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A6 AUGUST 10-16, 2011

OPINION Guest editorial

Debt deal: The good, the bad and the ugly

After weeks of wrangling, the White House and congressional Republicans reached an agreement on a debt reduction plan that has in it some good, some bad and a lot of ugly. The best thing about the deal is that it keeps the nation from financial default which could have trig- gered an economic crisis not only in the United States but throughout the world. The vote in the House and the Senate showed a bright moment of bipartisan unity and decency when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords made her first appear- ance in Congress since being shot in the head seven months ago. Giffords drew thunderous applause from both Democrats and Republicans as she walked into the House chamber unannounced and cast her vote in favor of the bill. The bill also does not directly affect Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security and most of the cuts in discretionary spending will come at the end of the 10-year term of the deal. The bill will also require cuts in defense as well as domestic spending. The bad thing about the bill is that the deal calls for more than $2 trillion in cuts over the next decade in the absence of any new tax revenue. The deficit deal represents a new and dangerous era of fiscal aus- terity when unemployment remains above 9 percent and economic growth is slowing. The new eras of spending cuts and austerity effec- tively eliminates the option of using government spending to stimulate a weak economy. The deal also requires a new committee ofmembers

of Congress—composed of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans and from the House and the Senate—that will meet this fall to try to come up with ways to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion in au- tomatic budget cuts over 10 years, divided between military and social spending but leaving Social Secu- rity and Medicaid alone. Federal agencies are ex- pected to bear the brunt of the deficit cuts. The truly ugly part of the debt deal is that once

again President Obama allowed Republicans to frame the debate. The Republicans have now man- aged to focus the debate on deficits and spending cuts and not on what the country urgently needs now—economic growth and jobs. Republicans were also allowed to get away with blaming the deficit on Obama when the main cause of the deficit is the Bush era tax cuts and two un- funded wars. President George W. Bush inherited a surplus from the previous Clinton administration. The debt ceiling has been routinely raised under Democratic and Republican presidents. This time while controlling only one House of Congress, Re- publicans bullied their way and linked raising the debt ceiling to spending cuts. The president should have insisted on a clean unencumbered bill to raise the debt ceiling. Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said the Republicans have learned that bulling works. In a column written after the debt deal bill was approved Krugman said “the GOP has just demonstrated its willingness to risk financial col- lapse unless it gets everything its most extreme members want. Why expect it to be more reasonable in the next round,” said Krugman. “In fact, Republicans will surely be emboldened by

the way Mr. Obama keeps folding in the face of their threats. He surrendered last December, extending all the Bush tax cuts; he surrendered in the spring when they threatened to shut down the government; and he has now surrendered on a grand scale to raw extortion over the debt ceiling,” Krugman said. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson stated it plainly. “Republicans insisted on budget cuts only, with

not a cent of new revenue—and that, ladies and gentlemen, is what they got. There’s no way to spin it: Boehner and the GOP won. Obama and the Democrats lost.” The debt deal will result in deep spending cuts without new revenue and not attempt to close cor- porate loopholes. The average working Americans were the losers in

the debt deal. (Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)

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(NNPA)—When S&P downgraded

the U.S. bond rating fromAAA to AA+, they formalized the financial buzz of months, if not years. The U.S. is going to hell in a hand basket, replicating the denouement of Eng- land in the mid-21st century. Our tax structure, which rewards the rich and punishes the middle class, looks like something from a developing country, and our economic distribu- tion is going to look like that soon, as well.While many are disappointed and outraged that the flawed S&P felt they could involve themselves in the internal meat grinder of U.S. pol- itics by demanding a certain level of spending cuts, the bottom line is that our politicians were willing to take us to the brink on the debt ceiling, and this brinkman- ship does not bode well for fiscal stability. There are a number of

other trends that are trou- bling. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 45.8 million Americans re- ceived food stamps inMay, a 12 percent increase from a year ago. This represents a record—the highest number of people receiving food stamps since the program started.Understand that there are many who qualify for food stamps but don’t re- ceive them—they are too proud to participate in a program that many consider a welfare pro- gram. Thus, the report that 45.8 mil- lion receive food stamps understates the magnitude of food insecurity in our nation. Nationally, home ownership fell to

66 percent, the lowest level in at least two decades. The level of home- ownership has long been seen as an index of long-term family financial stability. In these fascinatingly oscil- lating economic times, is it any won- der that these rates have continued to drop, and that there is a concomi- tant economic reverberation from this decline? Of course, the unemployment rate is

of extreme concern. It dropped just a tick fromJune to July, from9.2 to 9.1 percent. It is still so high and so in-


The beginning of the end Julianne Malveaux


grained that a third of those officially without work haven’t worked for a full year.The average unemployed person has been out of work for 40 weeks. The official unemployment rate for African-Americans, at 15.9 percent, has also fallen.However, the real un- employment rate forAfrican-Ameri-

were also tax credits available for those who hired inner city workers, for those who have been unemployed formore than a year? In tying President Obama’s hands,

the Congress signaled that economic revitalization would have to happen without government stimulation. That may be one of the reasons S&P decided to downgrade the value of US bonds.We are in a position that can, at best, be described as embar- rassing, when challenged China de- mands an accounting from us on the world stage. To be sure, China has a point. They are a creditor, we are a debtor. They have a right, now, to wonder if their investment in the United States has been a good one. Is this the beginning of the

end of U.S. hegemony? Can we compete with other coun- tries without the edge that once came from being per- ceived as the biggest and the baddest, the world leader, the trendsetter? Now, in some eyes, we are just an- other struggling country, hampered by debt that is poorly secured, bereft of solu- tions because of partisan bickering. Other struggling countries

agree that investment in ed- ucation is a long-term strat- egy. They agree to provide support for budding en-

cans approaches 30 percent. Last week, President Obama urged

the private sector to hiremore veter- ans. I applaud his effort to find jobs for those who have serviced our na- tion.Yet, finding jobs will takemore than exhortation, and veterans aren’t the only ones who need jobs.As I lis- tened to our president rattle off the statistics about veteran unemploy- ment, I was reminded that there are other groups that experience higher unemployment than the reported rate. Imagine the impact if President Obama rolled out a programto target thoseAfrican-Americans who experi- ence unemployment.Or, because it is clear that in these racially charged times, he can’t use the word “Black” without attracting the ire of the Lim- baughs of the world,what if there

trepreneurs.We haven’t even gotten there yet.Yes, thank you Congress for keeping the Pell grant at its cur- rent level. Still, there have been short sighted cuts in the educational arena that are troubling, including the cut in the summer Pell. Negative statistics need not be the

beginning of our end.We can turn it around, if we make clear choices. Is there a collective will to invest in our young people, to provide jobs for our unemployed, to salvage the middle class? Can we get on the same page? The S&P downgrade makes it clear that political brinkmanship weakens our nation financially. Our fiscal fail- ure, if uncorrected, represents the beginning of our nation’s end. (JulianneMalveaux is president of Bennett College forWomen in Greensboro,N.C.)

name’s enrolled. And future ages will be told, There lived a man called Banneker, An African Astronomer…”—Su-

sanna HopkinsMason, 1792 As the United States of America

prepares to honor Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. as the first African-American and first non-pres- ident to have a memorial on the Na- tionalMall we have another prover- bial river to cross. Our nation must also honor the work of Benjamin Banneker whose surveying assis- tance proved pivotal in the formation of the District of Columbia as the America’s capital city. Benjamin Banneker was born free in

1731,within Baltimore County,Md. Hismother,Mary Banneka,was the daughter of anAfricanman named Banneka and an English woman namedMollyWelsh.Banneker’s grandfather was captured and brought to the Colony ofMaryland around the same time of Cunta Cente, made known tomost inAlexHaley’s book,Roots, and was a descendent of

Beyond MLK: Banneker should have a memorial Gary L. Flowers

(NNPA)—“On record now thy Commentary

the Dogon people ofMali (ancient dy- nasty which is nowWestAfrican na- tions of Nigeria and Senegal). The Dogon people in ancientMali

were—and are—expert astronomers who had accurately chartered the star “Sirius” and named it the be- cause of its brightness and unique celestial qualities. Following the dis- covery of Sirius, the ancient Egyp- tians connected the flooding of the Nile Valley with the star. Later, the Greeks would name it the “dog star” for its association with the astrologi- cal “Orion’s Hunting Dogs.” Today, when people refer to the “dog days of August” it can be traced back to Ban- neker’s ancestors who were far

In recent

weeks, the nation has been bom- barded with non- stopmedia cover- age of the debt ceiling debate. Congress and the president could not seemto come to an agreement over how to best protect the nation’s credit rating and control the national deficit.We were told, repeatedly, that if the debt ceiling wasn’t increased, America’s global borrowing power would be negatively affected and that the economy would suffer.At the 11th hour, Congress voted on and the pres- ident signed a cobbled together plan that ensured America could continue to borrowmoney to pay its debts. Peo- ple across the country breathed a col- lective sigh of relief.Or did they? In the midst of all this talk about

Food stamp use increases Judge Greg Mathis


ahead of their time. Thus, Benjamin Banneker came to

work as a surveyor forMaryland Mayor Andrew Ellicott with excel- lent credentials. Ellicott had been appointed by Thomas Jefferson to survey the land that would become the District of Columbia.Along with French artistic builder renderer, Pierre L’Enfant, Ellicott and Ban- neker would design the nation’s capi- tal. As we know, Jefferson and L’Enfant parted ways and the latter returned to France.With precision, Banneker charted the stars and laid the coordinates (10 miles square) for Washington, D.C.,much like the City of Alexandria in Ancient Egypt. For it was Jefferson’s interest in Ancient Egypt that someone with knowledge of the stars was needed for the city’s design. In fact, the “Meridian” known as 16th Street inWashington, D.C. was based on the meridian roadway of Alexandria to channel the light of God to the pharaoh’s palace, The White House. In addition to being a first-rate as-

of getting the debt ceiling in- creased, were willing to put the very programs they swore to pro- tect on the table. If these pro-

grams are cut in any way, how will families feed

their children? With more people out of work and

millions of Americans set to lose their unemployment benefits this fall, it’s safe to assume that food stamp usage will only rise in the coming months.What is being done to help these people? While we all understand that a

America’s borrowing power and America’s place in the global econ- omy, very little, if anything, was said about the needs of the country’s poor. Perhaps our elected officials are un- aware that nearly 46 million people are receiving food stamp benefits. In Alabama, 36 percent of that state’s population receives food stamps; that’s a 120 percent increase over last year. What we did hear during these debt

debates was Republicans saying that Americamust slash its budget, cut- ting programs that support the poor in the process, in an effort to get the growing deficit under control. Democrats and the president say the support the poor but, in the interest

shrinkingmiddle class is not good for our economy, and feel for themillions who lost their homes and suffered huge losses to their 401ks and invest- ments, we can no longer allow our gov- ernment to act as if that is the only class thatmatters.Withmore and moremiddle class families slipping into poverty—many of themminori- ties—it ismore critical than ever that we truly support our nation’s poor and fund programs that will uplift them. America is spending a lot of time

trying to figure out how to ‘save’ it- self from economic turmoil and has, as a result, invested billions to stabi- lize business sectors that were oper- ating on shaky ground.More atten- tion must now be spent on providing a safety net for its people. (Judge GregMathis is vice president of

Rainbow PUSH and a national board mem- ber of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.)

tronomer, Benjamin Bannekerwas an inventor and author. In his early twen- ties, Banneker built a continuous strik- ing clock entirely ofwood, based on his design observations of a borrowed pocketwatch.With excellentmathe- matical skills he designed and carved the clock’s components the clock kept perfect time formore than 50 years. Banneker was among the first

Americans to author an Almanac from 1792 through 1797, containing astrological ephemeris and solar/lunar eclipse tables with scien- tific essays.His almanacs were used by Slavery Abolitionist as proof posi- tive that African-Americans were equal to other races in intelligence capabilities. On the basis of his foundational

contributions to the citing ofWash- ington, D.C., as the nation’s capital, TheWhite House should embrace, and Congress should enact legisla- tion for a memorial to Benjamin Banneker on land designated by D.C.’s City Council in 1971. In order to do so, Congress must pass reau- thorization legislation so that fundraising may continue.Not to do so would be yet another insult to African-Americans. “This sun,with all it attendant plan-

ets, is but a very little part of the grandmachine of the universe; every star, though in appearance no bigger than a diamond that glitters upon a lady’s ring, is really a vast globe, like the sun in size and glory; no less spa- cious, no less luminous, than the radi- ant source of the day; so that every star is not barely a world, but the cen- tre of amagnificent system; and a ret- inue of worlds, irradiated by its beams, and revolving round its attrac- tive influence, all of which are lost to our sight in immeasurable wilds of ei- ther.”—Benjamin Banneker (Gary L. Flowers is executive director & CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc.)

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