(The Root) — President Barack Obama has been a target of endless criticism since taking office, most notably from conservative corners, as well as from some blatant racists. But despite the nearly universal support he enjoyed among African Americans in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, some of his most impassioned critics have come from within the black community, and some of their most passionate criticism has focused on the concern that the first black president has not focused on addressing issues of particular importance to the black community or on successfully tackling a black agenda. The Congressional Black Caucus was especially critical of the Obama administration’s silence on black unemployment, for instance. See article here.
Nation Black Programming Consortium has a 32 year track record for funding independent films covering topics that are not given much attention and often neglected in the mainstream media representation of African Peoples in the U.S. and around the globe. The organization operates as a not for profit NGO with a high regard for their mission. The organization has integrated online presence and social media messaging into their promotions and publishing toolbox. The site saw up to 16k Visits during it’s lowest traffic months of the year. For those who ask yourselves “why would an organization need help with traffic like that ?” you are primed by the set up and are now ready for the challenge. Check this out.
In this study, researchers conducted 6 focus groups with 53 African Americans from New Orleans who were evacuated to Columbia, SC, within 2 months of Hurricane Katrina. The major themes identified related to participants’ decisions to not evacuate were as follows: (1) perceived susceptibility, including optimism about the outcome because of riding out past hurricanes at home and religious faith; (2) perceived severity of the hurricane because of inconsistent evacuation orders; (3) barriers because of financial constraints and neighborhood crime; and (4) perceived racism and inequities. Federal, state, and local government disaster preparedness plans should specify criteria for timely evacuation orders, needed resources, and their allocation (including a decentralized distribution system for cash or vouchers for gas and incidentals during evacuation) and culturally sensitive logistical planning for the evacuation of minority, low-income, and underserved communities. Perceptions of racism and inequities warrant further investigation. Full Report Here.
Health care law protects consumers against worst insurance practices
Key health insurance protections for all Americans moves forward
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today issued a final rule that implements five key consumer protections from the Affordable Care Act, and makes the health insurance market work better for individuals, families, and small businesses.
“Because of the Affordable Care Act, being denied affordable health coverage due to medical conditions will be a thing of the past for every American,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Being sick will no longer keep you, your family, or your employees from being able to get affordable health coverage.”
Under these reforms, all individuals and employers have the right to purchase health insurance coverage regardless of health status. In addition, insurers are prevented from charging discriminatory rates to individuals and small employers based on factors such as health status or gender, and young adults have additional affordable coverage options under catastrophic plans.
Today’s final rule implements five key provisions of the Affordable Care Act that are applicable to non-grandfathered health plans:
- Guaranteed Availability
Nearly all health insurance companies offering coverage to individuals and employers will be required to sell health insurance policies to all consumers. No one can be denied health insurance because they have or had an illness.
- Fair Health Insurance Premiums
Health insurance companies offering coverage to individuals and small employers will only be allowed to vary premiums based on age, tobacco use, family size, and geography. Basing premiums on other factors will be illegal. The factors that are no longer permitted in 2014 include health status, past insurance claims, gender, occupation, how long an individual has held a policy, or size of the small employer.
- Guaranteed Renewability
Health insurance companies will no longer refuse to renew coverage because an individual or an employee has become sick. You may renew your coverage at your option.
- Single Risk Pool
Health insurance companies will no longer be able to charge higher premiums to higher cost enrollees by moving them into separate risk pools. Insurers are required to maintain a single state-wide risk pool for the individual market and single state-wide risk pool for the small group market.
- Catastrophic Plans
Young adults and people for whom coverage would otherwise be unaffordable will have access to a catastrophic plan in the individual market. Catastrophic plans generally will have lower premiums, protect against high out-of-pocket costs, and cover recommended preventive services without cost sharing.
In preparation for the market changes in 2014 and to streamline data collection for insurers and states, the final rule amends certain provisions of the rate review program. And, HHS has increased the transparency by directing insurance companies in every state to report on all rate increase requests. A new report has found that the law’s transparency provisions have already resulted in a decline in double-digit premium increases filed: from 75 percent in 2010 to, according to preliminary data, 14 percent in 2013.
In addition, today the U.S. Department of Labor announced an interim final rule in the Federal Register that provides protection to employees against retaliation by an employer for reporting alleged violations of Title I of the Act or for receiving a tax credit or cost-sharing reduction as a result of participating in a Health Insurance Exchange, or Marketplace. Additional information is available at www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/osha/osha20130327.htm orwww.osha.gov.
For more information on how this final rule helps create a better health insurance market for consumers, please visit:http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/factsheets/marketreforms-2-22-2013.html
For information on the rights and protections guaranteed by the health care law, please visit:http://www.healthcare.gov/law/features/rights/
For the full text of the proposed rule, please visit: http://www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx
August 2012 Coalition Power Breakfast – Karen GJ Lewis, President Chicago Teachers Union
For COAL’s August Breakfast, we continued our series covering areas of critical concern for our community. The focus was on Education and we were honored to host Karen Lewis, President of the 32,000 member Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). Ms. Lewis passed out the CTU’s The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve: Research-based Proposals to Strengthen Elementary and Secondary Education in the Chicago Public Schools, which contains the following:
see full article here.
More than 100 people came to give sworn testimony that will be forwarded to the Federal Communications Commission, as the commission considers license transfers throughout the nation that, unless carefully monitored, may have a devastating effect on Black Americans.
There was expert testimony from Dr. Elisa English PhD MSW, who pointed out that a cultural, ethnic and race-based perspective is critical to the psychological, emotional, financial and social development and prosperity of any minority group. She further stated that in addition, media reports influence the formation of stereotypes and in turn stereotypes can influence behavior, social cohesion and civic life.
The testimony by Dr. English reinforced a 1997 study by the Dubois Bunche Center for Public Policy, which underscored the need for people of African descent to be able to exercise control over the editorial content of news and information coming into their community. See full article here.
By Bruce A. Dixon
Global Research, April 01, 2013
Black Agenda Report
Michelle Alexander’s 2010 book “New Jim Crow” provided a language to talk about the prison state that we never had before. But is it entirely accurate? Is the prison industrial complex real? What’s the difference between fighting against racism or a “new jim crow” or a “prison industrial complex” and confronting the reality of the prison state?
Black Mass Incarceration —- Is It New? Is It Jim Crow? Is the Prison-Industrial Complex Real? And What Difference Does It Make?
The short answers are yes, not exactly, not really, and a whole lot, which tells more about the inadequacies of short answers than it does about whether “New Jim Crow” is a really useful description, and who it’s most useful to.
Is it New?
Prisons are certainly not new, and the employment of prisons to enforce a racially unjust social order isn’t new either. The post-civil war Black Codes prescribed heavy penalities for all sorts of infractions by African Americans. But the scale of the modern US prison state simply has no precedent. Nobody has ever locked up this many people for as little, for as long. Whatever you want to call the present situation with prisons, prisoners and US society, you have to call it something brand new.
Is it Jim Crow?
Michelle Alexander’s 2010 book, The New Jim Crow, was a breakthrough in many ways. It came at a time when just about every African American family knew there was a crisis, when the shadow of prison literally squatted in the homes of hundreds of thousands, but when the black political class — the gaggle of preachers, politicians and business types we imagine to be our “leaders” lacked even the language to discuss it, apart from tropes inherited from the jailers themselves, like “personal responsibility”, and “do the crime, do the time.”
Describing the prison state as a “New Jim Crow” played to the imagined history of the current black political class, which never stops celebrating the fifties and sixties victories over the old Jim Crow which made its birth possible, and which incorrectly advertises itself as the author of those victories, rather than the after-the-fact beneficiaries of them. In truth, the struggle against Jim Crow wasn’t conducted by black politicians because there weren’t many of them, especially in the South. Some black business people supported that struggle but they didn’t lead it either, and most black preachers stood aside as well. The cutting edge that broke Jim Crow and carried out the final wave of organizing in the South which resulted in the Voting Rights Act were black youth.
“New Jim Crow” also absolved the black political class, at least initially, from responsibility for the prison state. They were the “civil rights leaders” and such, after all, you could hardly blame them for Jim Crow, old or new. And above all, by evoking the imagined spirit of class-blind racial unity which prevailed during the struggle against the old Jim Crow, “New Jim Crow” as a sort of descriptive slogan strengthened the credibility of the black political class.
Alexander’s persistent calls for a mass movement to be raised against the “New Jim Crow” are on target. But where do we imagine that movement will come from? College students? Not likely, as today’s students are burdened by debt as no others before them in history, and college-educated blacks are by relatively exempt from the depredations of the police and prison state. A college educated black male today stands a third the chance his uncle in 1980 did of going to prison, while today’s black male high school dropout is several times more likely to serve prison time sometimes during his life than his uncle the same age and status in 1980. Business people just don’t lead mass movements — ever — so that’s not worth thinking about, and the black church, which often makes the historically absurd claim that it was the fount and wellspring of the fifties and sixties Freedom Movement won’t do it either. Neither will our black political class, who are deeply implicated in the day to day running of the prison state.
Alexander herself notes that if US incarceration rates were to be rolled back to 1980 levels, not only would more than a million prisoners walk free, but a million prison guards, sheriffs, judges, bail bondsmen contractors, and others would suddenly be jobless. A lot of their faces are black, which brings us to a second difference between the old and “new” Jim Crows. In the old Jim Crow, apart from black business people who had captive markets white firms didn’t compete with them over, it’s hard to identify any stratum of black people who had a material interest in keeping the old system. You can’t say the same about this “New Jim Crow.”
The closer one looks, in fact, the more “New Jim Crow” looks like a slogan, a metaphor, rather than accurate analysis. To her credit, Ms. Alexander’s is pretty clear on the question of class within the black community, noting that she had to make a personal journey of her own to begin to see lower-class black males and through them their families and communities as the principal victims of the predatory penal state.
But not everybody who throws around “New Jim Crow” as a slogan has or will ever bother to read the book. And not all who do read the book bother to read it carefully or closely. “New Jim Crow” is an acceptable term for the prison state for the black political class and even for much of white America precisely because it seems to blame “racism” for everything, and in blaming “racism” actual human beings and governments they act through tend to be obscured.
It’s the job of intellectuals to come up with not just catchy slogans and malleable metaphors, but actual analysis. Anyone who deals with actual people on the ground knows that people will, after a short while, begin to treat catchy slogans as if they ARE analysis. You plan for it, it’s just the way you expect a lot of people to operate. For example, during Occupy Atlanta last year there were misguided souls in the (non)leadership who took anti-immigrant positions because they imagined that “we are the 99%” meant they should adhere to whatever positions the vast majority of Americans did, and most Americans were thought to be (if you read the mainstream media) hostile toward immigrants.
It’s more useful and concrete to note that police, prisons, courts and criminal laws are are functions of government than it is to say they are “racist institutions” being run in a “racist” way. Under one formulation we are fighting the state, trying to re-make the state. If our enemy is racism and New Jim Crow, exactly who or what are we fighting, and by what means?
Is the Prison Industrial Complex Real?
Finally, for the sake of clarity, we should look at the problematic term “prison industrial complex.”
It seems to say that the growth in prisons during the last thirty years was motivated by profit. The facts don’t seem to back this up. Most prisoners are not working, not performing any economic activity. Better than 90% of all prisoners any given day are simply languishing in their dorms or cells, period, not doing anything. Federal prison industries in several of the last few years, have failed even to make a profit. There are plenty of contractors, who handle everything from feeding prisoners to medical services, and they are raking it in. But they aren’t dictating the growth of prisons over the last thirty years. Politicians do that, for reasons that have lots to do with sustaining their own careers, and asserting the authority of the state over supposed delinquent segments of the population, teaching them “a lesson”, supposedly deterring crime, ensuring public safety and all that. In short, prisons cost money, they don’t make money and the money that is being made from prisons is far too small to account for the six and sevenfold increase in US prisoners over the last 40 years.
Those of us on the left generally and correctly regard privatization as evil, so it’s hard to imagine anything more evil than a privatized prison. Although a number of very profitable private prison outfits DO exist, the fact is that the percentage of prisoners housed in privatized prisons is growing very slowly, and most of that growth is confined to a single sector, the incarceration of immigrants.
It seems that private prison companies want to make profits. The least profitable prisoners are the old, the sick and those requiring extra security precautions. Immigrants came here to work. They are mostly young, mostly healthy, and not especially disposed to violence, which makes them the most profitable prisoners. The trouble is that the Obama administration has rounded up and is deporting record numbers of immigrants, and with the unemployment levels remaining quite high, immigration as a whole is declining. So the boom in immigrant prisons is not sustainable either.
Think about it. Can anyone seriously argue that the drive for profit has fueled the six and sevenfold growth of US prisons over the last 40 years? For this to be true there would have to be not a handful, but dozens, perhaps hundreds of prison billionaires, just as there are hundreds of billionaires connected with military contracting. But these do not exist. There are profiteers, but not a hundredth as many even as in the field of rapidly privatizing education. Prisons have never been especially profitable.
Lock-em-up laws, aggressive policing, runaway prosecutions and racist policing have all been about enforcing a new social order on population segments whose labor is no longer needed as it was 50 years ago, and for whom no jobs, training, quality housing or meaningful education will be provided. Prisons are about showing somebody who’s boss, about perceived “public safety”, about enforcing an unjust social order.
To fight the “prison industrial complex” , like generating a movement against the “new jim crow”, is to fight a ghost. Neither of them are real. What’s real is 2 million plus people in US prisons and jails. Prisons are real, and prisons are about statecraft, not about runaway profits, not about “neo-slavery”, whatever that is, and not about “racism”, which is everywhere anyhow.
A movement that challenges the prison state must come in part from the prisoners and former prisoners and their families. It will have to be a movement that challenges the way we are governed, the way housing, health care, jobs and resources are distributed, the way we educate our young and care for our elders. The prison state is another aspect, along with privatizations and austerity, of neoliberal capitalism. That’s what’s real. Time to wash the “new jim crow” pixie dust from our eyes.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the GA Green Party. He can be contacted via this site’s contact page or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
See also: Profit Driven Prison Industrial Complex: The Economics of Incarceration in the USA
For every 100,000 Americans, 743 citizens sit behind bars