Category: Prime Politics Written by Minehaha Forman
Wayne County executive Robert Ficano continued to defend his reputation this Friday morning at the Michigan Chronicle's Pancakes and Politics forum in Birmingham's Townsend Hotel. But he said he has no hard feelings about media coverage of the Wayne County corruption scandal despite tough scrutiny. "No, I am not going to resign," he responded when event host, Carol Cain, asked if he would step down under the pressure of having four former members of his administration facing federal corruption charges. "I have not done anything wrong."
When asked if he felt media coverage of the Wayne County scandal has been fair, he said he understands everyone has a job to do. "I recognize what the first amendment is all about. The media have a job to do and I don't resent it. This is the life I have chosen. I am a public official. With that comes scrutiny."
Ficano was a panalist along with fellow Metro Detroit leaders Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Oakland County Executive Robert Ficano and Macomb County executive Mark Hackel.
Ficano also added that the important thing to keep in mind is that Wayne County is doing fine under his leadership, with a balanced budget and event a bit of surplus. "I've been a public offical for 30 years and doing a good job," he told more than 400 attendees at the forum. "Six months of difficulty shouldn't define me."
Last Updated on Sunday, 20 May 2012 09:31
Category: Prime Politics Written by Michigan Chronicle
U.S. Rep. Gary Peters published a report on the damage that would be caused by the Republicans’ Budget Reconciliation Act, which passed the House today.
If signed into law, this legislation would end the Medicare guarantee, increase health care costs for seniors, and slash vital services such as SNAP food assistance, meals on wheels and free school lunches for children in need.
All of these cuts came because the GOP refuses to ask millionaires, billionaires, and oil companies to pay their fair share.
“It is unconscionable for House Republicans to protect tax breaks for billionaires and oil companies at the expense of the most vulnerable Americans,” said U.S. Rep. Gary Peters.
“Today I released a report which spells out how damaging the GOP’s plan would be to important programs such as food assistance and Meals on Wheels because Michiganders need to know the truth.
“I will continue holding Republicans accountable for their misguided proposals that hurt our families.”
One key finding: Michigan received $3.1 billion in federal food assistance in FY 2011. By next year under this plan, it’s estimated that 146,800 Michigan residents would lose benefits.
Numerous local and national organizations weighed in on Peters’ report.
Last Updated on Friday, 18 May 2012 18:41
Category: Prime Politics Written by Stacy Swimp
Did you know that almost two million dead Americans are registered to vote, and that three million Americans are registered to vote more than once? Did you know that a busload of volunteers with a list of names disenfranchises you more than anything else, and makes a mockery of our system? Various groups support photo ID laws, but are shouted down by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department and certain leaders who insist that there is no such thing as fraud.
So why do 73 percent of voters support the institution of photo ID laws? It’s because we’re not stupid! Not only can dead people vote, but some live people can vote twice, due to multiple registrations. But don’t worry, politicians are much too honest to ever cheat in an election!
According to some, voter fraud is a rare occurrence, hardly worth our time to try to prevent, but it’s a fact that proving fraud is difficult and time-consuming. If you suspect that “dead” people are voting, the only way to verify it is to comb through the poll books, comparing the names to another reliable list of the deceased, which is expensive and time-consuming. Why not simply eliminate the known dead from the poll books in the first place?
Another way to cheat is to purposely register people you know will not show up to the polls, then bus volunteers in to vote for them. You’d be surprised at how just a few people can make a big difference. Many local elections are won on the basis of a handful of votes, and with tens of thousands of precincts in the United States, even a national election can be shifted.
Perhaps the most egregious form of fraud occurs when absentee ballots are tampered with, either by “helping” the voter to decide or by outright theft or destruction of ballots.
If we want to protect the integrity of our vote, we have to accept that the opportunity for troublemaking exists, then formulate a plan to safeguard our most precious right to free and fair elections. Volunteering to watch the process and report suspected fraud is one of the most important things a citizen can do. The addition of a voter ID requirement is not only effective, but popular because Americans want a level playing field. Perception is everything. You can only have confidence in a system that doesn’t seem rigged.
There is a bigger civil rights issue at play here too. Those who want undocumented people voting in our elections couldn’t care less about people without ID. Instead of streamlining the process to make sure that underserved populations get the ID they need to be “socially enfranchised,” they stymy efforts for a free and fair vote.
If any group is truly concerned about the “disenfranchised,” they should budget time and money toward ensuring that their constituents are properly documented and able to fully participate in our culture. You can’t buy a beer, open a checking account or obtain many social services without a photo ID. You can’t even enter the Department of Justice to complain about voter ID laws without a photo ID.
Guess what? This is a non-partisan issue, because both sides of the political spectrum have been caught at one time or another.
I encourage you to join me at the Statewide Election Integrity Summit held in Lansing, Michigan, regarding how to take back free and fair elections. The event will take place on May 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Best Western Plus, located at 6820 S. Cedar St. in Lansing.
For additional information visit www.eventbrite.com.
Last Updated on Thursday, 03 May 2012 12:59
Category: Prime Politics Written by Sophia Kerby
On July 1 the interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford Loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent if Congress doesn’t act. Though this rate hike will have devastating consequences on more than 7 million students nationwide who currently hold a Stafford Loan, change will hit students of color especially hard.
The facts below show how students of color depend on financial aid to finance their college education and how they are uniquely impacted by student debt.
1. Students are having trouble paying back their college loans. Studies show that only 37 percent of students are able to repay their loans on time. Students of color are more likely to depend on financial aid to attend college and have higher trends of student debt.
2. For the first time, student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt in the United States. Student college loan debt is now higher than all credit card debt in the country put together. Nationwide, student debt is at $867 billion compared to credit card debt at $704 billion.
3. People of color, particularly African Americans, are graduating with more student debt. African American students in particular are graduating with much more debt than white students. A 2010 study by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center found that student loan debt levels of $30,500 or higher were more common among 27 percent of black bachelor’s degree recipients compared to 16 percent of their white counterparts.
4. Youth unemployment (ages 16 to 24) is higher for people of color, making student debt a significant financial burden. Youth unemployment is highest among youth of color, with rates for African American youth at 30 percent and Latino youth at 20 percent, compared to the white youth unemployment rate of 16 percent.
5. Students of color rely on other forms of financial aid, such as Pell Grants, which are also facing significant cuts. Students who will lose eligibility or be cut from the Pell Grant program—a means of access to higher education and social opportunity for low-income families—will likely turn to loans to make up the difference. At a majority of historically black colleges and universities in particular, two-thirds or more of all enrolled students receive Pell Grants, with more than 90 percent of students receiving these grants at eight such institutions of higher learning.
6. While educational attainment increases among Latinos, the achievement gap continues. From 2001 to 2011 the number of Latinos with a bachelor’s degree or higher education increased 80 percent from 2.1 million to 3.8 million. But there’s still an achievement gap: By 2012 only 14 percent of all U.S. Latinos over the age of 25 had bachelor’s degrees, compared to 34 percent of whites. A 2009 Pew Hispanic Center survey found the most common reason for the gap was pressure to support their families financially, forcing them to choose between college and their families. This means that low-interest-rate loans are that much more important to Latino youth in completing their college careers.
7. More students of color are taking out private loans, exposing them to more financial risk. There was an approximate 16 percent increase and 12 percent increase among black and Hispanic students, respectively, that took out private loans, from the 2003-–04 to 2007-–08 school years. While federal loans have lower interest rates than private loans, doubling the rate will bring the two closer together, making students of color more vulnerable to defaulting on their loans.
8. Students of color are more likely to enroll in for-profit schools, which currently account for nearly half of student loan defaults. For-profit colleges and universities tend to have higher tuition, increased dropout rates, and insurmountable debt for students. This puts economic and academic barriers on students of color, making it more difficult for them to graduate.
9. Students of color with higher student debt are left with fewer options. Deferments and forbearances often provide short-term debt relief, but the interest on the loans may accrue and capitalize during the forbearance or deferment period, making the loans more expensive in the long term.
10. Student debt hinders students of color from homeownership. Past-due payments hinder borrowers due to lower credit scores and having their wages used for loan repayment. According to the Federal Reserve, fewer young people are getting mortgages—just 9 percent of 29-to-34-year-olds got a first-time mortgage from 2009 to 2011, compared to 17 percent in 2001.
Allowing Stafford Loan interest rates to double would make the cost of college skyrocket—the cost of college for those relying on Stafford Loans would increase by 20 percent. Given that students of color are more likely to rely on financial aid to finance their college education and graduate with higher student debt, increasing these interest rates would disproportionately impact them. We need to focus on making college more affordable, particularly at a time when students need a good education to be competitive in the international economy.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 May 2012 12:52
Category: Prime Politics Written by George Curry
The new NAACP Report Card for the first session of the 112th Congress is out and it shows that every graded Republican member of the House and Senate received an F on issues considered important to the nation’s oldest civil rights group.
In the Senate, all 46 GOP senators received Fs from NAACP. Of those, 34 voted against the NAACP’s position every time, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former presidential candidate John McCain. In the House, all 238 Republicans graded also received Fs. Although GOP House members have a reputation but being more conservative than their Senate colleagues, only 10 House Republicans voted against the NAACP every time.
In stark contrast to Republicans, 47 Democrats in the Senate earned As, three received B’s, one got a D and none received an F. The two independents in the Senate, Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, received a B and an A, respectively.
In the House, all 238 Republicans graded earned an F. House Democrats voted like their counterparts in the Senate: 159 earned As, 22 got Bs, four earned Cs, one got a D and four received Fs.
I have been studying NAACP legislative report cards for a couple of decades and I can’t remember a time when Republicans in Congress have been this solidified in their hostility towards civil rights. About eight years ago, Republican Congresswoman Mary S. Leach of Iowa earned a C. More recently a couple of Republicans have earned Ds as the rest flunked.
In the session of Congress that lasted from Jan. 5, 2011 to Dec. 23, 2011, only one Republican, Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.), voted with the NAACP 40 percent of the time. The GOP’s so-called moderate senators, Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, supported the NAACP 33 percent of the time.
The NAACP graded members of Congress on votes taken on such issues as repealing funding for health care reform, judicial nominations, deep budget cuts, job creation and criminal justice reform.
This NAACP Report Card should put to rest the lie that there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans. There is difference – a huge difference at that.
Even the Black Republican alternatives are not viable alternatives.
In the bygone years, the Republican Party had such moderates as New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Mayor John Lindsey of New York City and Connecticut Sen. Lowell Weicker. It even had Black Republicans who fought for civil rights. But the GOP began the political equivalent of ethnic cleansing in 1964 with the nomination of Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who made an open appeal to segregationists.
Over the last half century, GOP moderates, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell have either been pushed out of the party or marginalized. Moderates have been replaced by rabid Tea Party activists.
The voting records of Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress illustrate the gap in support of African-Americans in the two parties.
All Democratic leaders in the House earned A’s: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (100 percent), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (100 percent), Assistant Democratic Whip James Clyburn (100 percent) and Democratic Caucus Chair John Lucas (95 percent).
Each Republican leader in the House, on the other hand, got F’s: Majority Leader Eric Cantor (5 percent), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (10 percent), Republican Conference Chair Jeb Hensarling (5 percent) and Republican Policy Committee Chair Tom Price (5 percent).
The Republican Party’s hostility to civil rights reminds me of a comment made by the father of former GOP Congressman J.C. Watts, an African-American from Oklahoma. His father said a Black voting Republican is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 May 2012 13:06
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