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

“The Democrats cynically see the impending disaster as an opportunity to position themselves for the 2018 and 2020 elections.”

At the end of last month, Donald Trump unveiled his military budget, obscenely inflated by $54 billion dollars -- a 10 percent increase that will be paid for with cuts to social programs. There was no organized denunciation from the Democrats, and a few days later, when former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear gave the Democratic Party response to Trump’s speech before the Congress, he had not a word of criticism for Trump’s military budget, but instead charged that the president was “ignoring serious threats to our national security from Russia.”

Russia, Russia, Russia. It is the great diversion, by which the Democrats pretend to lead a resistance to Trumpism, but present no serious opposition to Trump and his fellow Republicans’ gutting of poor and working people’s programs in the service of militarism.

The Democrats are putting up no real fight against Trump’s domestic austerity agenda. Like Barack Obama, they would welcome a Grand Bargain with the Republicans that freezes or shrinks the social side of the budget while continuing to fund multiple wars all over the planet. Indeed, their principal problem with Trump was that he wasn’t bellicose enough; they feared that he might not be eager to play nuclear chicken with the Russians. They are implacable in their battle with Trump, the man, but put up only the most pro forma resistance to Trump’s people-crushing budget proposals.

Do not expect the Democrats to wage an honest fight for the people’s health care interests, either. The Republican plan to replace Obamacare is, as expected, an unmitigated disaster. While Obamacare was festering in its own contradictions, the Republican replacement will likely result in 10 million more uninsured Americans and total chaos at every level of health care infrastructure, resulting in an almost instantaneous social and medical crisis -- and not just for poor people.

Cynical Jockeying for Position

The Democrats cynically see the impending disaster as an opportunity to position themselves for the 2018 and 2020 elections. Although Obamacare is dead, and cannot be resurrected, they will make a show of defending its various parts, one doomed element at a time, even as the private insurance markets that are available to lower income people disintegrate. The Democrats will be glad to let the crisis fester under Republican corruption and incompetence, and then, as the next election season opens, propose some reworked version of Obamacare, probably with weak provisions for a “public option.” What they will not do, as a party, is respond to the crisis with a push for single payer Medicare for All -- a solution the party’s corporate masters will not tolerate. Bernie Sanders, himself, has said he has no plans to submit his own Medicare for All bill to the Senate, this year -- part of his accommodation with the Obama-Clinton party bosses. But, that’s fine; the demand should come from masses of people in the streets, representing the super-majorities that have favored single payer for decades. This is a movement moment, and progressive activists must seize the time. The Democrats, however, anticipated that the Left might take the initiative at this critical point in history. Which is why they created the Great Russian Diversion, to distract silly minds.

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: 20170308_gf_ObamacareRussians.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:16am EDT

An Electoral School for Black Self-Determination

The Black political class has “become servants of the Democratic Party and other institutions outside of our communities,” and must be replaced, said Omali Yeshitela, chairman of the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations. The coalition will hold a two-day electoral school, April 8 and 9, in St. Petersburg, Florida, to begin a campaign “to unleash a new force of people, and inject them into the electoral process based on a struggle for self-determination.” The coalition last year released a 19-point National Black Political Agenda for Self-Determination with positions on the widest range of domestic and foreign policy issues. Candidates that support the Agenda should get Black support -- even if they’re Democrats, said Yeshitela.

Blacks Need an Anti-War Movement, Not Anti-Russia Hysteria

The Democrats seem to have an objective interest in having us focus on Donald Trump, the person, as opposed to this system, itself,” said Ajamu Baraka, the former Green Party vice presidential candidate, a founder of the U.S. Human Rights Network, and an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report. In this environment, anti-war views are regarded as suspect. “I’m involved in building a Black Alliance for Peace, to try to revive the Black anti-war movement -- the Black anti-war consciousness,” he said. “We think we have a perfect opportunity, now that people are waking up out of this eight-year stupor, to bring the Black community back to where we used to be, as the most consistent anti-war population in this country. But, it’s difficult to do this when our people are getting caught up in this anti-Russian hysteria, too,” said Baraka.

Beyond Black Lives Matter

Despite its success in “changing the conversation about police brutality in the United States,” the Black Lives Matter movement “shows the limitations of social movements that do not advance beyond highlighting injustice,” said Dr. Keeanga Yamahtta Taylor, the author, activist and professor of African America Studies at Princeton University. In a speech at Detroit’s Wayne State University, Taylor said: “Knowledge, alone, of abuse, injustice and oppression” is not enough. “Indeed, mass movements of millions have to be mobilized to stare down the autocratic impulses of the regime in the White House.”

In Praise of Two Exemplary “Jailhouse Lawyers”

Mumia Abu Jamal spent many years on death row before his sentence was reduced to life in prison. The nation’s best known political prisoner has high praise for two other Pennsylvania prison inmates, Craig Williams and Shaun T. Walker, who were kept on death row for years, even after their death sentences were lifted. Williams, said Abu Jamal, is “one helluva jailhouse lawyer -- still making new law.”

Mumia and other inmates “have complained about hazardous brown water for several months, and prison officials have done nothing to fix the problem,” according to a public service announcement produced by the Move organization. “Enough is enough.” Activists are urging the public to call John Wetzel, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, at 717.728.4109, and “demand that inmates are given clean water for showers and personal use.” For more information, go to FreeMumia.com.

Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network is hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey. A new edition of the program airs every Monday at 11:00am ET on PRN. Length: one hour.

Direct download: black_agenda_radio_20170306.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:17pm EDT

Instead of worrying about where Kellyanne Conway's feet are, or blasting Betsy DeVos's ignorance on HBCUs we should insist that black college presidents start or join a movement for free tuition at HBCUs and public colleges and universities. Millions of college grads of all colors are carry unpayable debt and are frustrated by lack of opportunities. This demand earned Bernie Sanders millions of votes. It’s a mass movement in waiting.

Time For A Movement For Free Tuition at HBCUs and Public Colleges

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

Black folks with nothing better to do were up in arms for a day about Kellyanne Conways feet buried in the Oval Office sofa messing with her phone while the presidents and chancellors of historically black colleges and universities crowded around Donald Trump’s desk. Some others have written about Betsy DeVos’s note on HBCUs, which revealed her stunning and self-serving ignorance of their history and origin. But pointing out how disrespectful or stupid key members of the Trump administration is partisan BS that won’t not save a single college education, let alone remedy the desperate situation of our historically black colleges and universities.

Right now, the heads of HBCUs have an historic opportunity to save their institutions by stirring up a movement from below for free tuition for HBCUs and for all public colleges and universities, for loan forgiveness for students at public universities, interest reductions for all students and for getting the federal government out of the student loan business.

Free college tuition is not an impractical pie in the sky. Germany does it. France does it. Norway and a dozen other countries do it. State universities in California and Louisiana did it for decades in the 20th century. It was a cornerstone demand of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign that earned him millions of votes. Free college education is what modern human societies do when they recognize that education is a public good not a private privilege. A nominal tax on Wall Street and reallocation of federal funds that now go to student lenders would easily pay for free tuition.

HBCUs were founded with white philanthropy beginning in the 1860s because the newly freed black population urgently needed teachers and other professionals, and because white colleges rarely admitted black students. Black student access was still being litigated in the US nine decades later, and to this day HBCUs produce a far greater percentage of highly competent black college grads than other institutions.

But the leaders of our HBCUs have largely failed to envision ways to fund their institutions outside of white philanthropy and occasional special government funding directed exclusively at them. The United Negro College Fund has even accepted Koch Brothers money with many nasty strings attached. It’s time to stop digging that hole deepter.

There are historic currents in motion right now. Millions of college grads, not just black ones, are crushed by unpayable student debt and lack of opportunities and they have proven receptive to the idea of free college tuition. It’s a movement waiting to be galvanized. The Trump administration won’t much like it, any more than Hillary did. But free college tuition for HBCUs and public institutions is something that can be accomplished in a decade or so of agitation and struggle. If our HBCU college presidents are truly leaders and not followers, this is the current they can tap into.

Of course the common wisdom is that nobody is more conservative than a black college president. It’s a stereotype some of them will have to violate to save their institutions, and to save the very idea of education as a public good not a private privilege. If the first black president did not save HBCUs, nothing Donald Trump is willing to give out will do the trick either. It’s time to really bargain, to demand what is not being offered. And if our historically black college presidents lack the political vision and intestinal fortitude to do it, maybe we need to start this movement without them.

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

Direct download: 20170302_bd_free-tuition.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:22pm EDT