Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 6, 2012

This past week wasn’t the best week for Mitt Romney and there may be more weeks like this to come. At least he has his jet ski to keep him warm. Meanwhile, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal seems to have discovered that Mitt Romney may not be such a great alternative to Barack Obama, even as they seethe at the very mention of the president’s name. And, speaking of President Obama, it would seem that Teapublicans can only blame him when things go wrong as they remain silent when anything positive happens on his watch.

The World According to Mitt

Soon after the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act decision a key aide to Mitt Romney declared that the penalty aspect of the individual mandate was not a tax. Then the Romney campaign confirmed that the penalty was not a tax. True to form, after a firestorm of criticism from the right wing of the right wing, Mr. Romney declared that the penalty was indeed a tax and that the health care mandate penalty in Massachusetts that was instituted when he was governor was not a tax.

His flipping and flopping is sounding very familiar. We all remember John Kerry being for the war in Iraq until he was against it, don’t we? The Republicans `changed his mind.

Mitt Romney never admits to changing his mind. He twists and churns and parses his words like a contortionist in some sideshow circus act. He seems to hope that we will forget what he said before, even if “before” was yesterday, and only remember what he is saying now.

Fat chance Mitt!

Mitt According to the Wall Street Journal

On the day after the Fourth of July the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal had a minor tantrum and took it out on Mitt Romney. His flipping and flopping and general campaign incompetence has outraged the WSJ editorial board mostly because he is making more and more Teapublicans that the reelection of President Obama is actually possible.

Mitt Romney had another John Kerry moment during the recent holiday. He was photographed riding his personal jet ski past his multimillion dollar lakeside summer home (one of his many homes) thereby bringing back images of Senator Kerry windsurfing just eight short years ago.

His Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous moment was followed by a revival of information regarding the actual wealth of the presumptive Teapublican Party candidate. We have been informed again that a significant amount of his wealth (that is his money) is located in the Cayman Islands, Switzerland and possibly Saturn.

It is one thing for American voters to elect a fabulously wealthy man. John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt were certainly wealthy individuals who became notable presidents. But it is quite another thing for the president of the United States to sequester his money overseas.

That is usually a move reserved for African despots and South American dictators.

Obama Did It!

The Teapublicans have held up the image of Barack Obama as some sort of eternal piñata, to be whacked and smacked on any and every occasion. If anything bad occurs, it has to be the fault of President Obama. The rise in gasoline prices a few months ago is a perfect illustration of this phenomenon.

As gasoline prices went up Mitt Romney and his Teapublican puppeteers roared and hooted and howled that this was proof of the ineffective and weak leadership of Barack Obama. And then gasoline prices went down for over twenty days in a row and all we have heard are the crickets chirping and the wind blowing over America’s fruited plain.

One has to wonder how long this one trick pony can ride.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 29, 2011

We are living in the week that never ends – the debt ceiling/budget debate careens towards the precipice of financial ruin for the United States – which would include you and me. Meanwhile the debate ignores the invisible hand of the corporate leaders who could reboot this country’s economic engine by hiring Americans. Meanwhile, in the midst of this madness, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani has climbed out of the crypt of anonymity to which his last campaign consigned him to announce his interest in running for the presidency. And in the midst of the madness the hotel maid who has accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape has managed to find herself as the one on trial.

We’re in the Money!

In this era of structural discord and disagreement, most of us would agree that more people working would make this country a better place in which to live. Indeed, when people use the term “the economy” they are actually referring to “jobs, jobs, jobs”. So where are the jobs?

As usual, a few facts won’t hurt. In the July 27, 2011 edition of the Wall Street Journal an article appeared on page B1 with the following information regarding the past 10 years:
1. The U.S. economy’s output of goods and services has expanded by 19%
2. Nonfinancial corporate profits have risen by 85%
3. The labor force has grown by 10.1 million
4. The number of private sector jobs has fallen by almost 2 million
5. The percentage of adult Americans at work has dropped to 58.3%, the lowest such figure since 1983

But wait a minute! Weren’t the Bush era tax cuts, implemented at the beginning of the reference ten year period supposed to stimulate job growth? Isn’t the set in concrete position of the G.O.Tea Party in Congress that there can never ever ever be any new taxes because taxes are “job killers”?

It turns out that major corporate employers have decided that they can be just profitable with fewer employees. And if and when they do hire they bring on part-time, temporary or contract workers. And if they do hire, increasingly the beneficiaries are workers outside of the United States. During the past 10 years multinational companies decreased their U.S. workforces by 2.9 million while increasing employment by 2.4 million abroad.

It looks like President Obama and the American people are playing against a stacked deck. To the extent that targeted government spending can stimulate the economy and create jobs the G.O.Tea Party kamikaze wing is barring the door. To the extent that tax revenues might reduce the budget deficit and thereby create a more job-friendly environment the G.O.Tea Party threatens to default and discredit the entire American economy.

And all the while the corporate plutocrats rake in the highest compensation packages in the history of the planet. I have to assume that, as children, these plutocrats and G.O.Tea Party stalwarts never heard of the goose that laid the golden egg and how that story ended.

Extra! Extra!………..Not!

And now, for the next act in the G.O.Tea Party circus – Rudy Giuliani for president? Yes, the self-proclaimed America’s mayor and self-anointed hero of 9/11 had decided that the humiliation of his last failed presidential bid doesn’t smell so bad after 3 years in the dust bin of history.

Too many people don’t remember that on September 10, 2001 Rudy Giuliani was by all accounts the most racially divisive mayor in the history of New York. Having initiated singularly graceless divorce proceedings via a press conference, he was sleeping on a friend’s couch counting the days until he would slither into the realm of the thankfully forgotten.

The terror attack of 9/11 focused the world on Rudy Giuliani and, to be fair, he did his job. He did not hide in the basement and suck his thumb. But he saved no lives and many first responders still blame him for the deaths of their brothers because his administration had totally bungled the emergency communications systems then in use. And, as a New Yorker, I can tell you that it wasn’t Rudy Giuliani who inspired us to go on, it was my fellow New Yorkers.

But, in Giuliani Land he was so very important on that fateful day and he has cashed in on his fake heroics to the tune of millions of dollars of “security” consulting fees. But I doubt that he can turn his personal fable into a successful presidential candidacy.

Who’s on Trial?

The hotel maid who accused former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape finds herself on trial. In an interesting display of sleight of hand, the DSK defense team and its pals in the press have managed to translate questions about her visa application and tax returns into a fog of doubt regarding the credibility of her accusation.

A few facts never hurt anyone. There is DNA evidence of sexual activity in DSK’s room consistent with the accusation. There are several women who have publicly stated that DSK has engaged in similar behavior. And finally, the visa application and tax return questions simply have nothing to do with the accusation.

One can’t help but think that this woman is caught in the unfortunate vortex of race, class and power. We can only hope that she gets her day in court.

Have a great weekend!

Be My Guest

To Understand Black Colleges- Guest Column by Wesley C. Pugh, Ph.D.

It is not my usual intellectual behavior to respond to newspaper – popular print media matters, due to a plethora of reasons – oftentimes being that I have more important activities to engage myself; with one major priority being to teach talented African American (and a select number of equally talented Caucasian as well as Hispanic) students at a Historically Black College / University (HBCU) – Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (the oldest historically degree granting Black College/ University in America).

I am compelled to address Jason Riley’s (September 28, 2010) Wall Street OpEd piece, Black Colleges Need A New Mission (once an essential response to racism, they are now academically inferior); because it carries a message that if left unchallenged, potentially positions readers with a mindset that greatly distorts the vast merits of HBCUs, and does a tragic injustice to African Americans (and others) who have / had any association with such institutions of higher education.

I am a full professor (12 years) who teaches at a HBCU. It is serendipitous that the Riley piece appears one week after The Chronicle of Higher Education published an insightful article, Why I Work at a HBCU , that highlighted the dedication and accentuated the excellence as well as positive intangibles that anyone associated with an HBCU realizes as beyond the measure(s) in which Riley attributes / identifies in his research citations.

Riley’s contention that President Obama needs to “shake up the status quo” of HBCUs, in a fashion similar to the President’s K-12 education reform agenda, is grounded in a logic that highlights his quantitative perspective that “90% of Black students spur” such schools; that in a comparison of standardized tests scores (SATs), no Black college ranks with the “Ivy League” standards; and, the graduation rates of HBCUs are well below the national averages. (I would submit that these statistical profiles also apply to a vast number of predominantly white institutions of higher education.)

While Riley’s editorial may reflect factual evidence, it omits / ignores context – explanation – understanding – and insight into what HBCUs continue to do; have historically done; and, are uniquely equipped to do better (in some / many instances) than
even the “Ivies.”

HBCUs continue to provide an opportunity, and access to the American dream of realizing one’s potential through education in a nurturing environment. While many non-HBCUs and even faceless online educational opportunities have opened up options for African Americans, the millions who continue to “miss-out” on higher education is unconscionable in a country that prides itself on being the beacon of freedom – opportunity and hard work leading to success.

In fact, if the K-12 education reform initiatives of the Obama administration are 50% successful, HBCUs will realize increased enrollments; a higher quality / better prepared student, and be the avenue that millions of urban educated students will travel, because the Ivies and other so-called select universities (predominantly white), will not admit them.

Riley’s editorial focused on standardized test scores, that even many select universities realize do not predict a student’s academic or life success. He cites research from 35 – 40 years ago to call into question the current merits of HBCUs. These are “old views” that were challenged then and shown to lack research credibility beyond the writers’ biased perspectives.

HBCUs educate highly talented young people who oftentimes demonstrate a level of resiliency that is complemented by a vast array of capabilities which the verbal / math sections of the SATs can never capture.

Black colleges/universities are at a crossroads; yet for reasons very different form what Riley posits. HBCUs must be given an opportunity to be put on a level playing field with their white counterparts. That has never occurred.

At Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, not even a $50 million federal civil rights award is enough to compensate for the historical roots of inequities and racism that continue to limit HBCUs from competing successfully with white institutions of higher education.

The sense of quiet intellectual rage by myself and others against Riley’s editorial could go on in a manner that similarly equates to Black Scholars and enlightened White intellectuals in academia who objectionably responded in the late 60’s and early 70’s to Jencks, the Coleman Study, and others’ research that suggested students of color were not intellectually capable of academic success unless “exposed to White classrooms/classmates,” as Riley implies related to the new vision for HBCUs.

As a graduate of Dartmouth College (BA) (attended for 6 months Talladega Colleges—an HBCU); Harvard University (Ed.M.); and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D.), the students I teach at Cheyney University, especially in the Master’s Degree thesis class, when I return their drafts for corrections / re-writes, etc.; they have often commented to me, “Are you trying to make us work as a Harvard – Dartmouth – Penn student?”

My response is always the same, “Excellence can be found at any institution of higher education. The Ivy League does not have a lock on excellence!”

The dedication and quality of faculty and administration, as well as the commitment we bring to excellence, when further supported by increased resources, funding and an understanding of what HBCUs continue to do that is uniquely our own method of preparing students for success in America; and maybe with the help of a Black President, the mission of HBCUs (instead of being revisited) can be realized!

Dr. Wesley C. Pugh, a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, is a professor at Cheyney University in Pennsylvania.