Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

U.S. Voter Turnout is Low Because There’s Little to Vote For

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

White Americans also vote in numbers far below almost all of the rest of the developed world.”

President Obama wants you to believe that the political map of the United States would be transformed – “completely changed,” he says – if citizens were required by law to vote. Obama told a town hall meeting in Cleveland that mandatory voting would “counteract” the influence of money in the U.S. electoral process. That’s a hell of a statement from the guy who wrecked the public campaign finance system by opting out of it in 2008, and outspent his Republican opponents in both of his runs for the presidency. Obama ought to have his picture on a million dollar bill.

But, why does the United States have the lowest voter turnout in the industrialized world, including Russia? It’s not because Americans are happier with the way they’re living than the rest of humanity. The U.S. ranks 17th on the global Happiness index and 23rd on the Satisfaction with Life scale. And, although racial exclusion in voting is very important when comparing Black voter turnout with whites, white Americans also vote in numbers far below almost all of the rest of the developed world.

Americans don’t vote because both major political parties are answerable to the same people: the moneyed classes, the power structures that determine the issues that will be on the political agenda long before the party primaries begin. This is called the hegemony of the bourgeoisie, the rule of the rich.

The corporations and bankers choose the menu; the only option citizens have is whether to select from the pre-packaged list of candidates, or stay home. Almost two out of three chose not to vote in 2014. They were not behaving irrationally. Since both major parties are controlled by the rich, only the most minor tinkering with the way the country is actually run, is tolerated. No matter how many people vote, very little changes, because the U.S. offers the narrowest spectrum of electoral choices in the industrial world – which is why it has the lowest voter turnout.

Blacks Corralled by Democrats

The Democrats want to keep their lock on the Black vote, but they have no interest in Black people voting their own political agenda, for the simple reason that Blacks are the most left-wing constituency in the country and must, therefore, be kept in check by the Democratic Party machinery. It is the Democrats who have for decades sought to break up concentrations of Black voters, spreading them out across a number of districts. This gives the Democratic Party a better chance to win seats in more districts, but it means that only those Black candidates that can appeal to a substantial segment of white voters can win election. The Black political conversation is left in a state of arrested development. Ultimately, even the Black political landscape turns into a desert, and rational Black people choose not to vote.

There is much more to politics than voting. The Sixties was the most productive decade in Black American history, but the victories came mainly from the street. The vote can be put to good use, but not when it’s cast for a Republican or a Democrat. Which is why so few votes are cast on Election Day in the United States.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Direct download: 20150325_gf_MandatoryVoting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:39am EST

Seattle Urban League Leader to Run Against Socialist Seattle City Council Member. Why?

Seattle Urban League Leader to Run Against Socialist Seattle City Council Member. Why?

“...In return for speaking out against teachers, communities, standing up for privatization, and a little aggressive flattery, the Urban League gets handsomely rewarded.”

In its 105 years, the National Urban League has done a lot of indisputable good, not just for the reputations of its founders and funders, but also for the actual communities it claims to serve.

But lately, like the NAACP, NAN, and the whole lot of corporate funded dinosaur civil rights organizations, the League seems to pay a lot more attention to what its corporate donors need, as opposed to its constituents.

There's the Urban League's lucrative embraces of Common Core, high stakes testing, charter schools and privatizing public schools. The League receives generous gifts from Microsoft founder Bill Gates, now chairman of the Gates Foundation, whose consultants helped write the president's privatizing Race To The Top program. The League is solidly behind the drive to turn public schools in poor neighborhoods into privatized, heavily policed and often remotely instructed holding tanks. In return for speaking out against teachers, communities, standing up for privatization, and a little aggressive flattery, the Urban League gets handsomely rewarded. The 2012 keynote at the National Urban League's annual affair was a “dialog” between Skip Gates and Bill Gates, whom the professor called his “brother”.

Bill Gates is a major investor in Monsanto, another generous giver to the Urban League. Monsanto wants to hijack the food supplies of Africa, Latin America and even the US, so when California voters put a 2012 referendum on the ballot that would have required GMO foods to be labeled, the Urban League took Monsanto money to campaign against that as well. The Urban League, NAN, NAACP, Operation PUSH earned their gifts from Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and others by testifying against network neutrality, in favor of corporate mergers and the digital redlining of their own communities, and with them, requested that they not be required to mention it when they testify on matters affecting their funders.

“...while you can never have too many Republicans or Democrats in office, even one socialist is way too many...”

The list of policy positions and actions undertaken by the League in the interest of its funders, often against those of its presumed constituents, is quite a long one, and about to get longer still. The latest League atrocity is in Seattle Washington, where voters in a city council district elected a socialist three years ago. That council member, Kshama Sawant helped lead a multi-year effort to raise the minimum wage in Seattle. The CEO of Seattle's Urban League, a longtime political insider with great fundraising connections wants to run for local office. Apparently there are no neoliberal pension-cutting Democrats for her to go after in Seattle, and no neolithic Republicans worth dethroning either.

The number one and only target of of Seattle Urban League CEO's Pam Banks' campaign for office will be the socialist, because she knows things. Pam Banks knows that while you can never have too many Republicans or Democrats in office, even one socialist is way too many. CEO Banks knows that while you can never have too many corporate funded politicians, even one elected official that doesn't take the corporate cash makes everybody else feel nervous and look bad. Banks knows that when gentrification is a problem, rent control is probably not a solution her funders would appreciate, even though it makes perfect sense to residents in danger of displacement. Banks knows that any run against a socialist incumbent will be well funded by forces who already call the League, and her, their good friend. They just might not be friends of the people of Seattle.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and serves on the state committee of the GA Green Party. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Direct download: 20150318_bd_seattle.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:33pm EST

Thirty Years of Black Economic Regression

Thirty Years of Black Economic Regression


“Black households have been falling further and further behind whites since at least 1984, when Ronal Reagan was in office.”

President Obama almost always speaks well – but he hardly ever speaks the truth. Obama’s main theme at this month’s Selma commemoration was that you’d have to be crazy not to realize that conditions of life for Black folks are improving in America. In reality, however, Blacks have been losing ground compared to whites for at least three decades. In other words, Black economic progress is a myth.

A new study by Brandeis University and the Demos think tank shows that the typical Black household now possesses just six percent of the wealth of the median white household. The white household is worth a little over $110,000, compared to a median Black household wealth of just over $7,000. The racial wealth gap is virtually unchanged from a similar Brandeis study conducted back in 2010, which showed the typical white household was twenty times richer than its Black counterpart.

The two studies, conducted five years apart, both conclude that the historical public policies of the United States created the wealth gap – beginning with slavery – and that only racially-targeted public policies can hope to overcome these disparities. But of course, President Obama said categorically, in his first 100 days in office, that he opposes racially targeted government programs. He said “a rising tide lifts all boats.” But Black boats have been sinking for the past 30 years. The 2010 Brandeis study showed Black households have been falling further and further behind whites since at least 1984, when Ronal Reagan was in office. Reagan also liked to say that a rising tide lifts all boats.

“Blacks and Latinos get much lower returns on their investments in education than whites do.”

There is another myth, that there exists a large and growing, upwardly mobile cohort of Black people who are rapidly closing the gap with their white peers. Such people do exist, but they are not statistically significant. The Brandeis 2010 report showed that upper income Blacks fell even farther behind their white peers than lower income Blacks during the Great Recession.

The latest Brandeis study also thoroughly undermines the long-held notion that education is the key to Black economic progress. The numbers show that Blacks and Latinos get much lower returns on their investments in education than whites do. For every $1 of wealth that accrues to Black households because someone earned a college degree, the typical white household accrues $11.49. That means white people are rewarded far more for their educational achievements. Therefore, even if Blacks caught up with whites in college graduation rates, they would continue to fall further and further behind, economically.

The 2015 report projects that, if Black home ownership could be made to rise to the same level as whites, the racial wealth gap would narrow somewhat. But of course, that can’t possibly happen unless the U.S. reverses 200 years of history by instituting racially-targeted, pro-Black policies at every level of society, and keeps those policies in effect for generations.

One more little detail: you’d have to get rid of capitalism, which is the Mother of All Economic Disparities.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com, and sign up for our email notifications of new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Direct download: 20150318_gf_BlacksEconomy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:23pm EST

Why Isn't Sen. Kirk's “Chicago Will Become Detroit” Threat National News?

Why Isn't Sen. Kirk's “Chicago Will Become Detroit” Threat National News?

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

On March 2, Illinois Senator Mark Kirk plainly threatened the people of Chicago. If Rahm Emanuel was not re-elected mayor, he declared, banksters and bond market investors concerned about the city's mountain of debt would see that Chicago went the way of Detroit.

Given that Chicago is the nation's 3rd largest city, and finances itself pretty much like every other big US city, a threat like this has potential implications for scores of other cities and ought to be national news. But it wasn't It made a local Chicago headline and dropped down the memory hole, out of sight. Why? The senator's threat wasn't national news because the plain facts beneath it, might have made Chicagoans and people in your city as well even more disturbed.

A great deal of Chicago's debt is pension debt. Pensions are deferred wages which employees agreed to allow the city or state to deposit into prudently invested pension funds so they would be available for payout years later upon their retirement. But public officials in Chicago, in Illinois and in cities, counties and whole states across the US broke these agreements, frequently violated the law and didn't make these payments, sometimes for decades. Now that the payouts are due, they need to blame it on “greedy teachers” or anything that will keep them from taxing the rich, which is the only place that kind of money can be had.

In Chicago, and very likely in your town too they doubled down on their dishonesty by investing hundreds of billions in pensions and other funds as well in exotic investment devices, credit default swaps, derivatives, real estate and stock market schemes which their investment advisors and ratings agencies assured them were sound and lucrative, but turned out to be black holes.

City workers and the public got screwed, but everybody else made out like, well... bandits. And the bandits are good friends of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, of Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, of the mayors of Atlanta, Philly, Sacramento, the governors of California and New York and everyplace in between. Kwame Kilpatrick didn't snort Detroit's pension funds up his nose, he gave them to the same folks Rahm gives Chicago's to. Wall Street gave Kwame Kilpatrick a medal for that, and Rahm's friends who do business with the city have put millions in his campaign coffers. Thanks to them, Chicago to some extent is already Detroit.

Getting out of the city's debt trap will require some real creativity, but there are answers. The state of North Dakota, with maybe 30% of Chicago's population, has its own bank, where state funds are exclusively deposited. There's no good reason why Chicago can't do the same, and have its own funds in its own bank, available for investment in the region's own economic future. A city-owned bank could invest those funds in job-creating green technologies that might put large numbers of young Chicagoans, now out of the labor force altogether, to work. It could do what private banks refuse to do and invest in refitting and construction of affordable housing, and transit, and job-creating municipal broadband, like the city of Chattanooga has already successfully deployed.

Senator Kirk's threat isn't national news because staring it down lays bare the predatory habits of our politicians and their funders, and might even lead us to real solutions. But the next step, at least in Chicago, is to fire Rahm Emanuel on April 7.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com

Bruce Dixon is a Chicagoan living in exile in suburban Atlanta. He's managing editor at Black Agenda Report, a mamber of the state committee of the GA Green Party and a partner in a technology firm. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com
Direct download: 20150310_banksters_threaten.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:39pm EST

Obama, at War on Three Continents, Threatens Venezuela

Obama, at War on Three Continents, Threatens Venezuela

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

“Venezuela has every reason to fear that Obama’s executive order might be a prelude to military attack.”

President Obama, who is currently engaged in multiple wars on both the African and Asian continents and is hell-bent on provoking a war in Europe with Russia, is now stepping to the very brink of war in South America, against Venezuela. On Monday, Obama declared a state of national emergency to justify freezing the assets of 7 Venezuelan officials that the U.S. claims are involved in human rights violations. In order to comply with U.S. law, Obama asserted that Venezuela represents a threat the national security of the United States. The White House pretended that the scary language was just a legal technicality, and does not mean that the president actually believes Venezuela is about to do harm to the United States. However, Obama is invoking the same language and law against Venezuela that was used against Syria and Iran, leading to Syria’s near destruction by the U.S. and its allies and proxies, and to vicious sanctions and a state of near-war with Iran. Venezuela has every reason to fear that Obama’s executive order might be a prelude to military attack.

Washington has been trying to topple the socialist government in Venezuela since at least 2002,

when George Bush backed an unsuccessful coup against the late President Hugo Chavez. Since then, Venezuela has conducted more elections than any other nation in the hemisphere, all of them vouched for as free and fair by international observers. Unable to prevail at the polls, the rightwing, racist opposition hopes to come to power through another coup or direct military intervention by the United States. In that context, Obama’s assertion that Venezuela is a danger to U.S. national security ranks just short of a declaration of war.

Yankee, Stay Home

Venezuelan President Maduro has thrown a few of the most brazen coup plotters in jail, which Obama ridiculously describes as a massive violation of human rights. However, the worst human rights violators in the hemisphere are Washington’s allies. Almost six million people, most of them Black and indigenous, have been displaced from their homes by political violence in Colombia, a U.S. client state. Mexico’s is a narco-state, as violent as Colombia. And Honduras, where the U.S. backed a military coup against the democratically elected government in 2009, is a place of lawlessness and state terror.

Luckily, the United States only has a few remaining allies left in Latin America. What unifies the southern part of the hemisphere is the common experience of the U.S. boot on one’s neck. CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which includes all of the nations of the western hemisphere except Canada and the U.S., has warned Washington to stop interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs.

So, if Obama thinks that he can get away with waging a phony “humanitarian” interventionist war against Venezuelan President Maduro, as he did against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, he will find himself opposed by an entire continent.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com, and sign up for email notifications of our new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Direct download: 20150311_gf_ObamaVenezuela.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:11am EST

Netanyahu Punks Obama as Congress Grovels

Netanyahu Punks Obama as Congress Grovels

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

“Israel does not hesitate to use its veto power over the Americans.”

President Obama got punked in his own Capitol by the leader of a country that gets more U.S. money, weapons, technology and diplomatic support than any other nation in the world. How could that happen?

Benjamin Netanyahu is the prime minister of a country that has been an appendage of U.S. imperialism since the day it was founded, and could not exist were it not joined at the hip of the superpower. And that is Israel’s greatest strength, because when two bodies are joined at the hip, the smaller one can wreak havoc, and even poison the larger one’s vital organs. President Obama is always saying that the United States is the world’s indispensable nation, but Netanyahu has once again demonstrated that Israeli cooperation is indispensable to any U.S. president.

Both Israel and the United States tell essentially the same lies to the world: that they are morally superior nations, when in fact both states were born in the cauldrons of mass murder, racial expulsion and genocide. Israel and the U.S. have learned to sing a perfect harmony of lies; they are the closest of co-conspirators. Neither one can rat out the other – which gives the weaker party great power over the stronger one.

The United States and Israel have told the very same lies about Iran: that it supports terror and aggression in the region, when it is actually Israel and the U.S. that have terrorized Iran through covert and proxy wars since 1979, while Iran has attacked no one for centuries. And, of course, there is the world’s greatest lie of omission: Israel’s refusal to acknowledge that it is a nuclear power, and Washington’s half century of collaboration in that lie. Having for so long weaved a common web of lies with Israel, Washington cannot easily extricate itself from Its co-conspirator in Tel Aviv. Israel, for its part, does not hesitate to use its veto power over the Americans.

“Israel and the United States tell essentially the same lies to the world.”

So, when President Obama attempted to tone down America’s lies about Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions, so as to reach an advantageous deal for the United States, Netanyahu played his Republican card and screamed even bigger lies in front of a joint session of Congress – lies that Barack Obama cannot effectively rebut because Netanyahu’s lies about Iran are only slightly exaggerated versions of Washington’s lies about Iran. That’s why, after his emasculation on Capitol Hill, Obama had no choice but to pretend to agree with most of Netanyahu’s lying presentation. After all, Obama has told the same tall tales about non-existent Iranian nuclear weapons programs, and the real origins of the Islamic State. Obama’s in no position to contradict Netanyahu, who is determined to make it appear that the only path possible is everlasting war – which is Israel’s element.

The Americans are, of course, masters of fomenting war and chaos, but they do reserve the right, as a superpower, to call a truce when it suits them. Israel is telling Washington that it better get permission from Tel Aviv, or else Netanyahu will punk the U.S. president In his own house – especially if he’s Black.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com, and sign up for our weekly email notifications of new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Direct download: 20150304_gf_NetanyahuPunksObama.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:14am EST