Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Priced Out of Shelter: The Decline in Affordable Housing A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“The United States has never achieved national goals in creation of affordable housing.”
 
One of the great engines of the current economic disaster was the relentless push by finance capital to inflate the price of real estate – and therefore, housing – to levels far in excess of what the average family could reasonably afford to pay. The United States has never achieved national goals in creation of affordable housing – not in a single year since the federal government began setting goals. The real estate industry has always seen to that. However, under the Bush administration, housing prices zoomed into the stratosphere, based on an unsustainable bubble of debt that has now burst catastrophically. Those who were barely able to find shelter for their families in the pre-Bush era found themselves in a truly desperate situation, even before the crash, as detailed in a new study issued by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
 
Although most public policy attention has been directed at the plight of home owners, one-third of all Americans pay rent, including about half of low income households. Their options shrank dramatically during the years that George Bush was in office. The study shows that, by 2007, eight million rental households were paying more than half their income to the landlord and for utilities. Federal guidelines say that households should pay only 30 percent of income to keep a roof over their heads. And we’re not talking about families that foolishly splurge on housing. Two-thirds of those that pay more than half their income for rent are living at or below the federal poverty line. Because of the lack of affordable housing, these households have no other choice.
The current housing crisis may cause rents to come down in some areas. But wages will also go down, and unemployment is rapidly rising, putting increased pressures on the poor and the soon-to-be poor.

“Wholesale destruction of public housing stock continues under local  administrations of both parties.”
 
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calls affordable housing “the neglected step-child of federal housing policy,” constantly squeezed out of the Washington budget by competing demands for subsidies for home owners.
 
Public housing is worse off than a step-child. The Bush administration’s hostility to public housing was manifested dramatically in New Orleans, where the feds used Katrina as an excuse to demolish every public housing unit they could aim a bulldozer at. But disdain for public housing is a bipartisan affair. Since 1995, 165,000 units of public housing have been lost and not replaced, nationwide. This wholesale destruction of public housing stock continues under local  administrations of both parties, including in cities with Black majorities and Black mayors.
Section 8 rental assistance was supposed to take up the slack for public housing. But each year, 10,000 to 15,000 units of Section 8 housing disappear and are not replaced. Only one out of every four households that are eligible for federal housing assistance, gets it. The need is well documented, but the funds are consistently withheld.
 
The new stimulus package provides a one-time cash infusion, but there still exists no long term commitment or national plan for affordable housing in the United States.
 
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
 
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20090304_gf_affordable_housing.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:33am EDT

DC Private School Vouchers May Be On Way Out A Black Agenda Radio commentary from Glen Ford
 
“There were no significance differences between DC students that used vouchers to attend private school, and those who applied for vouchers but wound up going to public schools.”
 
The private school vouchers program imposed on Washington, DC by Republican thuggery back in 2003, seems headed for the trash bin. Tucked inside the giant federal spending package recently passed by Congress are provisions that should effectively cut off funds to what Republicans saw as a national showcase for their school privatization plans. Congress has advised DC’s schools chancellor to begin making preparations to accommodate voucher students in the public schools at the end of the 2009-2010 school year.

Private school vouchers and Faith-Based Initiatives were George Bush’s principal programs to split the Black vote, and to give the impression that African Americans were moving to the political Right. School vouchers had the added potential to exploit divisions between African Americans and teachers unions. The parents and voters of Washington had repeatedly registered their opposition to school vouchers, but the Republicans persisted, and finally stooped to the worst of dirty tricks to get their way. In September of 2003, while most of the Congressional Black Caucus was in Baltimore at a Caucus-sponsored presidential candidate debate, Republicans in control of the House staged a surprise vote on their DC school voucher bill. Voucher opponents, including a number of Black congresspersons, couldn’t get back to Capitol Hill in time, and the Republicans prevailed by one vote.

“The parents and voters of Washington had repeatedly registered their opposition to school vouchers, but the Republicans persisted.”
 
What had begun at the turn of the millennium as the brainchild of rightwing corporations and think tanks, had under George Bush morphed into a publicly funded project. With Washington, DC as its educational guinea pig, the school voucher propaganda and money machines went into high gear, in hopes of creating a nationwide pro-voucher movement, especially among Blacks.
But last year, with the Democrats in control of Congress, the Bush Education Department was compelled to do a study, which found that there were no significance differences between DC students that used vouchers to attend private school, and those who applied for vouchers but wound up going to public schools. The voucher students themselves rated their experiences in private schools as no more satisfying than the kids who went to public schools. The only real differences registered were among the parents of voucher students, who felt their children were safer than in the public schools.
 
Even if the Democrats stick to their guns and dismantle the school voucher program in Washington, the Republicans and other school privatizers have succeeded in convincing much of the general public that African Americans favor vouchers. In fact, the preponderance of evidence says otherwise. In every survey, when urban voters are given multiple choices on what they would prefer occur in education, most opt for increased resources to public schools, over vouchers for private academies.
 
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
 
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
 
Direct download: 20090304_gf_dc_vouchers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:31am EDT

Obama To Leave 50,000 Troops in Iraq Indefinitely A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“With the turn of a phrase, President Obama has placed himself to the Right of his own party.”

Barack Obama, who was never an anti-war candidate, reveals himself as a pro-war president who would rather mangle the English language than tell the truth. Obama and his generals are agreed that the U.S. should leave about 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq after the targeted withdrawal of so-called “combat” troops by the end of August, 2010. So, what are we supposed to call these 50,000 American military personnel, if they are not “combat” troops? Obama wants us to call them a “transition force” – presumably, they will transition to death anyone that opposes them. Obama thinks that by changing the nomenclature, he can announce “mission accomplished,” declare peace, and then keep the war going indefinitely. That’s why the Joint Chiefs of Staff are happy, John McCain is happy,http://www.blackagendareport.com/images/stories/128/FAIRarticle.jpg but Democratic congressional leadership is anything but happy. With the turn of a phrase, President Obama has placed himself to the Right of his own party, and stabbed all of his wishful anti-war supporters in the back.

When it comes to torturing the language, Obama is more shameless than Vietnam-era presidents, who persisted in calling U.S. troops fighting in that country “advisors” until the term became laughable. As much as they would like to, the American generals in Iraq and their commander-in-chief can’t call the 50,000 soldiers and Marines that are to remain behind “advisors” – there are far too many of them, and they will continue to be organized for combat at the drop of a hat. Instead, the name-game describes the troops as a “transition” force, as opposed to a combat force. Which doesn’t mean they won’t be in combat; on the contrary, armed Americans in full battle gear will be roaming around looking for targets and fighting alongside the Iraqi military. It will look and sound just like combat; people on both sides and civilians will be killed, just like in combat, but it will not be combat because President Obama says the mission is “transition.” After August of 2010, U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq will be engaged in “transitioning,” not combat.

“Obama has spoken. Semantics equals reality.”

Obama is worried that many people may not be sophisticated enough to understand the fine distinction between combat soldiering and “transitioning.”
 
"Let me say this as plainly as I can,” Obama told Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, last weekend. “By August 31, 2010,” Obama said with a straight face, “our combat mission in Iraq will end." Why? Because Obama chooses not to call it combat.  Obama has spoken. Semantics equals reality.
 
Which makes you wonder: what kind of semantic trick was Obama playing when he told the joint session of congress, “I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture?" If methodically killing people is not combat, then maybe the methodical infliction of physical and emotional pain isn’t always torture. Maybe torture, like combat, is in the eye of the beholder – or, more to the point, the Presidential Definer, the Semanticist-in-Chief.
 
Apparently, when Barack Obama promised change, he meant a change in definitions.
 
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
 
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Direct download: 20090604_gf_obama_iraq.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:27am EDT