Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Two Studies: Drop-out or Push-out, and the Consequences of Jim Crow Medicine

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The Sixties and the decade's aftermath remains a fertile field of study. Researchers conclude that the end of Jim Crow medicine “provided the health care basis for southern Black advances on standardized testing in the 1980s.” But change also brought social disarray, massive school dropouts, and a national public policy of mass Black incarceration.

 

Two Studies: Drop-out or Push-out, and the Consequences of Jim Crow Medicine

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“The first wave of Black southern kids born and raised under integrated medicine did dramatically better on standardized tests than older children born into Jim Crow.”

You can’t wrap up the Black experience of the Sixties and put it in a box. Events that seemed like defeats at the time turned into victories, while what appeared as a glorious triumph might actually be a prelude to disastrous defeat. In many ways, the Sixties story is still unfolding. Two new studies shed additional light on those tumultuous times.

Three Chicago-based economists have concluded that integration of southern hospitals in the mid-Sixties provided the health care basis for southern Black advances on standardized testing in the 1980s. In the 1950s and ‘60s South, Black children died before age 5 at many times the rate of white children. Under Jim Crow, public medicine was anything but equal. Blacks were often made to wait until all whites had been treated before seeing a doctor, or were barred from hospitals entirely. Then came the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlawed segregation in hospitals, and the next year the new Medicare program forced hospitals to obey the law or lose federal funds. According to the Chicago study, the first wave of Black southern kids born and raised under integrated medicine did dramatically better on standardized tests than older children born into Jim Crow. Northern Black kids, who had long had access to integrated medical care, did not register such dramatic gains. The southern children made bigger leaps, because they had so much farther to jump. One of the researchers summed it up, this way: “If you were born in 1962 in the South and you are Black, you did much worse on [standardized tests] than if you were born in 1969 in the South and are Black.” But if you were born in the North, “it doesn’t matter when you were born.”

So, from a health care perspective, one can call the Sixties a great success for a certain cohort of southern Black children. And there are myriad other clear victories.

“Blacks have been over-policed, over-arrested, over-charged and over-sentenced.”

But the world that the Sixties created was not necessarily a better one for all Black children. There followed the great white backlash, with its public policy of mass Black incarceration, and accelerated white flight to the suburbs, which some white people blame on the civil disturbances of the Sixties. And, closely related to both mass Black incarceration and increasing segregation and isolation of Blacks in urban centers, is the massive Black school dropout phenomenon.

A new Northeastern University study attempts to put a dollar amount on what dropouts cost society, and themselves.

Every high school dropout costs the nation $292,000 in lost tax revenues, social services, and the cost of imprisoning those who get sucked into the system, according to the report. One out of every four Black dropouts is incarcerated or otherwise supervised by the state on any given day.  Black female dropouts are nine times more likely to get pregnant than Black women that go to college. Black female-headed households proliferate because so many young Black men have dropped out and can't take care of families. The cost is high, but who is costing whom? Since the tail end of the Sixties, Blacks have been over-policed, over-arrested, over-charged and over-sentenced. We have been more pushed-out than dropped-out. So, rather than talk about what  Black dropouts cost society, why not tally what white society is still costing us.

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: 20091021_gf_WhoOwesWhom_.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 12:53pm EDT

Three-Tier Race-Based Construction Industry Wage Scales in Manhattan

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

A full-blown apartheid labor regime flourished in the Manhattan construction industry, with Irish immigrant workers at the top of the heap. New York's attorney general is demanding millions in back wages and an end to racial discrimination on the job. “If you give the bosses enough leeway, they'll bring back slavery.”

 

Three-Tier Race-Based Construction Industry Wage Scales in Manhattan

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“Irish on top, African Americans a distant second, Latinos at the bottom.”

Racial apartheid has reared its head in New York City’s construction industry. State Attorney general Andrew Cuomo has charged a major Manhattan contractor with creating a three-tiered wage scale, with Irish construction workers on top, African Americans a distant second and Latinos at the bottom. The company allegedly cheated workers of all ethnicities out of overtime, while forcing them to work as long as 70 hours a week.

Attorney General Cuomo is seeking $4 million in back wages and overtime and demanding an end to racial discrimination on the job. Members of the carpenters union found blatantly illegal and racist practices at about ten Manhattan construction sites. The race-based wage scale paid Irish workers $25 an hour; Blacks made about $18 an hour, and Latino workers, most of them immigrants, were paid just $15. According to union organizers, the Irish workers were also upset that Latinos did the same work but were paid $10 an hour less.

It should be noted that these glaring violations of labor and civil rights laws occurred before the Crash of last year, at the height of Wall Street’s housing and office construction bubble, when employment in the building trades was relatively high. The conventional wisdom is that management’s ability to divide workers along racial and ethnic lines by favoring one group over another increases as job opportunities decrease. But here we have blatant workplace crimes occurring at the height of a Manhattan construction boom! The sheer flagrancy of the violations indicates that the white business class feels neither shame, nor fear of prosecution.

“Worker insecurity has become a permanent condition of the American economy.”

There is something in the air, and it’s not the blooming of a new, “race-neutral” America. And the racial environment can only get worse as high unemployment becomes a permanent condition for workers of all races. The fact is, worker insecurity has become a permanent condition of the American economy – a direct and purposeful result of corporate domination of both major political parties. If the business class has its way, all workers will be made to feel insecure all of the time; management calls that a favorable business climate. In a political economy that is guided by the demands of business, job security has no place, and the whimseys and prejudices of management hold sway. If you give the bosses enough leeway, they'll bring back slavery.

Lawlessness runs amok throughout the corporate culture, which rewards the victimizing of others. A study released in early September showed that 68 percent of low-wage workers believe they were cheated out of money by their bosses at least once in the past week, with an average loss of 15 percent of their pay. Blacks are cheated three times as much as whites. Black women are robbed by their bosses more frequently than any other workers.

These are facts of life in the American workplace. A rising tide does not lift all boats. Judging by the crimes committed by employers during boom times, rising tides may even encourage  employers to steal and discriminate with greater enthusiasm.

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: 20091021_gf_ThreeTierWages.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 11:57am EDT

The Phony Fight: Obama and the Insurance Barons

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

If you believe the hype, the president and Big Insurance are going at at each other's throats over health care. But it's a sham battle, “like TV wrestling.” The insurance companies have already won the biggest prize they could ever wish for: 50 million new customers dragooned by the federal government. All the too-late huffing and puffing from the White House is “a hollow threat, for public consumption only.”

 

The Phony Fight: Obama and the Insurance Barons

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“The health care battle has devolved into a charade.”

The Obama White House and the insurance industry are putting on a big show for the public, with both sides pretending to be engaged in a battle royal over the shape of health care legislation. In reality, the insurance corporations have already won the war. But for political reasons, it's necessary that the insurance companies and the White House act like professional wrestlers. And like TV wrestling, it's all fake.

The insurance profiteers put out a paper last week, claiming the Senate Finance Committee bill shepherded by Obama’s buddy, Max Baucus, would cause premiums to go up 18 percent or more. President Obama then put on his angry face, and threatened to withdraw the insurance industry’s exemption from anti-trust laws. It sounded like a throw-down of epic proportions, but it’s just sound and fury, signifying nothing, as Shakespeare would say. The health care battle has devolved into a charade; the game has been fixed since early on in the Obama presidency.

Obama made his deals with the hospital corporations, the drug cartels and the insurance companies back in the spring. He promised the insurance racketeers they could have what every gangster craves: a captive market of consumers who would be forced to buy their shoddy products. The so-called “individual mandate” is the biggest prize any monopoly-seeking industry could ever hope for. It's was a centerpiece of Hillary Clinton's health care platform during the presidential campaign. Back then, candidate Obama opposed forcing everyone to buy into private insurance schemes. But President Obama was soon singing Hillary's tune, and it was sweet music to the insurance profiteers.

“The so-called “individual mandate” is the biggest prize any monopoly-seeking industry could ever hope for.”

Obama seemed to be holding out for some kind of weak public insurance “option” that would cover the neediest Americans, while forcing all the rest into the private sector's money-sucking machine. But the president has essentially dropped that public option fig leaf.

The Baucus plan is a naked transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars from the people's pockets to the insurance firms, a transfer enforced by the raw power of the state. It is the diametric opposite of single payer health care, which would draw the largest number of Americans into a single pool dedicated to the health and wellness of all. Instead, privatized national health care converts every citizen into a customer of giant corporations, whose goal is maximum profits.

The Baucus plan, which was nurtured at every stage of development by the Obama White House, is the greatest victory in history for the insurance companies – greater even than Congress's 1945 decision to exempt insurance companies from federal anti-trust laws. That's the law Obama is making all those loud noises about changing – but it's a hollow threat, for public consumption only. Anti-trust laws are designed to prevent monopolies. But President Obama is hell-bent on awarding private insurers an unprecedented monopoly over coverage of every American, and the privateer's profits will be fully subsidized by the people.

Obama's brand of insurance reform will have the same effect as his finance reform: massive transfers of wealth to corporations until the people's ability to pay is broken beyond repair.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com

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BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20091021_gf_FakeHealthFight.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 11:34am EDT