Newswire : Sewell speaks out against voter suppression at Birmingham field hearing

Cong. Terri Sewell

BIRMINGHAM, AL – The House Administration Subcommittee on Elections held a field hearing Monday to examine voting rights and elections systems in Alabama.

The hearing is one in a series the House committee is holding around the country to create a public record of voter suppression and the need for federal pre-clearance enforcement. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) who introduced legislation earlier this year to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by developing a modern-day formula to determine which states must pre-clear election changes with the Department of Justice, spoke at length about the impact of the 2013 Supreme Court Shelby County v. Holder decision on voting rights in America.

“We need federal oversight in the state of Alabama,” Sewell said. “You learned today that Alabama has a more restrictive voter ID law now than it did before the Shelby v. Holder case. You learned today that the problem disproportionately affects minorities, rural communities, the elderly and the disabled. … the cost of freedom, we know, is never free. It is paid by those who have fought for this right that we have and for us to sit where we sit in Congress to do the right thing.”

“Alabama has closed polling places, enacted a strict voter ID law, been slow to restore the rights of previously incarcerated citizens, attempted to close DMV offices that issue the valid IDs in predominantly-minority areas and more,” said Elections Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH-11). “The greatest democracy in the world must not regress. We must recognize our faults and continue to move forward; we must progress.”

Video of Rep. Sewell’s closing statement is available on Congresswomen Tertri Sewell’s official website.

Newswire : Alabama passes bill banning abortion, to challenge Roe vs Wade

By Mike Cason | mcason@al.com

Alabama lawmakers aiming to challenge abortion rights nationally are one step from their goal of putting an almost total ban on the procedure into state law.
The Senate tonight voted 25-6 to pass a bill to make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion. The bill is a priority for the Legislature’s Republican majority. Tonight’s vote sends it to Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, who could sign it into law.Lori Jhons, Ivey’s deputy press secretary, said in an email tonight that Ivey would not comment on the bill until she’s had a chance to thoroughly review it.
The bill passed exactly as it was introduced by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, about six weeks ago. It includes only one exception — to allow abortions in cases of a serious health risk to the woman. The goal is to trigger a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade.
“I would say that we’re all very pleased to have this done,” Collins said at a press conference after the vote. “We’re excited about the possibilities that it could mean. It’s been difficult at times, and then at times it’s been really good. I felt really good about it all the way through.”
Under the bill, a woman receiving an abortion would not be criminally liable. The doctor would be charged with a Class A felony, punishable by 10 to 99 years in prison.
The bill passed the Senate on party lines after four and a half hours of debate, with all the Republicans who were present voting for it. No Democrats voted for the bill.
With Republicans holding 27 of 35 Senate seats, passage of the bill was not in doubt. A key question was whether the Senate would add an amendment to allow abortions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, who handled the bill in the Senate, urged his colleagues to reject the amendment, saying that all unborn children deserve protection.
Four Republicans sided with the Democrats in voting for the rape and incest exception, but it failed 21-11.
Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who proposed the rape and incest amendment, said it was disgraceful to leave out the exception.
“You just raped every woman who’s been raped by a man,” Singleton said, his voice rising with emotion. “You just raped her all over again.”
Singleton said three rape victims were in the Senate gallery as his guests and talked about the hardships they went through.
“This is just a shame, this is a disgrace, this is a travesty,” he said.
Collins said her goal was to pass the bill in a form she thought would serve as the strongest challenge to Roe v. Wade. She said states could later decide what exceptions to allow if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. She said she would support a rape and incest exception if that happens.
“I’ve answered many emails from people who have poured out their hearts with real stories that were true,” Collins said. “My goal with this bill is not to hurt them in any way. My goal with this bill, and I think all of our goal, is to have Roe vs. Wade turned over, and that decision be sent back to the states so that we can come up with our laws that address and include amendments and things that address those issues.”

Democratic Senators question why ‘Medicaid Expansion’not included

There are only four women in the 35-member Senate, and two of them were among the most outspoken opponents of the bill on Tuesday.
Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, proposed an amendment that would have required the state to provide prenatal care and medical care for the mother and the child in cases when a woman is denied an abortion because of the law. Democrats said a lack of support from Republicans on issues that can help low-income families, like Medicaid expansion, undermines their argument about protecting unborn children.
“The sin to me is bringing a child into this world and not taking care of them,” Coleman-Madison said. “The sin for me is that this state does not provide adequate care. We don’t provide education. And then when the child is born and we know that mother is indigent and she cannot take care of that child, we don’t provide any support systems for that mother.”
Senators rejected her amendment 23-6.
Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, proposed three amendments — to require Medicaid expansion, to require legislators who voted for the bill to bear the legal costs of defending the law in court, and to make it a felony for a man to get a vasectomy. All were voted down.

Figures questioned Chambliss about the opposition to the rape and incest exception and its effect on victims of those acts.
“To take that choice away from that person who had such a traumatic act committed against them, to be left with the residue of that person, if you will,” Figures said. “To have to bring that child into this world and be reminded of that every single day. Some people can do that. Some people can. But some can’t. But why would you not want a woman to at least have that exception for such a horrific act?”
Chambliss said, “Because I believe that when that unborn child becomes a person that we need legal guidance on when that is.”
“But that is not your business,” Figures said. “You don’t have to raise that child. You don’t have to carry that child. You don’t have to provide for that child. You don’t have to do anything for that child. You want to make that decision for that woman that that’s what she has to do.”
“I want to make the decision for that child,” Chambliss said.
About an hour after Republican senators voted down the rape and incest amendment, they voted to cut off the debate and force a vote on the bill.
Chambliss, asked about the legal costs the state would incur if the bill becomes law and is challenged in court, as the sponsors intend, said it would be money well spent.

School Board approves multiple personnel non-renewals

The Greene County Board of Education held its regular meeting Monday, May 6, 2019 to consider and non-renewed multiple personnel. These involved non-tenured positions and supplemental contracts. This is a usual end-of-school-year task of the superintendent and school board which provides time to review and assess the personnel needs of the coming school year. It is likely that many of the non-renewed teaching and support personnel will be re-called, as well as supplemental contracts for the various athletic positions before the opening of the new school year.
The Personnel Non-Renewals for additional service contracts, 2018-2019, at Greene County High School included the following: Rodney Wesley, Head Basketball Coach; Fentress Means, Assistant Basketball Coach; Drenda Morton, Head Cheerleader Sponsor; Danielle Sanders, Head Girls Basketball Coach; Brittany January, Assistant Girls Basketball Coach; Karon Coleman, Head Football Coach; Justin Booth, Assistant Football Coach/Head Baseball Coach; Russell Rivers, Assistant Football Coach; Janice Jeames, Head Girls Softball Coach.
The board approved the following Personnel Non-Renewals, separate contracts 2018-2019, at Robert Brown Middle School: Corey Cockrell, Head Football Coach; Henry Miles Jr., Assistant Football Coach; Janice Jeames, Volleyball Coach; Jeffery Wesley, Head Basketball Coach; Corey Cockrell, Assistant Basketball Coach; Fredrick Square, Safety Coordinator.
The board approved the following Personnel Non-Renewal, separate contracts 2018-2019, at Central Office: Charlayne Jordan; Sharon Washington; Alfonzo Noland; Angelia Hood; Shayla McCray.
The board approved for non-renewal, 2018-2019, Toice Goodson as Athletic Director Greene County School System.

The board approved the following Personnel Non-Renewals at Eutaw Primary School: Katrina Sprinkle, Pre-K Teacher; Lurena Smith, Kindergarten Teacher; Shondra Toney, Kindergarten Teacher; Katlin Whittle,Visual Art Teacher.
The board approved the following Personnel Non-Renewals at Robert Brown Middle School: Tyreice Mack, 4th Grade Teacher; Jacqueline Carter, 4th Grade Teacher; Sontona Miles, 6th Grade Teacher; Alicia Ward, 6th Grade Teacher; Ashley Moody, 7th Grade Teacher; Kotoya Quarrels, 7th Grade Math Teacher; Demelia Snyder, 7th Grade Science Teacher; Brittany January, 8th Grade Math Teacher; Justin Booth, Agro-Science, Teacher; Neshambia Sewell, STEM Teacher; Angel Moore, Special Services Teacher; Katlin Whittle, Visual Arts Teacher; Bria Tyner, Fine Arts/Dance Teacher; Jacqueline Edwards, Part-Time Custodian; Twelia Morris, Part-time Secretary; Fredrick Square, Assistant Principal.
The board approved the following Personnel Non-Renewals at Greene County High School: Chereme Gaines, Science Teacher; Justin Booth, Physical Education & Agro-Science Teacher; Bria Tyner, Fine Arts/Dance, Teacher; Karon Coleman, ISS Instructor, Teacher; Nashambia Sewell, STEM Teacher; Ann Spree, Math Tutor, Teacher; Jocephus Patrick, Alternative School Teacher.
The board approved the following Personnel Non-Renewals at Greene County Career Center: Twelia Morris, Part-time Secretary; Russell Rivers, Automotive Teacher.
The board approved the non-renewal of contracted personnel, Cynthia Crawford, Technical Support Greene County School System.
The board approved the re-assignment of Mr. Garry Rice (Robert Brown Middle School).
The board approved the following Administrative Service items: 21st Century Summer Enrichment Program, May 28 – July 3, 2019; Summer School for Greene County High School beginning June 3, 2019 – June 27, 2019; Summer Feeding at the following sites: Eutaw Primary School, 6-weeks; Robert Brown Middle School, 6-weeks; Greene County High School, 4-weeks; Request that all expired and outdated technology devices, be surplussed and properly dispositioned and/or sold in accordance to Greene County Board of Education Policy;Approved sale of Land at Mt. Hebron Pre School to SCORE; Approved request to amend the Fiscal Year 2019 budget; Approved payment of all bills, claims, and payroll.
The board approved the following Instructional Services: Implement ACT Prep Course for 2019-2020 school year for Greene County High School, Grades 9-12; Rational: Improve individual skill area that need to improve; Students with learn in ways that improve skill mastery; Students will receive the tutoring that is needed to enhance individual ACT test scores.

Alabama Legislature considers Lottery and Bingo bills that impact Greene County

News Analysis by John Zippert, Co-Publisher

The Alabama Legislature is considering several bills concerning a statewide lottery and changes to Constitutional Amendment 743, allowing charity bingo in Greene County, which may affect the future of gaming and the distribution of revenues from electronic bingo in the county.
Initially there were two lottery bills before the Alabama State Senate Tourism Committee to allow for a statewide lottery and multi-state games like Powerball and Mega Millions.
SB 220 sponsored by Senators Albritton, Glover and Hightower provides for a paper lottery, similar to that in neighboring states, with the proceeds going primarily to the state’s General Fund, after paying for $180 million in loans from the Education Trust Fund, borrowed over the past three fiscal years to balance the state budget.
SB 130 sponsored by Senators McClendon, Singleton and others provided for a statewide paper lottery and “virtual lottery terminals” at designated places in Mobile, Macon, Jefferson, Greene and Lowndes counties, that previously were licensed for pari-mutuel betting on dogs and horses. This lottery bill would have generated more revenues for the state and local entities.
In Greene County, the McClendon and Singleton lottery bill would only allow “virtual lottery terminals” at Greenetrack. The bill also provided for the virtual lottery terminals to replace bingo terminals over a one-year period. There was no mention of the future of the other bingo operations in Greene County.
SB 220 (Albritton’s bill) for a basic paper lottery was approved by the Senate Tourism Committee and by the full Senate in a vote of 21 to 12. As a Constitutional Amendment it required a super majority, 60% vote, which it did achieve.
Senator Singleton’s bill providing for “virtual lottery terminals” was not considered by the Senate Tourism Committee. Senator Singleton tried to amend the Albritton bill on the floor of the Alabama Senate but he was unsuccessful.
Senator Linda Coleman-Madison amended the bill with language that the bill would not affect counties, like Greene, that had Constitutional Amendments prior to 2005 permitting charitable bingo. “ I was trying to make sure that this lottery bill did not interfere with bingo, in places like Greene County, that had established Constitutional Amendments permitting bingo,” said Senator Coleman-Madison.
The Albritton Lottery bill is now in the Alabama House Tourism Committee awaiting a vote. It will have to be approved by 63 Representatives, a 60% super majority to move forward. You can also expect efforts to add “virtual lottery terminals” in the House to the bill. Some House members have raised the concern that the revenues generated by the lottery do not go to support the Education Trust Fund.
If the lottery bill passes both houses of the Legislature and is signed by the Governor, it will face a statewide referendum on the March 3, 2019 Presidential Primary ballot before it becomes part of the State Constitution and tickets can be sold.

Singleton’s Bill to change Amendment 743

Senator Bobby Singleton in the wake of failing to add “virtual lottery terminals” to the Lottery bill was able to pass SB321 which repeals and replaces Greene County’s Bingo Constitutional Amendment No. 743. Singleton’s bill is in the House Tourism Committee awaiting a vote. If this bill passes the House, it will require a referendum by the people in Greene County before it takes the place of the current amendment.
Singleton’s proposal would substitute a five member Greene County Gaming Commission to “regulate and supervise the operation and conduct of bingo games” for the role of the Sheriff of Greene County, who administers bingo under the current Constitutional Amendment 743. The five members of the Gaming Commission would be chosen by the area’s legislative delegation including State Senator Singleton and Representatives A. J. McCampbell and Ralph Howard.
Singleton’s proposal would levy a 2% tax on the gross receipts of bingo to go to the State of Alabama and a 10% local tax on the gross receipts to go to the Gaming Commission, Greene County Commission and municipalities. A portion of the tax is also allocated to the Greene County Board of Education (2%); Greene County Firefighters Association (1/2 %); Greene County Hospital (1%); E-911 (1/2%); Greene County Industrial Board (1/4%); Greene County Ambulance Service (1/4%); Greene County Housing Authority (3/4%); and the remaining (3/4%) to non-profit agencies in the county.
These taxes on the gross revenues, which are defined as the total wagered minus prizes and promotions, would take the place of the current $225 fee per machine, per month, paid to the Sheriff and on to the county agencies and charitable organizations.

To measure the impact of these changes, you have to estimate the current gross revenues of bingo in Greene County, which is a figure that has never been revealed by the bingo operators.
Since Senator Singleton has been heavily influenced by Greenetrack and its CEO, Luther ‘Nat’ Winn, other bingo operators feel this amendment changes the whole structure of charitable bingo in the county and does not guarantee that the new Gaming Commission would recognize current licensees. There is no mention of “grand-fathering-in” any of the existing bingo operations under this new amendment.
A Letter to the Editor from Billy McFarland, connected with the TS Police Support League, a charity connected to the Palace Bingo operation is included in this week’s paper, which is critical of Singleton’s proposed new bingo amendment.
The Democrat invites our readers and others to comment on these developments affecting electronic bingo in the county so we can evaluate the proposals and make the best, most informed and democratic choices about bingo in Greene County going forward.

Newswire : World Bank increases aid package for African countries hit by recent cyclones

People wading through flood waters

May 6, 2019 (GIN) – The new head of the World Bank has approved emergency support for the three African countries slammed by record-strength cyclones in what has been called the worst weather catastrophe in decades.

Tropical Cyclone Idai ripped through Mozambique with 110 mph winds and a storm surge topping 20 feet before moving inland into Zimbabwe and Malawi. Heavy rains accompanied the storm on March 15 affecting 1.7 million people in Mozambique and 970,000 in neighboring Malawi.

Idai was followed by Tropical Cyclone Kenneth – the strongest tropical cyclone in Mozambique since modern records began.

The three countries – Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi – will share 700 million dollars to rebuild damage to infrastructure, buildings and agriculture. The damage was assessed by the new World Bank president David Malpass, a former staffer at the U.S. Treasury Dept., advanced by President Trump.

Mozambique, hardest hit by the cyclone, will receive $350 million from the Bank’s ‘Crisis Response Window’ to re-establish the water supply, rebuild damaged public infrastructure and support disease prevention, among other things, the World Bank said.

Malawi will get $120 million in financing, with up to $75 million to select U.N. agencies to support Zimbabwe.

The finance package does not capture indirect losses such as reduced productivity or business interruptions, and only provides a limited degree of accuracy. Last month, for example, the World Bank estimated over $2 billion needed for recovery costs.

Since taking as head of the bank, Malpass has visited Madagascar, Ethiopia and Mozambique but declined to attend a major summit in China on their “Belt and Road” development policy. Over 40 world leaders, the head of the International Monetary Fund and scores of finance officials attended the summit held in Beijing.

Malpass is a longtime critic of China’s lending practices and worked to raise alarms about them with European countries.

He replaces Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American physician who served as the Bank’s 12thpresident from 2012 to 2019. A global health leader, he was a co-founder and executive director of Partners in Health before serving as the President of Dartmouth College from 2009 to 2012.

“The work of the World Bank Group is more important now than ever as the aspirations of the poor rise all over the world, and problems like climate change, pandemics, famine and refugees continue to grow in both their scale and complexity,” Mr. Kim said in a statement.

Newswire: Experts: Reparations are workable and should be provided

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Dr. Mary Francis Berry
As Joe Biden prepares to enter the crowded Democratic field for the 2020 presidential election, it wouldn’t be surprising if the former vice president will join the other 19 declared candidates in using reparations for the Transatlantic Slave Trade as a political platform.
Candidates including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro have said they intend to seek reparations for African Americans.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has asked for reparations for both African Americans and Native Americans.
Just three years ago, a United Nations working group jumped into the fray.
Following 14 years and 20 days of speaking with U.S. officials, activists, and families of people killed by police in major American cities, the U.N. working group issued its conclusion that the slave trade was a crime against humanity and the American government should pay reparations.
The experts traveled to major cities including Washington, D.C.; Jackson, Mississippi; Baltimore; Chicago and New York.
“Contemporary police killings and the trauma it creates are reminiscent of the racial terror lynching in the past,” a French member of the working group of U.N. experts Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France, told CBS News.

Dr. Mary Frances Berry, a Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and the author of numerous books including “My Face is Black Is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations,” told NNPA Newswire that, “as matter of justice and no matter how long it takes, there should be a full-throated demand for reparations for slavery echoing the demand of the thousands of ex-slaves in the 19th century and reasserted time and again since.”
“The odds against success are great but given the meager gains to date, it’s just as fruitful to argue for reparations as anything else and besides it is a just cause,” Dr. Berry said.
“Whatever we do, we should remind ourselves, as Frederick Douglass said, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has. It never will,’” she said.
Berry, who once served as chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and as Assistant Secretary for Education in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, scoffed at the idea that reparations are “unworkable.”
Precedent has already been set, she said. “The country has lots of experience with reparations. The federal government gave compensation to slave owners in the border states who let their slaves enlist in the Union Army,” Dr. Berry said.
“Also, during the Civil War, compensation was given to slave owners in the District of Columbia when slaves there were freed in 1862 and, more recently, compensation for Holocaust victims and the victims of Japanese Internment are examples of reparations,” she said.
Dr. Berry continued: “In the 19th century after the Civil War, Callie House, a former slave, led a movement to demand pensions for old ex-slaves as reparations for their poverty and unrequited labor during slavery.
“Her organization collected petitions including the names of former owners of ex-slaves and succeeded in having bills introduced in Congress and sued the federal government, losing on technical grounds.”
San Francisco-based attorney Dale Minami, who was involved in significant litigation involving the civil rights of Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities, said he believes the African American vote is critical to a successful reparations campaign.
“With the racial divide stoked by President Donald Trump’s racial bias, the need for some healing among the races is a progressive and necessary policy and redress and reparations promote this healing so that we can move toward a less factionalized, less racially divided country,” Minami said.
For those who believe reparations are unworkable, Minami said they’re conflating two separate issues: the deserving claim to reparations and the difficulty in implementation. “Reparations is a good idea and depending how you define implementation determines the ‘workability,’” he said.
“If reparations means individual payment, yes, there is a huge problem of allocation of money based on percentage of Black ancestry but if you define it as a Trust Fund to support Black institutions, community organizations, education, or other projects to improve the African American community, it’s bit easier to implement,” Minami said.
As an example, the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund of which Minami served as chairman, received $5 million as part of a Redress bill to give to projects that educate about the injustice of the incarcerations of Japanese Americans.
The original bill called for $50 million but so many were still alive when Redress was granted, the fund dwindled, Minami said.
“So, I think there are creative ways to help make up for the enormous cruelty of slavery and its long-term effects on the Black community,” he said.

Newswire: Mass incarceration of women and minorities a new crisis

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Women inmates in jail
Although the number of people in prisons and jails in America has slightly declined, numbers released on Thursday, April 25, by the Bureau of Justice Statisticsstill show that nearly 1.5 million individuals were in prison by the end of 2017.
The statistics also note that the U.S. continues to lock up more people than any other nation. And, despite a narrowing disparity between incarcerated black and white women, females have emerged as the new face of mass incarceration.
“I don’t think this should be much of a surprise as two of the main for-profit prison companies were founded around the same time,” said Ron Stefanski, whose website prisoninsight.com, works to hold prisons accountable for the treatment of current, former and future inmates.
“When these for-profit companies were created, they found a way to generate revenue off of inmates and this led to a huge influx of prisoners, both male and female,” Stefanski said.
In 2000, black women were incarcerated at six times the rate of white women, but in 2017, black women were imprisoned at less than double the rate of white women, according to the latest information.
The number of white women in prison has increased by more than 40 percent since 2000 while the number of black women incarcerated has fallen by nearly 50 percent.
The most recent report from the Prison Policy Initiative revealed that, looking at the big picture shows that a staggering number of women who are incarcerated are not even convicted with one quarter of the women behind bars having not yet gone to trial.
Sixty-percent of women under the control of local authorities have not been convicted of a crime and adding to the picture of women in local jails, aside from women under local jurisdictions, state and federal agencies pay local jails to house an additional 13,000 women, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
For example, ICE and the U.S. Marshals, which have fewer dedicated facilities for their detainees, contract with local jails to hold roughly 5,000 women – so the number of women physically held in jails is even higher.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, avoiding pre-trial incarceration is uniquely challenging for women. The number of un-convicted women stuck in jail is surely not because courts are considering women, who are generally the primary caregivers of children, to be a flight risk, according to the Prison Policy Initiative report.
The far more likely answer is that incarcerated women, who have lower incomes than incarcerated men, have an even harder time affording cash bail. When the typical bail amounts to a full year’s income for women, it’s no wonder that women are stuck in jail awaiting trial, the report’s author said.
Even once convicted, the system funnels women into jails: About a quarter of convicted incarcerated women are held in jails, compared to about 10 percent of all people incarcerated with a conviction.
Also, while stays in jail are generally shorter than in stays in prison, jails make it harder to stay in touch with family than prisons do. Phone calls are more expensive, up to $1.50 per minute, and other forms of communication are more restricted – some jails don’t even allow real letters, limiting mail to postcards.
This is especially troubling given that 80 percent of women in jails are mothers, and most of them are primary caretakers of their children. Thus children are particularly susceptible to the domino effect of burdens placed on incarcerated women, the report’s author said. Black and American Indian women are markedly overrepresented in prisons and jails, according to the report.

Incarcerated women are 53 percent White, 29 percent Black, 14 percent Hispanic, 2.5 percent American Indian and Alaskan Native, 0.9 percent Asian, and 0.4 percent Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander.
“While we are a long way away from having data on intersectional impacts of sexuality and race or ethnicity on women’s likelihood of incarceration, it is clear that Black and lesbian or bisexual women are disproportionately subject to incarceration,” Prison Policy Initiative Author Aleks Kajstura said.

Newswire: Nation’s racial wealth gap worsens with Federal Tax Cuts: Black families have a dime for every dollar held by whites

NEWS ANALYSIS By Charlene Crowell

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – If you’re like me, every time you hear a news reporter or anchor talk about how great the nation’s economy is, you wonder what world they are living in. Certainly these journalists are not referring to the ongoing struggle to make ends meet that so much of Black America faces. For every daily report of Wall Street trading, or rising corporate profits, you’re reminded that somebody else is doing just fine financially.

To put it another way, ‘Will I ever get past my payday being an exchange day…when I can finally have the chance to keep a portion of what I earn in my own name and see how much it can grow?’

When new research speaks to those who are forgotten on most nightly news shows, I feel obliged to share that news – especially when conclusions find systemic faults suppress our collective ability to strengthen assets enough to make that key transition from paying bills to building wealth.

Ten Solutions to Close the Racial Wealth Divide is jointly authored by the Institute for Policy Studies, Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. This insightful and scholarly work opens with updates on the nation’s nagging and widening racial wealth divide. It then characterizes solutions offered as one of three approaches: programs, power, and process.

According to the authors, programs refer to new government programs that could have a major impact on improving the financial prospects of low-wealth families. Power refers to changes to the federal tax code that could bring a much-needed balance to the tax burden now borne by middle and low-income workers. Process refers to changes to the government operates in regard to race and wealth.

“For far too long we have tolerated the injustice of a violent, extractive and racially exploitive history that generated a wealth divide where the typical black family has only a dime for every dollar held by a typical white family,” said Darrick Hamilton, report co-author and executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University.
From 1983-2016, the median Black family saw their wealth drop by more than half after adjusting for inflation, compared to a 33 percent increase for the median White households. Keep in mind that these years include the Great Recession that stole nearly $1 trillion of wealth from Black and Latinx families, largely via unnecessary foreclosures and lost property values for those who managed to hold on to their homes.
Fast forward to 2018, and the report shares the fact that the median white family had 41 times more wealth than the median Black family, and 22 times more wealth than the median Latinx family. Instead of the $147,000 that median white families owned last year, Black households had $3,600.

When Congress passed tax cut legislation in December 2017, an already skewed racial wealth profile became worse.

“White households in the top one percent of earners received $143 a day from the tax cuts while middle-class households (earning between $40,000 and $110,000) received just $2.75 a day,” states the report. “While the media coverage of the tax package and the public statements of the bill’s backers did not explicitly state that it would directly contribute to increasing the racial wealth divide, this was the impact, intended or otherwise.”

With the majority of today’s Black households renting instead of owning their homes, escalating rental prices diminish if not remove the ability for many consumers of color to save for a home down payment. As reported by CBS News, earlier this year, the national average monthly cost of fair market rent in 2018 was $1,405. Recent research by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition on housing affordability found that more than 8 million Americans spend half or more of their incomes on housing, including over 30 percent of Blacks, and 28 percent of Hispanics

Homeownership, according to the Center for Responsible Lending, remains a solid building block to gain family wealth. But with an increasing number of households paying more than a third of their income for rent, the ability to save for a home down payment is seriously weakened. CRL’s proposed remedy in March 27 testimony to the Senate Banking Committee is to strengthen affordable housing in both homeownership and rentals. To increase greater access to mortgages, CRL further advocates low-down payment loans.

“The nation’s housing finance system must ensure access to safe and affordable mortgage loans for all creditworthy borrowers, including low-to-moderate income families and communities of color,” noted Nikitra Bailey, a CRL EVP. “The lower down payment programs available through FHA and VA, provide an entry into homeownership and wealth-building for many average Americans.”

“Government-backed loans cannot be the only sources of credit for low-wealth families; they deserve access to cheaper conventional mortgages,” added Bailey. “Year after year, the annual Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data reveals how consumers of color, including upper-income Black and Latinx households are disproportionately dependent on mortgages that come with higher costs. Our nation’s fair lending and housing finance laws require that the private mortgage market provide access for low-wealth families. We need additional resources for rental housing to address the affordability crisis that many working families face.”

There’s really no point in continuing to do the same thing while expecting a different result. When the status quo just isn’t working, change must be given a chance.

Newswire : African National Congress sees victory in May 8 South African election while acknowledging mistakes

ANC political rally

May 6, 2019 (GIN) – Three political parties are pulling out all the stops to win the last undecided voters going to the polls on May 8 to elect the nation’s leaders.

The three are running in a field of 48. The long-ruling ANC (since 1994) is expected to vanquish the competition despite having let down much of the electorate with a slew of high-profile corruption scandals.

At the party’s final rally at a stadium in Johannesburg, President Cyril Ramaphosa, confessed: “We made mistakes (yet) we put ourselves before our people and say, Yes, we have made mistakes, but it is only those who are doing nothing who don’t make mistakes.”

According to some analysts, however, voters are seriously conflicted.

“I don’t think there’s a clear choice because the main parties, and even some of the smaller parties are bringing enormous baggage into this election in terms of their own internal dynamics,” Ivor Sarakinsky of the University of the Witwatersrand told the BBC.

“We focus on the ANC’s baggage and dynamics, but all the parties have their own baggage. The Democratic Alliance and the controversies in terms of internal leadership, the Economic Freedom Fighters in terms of internal leadership and questions about financial flows into the party. There’s controversy around all of them.”

“Why are these elections important?” asked Vauldi Carelse, a young BBC reporter asked in a Twitter video. “It’s 25 years since all races were allowed to vote for the first time.

“There are 26 million voters but 6 million young eligible people did not register. So what are the battleground issues? Jobs, land ownership, public services – or lack thereof, crime, race. Yes, a generation of from the fall of apartheid, race remains a divisive issue in South Africa.”

Meanwhile, South Africans living abroad are also voting in this 2019 general election. South African citizens living abroad went to the polls last Saturday. According to the Independent Electoral Commission, there are 29 000 eligible voters living abroad and this democratic exercise has been their most successful since 1994.

Isa Mdingi, a South African voting in China, wrote on Twitter: “As a young person in the Diaspora I will be casting my vote at the Beijing mission. 25 years ago on April 27, people of South Africa cast their votes for the 1sttime. 25 years later I will be casting mine too! What a time to be alive!”

BBCF awards $60,000 for community arts projects

Shown L to R: Lillian Wideman, Arts Grants Committee Chairperson; Spiver Gordon, President Alabama Civil Rights Education and Freedom Museum; Carol P. Zippert, Director of the Society of Folk Arts & Culture; Teresa Atkins, President of Broader Horizons-Brighter Futures and Darlene Robinson, BBCF Board Chairperson.

In a ceremony held Saturday, April 27, 2019, the Black Belt Community Foundation awarded 19 arts grants to community groups in its 12 county service area, totaling $60,000. Seventeen of the grant awards ranged from $1,500 to $3,000. Two of the awards were for community Arts Education Projects which received $10,000 each.In Greene County three project were awarded a total of $7,500. The Society of Folk Arts & Culture received $3,000 toward the production of the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival. Broader Horizons-Brighter Futures received $3,000 to implement an arts appreciation program for youth and adults. The Alabama Civil Rights Education Center and Freedom Museum received $1,500 toward equipment and supplies to preserve museum holdings.
The Arts Education Grants of $10,000 each were awarded to Bullock County Social Justice Foundation to support a year long program teaching music theory, instruments and performing to students and adults and to the Hale County Library to support a year-long Natural Dye and Textile Workshop incorporating history and science to students and adults.
Grants awarded to counties in BBCF’s service area included Choctaw County $2,000; Bullock County $2,550; Dallas County $6,000; Lowndes County $3,000; Macon County $6,000; Marengo County $2,200; Perry County $2,000; WilcoxCounty $5,680.