All My Babies’ Mamas

          Bill Cosby is an American icon. In my opinion he is the most dominant African-American TV personality and arguably the most accomplished entertainer of any race for all time. cosby show He was a positive presence for African-Americans for decades on TV, starting with I-Spy in the Sixties, Fat Albert in the seventies, and the Cosby Show in the eighties and nineties.  Cosby’s shows and performances have won numerous awards and recognition worldwide bringing pride and joy to millions.  For Blacks, Cosby’s work and accomplishments have always been a deep reservoir of racial pride.

          Man, have we fallen since the end of Cosby’s reign. Now, coming to a cable station near you is the Oxygen network’s new reality show, “All My Babies Mamas,” staring rapper Shawty Lo.  Shawty Lo is a rapper from Georgia and the show will basically show him and his life dealing with his 10 kids from 11 different women! Wow. Forgive me while I pause for a moment because even though I first heard about this show a week ago I am still shocked to the point of speechlessness every time I think about it. Has it really come to this? Has the African-American family unit that helped us survive slavery and defeat Jim Crow disintegrated to this point?all-my-babies-mamas1

          I was in college when I began to notice a new phrase that was taking hold in Black vocabulary, “my baby’s mom” or “my baby’s father”.  These are terms that were used to replace wife or husband.  These terms are so prevalent in the Black community that I would be willing to have someone sit in a Black barber shop or beauty salon all day on a busy Saturday and pay them twenty dollars every time they heard someone refer to their wife or husband opposed to baby momma or baby daddy and I will have absolutely no fear of going broke.  With over 70% of Black children being born in single parent homes, the last thing we need is a show starring a popular rapper glorifying a shameful and harmful life style.  A show that will, of course, be watched in those very same homes that are over 70% single family.  And in those homes, the overwhelming majority of which are headed by single women, what will the message be to the boys and young men who live there from this show?

          Ironically it was Bill Cosby who received the most attention when he tried to sound the warning bell to the Black community and inspire us all to a call to action to take on the social challenges facing our community.  This of course was his famous “Dirty laundry” speech he gave in 2004 at a gala celebrating the 50 anniversary of the Brown versus the Board of Education Supreme Court decision.  In his speech Cosby called out Black America for not living up to what was fought for in the civil rights moment and that instead of blaming white America and racism for everything, we as a people need to look in a mirror and see that a majority of our wounds are self inflicted.  Cosby’s biggest issue that day was Black youth. He basically (and correctly) pointed out that far too many of them do not study, cannot speak proper English, use the ‘N’ word constantly, and wear their pants down below their butts.  Cosby of course was lambasted by every left-leaning, excuse-making, liberal pundits and poverty-pimps who could quickly make their way to a cosby by dysonmicrophone, blog post or Op-Ed.  Professor Michael Eric Dyson became a liberal super star by attacking Cosby on this topic; he even wrote a book.  Dyson’s point was that Cosby is out of touch and does not understand that what is going on with poor blacks really is the fault of white people.  Al Sharpton said he would not want Cosby’s remarks to take focus away from what he believes the majority in the country have done to the Black community.  Some folks even said Cosby should stick to selling Jell-O.  The pushback from the left was so loud and strong that Cosby’s message was lost.

So instead of shows like the Cosby Show that highlighted a two parent home of a successful Black family, we will have in its place Shawty Lo and his babies’ mommas.

What a shame!

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Time For Tax Credits for K-12 Education Expenses!

January begins a new legislative session on Beacon Hill in Massachusetts and across the country. The new legislature will be filing all kinds of new legislation in an attempt to handle the challenges of our day.  In the new session I encourage our elected representatives to continue to lead the way on education reform.

mass constitution

The Massachusetts Constitution, the oldest living constitution in the world, directs our state to “cherish the interests of literature and the sciences,” and to encourage “private societies and public institutions” for the promotion of education.  Our state enacted the first compulsory school attendance law in America in 1852, and is home to the first state Board of Education in the country.  Today, however, the ideal of a free, public education from kindergarten through grade 12 has begun to recede beyond the reach of many Massachusetts families.

Increasingly, public schools impose “activity fees” as the price that students must pay to fully participate in the life of their schools.  Many families pay for tutoring to supplement their children’s education where a school’s instruction has been inadequate or unsuited for their child’s particular needs.  Other families make arrangements to educate their children entirely at their own expense out of concern for safety, educational quality, or services that are better provided by a private provider.  In short, Massachusetts’ parents are increasingly being asked to shoulder a burden that, in better times, was borne by state and local governments through taxes.

educationIn recent years, parents have been asked to pay for their children’s education twice; once through taxes, and again on an “a la carte” basis for activities that had previously been provided without additional charge.  One solution is Interest-Deferred Education Accounts (IDEA).  IDEA accounts would enable Massachusetts parents and others to save for near and long-term educational costs by: (i) creating a deduction for contributions to an IDEA account, and (ii) exempting interest income and dividends on monies invested in IDEAs from taxation.

The principal features of the law that would create IDEA accounts are as follows:

++ An individual could initially set aside up to $2,500 per year for each beneficiary of an IDEA account.  This amount would be indexed for inflation, so that if educational costs rise the program would adjust itself without further legislation.

++ The donor need not be the parent of the beneficiary, thereby permitting grandparents, guardians and unrelated donors to create IDEA accounts.

++ An individual could establish any number of IDEA accounts, thus creating a vehicle to attract large-scale philanthropy in support of low-income students.

++ Students could establish their own IDEA accounts.

++ For taxpayers who are unable to take advantage of the IDEA account deductions because of low income, the bill would create a refundable tax credit for educational expenses.  Any refund must be deposited directly into an IDEA account and used only for educational expenses.

mass state houseAs our state government begins the process of putting out a budget, collecting revenue, funding health care, and all of its other responsibilities, it’s time for lawmakers to do whatever they can to empower individuals and families to make the decisions that will improve the quality of their lives.  Since no government could ever possibly know what is best for all of us individually, the more power we have to govern our lives the better off we will all be and the better off the state of our government institution will be.  Establishing IDEAs would be a step in that direction.

Where are the jobs for the Black Community?

            With all the talk this past week in Washington DC and around the country, concerning the fiscal cliff, and the danger to both our country’s economy as well as our personal economy if we were to go over that cliff,  I am left wondering why no one seems to notice or care that the economy in the African-American community went over the fiscal cliff a generation ago. And let’s be clear when I talk about people not noticing or caring, I am talking about the African- American community itself.  With African-American executives in the White House and the State House here in Massachusetts, both placed there with overwhelming Black support, one might hope that Massachusetts and this nation would finally make some progress towards closing the gap between black and white unemployment. 

            In good times and bad, the unemployment rate for blacks has historically been twice as high as it is for whites, and current conditions are no exception.  In May of this year the unemployment rate for white males over twenty stood at 8.4% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the rate for the comparable black population was 17%.   In 1910 Black males over 9 years of age saw employment at 71% compared to 51% for their white counterparts.  Things have steadily gone backwards ever since. 

            How is it that when racial discrimination was at its highest, Blacks saw some of their highest employment rates?  What changed?  Government intervention is what changed.  Starting in the 1930s with things like the Davis –Bacon Act which brought a minimum wage requirement to federally funded construction projects which resulting in the virtual disappearance of Black labor in the construction industry in favor of the higher skilled labor unions.   The 1930s also saw minimum wage requirements go into effect across a wide range of industries and similar declines in Black employment. 

            In the last few years we have seen The President and the Governor of Massachusetts support Project Labor Agreements on a wide scale.    A project labor agreement sets uniform terms between labor and contractors on a particular construction job—usually public–in exchange for “labor harmony.”  While “PLAs” sometimes contain encouraging words about open competition, at bottom they represent a trade-off: in exchange for an all-union job site, employers are protected against work stoppages by a no-strike clause. There are differences of opinion as to whether project labor agreements save money, but there is no groundswell of unemployed black men or minority contractors pushing to expand their use.  On the contrary, the National Black Chamber of Commerce and minority contractors and laborers across the country have recently taken firm stands against them.  No_PLAs_colorThe Philadelphia chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors objected last fall to a union-only PLA covering the $400 million expansion of Graterford Prison.  “The result,” wrote John Macklin, the group’s president, was a “virtual lockout” of local minority-owned firms, since 98% of black-owned construction companies there are non-union.  In San Francisco, an unprecedented labor-business coalition of black construction workers and contractors formed the Bay Area Black Builders in 2009 to fight the historical under-representation of minorities in the construction trades.   One of the group’s founding principles is “We oppose project labor agreements,” because “the higher incidence of union labor in the construction industry, the lower African American employment is.”  In the District of Columbia, the publicly-funded Washington Nationals Park was built with a PLA that excluded 95% of minority-owned contractors.  Promises that residents of the largely-black District would work half of all journeyman hours and fill all apprenticeships were broken at a cost in lost wages of $12,325,000. 

            So if PLAs treat minorities so unfairly, why are black politicians so eager to embrace them? 

            Simply put, low-income black workers and minority contractors don’tbarack and deval make the campaign contributions—in cash and in kind—that their higher-paid union counterparts do.  When doctors take the Hippocratic Oath, they swear first to do no harm to their patients.  There is no similar oath for politicians, however, whose guiding rule, according to the public choice school of thought, is self-preservation:  Answer first to the constituency that got you re-elected, not those who need your help most.  I say it is high time for our nation’s first African-American President and the Commonwealth’s first African- American Governor  to return the loyalty that the Black community has shown them and craft an economic plan for the black community that will result in job growth and sustainable prosperity.

The Danger of the Good Idea

The special operation soldiers in the military often talk about the fight against the “good idea fairy” in order to make their missions successful. In the military, the good idea fairy shows up whenever the high command or the planners get down into the weeds and try to improve the mission by having a plan for every possible situation the mission may encounter. On paper this appears to be a good and sensible thing to do. However what the men and women who have to carry out the mission will tell you is that the good idea fairy more often than not, will add two or three new problems in its effort to solve the one original problem.

In the book “No Easy Day: the Autobiography of a Navy SEAL”, by Mark Owen, the author discusses the Bin noeasydayLaden mission. Owen says the good idea fairy wanted to keep innocent bystanders from coming near the Bin Laden house while the SEALS were making their assault by having them turn one of Bin Laden’s cars from the house into a police car by placing a police light on top of it and stationing it on the corner of Bin Laden’s street. This idea created more problems than it was poised to solve. The SEAL team members asked some basic questions: who was going to push the car out to the street since no one would have the keys? Who would have time to push the car out since all the SEALS assumed they would be pretty busy in a fire fight? Wouldn’t it be a problem that there would be a flashing light highlighting their position? Did anyone know what color police lights in Pakistan are? When no satisfactory answer to these questions came up, the idea was dropped. In politics and government we are not as fortunate as the SEALS were with the police light; the good idea fairy often wins the day. Far too often our public policy and legislation goes for the simple fix or the idea that makes us feel good in the moment and the consequences are almost never thought through. We create additional problems, and the original goal is never achieved.

fiscalcliffFor example think about some of the big issues in the news these days. The fiscal cliff, according to the President and his allies and supporters–the big fix here is to have the wealthy pay more taxes or as the President calls it: their fair share. Going after the rich is a great vote getter but it does nothing to solve our very real serious fiscal problems. Our country spends more than it takes in and as everyone knows, this is not sustainable. The country could take every last dime from every rich person in America and it would barely be a drop in the bucket. More importantly it should be understood that higher taxes do not automatically mean increased revenue. In fact the data shows the exact opposite: in most times of higher tax rates in this country we actually get less revenue from the rich. It is when we cut tax rates that revenue from the wealthy increases. Why is this? Simply put, the rich, because they are rich, have more options.During higher tax rate times they put their money in tax shelters like municipal bonds and corporations and expand operations to countries with lower corporate tax rates, creating jobs and revenue for those countries. When the Coolidge, Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush 43 administrations got tax cuts in the very high tax rates guess what happened? The government increased revenue from people in the highest income brackets because those folks began to seek higher returns on investments than tax shelters tend to provide. This type of investing often leads to business expanding, which in turn means more jobs, and jobs are what this country desperately needs right now.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, telling the truth about taxes is not quite as good a rally point for votes as demonizing the rich is.

 

The GOP’s Growth Problem

By now we have heard all the talk and read all the facts the Republican party is a dying party it lacks support among minorities, young voters and single women and these groups handed President Obama, whom even many of his own supporters have said gave the nation an average to below average first term, an historic re-election victory. Exit poll after exit poll should voters from these groups just did not trust Republican nominee Mitt Romney or the GOP in general to be on their side. All of this is true and my party needs to fix this problem. However I want to state that I believe my party has an even bigger problem…… which is we can no keep losing the urban vote.

dangerwillrobinsonLike the robot from the old TV series “Lost in Space” who would shout out “Danger will Robinson Danger” whenever his young companion was in immediate peril. I too wish to shout out to my party, “Danger GOP danger!” In 2000 we lost the urban vote by 71%, 60% in 2004, 70% in 2008, and 69% in 2012. In Massachusetts mar key senate race Republican Scott Brown lost every one of the Commonwealth’s top 10 cities to his democratic opponent Liz Warren. Brown lost the race by 229,228 votes. Warren received 247,574 votes out of those top 10 cities alone. The suburbs as a voting bloc have powered the GOP engine for decades and have been largely responsible for our overall electoral success. In fact in 1952 republican stalwart Sen. Robert Taft famously said, “The Democratic Party will never win another national election until it solves the problem of the suburbs”. Well between strategy and circumstance the democrats have solved it. Obama won the suburbs in 2008 and although Romney won them back in 2012, he only won those 50 to 48 percent, not nearly enough. For example Romney did far better than John McCain in the “ big four Suburban counties” that surround Philadelphia even winning one of them. In fact it was probably the Romney campaign’s polling data from these counties that made them think the state was in play. However Romney despite this strong showing was trounced by the votes coming out of Philly. The city gave the Dems a margin around 465,000 votes. The burbs have become at best for the GOP swing voter territory and at worst some, especially, the older ones are trending towards the Democrats. Who have began to compete much more aggressively for suburban vote, all the while keeping an almost completely uncontested hold on our largest cities. And why is this a long term problem for the party? Well we now know that after years of decline our cities are growing faster than our suburbs and going hand in hand with the reverse in declining population is a reverse in low voter participation.

There was a time not that long ago when the voting population of our major cities were uninspired. White flight had taken its toll, upwardly mobile traditional white families who had been the largest voting demographic were gone. Leaving behind a minority population who’s needs, in any realistic and honest analysis were routinely suppressed for what was thought to be the benefit of those very same families who fled the city for the suburbs, a white population many of whom could not afford to leave and in many cases felling abandoned, and new immigrants who like all immigrants built insular communities. Many folks in these groups did not feel a sense of belonging or ownership to the cities that they lived in and lower voter participation compared to the suburban counterparts was on result. But things have changed, as time as gone on the city voter as grown to feel more and more ownership and more importantly more responsibility for their cities. The groups that remind in the city after white flight have developed coalitions with the gay community, young professionals, and young families around quality of life issues and they are revitalizing the energy in our cities and as a result voter participation is on the rise in our urban centers.

gopIf the GOP does not quickly develop a message for these voters and a strategy to compete for their votes we will be the party that is in danger of never winning another national election until we solve our big city problem. The GOP needs to look at cities the same way the wildcatters looked at empty fields in Texas, there’s oil under the ground and if we can drill it out we will prosper. There are votes in the cities lots of votes if the GOP can earn those votes the party and the country will prosper.

 

Proud to be a Black Republican

How did we get to the point where in many parts of the Black community and some white, that if you are Black and a Republican you cannot possibly be a real black person, a down brotha or a true sista?  You are automatically an Uncle Tom, Aunt Jane, Oreo cookie, wanna be; in other words a sell out!

stacey dashLook what happened to Stacey Dash this past election cycle when she had the audacity to support Mitt Romney over President Obama.  She was called a trader to her race, was told the Blacks wanted to trade her to whites in exchange for Bill Clinton.  ESPN sports reporter Rob Parker was suspended by ESPN for two weeks for questioning if Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins celebrated sensational rookie quarterback, was a “down brother.”  Part of Parker’s evidence that he might not be was that he heard Griffin might be a Republican.  Condoleeza Rice has never gotten credit for being the trail-blazer that she is. Where is her lifetime achievement award from the NAACP?  Instead this supremely accomplished woman was called a house slave by Harry Belafonte and accidentally Black by Professor Michael Eric Dyson.  Someone even said she needed to be sent to an inner-city racial re-education camp.   The irony of Condi Rice’s “Blackness” being questioned can be seen in her personal history.  She was raised under Jim Crow in Birmingham, Alabama were she suffered almost daily indignities. It was her church that was infamously bombed by the KKK killing four of her playmates.   It was, after all, the Democratic political establishment that created this atmosphere in the first place, and how is it that Condi became a Republican?  That same Democratic establishment refused to allow her father to register to vote but a Republican registrar was more than happy to assist him in doing so.

A few years back I ran for office in my hometown where I am a bit of a legacy: my father had been a state representative and community activist in the 70s before he passed away and as it so happens, he was a Democrat.  I am, obviously, a Republican.  Unfortunately there were many people in the black community who would openly go around talking about how my father must be turning over in his grave because I happen to be a Republican.  Apparently he would not be proud of me giving back to my community and dedicating myself to public service.

So why the vicious vitriol, why all the name calling and not a fight on substance and policy?  Could it be that when you actually stack the two parties side by side and examine their history and policy the Democrats do not come out looking all that good?  Republicans fought to end slavery and preserve the constitution; democrats were pro slavery to the point that they were willing to tear the country apart.  Republicans designed, fought for and implemented the 13th ,14th, and 15th amendments to the constitution.  Democrats in Congress from both the North and South vote against them.  In the case of the 14th  Amendment, the Dems voted unanimously against it.  The Democrats created and enforced segregation and the black codes and blocked every major piece of federal legislation to remedy those things.  Woodrow Wilson, Democratic President from New Jersey screened the movie “The  Birth of a Nation”–the famous racist epic that portrayed the Ku Klux Klan as virtuous warriors saving the world from evil, ignorant ex-slaves at the white house.  Wilson called the movie, “terribly true….like writing history with lighting”.

When the civil rights movement heated up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the main blocking force were southern Democrats.  It was the Republican Party that time and again provided civil rights lobbyists with their base of support.   Republican Earl Warren as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court ushered in the era of the court standing up for civil rights.  Dwight Eisenhower hired the first African-American to be an advisor to the President. The Republican Party nominated Edward Brooke to be Massachusetts Attorney General in 1962 and made him a US Senator in 1966 which is 44 years before Democrats in Massachusetts nominated an African-American for any state-wide office, Richard Nixon created affirmative action, and George W. Bush appointed the first and 2nd African-American Secretary of State.

Reasonable people can disagree and debate policy and politics. In America, we are free to fight for our own ideals.  No one should have to have their ethnicity and loyalty to one’s own race questioned for doing just that.  I am a proud African-American and I am proud to be a member of the Republican Party, as any African-American should be!