Category: Your Voice Written by Dennis Johnson
A sign of certainty has surfaced from Washington, D.C., with the nomination by President Obama of Janet Yellen to be the next Chair of the Federal Reserve (Fed). The President’s nomination requires confirmation by the Senate, with those hearings scheduled to begin this week. Given the current political challenges in Washington, the confirmation process will more than likely not be “normal,” but we do expect Ms. Yellen to be confirmed as the next Chair of the Federal Reserve.
This announcement is important because it provides clarity on the future leadership of the Federal Reserve. As a result, investors can begin to focus on the monetary policies that will be implemented by the Fed and their implications for the financial markets.
Under new leadership, we believe the Fed will maintain its accommodative monetary policies including the current $85 billion per month asset purchase program. Specifically, the asset purchase program will continue at its current pace into 2014. If “tapering” of the asset purchase program begins sooner than we are projecting, that would imply the U.S. economic data is stronger than we’re expecting, which should be good for the stock market and less so for the bond market. In our opinion, market volatility created by the political impasse in Washington, combined with our expectation for continued weaker-than-expected U.S. economic growth, will cause the Fed to err on the side of too much stimulus for the time being.
Given our outlook for monetary policy, we believe interest rates will fluctuate in a relatively stable range over the near-term. We continue to think the long-term trend is towards higher interest rates given that under appropriate conditions the Fed has stated that it will begin to “taper” its asset purchase program. Global stock markets and alternative investments should maintain their long-term upward trend. In particular, emerging market equities should continue to benefit on a near-term basis, as a result of the Fed maintaining its current monetary policies.
Dennis A. Johnson, CFA Chief Investment Officer
Comerica Asset Management Group
The views expressed are those of the author at the time of writing and are subject to change without notice. Comerica does not assume any liability for losses that may result from the reliance by any person upon any such information or opinions. This material has been distributed for general educational/informational purposes only, and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation for any particular security, strategy or investment product, or as personalized investment advice.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 November 2013 10:53
Category: Your Voice Written by Michigan Chronicle Staff
"Black" people are not black and "white" people are not white. The terms are used by ruling classes around the globe as an indicator of who is to be favored and who is to be used or discarded. In Thailand, those who work in the fields are by consequence, darker than those who work inside buildings. Those who are genetically of fairer skin are selected for office work while the dark people are relegated to the fields. We could describe similar distinctions in India, China, Japan, Africa, Brazil, Mexico...likely every part of the globe. Our focus, of course, will be on the US.
Black people are very much aware of the distinctions between those slaves who worked in the fields and those who worked in the slave-owners house. House slaves often became mistresses of, or were raped by, the owners, their children and other whites. Their offspring were genetically varying shades of color. Some were indistinguishable from their white forbears and often received most favored treatment. Eventually, some of these were able to disavow their black ancestry and "pass" for white.
Whites, in a futile attempt to maintain the politically advantageous distinctions of whiteness, went to painful extremes to identify degrees of blackness. They came up with half-breed, quadroon and octoroon. A suspect white would be said to have "a touch of the tar bush." Whites, in desperation, finally had to declare the preposterous notion that, "One drop of black blood makes the individual black." The anthropological term "Negro," was twisted to form the most degrading sound that whites could form to show their utter distaste for negroes of all colors. When the chains of slavery, then segregation , then Jim Crow were broken, the newly empowered negroes adopted the pejorative "black" and turned it on its head. The triumphant and jubilant leadership proclaimed that "black is beautiful." When the ruling class still found ways to discount blacks, blacks adopted the term "African-American" to show a proud historical connection to the mother country just as other hyphenated Europeans do. But, clearly, there is little to connect blacks of any hue to the widely varied people of the vast African continent. Without a demonstrable connection to a particular tribe, the term African-American is just one more attempt to invest its holder with a bit more political power.
We can confidently declare that it is impossible to distinguish any differences among colors of people to support supposed variations in genetically endowed abilities. The whites, who fear a loss of their privileges in the US power structure, do not acknowledge that reality. Instead, they blindly attack the president who is nominally black even though he has parents whose mother is more or less caucasian and whose father is more or less negro. Racists fear that the president's nominally designated color category makes him predisposed to give additional power and privileges to US citizens who are of varying shades of color, but also categorized as black.
We can clearly feel the irrationality of their position. We suspect that underneath that rabid fervor is an intense fear that their "whiteness" is no longer a politically effective tool to preserve their privileges. As they see those called black or Latino or Asian gain political power, they realize that the historically white power holders are losing ground rapidly. The Republican Party has used demagoguery and manipulation of this intense white fear to whip up hatred against non-whites. That manipulation had served them well until the true believers, the Tea Party, organized and paid for by super wealthy Republicans, became too visible and obvious to claim that Republicans are not brutally, insanely racist. The Republican Party has openly revealed that it is dependent on "angry white men" for its political survival. The loss of two elections to the nominally black Barack Obama revealed that there are no longer enough angry white men left to help them return to political power.
But, the desperation of the Republicans is such that they no longer try to hide their overt attempts to prevent nominally black and brown people from voting. The laughable Supreme Court, packed successfully by George W. Bush, has been most unseemly in its efforts to support the Republicans' democracy-defeating measures to retain power.
The judgment of the majority of Americans has become very clear. The judgment has been rendered by black people, brown people, women, gays and even white people who are not afraid of other human beings who happen to look different than they do. That judgment is that we have had enough of the power holders. The power holders have done extensive damage to the people of the US as well as to the people of numerous foreign lands. Afghans and Iraqis are among just the latest in a long line of those who have suffered at the hands of those who would hold on to or extend their power at all costs...regardless of harm to other human beings.
The white supremacists are fading fast. Their desperation may still hurt a lot of people. But, the US is preparing itself to absorb the blow from the death throes of these violent racists. Black people took the best shot the thugs could deliver, shrugged it off, prospered and now watch in bemused contemplation as the rest of the country deals with the dying beast.
We can only hope that this time the country drives a stake through the heart of the monster.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 November 2013 12:13
Category: Your Voice Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
The strike of football players at legendary Grambling State University received attention across the world. GSU President Frank Pogue praised the players for providing the “creative tension” needed to bring attention to the plight of Grambling and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in general.
The players were protesting poor practice facilities and dilapidated locker rooms, as well as the firing of their coach, Doug Williams, early in the season, but their protest exposed the broader reality facing Grambling and HBCUs: they face a brutal and increasing financial crisis.
At Grambling, President Pogue reports, aid from the state of Louisiana has been cut by nearly 60 percent over the last six years. The school has gone, as its Office of Finance and Administration reports, from a state “funded” institution to a state “assisted” institution — and the assistance isn’t nearly enough. Trying to operate on a budget lower than it was six years ago, Grambling has cut full-time employees by more than one-fourth over five years.
The state cutbacks have forced increases in tuition and fees of about 60 percent over the last five years. At the same time, the state has forced closure of summer school and raised admission requirements to make it harder to get into Grambling.
Like most HBCUs, Grambling’s students come largely from lower-income families, and are often the first in their families to go to college. They cobble together their tuition from financial aid, part-time work and parental loans.
And to add to the misery, the Department of Education decided to tighten eligibility requirements for parental PLUS loans, denying applicants with even minor credit blemishes, such as overdue parking tickets or cellphone bills — exactly the kind of difficulties that low-income families often run into.
The inevitable result is that Grambling and other HBCUs are losing students — an estimated 28,000 were denied Parental PLUS loans over the past year — as more and more qualified students simply can’t afford to pay their way.
This is a historic reversal. Historically black colleges and universities have provided real opportunity to underserved communities, particularly African Americans. These colleges were founded in the ashes of slavery with a mission — to take the rejected stones and turn them into cornerstones of a freed people. Education, it was assumed, was key to reconstruction.
Now, states are constricting access to college even as they expand entrance to private prisons and jails. They are moving from education and reconstruction to incarceration and separation. Instead of opening paths from poverty, they are locking more young people out by locking them up.
This takes place despite the remarkable success of HBCUs. As Lezli Baskerville, president and CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, reported in 2008, HCBUs confer 24 percent of all Ph.D’s awarded to African Americans. They represent 4 percent of all colleges and universities in number, but enroll 16 percent of African Americans in a four-year colleges, graduate 30 percent of all African Americans receiving bachelor’s degrees, 40 percent of those granted degrees in science and math, 50 percent of those graduating in engineering and 50 percent of those granted teaching degrees.
Grambling State President Pogue notes that HBCUs “have never been equally funded in this country, and we’re not equally funded today.” He praises the football players for calling attention to the broader crisis facing Grambling State and other HBCUs, while redoubling his efforts to raise support from the school’s loyal alumni.
But neither Pogue nor the alumni can carry this load alone. In many ways, historically black colleges and universities are the proverbial canaries in the mines of college education. What endangered them threatens public colleges across the land. State cutbacks are forcing higher and higher tuition and fees. More and more students are priced out of the very education they need.
We all have a stake in educating the next generation. But with Washington fixated on cutting spending back to levels not seen since the 1950s, and states facing continued budget squeezes, we are asking the young to bear the burden that should be widely shared. Perhaps the strike by the football team of a legendary program will begin to wake us up. - See more at: http://rainbowpush.org/commentaries/single/money_problems_not_just_at_grambling#sthash.RTpsNHSd.dpuf
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 22:01
Category: Your Voice Written by Mayor Dave Bing
First of two parts
It is no secret that the city of Detroit is in the midst of a financial crisis of historic proportions. It is also no secret that our financial situation has been decades in the making. Since the day I came into office, my administration has spent countless hours developing restructuring strategies and making the often difficult — but always necessary — decisions that would lead to a stabilization of our city’s finances and improve the quality of life for our citizens. We couldn’t fix the 40-year balance sheet, but we have addressed several pressing issues and developed successful reform initiatives to improve the city’s operations.
Early in my term, my administration helped convince General Motors to keep its headquarters in downtown Detroit and pushed for a regional authority to oversee Cobo Center’s renovation and operations. Today, GM has emerged from bankruptcy as a stronger company with a bright future, and Cobo Center is a world-class facility once again after a $300 million renovation and expansion. We reduced the number of city employees by more than 25 percent, which saved nearly a half-billion dollars. Through our revenue enhancement initiatives, we collected more than $32 million owed to the City of Detroit.
We have consolidated the operations of our first responders in a new, state-of-the-art $60 million Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, which will save the city $3 million per year. I remain committed to demolishing 10,000 dangerous, vacant structures during my four-year term. To date, we have knocked down 8,350. In September, we began demolishing one of our city’s longest standing eyesores, the former Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects, after securing $6.3 million from HUD. And, prior to the appointment of the new police chief, we brought the Police Department to 92 percent compliance with federal consent decrees — up from 29-percent in 2009. Once we reach 94 percent compliance, the city will save $1 million per year in oversight fees.
Despite our significant progress, the state appointed an emergency manager in March to balance our city’s financial books. At that time, the state and I agreed that the EM would focus on the city’s balance sheet in order to reduce our $18 billion long-term debt. Together, we developed a Memorandum of Understanding indicating that my administration would continue to implement restructuring initiatives in city government and conduct day-to-day operations. The state expressed confidence in my key staff members leading the restructuring efforts.
However, the state reneged on the Memorandum of Understanding and mutual “partnership” with my office. Key members of my administration have been re-assigned or forced to resign.
The Washington elite are returning to their obsession with the long term budget crisis which means extremists are once again calling for benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Last week as the government reopened, President Obama called for cooler heads to prevail and warned elected leaders to ignore the bloggers and paid activists who have been distracting lawmakers from the real task of growing our economy.
The president’s warning should also apply to so-called moderates who continue to succeed in creating a fable to convince rational people to agree to make sacrifices of family sustaining programs, rather than ask the rich to pay their fair share of taxes. The plotline of the fable is that the growing share of elderly in our population creates a growing share of “non-workers” the rest of us must “support” through Social Security and Medicare. In this warped tale, as the elderly become a bigger share of the population, they will take away from resources the rest of us need.
In particular, the rapid increases in medical costs mean the elderly will consume a disproportionate share of resources, because they tend to have more expensive health care needs than the rest of us. According to current Congressional Budget Office projections, in 2038, when about 21 percent of our population will be older than 65, we would spend 14 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP, all the goods and services produced in the economy) on Social Security and Medicare.
But using the argument that Social Security and Medicare will become a rising percent of GDP is irrelevant. If the government gets totally out of the business of Social Security and Medicare, and the elderly paid out of pocket for everything on their own, as 21 percent of the population they would still consume the same 14 percent amount of the nation’s income.
The solution from Republicans, and those like Pete Peterson (an 87 year old billionaire) who has personally invested his fortune in perpetuating this fable, is that the government needs to get out of assuring the elderly that the benefits they paid for will be honored to support Social Security and Medicare. The “smart” people in the Washington elite think we should compromise by lowering the lifestyle of the elderly-or as they euphemistically say “slow the growth of their lifestyle” as the president has proposed by letting the costs of living outstrip the benefit levels by reinventing the formula for adjusting for inflation.
We need to look at policies from the perspective of what our nation needs first, and the best policy designs to achieve those goals, rather than what the rich will accept. Because the tea party and the shutdown of the government and the threatening of the United States’ standing tells us the rich are too greedy to accept anything less than more sacrifice from the rest of us.
Last Updated on Friday, 01 November 2013 09:28
Category: Your Voice Written by Robert Weiner & Nakia Gladden
With the cognoscenti of both parties and the media ever more certain Hillary Clinton – who won the 2008 Michigan primary -- will run in 2016, and Clinton herself taking steps to allow the choice, she needs to look back and learn some lessons from her failed 2008 campaign before her adrenalin rushes her forward. Even Bill Clinton said recently, “You must learn the lessons of your mistakes … without becoming a general who fights the last war.”
Most significantly, she was reluctant to acknowledge that her vote to authorize the Iraq War in 2001 was against the national grain that evolved. She did not backtrack until September 18, 2006, when she said to Meredith Vieira on the Today Show, “If we knew then what we know now… I certainly wouldn’t have voted that way.” It’s a point her close friend James Carville had been saying for a year she should make. On September 23, 2007, Tim Russert again dragged out of her on Meet the Press, “If I had known then what I know now…, I would not have voted the way that I did.” Chris Matthews asserted that Russert “finally reeled the big marlin into the boat,” not realizing she said it a year earlier. Both statements were too little too late. Gen. Wes Clark, one of her staunch supporters, told us that Hillary’s decision not to criticize the initial war action was a “general election decision.” However, she never got to the general. Obama filled the anti-war vacuum.
Clinton recently narrowly avoided making a similar mistake on Syria which could have affected a 2016 run. President Obama planned missile attacks in Syria even though popular support was 3-1 against it. At the last minute, just as the President was preparing an Oval office speech to announce the launch, a diplomatic solution materialized. New Secretary of State Kerry made an off-the-cuff response to a reporter which became a Putin-Obama lifeline: “[Assad] could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.” It also saved Hillary. She had just met with Obama and was ready to support his launch. Even Bill O’Reilly concedes that diplomacy is “now working.”
She will face repeated questions about Benghazi. Democrats say it’s a “phony scandal,” typical mid-level multi-agency bureaucrats harmonizing a talking points memo, combined with Congress denying State’s funding request for increased embassy security worldwide. Indeed, just September 29, the House finally passed a bill “fully funding the Administration’s request for embassy security,” trumpeted in a press release by Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA). Republicans know that funding denial was a legitimate counterpunch by Democrats. Unanswered is why the Ambassador went to the unprotected outpost, but Hillary’s involvement was unlikely. As Obama’s heir, she will also be blamed for IRS disproportionately targeting conservative groups even though liberal groups were also peppered with questions.
Bill is brilliant as “Secretary of Explaining,” as President Obama called him, but he also speaks off the cuff. Recently, Bill condemned Democrats for whining about “gridlock” even though polling shows a majority blame it on Republican congressional obstructionism. President Clinton will definitely be enormously helpful, but Hillary will sometimes have to keep the Big Dog on a leash.
The Ready for Hillary PAC is not just any “draft” group. Big names are signing onto their fundraising letters and working as advisors including Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Bill Clinton strategists James Carville and Harold Ickes, and Obama veterans. According to Communication Director Seth Bringman, the PAC now has impressive numbers: over 1,000,000 Facebook supporters, 10,000 donors, and 100,000 people with Ready for Hillary bumper stickers. The staff’s enthusiasm is apparent.
Her speaking tour is consolidating constituencies. She has just supported Terry McAuliffe for Virginia Governor, and recently supported gay marriage, a woman for President, and women’s health and birth control choice. She forcefully opposed voter suppression of minorities and the recent government shutdown. She’s been lunching with President Obama and breakfasting with Vice President Biden. Congressional Black Caucus Dean John Conyers (D-Detroit) told us, “Opponents would hate to be against her for the nomination.” Then he surveyed his staff who unanimously agreed, “It’s hers to lose.”
Her resume, starting with Texas voter registration organizer, then US Congress committee staff, First Lady, US Senator, and Secretary of State, is unsurpassed. Her 1995 “Women’s rights are human rights” speech in Beijing as First Lady remains a standard for courage. Most recently at State, she helped topple Qaddafi, established elections in Burma including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, emphasized women’s rights throughout the world including standing up with and for rape victims, imposed harsh sanctions on Iran – let alone being part of the Got-bin Laden Team.
With Rasmussen showing her 63-12-4 over Vice President Biden and New York Governor Cuomo, Quinnipiac at 65-13-7, NBC at 60 to 11 over Biden and 7 for Elizabeth Warren, and a lead over Republicans Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz by at least eight points, it’s no wonder why Republicans are concerned about her as Democrats consolidate.
She will incorporate new VA Governor Terry McAuliffe (former DNC Chair) and personal confidante Huma Abadin, widely respected inside Washington, back into her brain trust. She will correct organizational errors of 2008 -- including losing the delegates in the major Texas caucus after she won its primary, and trying to change the rules for counting her victorious Michigan and Florida primaries after she won them when the states had violated the Party’s calendar.
The eternity between now and 2016 can change the field. Past “inevitable” candidacies disintegrated from Mario Cuomo and Howard Dean to Rick Perry and Ted Kennedy. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton came from nowhere a year in front to win.
However, right now, Clinton is in the driver’s seat – and if she wins, she will be a superbly competent and historic first woman American President.
Robert Weiner, is a former Clinton White House spokesman, communications director for the House Government Operations Committee, and wrote the epilogue for Bankole Thompson’s groundbreaking book, “Obama and Christian Loyalty.” Nakia Gladden is policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates.
Last Updated on Friday, 25 October 2013 04:39
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