Saturday, September 21, 2013

Will 114th Congress Feature Hip Hop Caucus?

What happens when Hank “Public Enemy” Shocklee, MC Lyte and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels speak for WE THE PEOPLE? Stay tuned for “change” from the “#DoNothing” 113th Congress.


By Eric Stradford and Stephanie A. Walker Stradford

AMWS, September 20, 2013, Washington, DC -- If you are running for Congress anytime in the future, you may want to “boehner-up” on some highly offensive legislative lexicon.

WARNING!!! Depending on your orientation, the language may be almost as offensive as the “work” of the 113th Congress of the United States. The Congress most likely to be labeled “#DoNothing,” according to Huffington Post, has had just 15 bills signed into law so far, the fewest in recent history. Before now, the 112th Congress had established itself as the most unproductive since the 1940s.

Congressman Andre Carson (D-IN) held the gavel on another caucus.  Since Rock and Roll, America has long feared this threat might emerge. Rev. Lennox Yearwood, President, Hip Hop Caucus engaged Hip Hop house speakers MC Lyte and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, Radio One’s Amos Brown, Michael Skolnik, President, Global Grind, and Angela Rye, President, IMPACT Strategies to welcome one of the nation’s emerging leaders to the world stage.

Hank Shocklee, Founder, Public Enemy is no stranger to the Annual Legislative Conference. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation invited him for an encore appearance. Last year, Shocklee shared his empowered perspective on Digital Divide. This year, he seems to be running for Congress—maybe even Speaker of the House.

Carson’s panel of prospective protagonists shared some prophetic insight on HIP HOP POLITICS, OUR GENERATION'S MARCH TOWARD AMERICA'S FUTURE. The emerging discussion centers on how the hip hop generation can drive political activism. Ongoing discussion addresses barriers perceived by hip hopers in moving their agenda to the next level.

An Open Letter to Congress alleged to be communicated by Rapper Jay-Z set the tone for some legislative lingo that is heightening concerns among conservative as well as liberal incumbents. Public Law 111-274, The Plain Language Act of 2010, may serve as the last line of defense against attempts to make rap an official language of Congress.

President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010 on October 13, 2010. The law requires that federal agencies use "clear Government communication that the public can understand and use." With the emergence of Hank Shocklee, founder of Public Enemy to the congressional scene, the term “public” is being closely monitored for relevance.

Public Law 103-62 may offer some legal ground for impeaching congressional rebel rousers. Enacted in 1993, The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) is one of a series of laws designed to improve government project management. The GPRA requires agencies to engage in project management tasks such as setting goals, measuring results, and reporting their progress. In order to comply with the GPRA, agencies produce strategic plans, performance plans, and conduct gap analyses of projects.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is tasked pursuant to the GPRA with producing an annual report on agency performance within the executive branch. OMB’s annual report is produced with the President's annual budget request to Congress. Requirements by Congress to produce results in compliance with PL 103-62 are unclear.

It is clear, and becoming more clear that laws and legislative agendas need to change.  If America is dissatisfied with its elected leaders, perhaps the performance, or the lack thereof is the catalyst for change.  A few good professional performers may need to “boehner-up” on the law.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Angry Black Man

What the problem IS? “Much is required from those to whom much is given, for their responsibility is greater (Luke 12:48).”

By Eric Stradford and Stephanie A. Walker Stradford


AMWS, September 19, 2013, Washington, DC -- An angry black man at The White House this week is reportedly a figment of someone else’s imagination. A vocal minority within an elected majority has called on the President of the United States to value the angry black man as a threat to America’s economic security.

This week, President Barack Obama identified “a faction” that views compromise as a dirty word. “Anything that is even remotely associated with me, they feel obliged to oppose,” he said.

The President’s decision to keynote the Phoenix Awards Dinner at The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) Annual Legislative Conference (ALC2013) underscores a minority agenda to expand opportunities in health, education, and economic recovery. Ironically, the majority of Obama’s audience at the conference is a minority group of Americans historically categorized by the color of their skin.

National Security is among the historically excluded topics from the black caucus agenda. But rumors of an angry black man, perhaps heightened by a mass shooting at The Washington Navy Yard, a police shooting of a black man in Charlotte, NC, and a sighting of Trayvon Martin’s parents in D.C., has added cause to perceive the increased presence as a credible threat.

Up to now, the content of character for America’s legendary Stolen People has been to expect more from One Nation Under God. A half century after the historic 1963 March On Washington, remnant survivors have renewed the challenge for Washington to choose—“Chaos or Community?” CBC leaders are calling on fellow Americans to “be and to lead the positive change needed in public policy,” said A. Shuanise Washington, president and chief executive officer of CBCF.

Some congressional leaders and their constituents fear that Black America’s longstanding battle cry, “we shall overcome” might be an emerging reality for America’s future. They seem driven, perhaps by fear, to block Obama and a minority base of constituents from achieving anything but <= to the status quo. The knee jerk reaction to rumors of a black man in The White House has been STAND YOUR GROUND! Some have gone as far to threaten a shutdown of the federal government “on principal.”

As a counter measure, CBCF has tapped Congressman Andre Carson (D-IN) for HIP HOP POLITICS, OUR GENERATION'S MARCH TOWARD AMERICA'S FUTURE. The discussion centers on how the hip hop generation can drive political activism. Ongoing discussion addresses barriers perceived by hip hopers in moving their agenda to the next level.

Earlier this week, The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) announced plans for a $5 million investment in African-American banking institutions. The investment is said to be “part of a broader effort” to increase the availability of loans for businesses and individuals in African-American communities. CBCF is targeting banks in four regions of the country-the North, South, East and Midwest in an attempt to achieve “geographic balance” in an initiative that could prove crucial in lifting the economic fortunes of black communities. In all, five banks are to receive $1 million each.

The threat feared by a diminishing majority in Congress is now out front. And you guessed it! It’s all about the money. The intentional, pro-social approach, measured by a mere $5 million community reinvestment represents a pinchin’ from a trillion dollar Troubled Asset Relief Program. The $5 million investment by CBCF reflects a change in attitudes and actions about equity for historically disadvantaged Americans. One might recall TARP as the congressionally approved government purchase of assets and equity from financial institutions to strengthen its financial sector. President George W. Bush signed TARP into law October 3, 2008 and bounced a check to purchase or insure up to $700 billion of "troubled assets."

Citigroup, Bank of America, J P Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, GMAC Financial Services (Ally), General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, PNC Financial Services Group, U.S. Bancorp, Chrysler, Capital One Financial, Regions Financial Corporation, American Express, Bank of New York Mellon Corp, State Street Corporation, and Discover Financial all participated in a “shell game” to shift the full faith and credit of the American people toward an emerging new minority.

To date, some in the financial industry have been doing the bait and switch – diverting the loaned dollars from the intended reason. Others further abused investors after the TARP legislation was passed by telling investors their money was invested in the federal TARP financial bailout program and other securities that did not exist.

In an October 2011 quarterly report to Congress, The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) reported "more than 150 ongoing criminal and civil investigations." SIGTARP had already achieved criminal convictions of 28 defendants (19 had already been sentenced to prison), and civil cases naming 37 individuals and 18 corporate and or legal entities as defendants. It had recovered $151 million, and prevented $553 million from going to Colonial Bank, which failed.

The $5 million community reinvestment by CBCF is being praised by some as a demonstration of accountability to the beloved community. “Much is required from those to whom much is given, for their responsibility is greater (Luke 12:48).” Others fear any reinvestment in certain people might be construed as reparation for slavery--replacing that hand out of past politics with a hand up to the future.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

BIG Financial Mistakes: Part 1

By Stephanie A. Walker Stradford and Eric Stradford

September 13, 2013 – AMWS - Since 2009, we have been on a quest to improve our finances and empower others to do the same. Most of us come from hard working parents or grandparents who lived from paycheck to paycheck.

Most of us desire the American Dream (or at least what it used to be) for ourselves, our children and grandchildren. But, too many of us are set in our ways and refuse to CHANGE our habits to make a difference in our life and, therefore, those we love. Get real! If you keep doing the same thing over and over, you will continue to get the same results.
Regardless of your circumstances, here are a few tips that will change your future. Just try it for one year. If it doesn’t improve your life, stop.

ADDICTIONS – If you have a negative habit which has turned into an addiction, whether it is abuse, bullying, smoking, alcohol, drugs, pornography, prostitution, or worse, GET HELP TODAY! It has cost you too much and your family has paid an enormous price. Don’t wait. Addictions are Big Financial Mistakes. Yes…it will be hard. No…it is not impossible. It is never too late for you to become a productive human being and use your story to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

SAVINGS – Pay yourself! Every time you get paid and every financial gift for your birthday or a holiday set aside a portion for your personal savings account. When you go to the store and have pocket change, set it aside in jar or vase for your savings. When you get rebate checks, save them! If you have money left over at the end of the month after paying your bills, move it to your savings account. You will not regret this action of fiscal responsibility and it will add up quickly.

CAR LOANS - A decade ago, the average term for a new car loan was 53 months. Now, according to Federal Reserve data, the average term is ten months longer which means more interest paid by the consumer. The longer the term, the more money you are wasting because a car is a depreciating asset. In just one year after your purchase, the value will usually be 30 to 50 percent lower, depending on the make, model and year.

Recommendation: Do not pay interest on a car for any longer than you must pay, depending on your down payment and income. And never, if possible, agree to a car loan for longer than 60 months. You are paying more and getting less for your money. If you cannot afford the payment under 60 months, you need to shop for a cheaper car.

Conversely, do not pay cash for the car unless it is a used small ticket item. Why? You can help your credit score by paying a short term auto loan on time. Select 36 months or less and pay ahead of the due date. If you have the funds to pay the car in full, put it in an interest bearing account so that you have the payment when due, and you are making money on your money. After one or two years, pay it off in full.

CREDIT CARDS – Don’t buy sales items on credit, unless you are going to pay the bill in full within 30 days or with no interest. According to Suze Orman, if you purchase $350 worth of merchandise at a 15 percent discount, your bill will be $298. But if the $298 goes onto your credit card at 20 percent interest and you pay only the minimum due each month (usually about 3 percent), it will take you two years and $67 in interest to pay it off.

CASH OR DEBIT – Pay cash or debit for most purchases, unless there is a benefit using credit (such as points for gas or travel). When you use credit, pay in full when the bill arrives. If you cannot afford to pay in full, you should decide in advance if the item is essential. If it is not essential, wait and save for it but do not make the purchase on credit. For instance, if you NEED new tires for the car, cannot pay cash or debit and must put it on credit, make the purchase and pay it off as soon as possible.

AUTO AND HOME INSURANCE - Do not select a low deductible on your auto or home insurance policy. Although it seems that you are limiting your immediate expenses with a low deductible, you should not report small claims which may increase your policy or cause your agent to drop you. When possible, meaning you have more than $1,000 in savings, elect for a $1,000 deductible and you may reduce your premium by 10 percent.

EDUCATION SAVINGS – If you have just had a baby, your child is in elementary school or not yet ready to graduate from high school, begin to set aside funds in a 529 plan or other savings account for higher education. Did you know that fewer than 40 percent of students graduate in four years? A fifth year can add 25 percent to the cost of higher education. So, you have a responsibility to encourage your child to become an academic achiever and score well on Advanced Placement tests. This action can reduce the required coursework in college, which reduces your costs.

The range of tuition is vast. However, a good estimate is between $10,000 and $60,000 per year. This is tuition and does not include books, a computer, furnishing the room, transportation costs, trips home for holidays and pocket money. If your child’s career requires a graduate degree or a doctorate, that bottom line drastically increases. Starting to save at birth or at a young age becomes critical as the costs for education increases. And, don’t dismiss FAFSA forms for financial aid, federal loans, and scholarships. Every penny counts!

COLLEGE – Your child or grandchild may want to go to a fantastic private college. However, did they work and save for their education? It is also possible that you did not create an education fund and private school is outside your price range. Also, take into consideration that every child does not have to go to a four-year college. There are good technical schools and community colleges, depending on the career choice. A college education can be valuable, but it makes absolutely no sense to accrue extensive debt in today’s economy. Your child may have a great degree, unable to find a job and must come back home to live in your basement! Suze Orman says, “I can't stress this enough: Do not deplete your retirement fund or mortgage your home to pay for college. That money needs to keep working for your future.”

Summary: We hope that these tips improve your life as much as it has ours. Please look for Part 2 of this series. Remember, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. If you start today to improve your life and believe that ALL things are possible, within a few months, and certainly a year, you will see the evidence of your hard work and perseverance. Be blessed!

Research provided by Suze Orman