The Party or the Person? — October 2014

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman October 20th, 2014

We say we have “voting power,” but we have settled merely for the “power to vote.” We fight for the “right to vote” but we fail to “vote right.” Voting is a means to gain political power, not an end that simply allows one to participate in the act. As true as those statements are and as many times as we have heard the phrase, “This is the most important election of our time,” and as much as we can see our lack of political reciprocity for our precious votes, we continue to fall for the same old tired political clap-trap prior to every election.

At this point in history Black people vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, as opposed to pre-1933, when the vast majority of Blacks voted for Republicans. Talk about a schizophrenic voting bloc, that be us, y’all. And what do we get in return? A good feeling, that is, until the next election rolls around and the usual suspects return to tell us how important “this” election is and how we should vote their “straight ticket” once again. They want us to believe that all Dems are good and all Repubs are evil. That’s insulting to Black voters.
All the Black electorate does is provide jobs for politicians, some of whom care nothing about us and haven’t done a day’s work in office since we put them there. To make our political situation even worse, many Black voters simply, and I do mean “simply,” vote for anyone who claims to be a Democrat. They vote for the party rather than for the person. Quite frankly, and I say this in love, that’s just stupid.

Why do we keep falling for this hype? We achieved what most Black people considered the ultimate level of political victory when Barack Obama was elected, yet, since 2008 Black folks have made little or no progress; we still languish at the bottom in the most important category: Economics. Locally, we have elected and supported Democrats who have run our cities into the ground and left their constituents, Black folks, frustrated and marginalized. Yet, we continue to subscribe to the “Vote Democrat!” mantra.

The way we participate in politics is shameful and childish. All we want is the right to vote, which we couch in terms of “voting power.” If it were power we’d be getting something in return for our vote. Regardless of how much we are taken for granted, we keep coming back, subjecting ourselves to it like a bunch of masochists.

Some Black folks say they do not vote for the party, rather they vote for the person. That’s easy to say, but in the voting booth it’s obviously a different story. I wonder if Barack Obama would have won if he had been a Republican.

As I asserted, the Black electorate, after all of these years in the political game, is still naïve and amateurish. We are still playing just to play and not to win. We remain in the clutches of talking-head commentators who carry the water for the party and instruct us to vote the way they tell us. And we do it!

Before any of you dyed-in-the-wool Democrats get angry because I downed your party, understand that I have the same thing to say about the Republican Party. I believe we must be independent, not necessarily as a structured political party, but in our thinking and reasoning as pertains to politics and what the game is really all about. If we are not getting anything from the game, why are we playing?
Carter G. Woodson, in his timeless work, The Mis-education of the Negro, declared, “Real politics…is deeply rooted in the economic foundation of the social order.” He went on to say, “History does not show that any race, especially a minority group, has ever solved an important problem by relying altogether on one thing, certainly not by parking its political strength on one side of the fence because of empty promises. There are Negroes who know better, but such thinkers are kept in the background by the traducers of the race to prevent the enlightenment of the masses. The misleading politicians are the only persons through whom the traducers act with respect to the Negro, and there are always a sufficient number of mentally undeveloped voters who will supply them a large following.”

The right to vote is important, but we reduce and insult the franchise by wearing political party blinders. Stop listening to and following the political hacks’ instructions regarding party-line voting. Vote for the person based on his or her record of having worked in your best interest; do not vote for one nebulous political party that cannot be held accountable for ignoring us or taking us for granted. fighters



Bank Robbery in Reverse — October 2014

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman October 13th, 2014

Remember the old movies where the outlaws robbed banks for a living, or the gangsters did “bank jobs” as they moved from town to town? Noted bank robber, Willie “The Actor” Sutton is said to have responded to the question, “Why do you rob banks?” by saying, “Because that’s where the money is.” Indeed, banks are where the money was and still is. There was a time in history when men and women made careers and established reputations by robbing banks for various reasons. Now the tables have turned; in many cases, banks are now robbing the people, no doubt under the same rationale that Willie Sutton used: “That’s where the money is.”Willie Sutton

In many cases, your friendly local bank of the past has now become a monstrosity bent on squeezing every dime out of you. Recent reports cite ATM fees as high as $4.35 and overdraft fees average $32.74. Banks earned $32 billion in overdraft fees in 2013. I guess they say if the airlines can do it, with their a la carte charges, so can banks.

Some banks have become robbers of the poor and refuges for the rich. They have grown into bastions of powerful competitive bullies vying to see who can charge the most, rather than the least, for their services. If you are fortunate enough to be “accepted” as a customer, after having been subjected to a battery of questions that would make the Inquisition look like child’s play, you are then subject to a myriad of charges and fees.

There are transaction fees, analysis fees, usage fees, over-usage fees, excess deposit fees, teller fees, and a host of others that make your monthly statement look like your local phone bill. Banks pay you less than one percent on your savings accounts while they earn far more on the money in your account. They charge you 20% interest on your credit card balances and will not approve your small business loan request.

Maybe banks are paying us back for being robbed in broad daylight by bold, brash, unremorseful fortune-seekers, by morphing into those same kinds of characters. Bank robberyThey are so greedy and so arrogant with their greed and actually flaunt it for all to see. Remember when ATM’s came on the scene, how they were marketed as “conveniences for our valued customers.” Of course we were all willing to pay an extra fifty cents for each transaction. But at $4.35 per out of network transaction, as for me, they can keep their ATM “convenience.” By the way, my hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio, has the nation’s “lowest” ATM fees, around $3.00.

Here’s the deal. A few years ago, banks that committed crimes were deemed “too big to fail” and were given billions in taxpayer dollars for their efforts in the subprime housing market, which had the greatest negative impact on Black people. Too big0They soon became known as “too big to jail” as our justice department refused to prosecute any of the perpetrators for the biggest heist in history—a heist that makes Willie Sutton really look like an actor.

But what else should we expect from a political system that is run by a larger more powerful economic system? When the word went out from the bankers to the politicians to leave this issue alone, it reminded me of MC Hammer saying “Can’t touch this.”Hammer

What can we do to prevent ourselves from being robbed? Well, it’s relatively simple. First, be informed; read the rules and notices sent by your bank so you aren’t surprised by the charges. Do not allow your account to become overdrawn; get overdraft protection by agreeing to have the bank transfer money from your savings account to your checking account. (You do have a savings account, don’t you?)

Do not withdraw more than you have in your account from an ATM. That will result in an instant “loan” at a monumental interest rate. Take enough cash on one withdrawal to prevent having to return to the ATM over and over. Going to the ATM every time you need some cash—your cash, is ridiculous and expensive if it’s out of network. Just keep an “emergency stash” in a secret place.

Never make minimum payments on your credit card, and keep your balance below $1,000. Resist the temptation to charge large amounts that you will not be able to pay back over two or three months. Look for no interest “same as cash” deals.

Banks will rob you of your money, but you can prevent it by doing a few simple things. Be proactive with your money; leverage your money by maximizing your return. Avoid instant gratification purchasing. You can prevent bank robbery by being more responsible with the money you have. Economic empowerment begins at home.



Black political dilemma — October 2014

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman October 9th, 2014

I know you political junkies are on the edge of your seats now that Dr. Ben Carson has said he will likely run for President. I have been waiting to see what Black folks will do when President Obama leaves office. Well, we are about to find out now, aren’t we? Can you imagine a race between Carson and Hillary? Black voters won’t know whether they are pitching or catching if that happens. I can’t wait!Ben CarsonHillary

What will the commentators say? What will the current political insiders talk about? If the prospect of having the “first” Black President was great in 2008, I would think the prospect of having the “second” will be just as fantastic, right? “Not so fast,” some of you are saying. “Carson is Black, but he is a staunch conservative; we can’t vote for him.” That would be the hue and cry from so-called liberal Black folks. On the other hand, to vote for a White woman over a Black man, for some Black voters would also be a big dilemma.

The possibilities are endless with this one, folks. To which candidate do you think Black people would give the majority of their votes? Can you envision Obama supporters, who thought it was so important to elect a Black person to the highest office in the world, saying in 2015-2016 that it’s a bad idea this time around? The debates will be very interesting. All of a sudden politics is getting my attention. I am stocking up on popcorn now.

Carson dissed Obama at that prayer breakfast, you know. He is also the darling of Fox News commentators, who eventually said, “nein, nein, nein” to Herman Cain. Carson also rails against Obamacare and initiatives put forth by the President and, if Carson is nominated, there will be a pit-bull fight in 2016. How will Black people justify their votes this time? Hillary and Wall Street or Carson and Wall Street? Hillary and no reparations or Carson and no reparations?

How will Black folks fare economically under a Ben Carson administration as opposed to a Hillary Clinton administration? Carson is a free market guy, and Hillary has no problem with free market either. Carson made his millions after pulling himself up from nothing, and Hillary says she and Bill were dead broke when they left the White House. As a matter of fact, during their time in Arkansas they had no home other than the Governor’s Mansion. Talk about Horatio Alger stories; this is really going to be good. They can debate on whose situation was worse, and we can cast our votes for the winner.

Black people have been so ensconced in having the first Black President that for many it’s really going to be sad to see Barack Obama leave. Politically, he is all they have. What will Peggy Joseph do about putting gas in her car and paying her mortgage, as she said when he was elected? What will Al Sharpton do? I guess he could get close to Hillary if she wins, but you know Carson will have nothing to do with him.

If Carson wins MSNBC and Fox News will trade places by changing their conversations about the President. MSNBC will constantly rail against Carson, and Fox will simply celebrate Carson as their messiah this time. Ain’t politics great!?

On a more serious note, elections have consequences. After six years of President Obama in office, Black people are assessing our progress under his leadership. Some say he has done well, and others say he has done very little on behalf of Black people. The fact remains that he will exit his position in two years. What are we going to do, after reaching the ultimate symbolic high and staying there for two terms? As Peter said to Jesus, “To whom shall we go?”

Have we invested too much emotion in Obama’s presidency and not enough substantive content? Whether it’s Ben Carson or another Republican, or whether Hillary, the odds-on favorite, moves into the White House in two years, we must decide where we will go and how we will get there. In my opinion, we have wasted six years of political positioning by not carrying our demands to Obama the way other groups did when he was elected.

Our political dilemma has never been the lack of a “Black” President. It has been and continues to be our lack of political involvement beyond voting, our failure to build political power based on an economic power base, and our reliance of political symbolism over political substance. Our political dilemma should move us to appropriate action; we must plan now for whoever moves into the White House in 2016.



The Black Power Conundrum — September 2014

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman September 26th, 2014

DouglassFrederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never did and never will.” I often wonder what Black people do not understand about that statement. We love to quote it, but when it comes to putting it into practice we fall far short of the spirit of Douglass’ words. Maybe Douglass should have added this caveat: A demand is nothing without power to back it up.

In response to incidents of injustice we are quick to resort to the same old tactics directed by leaders who sell us out. They tell us, as our President told the Congressional Black Caucus a few years ago: “Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes,” and hit the streets chanting and singing in an effort to show our discontent.

We gather in churches and listen to fiery speeches; we hold press conferences and show our disdain for the system and its oppressive behavior toward Black people. We offer milquetoast solutions to the worst of crimes against us. For instance, in Ferguson, Missouri, Al Sharpton advised us to stop having “ghetto pity parties.” John Lewis called for martial law in Ferguson. (I am still trying to figure how he thinks implementing martial law, which has the power to suspend civil rights, is the answer to a problem he and others consider to be a suppression of civil rights.) Other iconic leaders say the problems in Ferguson can be solved simply by “voting.”

Tepid solutions offered by our “leaders” do absolutely nothing to change our situation, because there is no power behind them. Demands sound great and make for good photo opportunities and press conferences, but they fall on deaf ears because they have no power backing them up. Thus, the conundrum of so-called Black power. We know that power concedes nothing without a demand, but a demand not backed by real power gets no concessions.

In their quest to be important, many of our leaders are, as a comedian once said, “Impotent,” which only exacerbates our collective situation and keeps us running like a hamster inside a wheel—going nowhere.

What we hear and see from some of our leaders is shameful and insulting to Black people. Instead of, or even in addition to, putting forth their weak responses to killings on all levels, they should also offer strategies based on economic power. That’s where the issue will be solved, but we are woefully inadequate when it comes to implementing economic sanctions that will bring real change.

Some of the local leaders in Ferguson understand the power of economics and have been promoting solutions thereof, but they had to take a backseat to the fly-in crowd, toward whom the media gravitated. Now that things have calmed down and the opportunists have left Ferguson, the folks who live there, along with continued collaboration with young advocates for economic solutions, can work together.

It is sad to see Black “powerbrokers” strut to the microphones and threaten folks, only to walk away with their proverbial tails between their legs, having received absolutely no concessions from the establishment. Rather than contenders, these folks are pretenders; and rather than powerbrokers, they are really “power-broke.” The conundrum of today’s notion of Black power resides in false bravado and impotence.

Anheuser Busch (A-B), Radisson, and Nike withdrew their economic support from the NFL. They know exactly where power resides: in dollar bills, y’all. They wielded their power immediately to show their “outrage” about domestic and child abuse.

A-B, domiciled in St. Louis, said, “We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code.” A-B took serious action against child abuse in Adrian Peterson’s case, but did nothing in response to Michael Brown’s abuse that occurred in their back yard. Did that go against their “moral code”?

Apparently Nike was not outraged by Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, and John Crawford, being “abused.” Pardon me, but isn’t abuse—no matter the form—still abuse? Pepsi Cola CEO, Indra Nooyi, spoke against the NFL but voiced no indignation about Marlene Pinnock’s abuse on a California highway? Hypocrisy abounds in reactions to Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, as with Michael Vick and his abuse of dogs, for heaven’s sake. Dogs! But those company execs and others fail to speak out and use their economic clout to put a stop to the abuse of their Black consumers by police officers because we have no power behind our demands.

Folks with power are not reluctant to use it to punish those who do not operate in their best interests. Black power has been reduced to calling for and falling for voting rallies and worn out speeches laced with demands not backed up by any real power at all. Power