Op-ed submission by Project 21
Black History Month is an ideal time to measure progress. This year is especially appropriate as we embark on a new decade.
Some indicators of progress are how blacks are catching up with their white counterparts with regard to income, education and political participation. In the latter two categories, reports say blacks made marginal progress. But we have not yet really progressed on equalizing incomes. Some might argue this income disparity is of overwhelming importance and must be rectified immediately. They may contend it directly affects education and other opportunities.
Our nation’s unfortunate history of discrimination has residual effects that remain today. There are also post-civil rights era problems related to entitlements that breed a reliance on government. We can acknowledge these problems, but we must not dwell on them. To keep from spending the next 90 years debating reasons for this income disparity, let’s focus on what can be done to increase black earnings. Solutions include encouraging more blacks to train in the financial, mathematical and scientific fields. Entrepreneurship is also ideal – starting one’s own business to actually become the employer.
Classroom education alone is not sufficient to boost income levels. There are too many blacks with doctoral degrees who lack jobs or have jobs that earn less than one might expect. Put simply, their degrees are not in growing or lucrative fields.
Rather than focusing on great black scholars or heroes this Black History Month, why not focus more on black Americans who achieved financial success and how they did it? Think about BET founder Robert Johnson or the late venture capitalist Reginald Lewis. Americans earning the most money do not necessarily have a multitude of advanced diplomas adorning their walls. Instead, they are thinkers who bring about new wealth-generating ideas. They are go-getters with the drive and ambition who are willing to take the risks to get ahead.
This is not to say the most successful people aren’t educated. They can have such degrees, but their smarts aren’t always obtained in school. Think about how many university professors are very wealthy. Not many. What professors can do successfully is impart wisdom upon others. They can school someone about becoming a doctor or a lawyer or to understand the world of business. But what then?
It all comes down to how someone applies his talents. Anyone can do virtually anything when given the proper training. Oprah Winfrey, for example, was a television reporter who used her ambition and talents to become a media mogul. She did not enter her profession with a Harvard MBA. Black Americans must understand that anyone can do almost anything – from plumbing to nuclear physics. There’s little holding most Americans back if they are given the proper training and have the ambition to succeed.
Again, it’s not always education as much as it is training. Put a young mind that is willing to learn in the proper position, and that young mind will master the job. We can’t be fooled that one must first obtain a advanced degree to be a success. Those who know will tell you that, the first day on the job, even the newly-minted Ph.D. may be told by an experienced supervisor to “forget everything that you learned at the university.”
Black History Month should help to identify wealthy and successful black Americans. People should learn how they became wealthy and commit themselves to replicating that model. If we use self-study, mentoring and commit ourselves by supporting each other (especially black businesses), then we can certainly produce considerably more wealthy black Americans. In turn, those wealthy blacks can help other blacks become wealthy because “anyone can do anything”.
B.B. Robinson, Ph.D. is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21. You can visit his website at http://www.blackeconomics.org/
Now the latest hype about the global economic situation involves the debate about what has caused it rather than what is actually taking place. Working class people must exercise some critical thinking, because this ruse intends to keep them in the dark. Since black folks are linked into the global economy just like anybody else, we need to get our heads out of the soaps and churches and anywhere else that does not help us gain clarity and substance on this issue.
The economists are inventing red herrings like the “global savings glut”. This is nonsense. Who believes that money can be earned thru saving? In terms of working class folks, it makes little sense to save, since inflation eats up savings. The annual 3% inflation rate results in only a 1% yearly savings on your money, if banked. Outside of the industrialized countries, there is no return because inflation is much steeper. If you are a middle class person trying to save, your higher education is not paying off.
Not only that, but the Savings & Loans crisis of the Eighties and Nineties definitely scared the US public away from savings and stampeded them towards more sophisticated types of swindles, such as retirement plans based upon 401k and KEOGHs. Just because an activity is approved by Congress, and filled with volumes of small type that only a lawyer can understand, does not make it honest. No black worker has any business playing the stock market without knowing the dollar value of one point on the DJIA or having $250k to throw away in a money-manager fund. ‘Investment’ means only fools leverage all their assets on a gamble.
So if the economists were discussing stock-based retirement funds as a form of savings, consider that misinformation. The New York Review of Books and PEN World Voices presented a symposium on the world economic crisis at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on April 30. At that time, the idea was proposed that savings had driven down interests rates when, in fact, the Fed and the European Common Bank (ECB) themselves dictate interest rates. Not only that, North America and Europe in no way represent the globe.
It is important to repudiate any notion which dismisses the theory that the ruling class manipulated the financial system for their own benefit. The theory proposed by the symposium flies in the face of every scandal from Enron to Bernie Madoff. It contradicts the events which demanded welfare (bail outs?) for the banks.
Folks must not be duped by the highly esteemed panelists at that event, former senator Bill Bradley, Niall Ferguson, Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini, George Soros, and Robin Wells, and Jeff Madrick as moderator. Not one of them has an analysis which serves the interests of the millions of people who form the basis of the US domestic economy; not one of them even speaks the language of every day people.
When the banks pressed the Fed to raise interest rates, this became the primary trigger for the financial meltdown. While most folks think of the banks as finance institutions, the bank is a tool for making money. It is an instrument for concentrating money. Concentrated money becomes capital. Working class people lack capital. They sell their labor for a wage. Capitalists do not earn wages. They make money not thru labor or savings but by skimming value from what labor produces.
If ten laborers in a gold mine work together to extract one ton of gold daily which has a value of $900 per ounce, not one of them makes $900 per day, or even half of that. Even if their combined labor only extracts ten pounds of gold a day, who gets the money? The workers do not earn enuf to save. The value of the gold gets concentrated at the top of the chain, by people who trade paper with a value printed upon it, in exchange for the real value that has been extracted from the mine. This practice prevails thru out the bloodsucking capitalist system, where a few people live exorbitantly upon the backs of five billion working people worldwide.
This paper money has a value assigned to it. This value can be manipulated easier than anything else. After all, the paper has no real value! Today, one dollar may be as strong as yesterday’s ten dollar bill; tomorrow, that same one dollar note may be devalued so that it is only worth five cents. Entire societies remain at risk as a worker in this type of system.
So the monies the panelists claimed were tied up in savings actually were being poured into a volatile market, the stock market, another place ruled by paper tigers. Over the last thirty years, real wages failed to keep pace with inflation and the cost of living. Working people lacked the ability to save. However, amid the fears that Social Security would dry up before they could retire, they put a few hard earned extra dollars into stock-based retirement funds. Human relations managers and other company officials pulled their workers off assembly lines to sell them pyramid and ponzi schemes called a KEOGH or IRA or 401k Plan. These talks sounded something like the average MLM hustle, where the guy at the top of the chain makes all the money and the suckers who bought into it are left holding the bag. That is precisely what happened in instances such as MCI-Worldcom, Tyco, Enron, and others all the way thru the Madoff scandal. These were all multi-billion dollar scams.
Now, this symposium happened in April. Do not forget, several weeks earlier, pretty much the same crew had called for the goverrnment to nationalize the banks. Their analysis continues shifting, while the causes for this period of voodoo economics involve financial manipulation, pure and simple. Prior to the curveball idea about interest rates being dictated by savings, the pundits said that the financial crunch happened because people were living on debt, another shattered theory.
People were indeed living on debt, yet that is not the reason for the crisis. People were forced to live on debt because wages did not keep pace with rising costs. Remember the old adage: “When creditors enforce collections, that results in market corrections.” So for folks living in debt, their very existence has become manipulated by those who control wages and prices. Stay tuned to the media, because within the next few weeks they will cook up a new rationale for the problems they continue heaping on the backs of poor and working people.
The Foul Legacy of Profit-Making
Healthcare is one of the most important issues in US political and social culture. Tho a catastrophic condition will not likely strike most individuals during their working lives, for those who themselves or family members have crucial health problems the matter of healthcare poses a concern.
Hospitals and nursing homes practices often leave many in the lurch. Profit making for healthcare institutions means that the bottom line means more than the old adage, “The customer is always right.” In this industry, people’s bodies have become commodities, and even if the quality of service is high, that nearly always depends on level of insurance as well as the condition for which they receive treatment.
For the most part, hospital workers remain overworked and underpaid. Short-staffing means that the institutions have nurses and aids serving more beds than is optimal. In some cases, the hospitals and nursing homes may even take more drastic measures.
In Pittsburgh, workers at two different healthcare systems recently filed lawsuits with the Department of Labor because they did not get paid for hours they worked. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS) must appear in court as defendants of cases where they cheated workers out of pay:
“Court documents reveal employees of the hospitals deducted half-hour meal breaks out of their paychecks even if they worked through their meal times. The legal action filed also alleges employees were not paid for work performed before and after scheduled shifts and not paid for required training. Any employer who fails to pay employees for hours worked and does not allow for breaks as required by federal guidelines is in violation of U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) http://www.dol.gov wage laws. On Monday, a federal lawsuit for two former Pittsburgh Mercy Health System nurses was filed by their employment attorneys. The documents filed in court state the nurses were not paid for training and work they performed during meal breaks over a three-year period.” (Justice News Flash Seo Company)
In a country where doctors typically graduate from medical $100,000 in debt, the finance world dominates even in education and medicine. Pressure to make high salaries and establish a practice ties them into a complex web filled with medical suppliers, pharmaceuticals, keeping apace with scientific advances, and their relationships with employers, patients and staff. Compare this with statistics that say doctors live an average of 55 years; profit making does not afford them time to care for their own health and fulfillment.
If one of the wealthiest segments of the population cannot find time to care for its own health, health professionals themselves, what does this say for the rest of us?
Even tho the average worker does not understand how the system of capitalism bases itself on their oppression and exploitation, nevertheless the level of dissatisfaction with the capitalist system continues to mount. With the present economic meltdown weighing heavily upon workers, the middle class and business, no workable alternatives for “weaning” people off of capitalism have become popular. People talk about weaning this country away from foreign oil, however the discussion about the evil of capitalism have yet to become serious.
For this discussion to become serious, the Left has to be courageous. Black Power advocates have to sharpen their line and push the Left. We must take on this role since the problems in our communities are sharper and deeper than in the white community. Imperialist exploitation and oppression concentrates on colonized peoples.
When the wealthiest sectors of the communities receive government giveaways, we have to push the Reparations question. When we see government merging with corporate finance institutions, we must form dual and competing political power. When the unemployment lines swell at the rate of 50,000 lost jobs per month, the time for shutting down capitalism thru strikes and plant takeovers is overdue.
What effective agitational components can we bring to unions and workers, to the churches and masjids, to community centers, small businesses and athletic associations? These are questions begging to be answered, if only the Left will first ask them. All power to the people, and Black Power to the Black Community!
Obama Policy: Imperialism thru Democracy
Black workers, we who sell our labor to make a living, travail under special circumstances in capitalist America. We have the highest rates of unemployment, imprisonment, chronic health issues. On the other hand, we have the lowest rates for home ownership, capital formation, retirement security, and higher education.
The current economic crisis is marked by increasing unemployment, to the tune of 50,000 jobs lost per month. The government giveaway to the financial giants amounts to plus $1.5 trillion over the last three years. This includes “massive liquidity injections” to Wall Street bankers and the European Central Bank since 2006.
Now with all this money floating around, no mention of reparations can be made. No mention of helping the African community get back on its feet. The goliath of Imperialism has stomped the heart out of niggers thru out this country.
Just one point of clarity; before there were African slaves in the Americas, before colonialism and Imperialism, niggers never existed. A nigger is a slave who hopes for a peaceful coexistence within the Imperialist, racist system. If you go the extra mile to justify the racist cause like, maybe, Stanley Crouch or Tarik Nelson, then you’re a bootlicking nigger.
Your Economic Stimulus Plan
Now that March Madness is almost over, the bracketologists will have to wait nearly another year to put their theories and guesswork to the test. However, the school of bracketology must be expanded. It can be applied to any number of categories where guesswork and theories might be the order of the day. So I am going to attempt a “bracketology” of the economic stimulus plan, which will breakdown exactly who gets what and for how much most folks will sell out before we get down to the “final four”.
Our brackets should look something like the following:
In this sport, $800 billion to $1 trillion in cold, hard government cash is at stake. Also at stake is Social Security, social programs and a host of social services. Now this game is played according very strict rules. First, no limit exists as to the number of players a team can enter into the game. For instance, the workers have 130 million members, and they can all participate. This seems to give them an enormous advantage.
Don’t forget the second rule. When the whistle starts, teams must start lobbying. You lobby by cornering a congressman or senator and getting your point across on behalf of your team. In this game, billions of dollars are at stake. So not only must your team mates corner as many representatives as possible, they also should wine and dine them, preferably at ritzy strip bars.
Of course, you can do your own “bracketology” and become your own expert. Follow the money! Find out who will be the losers and winners in this great sport, where so many folks don’t even kno they are players! Are you a player? Find out in your next rebate check, or see if you have an increase in your food stamps like I got. Yeeaay! Party, like it’s 1999.
Breaking down the concentrated class struggle
Right now US society needs a clear understanding of the difference between socialism and fascism because a war is being waged against working class people. Americans fail to understand the class basis of the State. They also have a difficulty in making comparative analyses between the US brand of bourgeois democracy and other types. Imperialism and fascism are not such very different systems. US society presently faces a neo-fascist “dictatorship”.
First of all, socialism is a revolutionary social system. It is born out of revolt, uprisings and insurrection. It is a bottom up society and a system created to wither away; that is, socialism is not a society which has a long-term future. It will be transformed into a society where revolutions, uprisings and insurrections are unnecessary.
Socialism, like the society which must succeed it, will transform the means of distribution so that all the resources of society will be available to its members. The State must operate as the primary instrument for socialized distribution of resources — to contrast with capitalist privatization of collectively produced wealth — but not as the sole force for this activity.
Socialist democracy means working class democracy. This is the logic of democratic struggle. Once the laboring masses eradicate the degenerate notion of racist supremacy, the democratic political process must take on a more principled character. America thrives on the practice of racist supremacy, pure and simple.
Never has this been more apparent than the racist resurgence rising to challenge President Obama’s tenure in office. From Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio voicing his admiration for the Ku Klux Klan to the police summarily executing Oscar Grant on a BART station platform, these examples of racist reaction raising its hydra head have to meet forceful, unbreaking resistance from our community.
Racism shapes the culture of the colonizer society, and deforms the culture of the oppressed. It is, in reality, an expression of class warfare. As such, racism designates one nationality as a master race and the others as servants or slave races, a so-called underclass. These ideas, inculcated thru out colonialism, set the standards for interactions between workers of different nationalities. Workers from the white society think of themselves as superior to blacks, Latinos, American Indians, and Asians. Even government census forms convey a false sense of race purity.
The government bail out of the bloodsucking banks, tho, will deepen the merger of international finance capitalism with the State, which is the very definition of fascism. Capitalism is comprised of concentration of wealth into as few hands as possible. Imperialism constitutes capitalism’s merger of finance with the corporations to create an international finance system. So because of what is taking place today, with the State giving massive amounts of money to the Wall Street bankers, this is the end-game in the Milton Friedman economic model first advocated by Ronald Reagan, also known as voodoo economics.
Barack Obama seems to deepen this trend of reducing US white workers to colonized status, while the neo-cons continue to inflame racist sentiments. This struggle reflects the historical lag between bourgeois ideology and working class self-realization or, on the opposite hand, white workers reaction. Until that gap gets closed, the colonized masses must remain in a defensive posture against their white working class comrades on the other side of the skirmish line.
What is going on with President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan? If we can take the word of economists like Paul Krugman and others, the government needs to wait out this period of “financial crisis” because it will stabilize over the next nine months or so. However, Obama continues to push for the so-called bank bail outs, which are nothing more than massive giveaways to the already filthy rich financial sector.
The US government want absolute authority. It seeks absolute authority under the cover of democracy to carry out the most inhuman agenda in history. It wants the ability to implement its agenda under the cover of law, based upon the assumption that elected lawmakers can pass legislation that supports the most extreme goals of international finance.
This is apparent from watching trends over the last thirty years. Over this period, leaders from Reagan on thru Obama have raped public assets to fill the pockets of international bankers and other corporate financiers. In the effort to strip down the State to its basic, fundamental character, US presidents have auctioned off, sold, or outright given the banks trillions of dollars. They have used the excuse that there is a banking crisis. Simultaneously, the banks line their pockets, the pockets of their investors, and buy up other financing assets.
If the bankers were operating honestly, the banks would never have sunk. It is because of their rapine greed and thirst for power that the banks have collapsed. It is not because credit has dried up, but because so much money has become concentrated in so few hands that this situation exists.
Anytime real wages have not kept pace with inflation, anytime the US worker labors for more hours than his counterpart in other industrial workers, anytime that worker has to go into debt to maintain a house, automobile and the simple thing in life, that is because cash has dried up on the street. It has dried up because the financiers have concentrated 80% of it in their own hands. Seven or eight percent of all people control 80% of all the money. Which means that the remaining 83% of the population must fight over the remaining dollars.
So while Obama has joked about bailing out the auto industry, he continues to push the argument that society cannot survive without the banks. But the auto industry produces a product. The banks do not. Paper money is not a product with any intrinsic value whatsoever.
Why is the State giving even more money to the banks, when the government owes the banks over $10 trillion? The State can seize the banks and liquidate the debt. That makes more sense.
That is what the State did with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. It wanted to control the oil and the opium, so it invaded those countries. Seventy-five percent of Iraqi oil ends up on the black market; opium production has skyrocketed since the US occupation of Afghanistan. The dope ends up here. Profits from the blackmarket oil ends up in the hands of the CIA and the international financiers. These monies are used to destabilize governments and societies, including US society.
However, the State wants to strip away all the benefits US workers have provided for this society. The State wants to strip down Social Security, pensions, health care and transform this country into a backwater of reaction. It can only achieve this by supporting the banks. In doing so, the strategy has been to give away public sector assets from cash grants to public lands.
The international financiers control the most reactionary sector of capitalism. They fuel wars all over the globe. They finance wars, they finance coups d’etat, they finance assassinations of men like Salvador Allende and Maurice Bishop. They want to transform revolutionary Cuba into a whorehouse and a den of vice. They want the world for their playground while creating misery and instability for billions of people in every single country.
The United States is rapidly moving towards fascism. It is repeating all the steps and turns that Germany and Italia made in the years preceding World War II. The marginalized right-wing has become more shrill and obstructionist, and the Obama Administration appears like the Weimar Republic, granting concessions to the enemies of the people, international finance. If this trend continues, in four more years there will be a firestorm in this country. You kno where this leaves African people. People need to take to the streets today. We do not have time to wait.