restaurant over another; you watch one TV show versus another; you date skinny girls and not heavy girls.
As a matter of fact, some discrimination is quite healthy. If you know drug dealers sell their drugs in certain neighborhoods, why would you go there if you have no interest in buying drugs? If you are allergic to smoke, why would you go to a bar that allows smoking? If certain countries are more likely to kidnap an American tourist, why would you go there if you are an American?
I think most reasonable people would agree that this type of discrimination is good and healthy. Similarly, our immigration policy should have a certain level of discrimination built into the policy. I was totally surprised that my fellow panelists disagreed. They seemed to be in favor of an open borders approach to immigration. The open borders crowd basically believes that anyone who wants to come to America has a right to come here if they follow the rules.
I find this view very idiotic. If you are not an American citizen, then you have absolutely no basis for the assertion of any right. Post 911, at a minimum, our immigration policy should discriminate based on country of origin. We know that certain countries are a hotbed for producing terrorist: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Chechnya, etc. So, why would our immigration policy even allow people from those countries to come to the U.S. for any reason, let alone to get a green card or citizenship?
Is this discrimination? You betcha —it’s the good kind of discrimination. Just as you can have good and bad cholesterol, the same applies to discrimination. What we call affirmative action is called “positive discrimination” in France.
You don’t see terrorists being trained in Australia, the Seychelles, or Trinidad & Tobago, so therefore there should be less concern about immigrants from these countries. Is this not reasonable?
American visas, green cards and citizenship are not enshrined rights, but are privileges. No one has a right to enter into our country and we don’t need to justify our requirements for admittance into the U.S.
I am sure my fellow panelists would agree that an 80-year old-woman should not have to go through secondary screening at the airport before she gets on an airplane. Why? Because she is very unlikely to have a bomb or other weapon on her body. Is this not profiling? How many 80 year old female terrorists have you read about? Exactly my point.
But these same panelists took issue with me for saying that America should deny entry and student visas for people from certain countries. Is it discriminatory? Yes. Is it appropriate and reasonable? Yes.
Does that mean every person from a country known to produce terrorists is a terrorist themselves? Of course not, but that is not the overriding issue in my decision to deny them entry into the U.S. I am sure there are many good people from countries that are known for producing terrorists; but I am not willing to take a chance, just for the sake of making Americans feel good.
If you are the parent of a young boy, would you leave him alone with a Catholic priest? I wouldn’t. And most of you wouldn’t, either. I would venture to think that most Catholic priests are good people, but I am not willing to sacrifice my son’s safety to prove a point.
The two brothers from Chechnya who committed the bombings in Boston should have never been allowed in the U.S. Is this an indictment of all people from Chechnya? No. It simply means that the U.S. is exercising its sovereignty to determine who is admitted to its shores. This is a very reasonable and smart approach to our immigration policy. To do anything else is a reckless disregard for the future and safety of our country.
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.
- Created on 30 April 2013
Ask anyone you know and you’ll find most Americans don’t see the validity of the issue of reparations for Blacks and don’t connect the dots to see how the injustice of the past shapes everyday life in America. The father of America’s contemporary reparations movement was Ray Jenkins, who died in 2009.
In the 1950s, Jenkins earned the name “Reparations Ray” for speaking around Detroit about “the debt” America owed Blacks “for enslavement of their ancestors.” Jenkins found attentive audiences, but reparations never really has taken hold and has been ridiculed as loud in the ghettos as they are among Whites in suburbia.
Since “Reparations Ray” died, octogenarian Robert L. Brock, an attorney and president of the “Self Determination Committee” has become the face of the movement. A legend among reparations activists, Brock first filed a reparations class action suit in 1956. His Ashton vs. Lynn Park case went to the Supreme Court. Brock says, “The wealth of America is our legal property. But we must make our legal claims to get money.”
By 1965, Brock was demanding $500,000 for “each descendant of a slave of African ancestry.” “Claim What’s Yours!!! Find Out How to Make Your Legal Claim” was a banner headline across the pages of Black newspapers during the 1980s and 1990s. The ads were placed and paid for by Brock. Many of the ads procalimed: “Black People in United States have been wondering what they need to do to get paid for the ‘forty (40) Acres’ and ‘a mule’ they never received. Well, it is easier than you think. You must: (1) File a Claim for it (2) To do this, send your name and address, along with $50.00.”
Primarily through Black media and networks, Brock’s campaign produced more than 500,000 filed claims. His activities garnered him the ire of the government and majority media innuendos that he was advocating “tax rebates” for slave descendants. According to Brock, his procedure required slave descendants to 1) get a claim form, 2) fill it out, 3) get it notarized, 4) return it to Brock with $50 for processing and filing with the United Nations and 5) wait to hear back.
Undeterred, Brock worked with the late Johnnie L. Cochran and his reparations for slavery lawsuit against the United States as well as with Randall Robinson on his pursuit of “The Debt.” Brock says “a debt is owed Blacks for the centuries of unpaid slave labor that built America’s early economy and money from discriminatory wage and employment patterns Blacks have been subjected to since emancipation.” He chides Blacks in America for “damping down discussions about reparations during the presidency of a Black man.”
Before being confined by health problems, Brock was holding meetings across America supporting Congressman John Conyers’ H.R. 40 Bill “to form a Commission to Study Reparations for African-Americans.” For almost two decades Brock spoke at forums with Conyers endorsing the concept of a study of reparations for Blacks.
Since becoming House Judiciary Committee chair in 1989 and its ranking member since Republicans gained control of the chamber, Conyers was celebrated as he made a yearly ritual of “submitting” bill H.R. 40 in Congress. Detroit Congressman Conyers perpetrated a 25-year political charade when he asserted that he was submitting reparations legislation every year, but he “couldn’t get it out of committee.” Surprisingly, Conyers now says reparations are “too controversial to pursue at this time.”
Are all Black Americans of the same mindset as Conyers? Have conversations regarding rectifying economic injustices done to Blacks completely died? The vestiges of slavery and segregation continue for Blacks. Yet, the first Black to head the House Judiciary Committee now says reparations are “too controversial to pursue.” What’s going on when Blacks hold high positions and offices that the level of discussion about the absence of wealth, work, educational, and economic equity among them is still muted?
Brock says, “The time is ripe to move the reparations movement to the top of the American agenda.” What say you?
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.
- Created on 30 April 2013
“No more hurting people. Peace.” - Eight-year-old Martin Richard, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing
Acts of terror like the ones committed in Boston are reprehensible and without moral or logical explanation. They rock us to our core. They also unite us in common purpose. Victims and their families seem to become our own. We want to ease their pain. We want to do something to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Our togetherness as a nation is often most evident when something happens with the intent of breaking us.
Nearly 12 years after the events of 9-11-2001, terrorism in our homeland still seems a nearly impossible reality, one that none of us want to accept. Still, communities across America are terrorized each day. But rarely do these victims and their families receive national media attention, or better yet, our collective attention. Every year, 100,000 people are shot or killed with a gun in America. Every day, these acts of terror are carried out in homes, on playgrounds, schoolyards, neighborhood streets, even in houses of worship – turning spaces that should represent peace and sanctuary into places that elicit danger and fear.
Two days after the Boston Marathon bombing, the United States Senate had an opportunity to act to curb another kind of terror facing our nation by taking modest steps to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Yet, it voted down a sensible gun background check bill. Never mind that 90 percent of Americans and 74 percent of National Rifle Association (NRA) members support universal background checks. It didn’t even matter that a majority of senators (54-46) actually voted in favor of the bill. Because of the Senate’s 60-vote majority rule, along with the distortions and political threats from NRA leaders, the bill went down in defeat. President Obama called it “a shameful day in Washington.” Former Congresswoman and gun violence survivor, Gabrielle Giffords added, “I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep our children safe.”
We share that determination. Whether in Newtown or scores of other communities across the nation, one point is clear: guns in the wrong hands can be weapons of destruction as deadly as a terrorist bomb. Where, we wonder, is the unified purpose in Congress to work towards gun safety to address the reign of terror devastating so many of our neighborhoods?
Let’s be clear: This issue is not about gun confiscation, nor is it an attack on anyone’s rights. We know that this step is not a cure-all for the plague of gun violence in America. But, it is at least a first step towards doing all we can to ensure the safety of our citizens.
Boston and its citizens deserve all of the support and attention they have received in the wake of this horrific tragedy. I just hope that we can elevate our sense of unity, urgency and purpose to do what is right for the millions of Americans whose lives have been forever changed by gun violence. Let’s not forget, in addition to killing with homemade bombs, the Boston terrorists also used guns in killing M.I.T. police officer Sean Collier, and seriously wounding Massachusetts Bay transit officer, Richard H. Donohue. As we pray for the dead, the wounded survivors and their loved ones, we urge the nation to unite against terror – including gun violence – everywhere.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.
- Created on 29 April 2013
It baffles my mind. There are threats and actual terror hits happening all over the world and we are acting in a very laissez-faire manner. Two homemade bombs exploded right in the middle of the great Boston Marathon, causing mass destruction and the death of innocent Americans. What caused this was an inappropriate protocol by our highest ranking security agencies. It reminded us of 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. It didn’t have to be.
An entire family from Chechnya comes over to our land and declares asylum. We immediately accept them and give them refugee status. Some of them go on welfare, get scholarships to some of our finest schools and start living the American Dream. Some would return to their homeland and others would spread out along the East Coast. Two in Boston turn bad. One gets a domestic abuse charge and the other is rumored to have been in the pot business. Russia informs the FBI that the older brother is an Islamic radical. We do a cursory review and decide not to follow up. This brother is on welfare but somehow owns a Mercedes Benz. Then he takes a 6-month trip to Russia. He lands in Moscow and travels to terrorist areas before returning to Boston. The FBI doesn’t know that he left the country and then returned. Homeland Security noted that he left but didn’t detect his return. The tragedy in Boston happens and we all know it could have been prevented. We don’t have a plan!
It is so similar to the Benghazi Embassy murders. They kept pleading for more security and the State Department not only denied an increase, but started to decrease the security. Al Qaeda was all around and they eventually attacked our personnel. What’s worse is that the White House and State Department has attempted to cover it up. Delays, lies and deception were their response to this horror. I’m glad that Congress is standing its ground and will not stop until the truth is told. It is time to get an anti-terrorism plan. Please consider the following.
Terrorism in Nigeria has hit a new high. Remember the Christmas Day terrorist from Nigeria? Now Nigeria has two serious Al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups. Boko Haram is killing citizens in an ever increasing manner. No Christian is safe. The other group is called Ansaru, which specializes in kidnapping foreigners and then executing them. They have vowed to kill anyone friendly to Israel.
Libya remains unsafe. The French Embassy was recently bombed It is confirmed that the Al Qaeda faction there possesses thousands of weapons and is distributing them to their factions in Mali, Niger, Syria and other places where there is serious conflict. Our denial of Al Qaeda in Libya is going to cost us via deadly acts of terror. While we hold a “blind eye,” evil is on its way.
President Obama said that if Syria uses chemical weapons on its rebels that would amount to a “red line.” He promises fierce action if the Syrian government goes that way. Well, Israel has confirmed that the government has indeed used chemical weapons on several occasions. Still, we do not move to stop the madness going on around the world or at home. The Syrian government called Obama’s bluff.
By contrast, the Canadian government has just prevented an act of mass destruction. Two Al Qaeda terrorists were planning to blow up a bridge near Toronto when a train carrying New York tourists would be crossing it. The two were being funded and directed by a wing of Al Qaeda based in Iran. The Canadians have their act together and perhaps we can learn from them. Also, it had been believed by our government that there was no Al Qaeda in Iran. We blew it!
There are 75,000 Muslims migrating to the United State each year on student visas. Twenty percent (15,000) of them never go to a classroom. That’s 15,000 per year that are wandering throughout America and we have no clue what their intentions are. There is likely to be some with ill intentions, which makes us at an extreme level of risk. It is becoming very scary because we aren’t prepared or taking enough preventative measures.
President Obama has an affinity for Islamic people. Both his father and step-father were Islamic and he bears an Islamic name. I believe this blinds his thinking. More terrorists are Islamic or Muslim than any other religion. His soft peddling and denial are preventing him from being more aggressive and resolute. The book Art of War stresses that you must recognize the true enemy. Not only do we not recognize the true enemy; we aren’t even looking.
We are going to get through this challenge. The sooner we start dealing with the issue directly, the less lives will be lost.