Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
 The Black Caucus and Obama: One-Way Loyalty
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
On health care, Barack Obama "has become a heavy burden for even the Black Caucus to bear, as he searches constantly for allies on the Right." As Obama threatens to jettison the issue of racial disparities from his "reform" proposals, Black lawmakers must reassess their loyalties.

The Black Caucus and Obama: One-Way Loyalty
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"Obama has left the Black Caucus with little ground to stand on as they try to prop up his presidency."
Nobody wants President Obama to succeed more than the 42-member Congressional Black Caucus. History, itself, made it inevitable that masses of African Americans would feel a profoundly vested interest in the fortunes of any Black person that made it into the Oval Office, especially one who garnered about 19 of every 20 Black votes. Back in October of last year, it was Barack Obama's lobbying of individual Black members of Congress that caused the Caucus to shift from 21 to 18 opposed to the first bank bailout, to 31 to 8 in favor - and Obama hadn't even been elected yet. Despite Obama's dismissal of progressives on issues of peace and social justice - issues still dear to a core of Caucus members - Black lawmakers still feel that history demands their allegiance to this president.
Obama, however, takes such loyalties for granted, and has left the Black Caucus with little ground to stand on as they try to prop up his presidency. On health care, he has become a heavy burden for even the Black Caucus to bear, as he searches constantly for allies on the Right. Among the 64 progressives that vowed in August to vote against any health care bill that does not include a strong public option, 25 are Black. Under the leadership of California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the Black Caucus issued a letter last week expressing "deep concern" that "a robust public option and myriad health disparity elimination provisions...may be stricken" in order to cut the cost of the legislation. Lee emerged from a conference call with the White House still insisting on a public option and emphasizing the need for measures to eliminate disparities in health care, through better data collection, greater diversity in the health care workforce, and more community health care workers. Yet the White House seems prepared to jettison health equity, to appease the Right. If that happens, the Congressional Black Caucus will utterly lose face.
"The Caucus has dedicated resources and prestige to documenting the huge racial disparities in health outcomes."
The Black Caucus has made the health equity issue its own. In recent years the Caucus has dedicated resources and prestige to documenting the huge racial disparities in health outcomes, and exploring ways to confront the problem. This April, the Caucus held a health equity forum, at which Georgia Congressman John Lewis spoke of the need to launch a "health equity movement" to ensure that the issue is "an integral component of health care reform." But the Caucus will be in no position to lead a "health equity movement" or anything else if it allows Obama to discard the equity issue without a fight.
As an institution, the Congressional Black Caucus has no choice but to resist the first Black president, or submit to voluntary irrelevance on an issue they have told their own constituents is vital to the community.
In their letter to the president, the Black lawmakers assured him they are "committed allies and partners in the fight to reform America's broken health care system." It is Obama's commitment that is so very much in question.
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: 20090909_gf_BCBHealthCare.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 11:52pm EDT

The Sham Debate Over Obama's Af-Pak War
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
If the Afghanistan-Pakistan war is a necessity, then it certainly must be escalated. President Obama's framing of the conflict leaves no room for peace, yet purported peace activists refuse to confront him. Such a movement is not simply shallow: "it is a fraud."

The Sham Debate Over Obama's Af-Pak War
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"Obama has not altered the Bush war on terror paradigm, he has reinforced it."
With the help of cooperative corporate media, President Obama attempts to create the impression of a vigorous internal debate within his administration over how much bigger the so-called Af-Pak theater of war is going to get. The charade is designed to demonstrate that, unlike the "dumb wars" that Obama opposes, this one is being transformed into a smart war, intelligently escalated. That U.S. troop levels will increase, even as reluctant European allies move towards downsizing their commitments, is a foregone conclusion, since the president has already characterized the conflict as a "war of necessity." If a war is necessary, then by definition, the national commitment must be open-ended and beyond question.
So what is there to debate? The president has framed the issue as one of inevitability. Last month Obama told a veterans group that, "If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans." That's the same rationale that George Bush deployed to justify not only the Afghanistan invasion, eight years ago, but the Iraq invasion, the war against Somalia and, indeed, the whole concept of global American wars without end. Barack Obama has not altered the Bush war on terror paradigm, he has reinforced it.
Once one accepts the Bush-Cheney - and now Obama-Biden - logic of necessary war, peace becomes impossible. To the extent that those who claim to be part of the U.S. peace movement remain ambivalent on Obama's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, they become accomplices in the aggression.
"Much of what passes for a U.S. peace movement has no more respect for international law than the administrations they protest against."
The U.S. anti-war movement fails to institutionalize itself, acting only in fits and starts when it acts at all, because much of its leadership refuses to recognize the United States as an imperial power. They allow themselves to become enmeshed in phony debates about how U.S. forces should comport themselves in other people's countries, rather than question America's right to inflict itself on other peoples. They agonize over levels of U.S. military force deployed and monies spent; whether the frequency of U.S. atrocities is up or down; and embroil themselves in discussions of the relative merits of American-imposed puppet regimes. Shamefully, much of what passes for a U.S. peace movement has no more respect for international law than the administrations they protest against. They seek only a more benign imperialism, in which they can see themselves as the good guys.
To the extent that a purported peace movement accepts that the United States has any rights that smaller nations do not possess, it is not simply a shallow movement: it is a fraud - just as fraudulent as Barack Obama was as a "peace" candidate. Such a movement is helpless against the logic of imperial war, because it accepts the underlying premise, that the United States has a right to intervene in the affairs of others. If that is true, then U.S. General Stanley McChrystal should be commended and supported when he claims that all he wants to do is "protect" the Afghan people, whether they like it or not. At any rate, it's necessary. Obama says so.
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: 20090909_gf_AfPakOpenEnded.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 11:51pm EDT

 Doing Business in the USA: A Culture of Thievery
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Cheating one's employees is as American as apple pie, according to a new study. Two-thirds of low-wage workers are routinely robbed by their bosses, hard evidence of "a festering culture of business thievery at work - something deeply embedded in the way this society operates."

Doing Business in the USA: A Culture of Thievery
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"Blacks are robbed by their bosses at three times the rate of whites."
A new study of employer practices in low-wage sectors of the U.S. economy shows a pervasive disregard for the rights of workers. To put it bluntly, the bosses routinely steal their workers blind. No shame, just business.
The study surveyed over 4,000 employees in low-wage industries in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and found that 68 percent believed they had been cheated in the previous week on the job. The typical worker was robbed of $51 by the boss: a 15 percent loss in pay for the week. Women are far more likely to be cheated than men, and it should come as no surprise that Blacks are robbed by their bosses at three times the rate of whites.
The study, titled "Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers," is a horror story that documents how employers routinely fail to pay for hours worked, or to pay the minimum wage, and successfully pressure employees not to complain when their earnings are stolen, or when they are seriously injured. Most shocking, is the sheer pervasiveness of employer lawlessness. Cheating one's workers is standard business practice in low-wage America, especially when those workers are female and Black.
There is much more going on here than a lack of enforcement of workplace laws and regulations. When 68 percent of low-wage workers are methodically cheated by the boss, week after week, month after month, then we are witnessing a festering culture of business thievery at work - something deeply embedded in the way this society operates.
"The typical worker was robbed of $51 by the boss: a 15 percent loss in pay for the week."
When poor Black people are said to be engaged in patterns of unlawful or anti-social behavior, the larger society is quick to conclude that the cause is something in the culture, that African Americans are predisposed to crime, or drugs, or bad habits of living. The theory of Black cultural pathology has no basis in science, but is nonetheless readily believed by those who want to believe.
However, the systematic robbery of workers, especially Black workers, is seldom ascribed to deep and abiding defects in the larger American culture. Such a conclusion would challenge the national mythology, that American culture values and rewards hard work and honest dealings with one's neighbors. The descendants of Black slaves and Native Americans know better. They know that the revered Founders of this country valued most of all that which they could get for free: free land from dead Indians, free labor from enslaved Africans.
America has always valued conquest and accumulation, and devalued the conquered and those who were forced to labor. Its cultural values were forged in relationships of dominance and deceit. Systematic thievery is anything but alien to American history and culture. These perverse values still prevail. New economic data show U.S. worker productivity is up 6.6 percent. That means employees are working harder for the same or less pay. Only culturally depraved people would consider that cause for celebration.
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: 20090909_gf_BusinessThievery.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 11:49pm EDT