Top 10 Lies about Social Security

Since the season of top 10 lists is upon us, here’s the Social Security Scrooge version:
  1. Social Security costs are escalating out of control. No. Costs are projected to rise from roughly five to six percent of GDP before leveling off. [Read more]


Obesity, exercise and black females

The evidence of America's obesity epidemic is all around us. But the problem is particularly acute among African-American women.
About half of African-American women in the U.S. are obese, compared to 30 percent of white women. Black women not only carry more weight, but they start piling on extra pounds years before their white counterparts.
So when does it begin, this excess and unhealthful weight? Research suggests the problem starts early, and it may have a lot to do with when girls give up regular exercise.The evidence of America's obesity epidemic is all around us. But the problem is particularly acute among African-American women.


Reducing the black-white achievement gap by reducing black unemployment

"If we reduce black unemployment, we reduce black child poverty. Fewer black children in poverty set the stage for higher black student achievement." [Read more]


The crisis of African American unemployment requires federal intervention

Millions of African Americans live in communities that lack access to good jobs and good schools and suffer from high crime rates. African American adults are about twice as likely to be unemployed as whites, black students lag their white peers in educational attainment and achievement, and African American communities tend to have higher than average crime rates. These issues have been persistent problems.
Jobs are essential to improving African American communities. Increased employment would help people in these communities lift themselves out of poverty. In addition, because poor economic conditions are an important causal factor behind poor educational outcomes and high crime rates are correlated with high unemployment rates, creating job opportunities would help improve educational outcomes and reduce crime.
This paper outlines a plan for significantly increasing the number of jobs available to African Americans. The plan, which targets communities with persistently high unemployment, includes three main components: creation of public sector jobs, job training with job-placement programs, and wage subsidies for employers. Although the plan is constructed with African Americans in mind, it would also provide benefits to Latino, American Indian, and white communities in which unemployment has remained high. [Read more]

The Fight for Voting Rights

"For months, the Justice Department has largely been silent as Republican-dominated legislatures in state after state made it harder for minorities, poor people and other Democratic-leaning groups to vote. On Tuesday, however, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. spoke out forcefully and promised to use the full weight of his department to ensure that new electoral laws are not discriminatory. To live up to that vow, he will have his hands full." [Read more]

Government Deporting U.S. Citizens

"A Minneapolis man was arrested and illegally detained for 43 days by federal immigration agents who sought to have him deported even though he is a U.S. citizen, according to a lawsuit filed recently in federal court in Minneapolis." [Read more]

"In a spate of recent cases across the country, American citizens have been confined in local jails after federal immigration agents, acting on flawed information from Department of Homeland Security databases, instructed the police to hold them for investigation and possible deportation." [Read more]


Three Black Chess Masters--Under Age 14!

Fewer than 2 percent of the 47,000 members of the United States Chess Federation are masters — and just 13 of them are under the age of 14.
Among that select group of prodigies are three black players from the New York City area — Justus Williams, Joshua Colas and James Black Jr. — who each became masters before their 13th birthdays. [Read more]


Rick Santorum Needs to Join Occupy Wall Street

In the United States, economic inequality is also driving down marriage rates. Men who experience worse economic circumstances -- lower earnings, unemployment, and less wealth -- are less likely to marry, or, if they do marry, to stay married. For the past three decades, policymakers have favored policies that have benefitted economic elites at the expense of average working men. By forcing more and more men into worse economic circumstances, these polices have also pushed down American marriage rates. [Read more]

Banks Extract Fees On Unemployment Benefits

The state of Oregon, where Linville lives, deposits his weekly benefits on a U.S. Bank prepaid debit card. The bank allows him to make four withdrawals per month free of charge. After that, he must pay $1.50 for each visit to the ATM and $3 to see a teller. Managing his basic expenses, including rent, bus fare and groceries, typically requires more than four withdrawals, he says. Unexpected needs -- Linville recently bought a sport coat for $20 to prepare for a job interview -- entail more. He's afraid to withdraw his full benefits in one shot, knowing that the bank could sock him with a $17.50 overdraft fee if he exceeds his balance. So he pulls out small amounts of cash as he needs it, incurring about $15 in fees in the last two months he says. [Read more]


Soda marketers target blacks and Hispanics

KAI RYSSDAL: You know how there's been this big push the past couple of years to clean up ads directed at children, mostly about junk food and sugary drinks? Well, there's a new study out about those drinks. Researchers at Yale say kids are actually seeing more ads for that stuff than they used to. It's a pattern that's especially true for black and Hispanic children and teenagers. [Read more]


Unemployment Benefits Do Not Pay the Bills; Obama Still Has Strong Black Support

Unemployment’s Toll on Americans


Despite a school of thought in Washington that Mr. Obama’s support among blacks has weakened because of the poor economy and a sense of unmet expectations, interviews and public opinion surveys show that his standing remains remarkably strong among African-Americans.

The question now for the Obama campaign is whether it can energize those voters — many of whom were drawn to the polls for the first time in 2008 by the historic nature of his candidacy coupled with an aggressive registration program — even with a rate of joblessness among blacks that far exceeds national figures.
[Read more]


Less Science in Texas

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) has to varying degrees cut 60% of the undergraduate physics programs in State. This includes both programs at its two largest Historically Black Institutions, Texas Southern University (TSU) and Prairie View A & M University (PVAMU). Although all these institutions have the right to appeal the State’s decision, the dramatic nature of these and other actions strongly suggest that short-term politics, not good science education planning or sound economic policy, is motivating their actions.

[Read more]


Russell Simmons: 'Every Single One' Of My Employees Pays More Taxes Than Me

Famed investor Warren Buffett and Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons have at least one thing in common: They both want the U.S. government to raise their taxes.

"All my employees -- every single one -- paid more taxes than I did," Simmons told MSNBC's Martin Bashir on Thursday in a segment highlighted by Think Progress. "We need to make the rich pay their fair share."

[Read more]


Less money, less marriage

Although the Pew research shows “no significant differences by education or income in the desire to get married,” the less money a male has, the less likely he will actually marry.

[Read more]


Alabama Cannot Face Its History

The book chronicles the vast and brutal convict leasing system, which became nearly indistinguishable from antebellum slavery as it grew. In this system, people, in almost all cases black, were arrested by local law enforcement, often on the flimsiest of charges, and forced to labor on the cotton farms of wealthy planters or in the coal mines of corporations to pay off their criminal penalties. Though convict leasing occurred across the South, the book focuses on Alabama.

Mr. Melvin never received the book. According to his lawsuit, he was told by an official at Kilby that the book was “too incendiary” and “too provocative,” and was ordered to have it sent back at his own expense.

[Read more]

Illegal Marijuana Arrests?

Commissioner Raymond Kelly of the New York Police Department came forthwith too little, too late when he issued a memo directing officers not to arrest people caught with small amounts of marijuana unless the drug is in plain public view. A 1977 law decriminalized minor possession, yet tens of thousands are arrested every year.

In 2010, more than 50,000 people were arrested for possession of marijuana; a vast majority of them were racial minorities and male. Civil rights lawyers say that many of them were stopped as part of the Police Department’s broad stop-and-frisk practice and were arrested after officers told them to empty their pockets, which brought the drugs into open view.

Commissioner Kelly’s memo now makes clear that displaying the drug must be an “activity undertaken of the subject’s own volition” and that individuals may not be charged with violating the law if the marijuana “was disclosed to public view at an officer’s direction.”

[Read more]


All workers—including black youth—benefit from a tight labor market

For black 16-to-24 year olds who were not enrolled in school, the strong job growth over the 1989-2000 business cycle shaved 3.7 percentage points off their unemployment rate. This decline in the black youth unemployment rate was three times as large as the 1.2 percent decline in unemployment for white youth.

[Read more]


Single Mothers: Poverty Climbs As Jobs And Social Safety Net Fade

The primary reason that so many single women are poor right now is the large number of jobs cut in female-dominated sectors, including government, Entmacher said. In fact, since the recession ended in 2009, women have lost more jobs than men shed while the economy was still contracting.

"I think most people understand that women's income has become increasingly important to the survival of many families," said Entmacher. "In families where that is the only income, a job loss puts them in dire straits."

Moreover, just as a growing number of Americans find themselves in need of help, the social safety net has grown weaker. States have trimmed their welfare rolls, cut back the amount of time that a family can receive cash welfare assistance and even scaled back spending on child support enforcement and collections activity, Entmacher said.

[Read more]


Screening of I AM A MAN in Washington D.C.

Join us for this special film event sponsored by EPI's Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council

Screening and Discussion of I Am A Man

As our nation’s policymakers debate how government can help boost employment and jumpstart our stalled economic recovery, it is important to remember that a good job is more than an economic indicator; it is a source of dignity for people who want to work.

In 1968, black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, who toiled for less than the federal minimum wage and were subject to deadly working conditions, stood together and said: “Enough.” Their protest, now best known as the final mass action joined by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. before his assassination, was at heart a demand by 1,300 African Americans to be treated like men.

I Am A Man is the award-winning documentary film chronicling the 1968 Sanitation Worker’s strike through the eyes of one its participants and present day sanitation worker, Elmore Nickleberry. After the short documentary and "making of feature," there will be a discussion featuring the film’s producer, Calvin Taylor.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011
4:00 - 5:30 pm
Economic Policy Institute
1333 H St. NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20005
Convenient to Metro’s Red (Metro Center) and Blue/Orange (McPherson Square) lines
Refreshments will be served.

Rsvp here


Recession continues to take its toll on America’s children

Even in relatively good economic times, the United States has an appallingly high rate of child poverty for a very rich country. In 2007, by international comparative standards*, UNICEF found that the United States had the highest rate of child poverty of 24 OECD nations. The poverty data released today shows the worsening living standards for America’s children caused by the recession.

[Read more]


Reducing poverty and increasing marriage rates among Latinos and African Americans

Though marriage rates have declined for Latinos and African Americans (as well as for whites), these groups still want to marry at fairly high rates. However, because of rising inequality, many members of these groups believe they cannot afford to do so. It is likely that an anti-poverty agenda that targets the decline in good jobs, high unemployment and increasing incarceration rates would have the added effect of increasing marriage rates.

[Read more]


Black unemployment: Highest in 27 years

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The August jobs report was dismal for plenty of reasons, but perhaps most striking was the picture it painted of racial inequality in the job market.

Black unemployment surged to 16.7% in August, its highest level since 1984, while the unemployment rate for whites fell slightly to 8%, the Labor Department reported.

[Read more]


In Honor of Teachers

...how do we expect to entice the best and brightest to become teachers when we keep tearing the profession down? We take the people who so desperately want to make a difference that they enter a field where they know that they’ll be overworked and underpaid, and we scapegoat them as the cause of a societywide failure.

[Read more]


A Poll Tax by Another Name

Despite decades of progress, this year’s Republican-backed wave of voting restrictions has demonstrated that the fundamental right to vote is still subject to partisan manipulation. The most common new requirement, that citizens obtain and display unexpired government-issued photo identification before entering the voting booth, was advanced in 35 states and passed by Republican legislatures in Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri and nine other states — despite the fact that as many as 25 percent of African-Americans lack acceptable identification.


Conservative proponents have argued for photo ID mandates by claiming that widespread voter impersonation exists in America, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. While defending its photo ID law before the Supreme Court, Indiana was unable to cite a single instance of actual voter impersonation at any point in its history. Likewise, in Kansas, there were far more reports of U.F.O. sightings than allegations of voter fraud in the past decade. These theories of systematic fraud are really unfounded fears being exploited to threaten the franchise.

[Read more]


Remembering Martin Luther King and the March for Jobs and Freedom

With the formal unveiling of the statue of Dr. Martin Luther King on August 28 – the anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – the National Mall will house a memorial to a man who never held the nation’s highest office but brought it closer to its highest ideals.

Together with the national celebration of his birthday, the commemoration of the march and the quotation of his speeches, the new memorial ensures that Dr. King will be remembered. But will he be remembered rightly, not only as the subject of a monument but also as the leader of a movement for “jobs and freedom”?

[Read more]

Minority babies almost the majority

White infants are on the verge of being displaced as the majority of newborns now that nearly half of babies in the USA are ethnic and racial minorities.

Only 50.2% of babies under age 1 are white and not Hispanic, according to the 2010 Census — a sharp decline from 57.6% just 10 years earlier.

[Read more]


From USA Today: Other views: 'Dr. King would rejoice'

Algernon Austin, Economic Policy Institute: "King's memorial, the first on the National Mall to an African American, stands as a testimony to how far the country has come on the path toward racial equality. We should not, however, let it obscure our vision as to how far we still need to go. Today, blacks with college degrees are twice as likely as whites to be unemployed. The United States leads the world in imprisoning its citizens, disproportionately its black citizens. The call of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is still very relevant today. While we remember Dr. King's role in the civil rights movement, we should not forget that he was not alone. There were hundreds of thousands of others involved, and we will need a similar movement to fully realize his dream."

[Read more]


Shortchanged by the Bell

AFTER a summer of budget cuts in Washington and state capitals, we have only to look to our schools, when classes begin in the next few weeks, to see who will pay the price.

The minimum required school day in West Virginia is already about the length of a “Harry Potter” double feature. In Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, summer school programs are being slashed or eliminated. In Oregon and California this year, students will spend fewer days in the classroom; in rural communities from New Mexico to Idaho, some students will be in school only four days a week.

For all the talk about balancing the budget for the sake of our children, keeping classrooms closed is a perverse way of giving them a brighter future.

[Read more]


Help "The Help" or Can "The Help"?

Help "The Help"
I saw a surprisingly good Hollywood movie last week, unexpected because black working women are rarely at the center of a mainstream film.

There were some well known aging actors as well, and that alone is unusual for Hollywood and its youth obsession.

The Help, based on the bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett, is a story about a young white woman who writes a book based on stories she is told by black maids working in the South in the 1960s.

...How many more films exploring American racism will Hollywood produce in light of the current racial second-guessing? Will Hollywood run scared? And potential roles for these or other black actors in midlife or older could remain as scarce as ever.

[Read more]

Can "The Help"
I find that Hollywood is way too bone-headed and self-absorbed to tackle any subject as convoluted and complex as racism. Instead, The Help just throws every stereotype at you at once about black people and white people. Whenever black people have to “act like black people” in movies, there seems to be a disconnect between the reality of the culture and the movie version of black lives.

And it’s not just white filmmakers that have this problem. It’s the same issue I have with Tyler Perry movies: they are just stereotype after stereotype and I think they do more harm for the perception of black people than good. Whenever one of my white friends talks about Tyler Perry movies and what they found funny in the movie, I realize a disconnect between me and them that is only there when race comes into play. It seems to me, sometimes white folks are laughing at us rather than with us.

[Read more]

Black Scientists Less Likely to Win Federal Research Grants, Study Reports

A research grant application from a black scientist to the National Institutes of Health is markedly less likely to win approval than one from a white scientist, a new study reported on Thursday.

Even when the researchers made statistical adjustments to ensure they were comparing apples to apples — that is, scientists at similar institutions with similar academic track records — the disparity persisted. A black scientist was one-third less likely than a white counterpart to get a research project financed, the study found.

[Read more]


More Unequal Justice?

Hundreds of New Yorkers who have been caught with small amounts of marijuana, or who have simply admitted to using it, have become ensnared in civil child neglect cases in recent years, though they did not face even the least of criminal charges, according to city records and defense lawyers. A small number of parents in these cases have even lost custody of their children.

... Over all, the rate of marijuana use among whites is twice as high as among blacks and Hispanics in the city, the data show, but defense lawyers said these cases were rarely if ever filed against white parents.

[Read more]


What's in the Tea?

Actually, the Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born . . .

. . . So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

[Read more]


No Work at the Post Office

Proposed cost-cutting measures that became public last week could eliminate 20 percent of the postal service workforce. The proposed cuts are the latest knock against a set of federal jobs that were once a trusted gateway to middle-class stability for families like Briscoe’s.


In time, the postal service stayed in urban areas as other employers moved out, said Gary Burtless, a labor market expert at the Brookings Institution. “They still have sizable pockets of employment in communities that do not have lots of other good jobs. These jobs have decent wages, good health benefits and vacation benefits.”

[Read more]


Where Are the Jobs?

D.C. jobs fair draws record crowd of over 4,000

Attendance was up by more than 1,000 from last year’s fair, according to officials. “It’s breaking records, and it’s breaking my heart,” said Norton (D), the District’s representative in the House.

. . . Norton said the numbers show the “great hunger” for jobs in the District.

[Read more]

Chicago jobs fair draws 9,000

“I go to job fairs all over the country but I’ve never seen one this big,” said Rodrigo Cervantes, a recruiter for Southwest Airlines, one of 29 transportation companies represented at the event.

. . . Velvet Hays-Dawson, 58, a former hospital phlebotomist, and her daughter Jessica Dawson, 21, arrived at 6:30 a.m. Mrs. Hays-Dawson’s husband drives a C.T.A. bus and is “the only check” in the family, she said.

Their home is in foreclosure. When the youngest daughter, Janelle, 19, reached college age, the family faced a decision: tuition or mortgage. “We made the decision to push her on into college,” Mrs. Hays-Dawson said. “Now we’re really in the hole.”

[Read more]


How America's Safety Net Has Become A Dragnet

He had been enjoying the luxury of an indoor bed until December 2008, when the police swept through the shelter in the middle of the night looking for men with outstanding warrants. It turned out that Szekeley, who is an ordained minister and does not drink, do drugs, or cuss in front of ladies, did indeed have one -- for “criminal trespassing,” as sleeping on the streets is sometimes defined by the law. So he was dragged out of the shelter and put in jail.

“Can you imagine?” asked Eric Sheptock, the homeless advocate (himself a shelter resident) who introduced me to Szekeley. “They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless?”

[Read more]


Rebuilding the Dream of Homeownership for People of Color

For most Americans, owning a home is part of the American dream. But for African Americans and Latinos, this part of the dream is rapidly slipping away. The dream of homeownership for people of color has been battered by predatory subprime lending, the foreclosure crisis, and high unemployment from the Great Recession. We will need strong leadership from Washington to restore the opportunity of homeownership for people of color.

The black homeownership rate inched higher with each passing year until 2004, when it peaked at 49.1 percent of black households owning their home. Since then, the black homeownership rate has dropped 3.7 percentage points to 45.4 percent in 2010, returning blacks to the homeownership rate they had in 1998. Given the current state of the economy and the high level of black unemployment, we can expect homeownership rates to continue falling for blacks.

For Latinos, their homeownership rate continued to rise until 2007, but their rate dropped the fastest in the recession’s wake, declining 2.1 percentage points through 2010.  (In the 2007-10 period, the overall average dropped 1.3 percentage points, and blacks saw a 1.7 point decline.) More declines in the Latino homeownership rate are expected because, as the Pew Research Center reports, “33% of Hispanic homeowners report being underwater [in terms of the value of their home], compared with 15% of blacks and 13% of whites.”  

How did we get here?

First, there was deregulation that allowed bankers to play fast and loose with lending practices. Then there was the “giant pool of money” from China and India seeking investment opportunities. People of every race and in many countries across the globe were hurt by an environment where mortgage brokers and bankers could make lots of money and suffer no repercussions for selling bad products. 

But communities of color were hurt disproportionately because they had fewer conventional financial institutions providing mainstream products. Into this vacuum, the peddlers of high-priced loans stepped in. With the same income or even the same credit score, African Americans and Latinos were more likely than whites to receive high-priced subprime loans. Gregory Squires and other scholars have shown that, after taking into account other factors affecting subprime lending, the more racially segregated a community, the greater the amount of subprime lending that occurred there. 

Race should not have determined whether one received a low- or high-price loan, but it did. The fact that blacks and Latinos were more likely to receive high-priced loans when they should have received lower ones loans increases their likelihood of suffering foreclosure.

The recession has also led to a large increase in the unemployment rates in communities of color. From July 2007 to July 2011, the white unemployment rate is up 3.9 percentage points, the black rate is up 7.8 points, and the Latino rate is up 5.4  points. The high and long-term unemployment that communities of color are experiencing also increases the rates of foreclosure in these communities. 

To save the dream of homeownership in communities of color we need a strong economy that is putting people back to work. Unfortunately, our leaders in the federal government have prioritized cutting jobs over creating them. The budget-cutting mania that has infected Washington will cost jobs. The government is a large employer, and government cuts mean fewer government jobs. Also, the aid that the federal government provides produces jobs indirectly, so less government aid also translates to fewer jobs. My organization, the Economic Policy Institute, estimates that the budget cuts from the debt-ceiling deal will cost the economy over 300,000 jobs in 2012. Increasing the numbers of the unemployed will only weaken an already anemic economy. 

All of the serious macroeconomic analysts have shown that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act reduced unemployment. As of last year, the Recovery Act was estimated to have reduced the overall unemployment rate by 1 to 2 percentage points. Because black and Latino unemployment is always higher than the overall rates, the Recovery Act likely reduced unemployment by about 2 to 4 percentage points for blacks and about 1.5 to 3 percentage points for Latinos. Communities of color, as well as the nation as a whole, need more economic stimulus.

But we also need to ensure that the financial sector operates fairly and responsibly. The creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is an important step in the right direction, but unfortunately there are forces gathering in Washington trying to weaken this agency. It is necessary for President Obama to stand firm behind this agency to make sure that it remains a strong watchdog for American consumers. We need strong consumer financial protection to prevent another subprime mortgage crisis, or something similar, from occurring.

A healthy economy and smart financial regulations are necessary for rebuilding the dream of homeownership for African American and Latinos. We know what steps are needed to get there. The question is:  Will our political leaders take them?


HIV Rising Steadily among Young Gay Blacks

The number of people becoming infected with the AIDS virus was about 50,000 a year between 2006 and 2009, according to data compiled by government epidemiologists. That stable incidence, however, masked a steady 12 percent-per-year rise in one high-risk group: young black male homosexuals.

In all, the number of gay black teenagers and men in their 20s becoming infected each year rose by nearly 50 percent, from 4,400 in 2006 to 6,500 in 2009. It was the only group of gay males that showed a significant increase.

[Read more]


Blacks have highest unemployment among foreign-born workers

At 12.4%, black immigrants had the highest unemployment rate among foreign-born workers in 2010. In comparison, the unemployment rate was slightly lower for Hispanic immigrants (11.3%) and significantly lower for white (7.4%) and Asian immigrants (7.3%).

[Read more]


Record Numbers Are Receiving Food Stamps

The number of Americans receiving food stamps rose to a record 45.753 million in May, up 2.5 percent from the previous month, the Department of Agriculture said. Recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program subsidies for food purchases were 12 percent higher than a year earlier, the Agriculture Department said Tuesday in a statement on its Web site.


Middle-Class Blacks Live in Low-Income Neighborhoods

Affluent blacks and Hispanics live in neighborhoods that are noticeably poorer than neighborhoods where low-income whites live, according to a new study that suggests income alone does not explain persistent segregation patterns in housing.

[Read more]


The Satan Sandwich

“My constituents are suffering; they’ve lost their jobs and their homes, and now to cut the very programs that could have provided them with support while the rich are given a pass — it’s ridiculous.” --Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.)

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) tweeted that the deal was “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich. If you lift the bun, you will not like what you see.”

[Read more]


No Time for Austerity

“Today’s report on gross domestic product indicates that the U.S. economy has grown at a disastrously slow 0.9% rate for the entire first half of 2011. This anemic growth is why the unemployment rate stopped falling and actually began rising during these same six months. Worse, Washington's rush to fiscal austerity will make the problems of slow growth and joblessness even worse.”

--Josh Bivens, Economic Policy Institute


What Does Obama Stand For?

Compromises We Can't Believe In?

Although Obama’s overall approval rating among blacks remains high, 57 percent of African Americans surveyed in the poll said Obama is too willing to compromise with Republicans in budget talks. Combined data from recent Post-ABC polls put Obama’s overall approval rating among Hispanics in the low 50s, about 20 points lower than it was two years ago.

On Wednesday, some black and Hispanic lawmakers indicated that their frustration with Obama goes beyond the debt talks to their belief that he has not done more to stem poverty and unemployment in their communities.

“We’ve got to march on him,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.). “We’ve had it. We want him to come out on our side and advocate.”

[Read more]

Centrism Blowing in the Wind?

It’s time for moderates to abandon centrism and stop shifting with the prevailing winds. They need to state plainly what they’re for, stand their ground, and pull the argument their way. Yes, they would risk looking to “the left” of where the center is now — but only because conservatives have pulled it so far their way.


But when this ends, it’s Obama who’ll need a reset. At heart, he’s a moderate who likes balance. Yet Americans have lost track of what he’s really for. Occasionally you wonder if he’s lost track himself. He needs to remind us, and perhaps himself, why he wants to be our president.

[Read more]

Opposition to Liberals?

The administration of President Obama has never held much regard for its left flank. Admonished by the vice president to “stop whining,” inveighed against by the president himself for “griping and groaning,” the liberal critics have been generally viewed by the White House as petulant children. “The Professional Left,” former press secretary Robert Gibbs dubbed them, a gang of nettlesome romantics who “ought to be drug-tested,” and would not be happy until “we have Canadian health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon.”
[Read more]


Get Teens Back to Work: Why the Federal Government Must Invest Now in Teen Jobs

This decline in teen employment has had a disproportionate impact on low-income and minority teens. Poor teens are less likely than middle class teens to find summer jobs, and poor African American teens are much less likely to find work than poor white teens. Poor Hispanics are better off than poor African Americans, but worse off than poor whites.

The situation for poor African Americans is compounded by the fact that they tend to live in neighborhoods with other low-income families and the deprivations in community resources that result. In contrast, many poor whites live in middle-class neighborhoods, and they can benefit from the resources available in these neighborhoods.

All of these factors lead to a situation where teens who would likely benefit most from summer jobs – poor, African American teens - are the least likely to find them.

[Read more]

The Benefits of Government Health Care

When poor people are given medical insurance, they not only find regular doctors and see doctors more often but they also feel better, are less depressed and are better able to maintain financial stability, according to a new, large-scale study that provides the first rigorously controlled assessment of the impact of Medicaid.

[Read more]


The Budget and Black America

[Below is a quick response to the question of what does the talk in Washington D.C. about the budget mean for black America.]

At a time when we have a jobs deficit of 11 million jobs (a conservative estimate if one thinks people of color should have full employment, and not just whites), we should not be talking about slashing budgets, laying off government workers, and reducing aid to the needy--unless one wanted to kill the weak economic recovery.

These plans may be good for winning votes from conservatives and conservative-leaning independents, but it is not good for the American economy or for black people specifically. Frankly, it's a pretty awful discussion if one is concerned about blacks. The black middle class will lose government jobs, and the black needy will lose government aid.

The long-term fiscal problem is America's high and rising health care costs. If we had the health care system of any other rich nation we would be in a better fiscal situation since those systems are from about a third to a half less expensive than ours. Also, those systems are universal and ours isn't. We can also significantly reduce defense spending, and improve our tax system so that Warren Buffet doesn't have a lower tax rate than his secretary.

[Original posting from H-Afro-Am]


Is the Black Middle Class Disappearing?; Algernon Austin on MSNBC

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


There is no term to describe this new reality — a world where the economic system, culture and customs conspire to keep many people trapped in what seems very much like the old caste system, even as we celebrate the collapse of the caste system. Neither the old rhetoric of racism nor the new talk of post-racialism remotely captures where we are.

[Read more]


In June, Black Women See the Largest Decline in Employment

From "Weak Job Growth Leads to Another Rise in Unemployment":

The decline in EPOPs [or the employment-to-population ratio or the employment rate] hit most groups, but black women saw the sharpest falloff, with their EPOP declining by 0.9 percentage points to 52.8 percent, another new low for the downturn. The EPOP for black women is 7.8 percentage points below the pre-recession peak in 2007. The EPOP for blacks overall edged down by 0.1 percentage points to 51.1 percent, also a new low for the downturn.

From "Labor Market in Full Retreat":

Given this situation, it must be our top priority to do everything we can to stimulate demand and generate jobs, including providing fiscal relief to states; expanding the safety net (which, by getting money into the hands of people who will spend it, stimulates demand and generates jobs); approving additional spending on infrastructure; implementing direct job creation programs in particularly hard-hit communities; supporting work-sharing to avoid layoffs; having the Federal Reserve do more quantitative easing and/or target a somewhat higher inflation rate (e.g., 3-4%) to both reduce real interest rates and erode debt; and lowering the price of the dollar to boost net exports. The president and Congressional leaders need to stop talking about deficit reduction and start talking about job creation.


The Black Middle Class in Trouble

Economists say the Great Recession lasted from 2007 to 2009. In 2004, the median net worth of white households was $134,280, compared with $13,450 for black households, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute. By 2009, the median net worth for white households had fallen 24 percent to $97,860; the median black net worth had fallen 83 percent to $2,170, according to the EPI.

Algernon Austin, director of the EPI’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy, described the wealth gap this way: “In 2009, for every dollar of wealth the average white household had, black households only had two cents.”

Since the end of the recession, the overall unemployment rate has fallen from 9.4 to 9.1 percent, while the black unemployment rate has risen from 14.7 to 16.2 percent, according to the Department of Labor.

“I would say the recession is not over for black folks,” Austin says. He believes more black people than ever before could fall out of the middle class, because the unemployment rate for college-educated blacks recently peaked and blacks are overrepresented in state and local government jobs that are being eliminated due to massive budget shortfalls.

[Read more]


Crime Prevention is Better Than Reintegration

While reentry programs can aid reintegration into the community, they do little to reduce our reliance on incarceration. Prison appears to make inmates as likely to commit crime as not; about half of released inmates return to prison within three years. Congress appropriated only $83 million for reentry in fiscal year 2011, or less than $120 per released prisoner. Even with additional state funds, one is not likely to overcome a lifetime of low educational attainment, substance abuse and/or mental health disabilities with this meager commitment.

Investing in prevention and treatment instead of imprisonment is more likely to shrink the prison population. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy, for example, found that home-based supervision of juvenile offenders produced $28 in taxpayer benefits for every dollar invested.

[Read more]


85% of Black Teens Not Working

An even more troubling for many who have looked at black teen joblessness is something known as the employment-population ratio because it also reflects the teens who have given up looking for work. Only 28.2 percent of teens were in the workforce in May. For black teens it was 14.5 percent.

"We're reaching the point where it is not going to be able to go any lower," said Algernon Austin, director of the Race, Ethnicity and the Economy program at the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C.

[Read more]


The Jobs Crisis in Black D.C.

More than 100 people attended the forum at Friendship College Academy High School, discussing the findings of a poll on race and the economy conducted by The Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation. The first meeting, in February, examined the recession’s impact on the District’s African American families.

In one guise or another, the recession kept popping up on Wednesday.

Ward 7 resident Marla Blount, who has a master’s degree in business administration, told the panel she has been searching for a job for 2 1 /2 years, but doesn’t have many leads.

“I’ve tried to do everything right,” said Blount, 46, who moved to the District in 2000. “I just know that if I can’t find a job and I’ve got two degrees, I can just imagine what happens to the people who don’t have one degree.”

“It’s inexcusable,” she said.

[Read more]


The Other Subprime Lending Crisis

From the National Center for Education Statistics: "A higher percentage of Black students (15 percent) attended private for-profit institutions than of students of any of the other races/ethnicities shown (ranging from 6 to 8 percent)."

From the New York Times: "Among bachelor’s degree recipients, for example, nearly a quarter of 2008 graduates from for-profit colleges owed $40,000 or more, compared with just 6 percent of graduates from public colleges.

According to Congressional testimony this week, the debt burden is higher because for-profit schools sometimes encourage students to borrow privately from the school, rather than from federal programs, which often have lower rates and loan forbearance for those who fall ill or become jobless. The private loans are often subprime, with high rates and almost no consumer protections.

Even though the for-profit system serves only a little more than a tenth of those in postsecondary education, it accounts for nearly half of student loan defaults."

[Read more]

40 Years of the "War on Drugs"

Friday marks the 40th anniversary of one of the biggest, most expensive, most destructive social policy experiments in American history: The war on drugs. 


And no group has been more targeted and suffered more damage than the black community. As the A.C.L.U. pointed out last week, “The racial disparities are staggering: despite the fact that whites engage in drug offenses at a higher rate than African-Americans, African-Americans are incarcerated for drug offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that of whites.” 

[Read more]


The New Attack on the Black Vote

"Early voting, which enables people to skip long lines and vote at more convenient times, has been increasingly popular over the last 15 years. It skyrocketed to a third of the vote in 2008, rising particularly in the South and among black voters supporting Barack Obama. 

And that, of course, is why Republican lawmakers in the South are trying desperately to cut it back. . . .

. . . Black lawmakers called it what it is: a modern whiff of Jim Crow."

[Read more]


World Leaders Declare "War on Drugs" a Failure

Former presidents, prime ministers, eminent economists and leading members of the business community will unite behind a call for a shift in global drug policy. The Global Commission on Drug Policy will host a press conference at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York to launch a report that describes the drug war as a failure and calls for a "paradigm shift" in approaching the issue.

[Read more]


Dr. Algernon Austin speaks in Minneapolis on the challenges facing black workers

Dr. Algernon Austin spoke in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 6, 2011 on the challenges facing black workers in finding employment. He delivered the keynote address for the event “Closing the Disparity Gap: Recognizing & Engaging Diverse Talent.” Above he is pictured with fellow presenters. From left to right, they are Keswic Joiner, director of Risk Management for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities; Velma Korbel, director of the Department of Civil Rights for the City of Minneapolis; Algernon Austin, director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute; Robin Hickman, executive producer of Soultouch Productions; Joseph Ellis, senior vice president for Wealth Management at Wells Fargo; and Roxanne Givens, founder of the Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center.


Two Angles on the Black Jobs Crisis

Few Jobs for Black Teens

In 2009, teens from poor families were less likely to find work than their middle-class peers. Poor African American teens, however, were the worst off: Only 20% were able to find work, compared with 31% of poor Hispanic teens and 36% of poor white teens. In fact, middle-class African American teens were only slightly more likely to find work than poor white teens.

[Read more]

High Unemployment for Married Black Men

In 2010, African-American husbands were 71 percent more likely to be unemployed than their African-American wives and nearly twice as likely as husbands in white couples to be unemployed.

[Read more]


A View from the Black Depression

In the decade leading up to the Great Recession, Wanda Nolan grew accustomed to steady progress.

From an entry-level job as a fill-in bank teller, she forged a career as a commercial banking assistant, earning enough to become a homeowner. She finished college and then got an MBA....

But in September 2008, everything changed.

A bank human resources officer called her into a private conference room. “All I heard was, ‘Your position has been eliminated,’” ...

More than two years later, Nolan is still looking for a job and feeling increasingly anxious about a future that once felt assured."


“Over the course of the recession, the unemployment disparity between college educated blacks and whites actually widened,” says economist Algernon Austin, director of the Race, Ethnicity, and Economy program at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. “If black workers who are the most prepared to compete and work in the new economy can’t find jobs, that’s something that we as a country have to take seriously.”

[Read more]


A Tale of Two D.C.s

The data from the Depressed States [PDF] analysis shows starkly different experiences for white and black D.C. The unemployment rates for whites only show a slight indication of declining economic conditions over the Great Recession. The D.C. white unemployment rate peaked at 5.2% in 2009, significantly below the white rate nationally. The black rate has risen steadily from 2008 and peaked at nearly 19% in the end of 2010, higher than the black rate nationally.

In D.C., many people were surprised that blacks and whites had different assessments of the recently departed mayor Adrian Fenty. But if the only adage is true that "It's the Economy Stupid" then we should not be surprised.

Black D.C. is experiencing the full and brutal force of the Great Recession and probably will not recover for another two years. White D.C. experienced a very mild economic downturn that ended last year.


The Continuing Jobs Deficit

“The biggest deficit we face is the jobs deficit.”
--Congressman Xavier Becerra

"Recent reports of incremental employment gains should not overshadow the continuing depth of the jobs crisis in America—a crisis whose severity for some groups rivals the magnitude of the Great Depression. For example, unemployment among African Americans in Michigan and Hispanics in Rhode Island has exceeded 20% since 2009. In 17 other states, the African American unemployment rate was at least 15% for most or all of 2010 . . . ." [Read more]

"Young blacks and Hispanics are suffering disproportionately. The unemployment rate for black high school graduates under age 25 and not enrolled in school was 31.8%, compared with 22.8% for Hispanic high school graduates and 20.3% for white high school graduates. The unemployment rate for young black college graduates was 19.0%, compared with 13.8% for young Hispanic graduates and 8.4% for young white graduates." [Read more]


Crack vs. OxyContin

From the New York Times: "And on Tuesday, the Obama administration announced plans to fight prescription drug addiction nationally, noting that it was now killing more people than crack cocaine in the 1980s and heroin in the 1970s combined."

"Among 18-to-25 year olds, white youth are two-and-a-half times as likely as black youth to abuse prescription drugs. The abuse of drugs like OxyContin kill more people than crack cocaine and yet, as measured by the intensity of our policing and prosecution, our criminal justice system views crack cocaine as the greater harm to society." [Read more about "White Privilege and Illicit Drugs"]


Tax Evasion: The Real Costs

Tax evasion will cost the U.S. government $305 billion in 2010 and has cost $3 trillion over the past decade. It is a major contributor to budget deficits and the accumulation of national debt since 2001. Tax evasion also costs state treasuries billions of dollars. Every tax filer will pay an extra $2,200 in 2010 to make up for the funds lost to tax cheating. Even modest success in reducing tax evasion would free up significant new resources for spending or deficit reduction. Yet last weekÕs budget deal nixed a proposal by the Obama Administration to strengthen the IRS’s enforcement capacity. [Read more]


Paul Ryan’s Budget Plan: Trillions for the Rich, Pain for Everyone Else

The metaphor of the federal government as a family that needs to cut back on spending is a popular one today. But when a family finds itself in difficult financial circumstances, there are at least two major options: (1) reduce spending, or (2) increase income. Now imagine a family that is having difficulty paying its bills, and the family decides that it needs to bring in less income. The family tells you that if they were $10,000 poorer then they would be better able to pay their bills. Most people would say that this family is insane. If you can’t pay your bills you need more income not less.

Yet, conservatives have been reducing the government’s income--tax revenue--massively. The tax cuts that conservatives have been pushing shows that they are not serious about addressing government deficits and debt. What they are serious about is increasing the wealth of the rich.

In December, the Tax Cut-Unemployment Compromise Bill included $139 billion in tax cuts to the wealthy. Among the items that conservatives won in this deal was a reduction in the taxes paid by people inheriting estates worth up to $5 million. Most of the people inheriting $5 million estates are no doubt quite well-off before the inheritance. Yet, conservatives were willing to keep unemployed workers from receiving unemployment insurance until they made certain that the rich would pay fewer taxes on inheritances.

The $5 million level in the new estate tax provision is indexed to inflation so that it does not decline in value over time. While this provision for millionaires is indexed to inflation, the minimum wage for the lowest-income American workers is not. Year after year, we allow the minimum wage to decline in value and allow the living standards of the poorest workers to degrade, but when it comes to policies for millionaires policymakers remember to make sure that millionaire’s benefits do not erode over time.

The latest and most-hyped among the conservative budget plans is Congressman Paul Ryan’s. Ryan’s budget plan proposes $4.3 trillion in cuts to programs for the needy with one hand and then gives $4.2 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy with the other. Thus, there is little in the way of debt reduction, just pain for the needy and windfalls for the rich.

And Ryan is extremely generous when it comes to dishing out pain for those who are not rich. His plan greatly weakens Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Pell Grants. Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities states that Ryan’s plan “would produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history, while increasing poverty and inequality more than any measure in recent times and possibly in the nation’s history.” This is a money grab for the rich, not a serious attempt to address the national debt.

“The Federal Treasury loses twice as much revenue due to tax breaks than Congress appropriates on all nonsecurity discretionary spending” reports the Center for American Progress, yet over and over again the target for conservatives is nonsecurity spending and not tax breaks. Social Security does not add to the national debt since it is funded separately from the federal budget and still has a surplus in its trust fund, but conservatives keep throwing it into debt reduction plans. None of this makes sense if one is truly concerned about our annual deficits and the national debt.

The real goal of conservatives is the perennial conservative goal of giving tax cuts to the wealthy and drastically reducing government services to low-income Americans. They have skillfully used the economic crisis (caused by the conservative policy of deregulating financial institutions, by the way) to mask their agenda. They would not be able to so easily accomplish this goal without the assistance of Democratic leadership in Washington. Key Democrats are more interested in forwarding their re-election strategy of appearing centrist and compromising with conservatives than in criticizing dangerously misguided conservative policies.


Why Blacks Need to Pay Attention to Social Security Politics

Blacks are more dependent on Social Security for retirement than other groups. While 15.4% of Americans rely on Social Security for all of their retirement income. It is 27.7% for blacks. See the Washington Post graphic.


Missing Blacks? Look South

Both Michigan and Illinois, whose cities have rich black cultural traditions, showed an overall loss of blacks for the first time, said William Frey, the chief demographer at the Brookings Institution.

And Atlanta, for the first time, has replaced Chicago as the metro area with the largest number of African-Americans after New York. About 17 percent of blacks who moved to the South in the past decade left New York State, far more than from any other state, the census data show.

. . .

Northern blacks were a big part of Southern gains. There are now more than one million black residents of the South who were born in the Northeast, a tenfold increase since 1970.

[Read more]

"Chocolate City" No More

The number of African Americans residing in the District plummeted by more than 11 percent during the past decade, with blacks on the verge of losing their majority status in the city for the first time in half a century.

According to census statistics released Thursday, barely 50 percent of the District’s population was African American in 2010 — a remarkable shift in a place once nicknamed “Chocolate City.”

[Read more]


Detroit Keeps Shrinking

“This is the biggest loss of blacks the city has shown, and that’s tied to the foreclosures in the city’s housing,” Mr. Frey said. Because of the Great Migration — when blacks flowed from the South to the North — and the loss of whites, he said, “Detroit has been the most segregated city in the country and it is still pretty segregated, but not as much.” At one point, the city was 83 percent black.

Many blacks moved to nearby suburbs, but census data shows that even those suburbs have barely held their own against population loss.

[Read more]

Separate and Unequal

We pretend that no one’s a racist anymore, but it’s easier to talk about pornography in polite company than racial integration. Everybody’s in favor of helping poor black kids do better in school, but the consensus is that those efforts are best confined to the kids’ own poor black neighborhoods.

[Read more]


Racial Mixing Greatly Exaggerated

While it is true that growing numbers of Americans identify as being of more than one race, we are still an overwhelming mono-racial population. And we will be majority mono-racial for quite a while. In 2009, only 2.5 percent of the population identified as being "two or more races."

Recently, the New York Times reported that "nearly 9 percent of all marriages in the United States . . . were interracial or interethnic." This amount is more than double the percentage in 1980. It is a growing percentage, but still a small one.

When one examines the interethnic marriages between Hispanics and non-Hispanics carefully as I do below, these marriages seem much less like Americans moving to a new frontier and more like Americans retreading the same ground that we have for centuries.

In 2009, the vast majority of whites married whites. The vast majority of blacks married blacks. The majority of Asians, married Asians.

Hispanics also mainly marry other Hispanics. Further, many of the marriages where Hispanics marry a non-Hispanic are, in fact, marriages between people of the same race.

Before we go into the data published by the New York Times, we need to be aware of certain facts about Hispanic classification. The Census Bureau convention is that being Hispanic is an ethnicity, not a race. Hispanics can be of any race. One can be white and Hispanic, black and Hispanic, Asian and Hispanic, and American Indian and Hispanic.

About 60 percent of Hispanics identify racially as white. About 30 percent apparently reject the Census Bureau conventions and say that their race is "Other." However, the Times data does not present information about the "Others." Only about 2 percent of Hispanics, identify as black.

The data for men and women are quite similar. For brevity, I will only discuss the race of the women Hispanic men married. In 2009, only 18 percent of white Hispanic men did not marry a white Hispanic woman. But 17 percent of them married a white non-Hispanic woman. Only 1 percent of white Hispanic men married someone who was not white. Thus, the interethnic marriages of white Hispanics are almost entirely of whites marrying other whites.

Black Hispanic men had more interracial marriages, but still half of them married another black Hispanic. Twenty-two percent of black Hispanics married black non-Hispanics. Nearly three quarters of black Hispanic men married black women, Hispanic and non-Hispanic. Therefore, these interethnic marriages, too, are mainly of black people marrying other black people.

Interracial marriage is increasing. But this does not change the fact that Americans overwhelmingly marry people of the same race. The interethnic Hispanic marriages that some take as evidence of old boundaries breaking down are mainly marriages of whites marrying whites and blacks marrying blacks. This marriage pattern is a very old one in America.