Vet. Willie Henry Burton

Vet. Willie Henry Burton

Vet. Willie Henry Burton

Vet. Willie Henry Burton was born in Marion County, Georgia on December 11, 1964 to the parentage of Mr. Eddie Burton, Sr. and the late Mrs. Mable Barnes Walker. He received his education in the public schools of Marion County. Upon graduation, he entered the United States Army and was Honorably Discharged in 1991.

In addition to his father, Mr. Eddie Burton, Sr., Buena Vista, GA,  he leaves to cherish his memories, his companion, Ms. Lassander Hurley, Americus, GA; one daughter, Ms. Lakeshia Burton and a granddaughter, Ms. Emani Marie Burton both of Cleveland, OH; two brothers, Mr. Freddie Burton, Americus, GA and Mr. Eddie Burton, Jr., Cordele, GA; one sister, Ms. Jerie Burton, Americus, GA; one uncle, Mr. Melvin Burton, New Jersey; one aunt, Ms. Geechie of Florida; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousin other relatives and friends also survive.

Study: Blacks sleeping patterns are unhealthy

Blacks don't get the necessary amount of sleep at night to live healthy lives, according to a Harvard study. (Getty Images)

Blacks don’t get the necessary amount of sleep at night to
live healthy lives, according to a Harvard study. (Getty Images)

By Frederick H. Lowe,

Perceived or objective job discrimination, limited control over work demands and a determination to succeed against all odds increase black workers’ stress, causing them to lose hours of restorative sleep compared to their white coworkers, according to a study by the Harvard School for Public Health. 

The problem, however, does not end there.

The lack of sleep leads to chronic ailments, including high-blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, diseases that are prevalent in the African-American community. Lack of sleep also can lead to death.

The study titled, “Racial Disparities in Short Sleep by Occupation and Industry,” analyzed eight years of data from the National Health Interview Survey, which polled 137,000 adults from 2004-2011.  In its investigation, Harvard School of Public Health compared sleep patterns between black and whites in eight industry categories.

Some of the categories are: finance information/real estate, professional/administrative management, educational services, public administration and other services, health care/social assistance, manufacturing and construction, public administration/ arts/ and other services.

Black and white sleep patterns
The study is one of the few that compares black and white sleep patterns.

“Blacks were more likely to report short-sleep duration than whites, and the black disparity was widest among those who held professional occupations,” the report stated.

More than one-third of blacks sleep less than seven hours per night. The study found that 37 percent of black respondents were “short sleepers,” or individuals who sleep less than seven hours per night, compared to only 28 percent of whites who slept fewer than seven hours per night.

Optimal sleep is seven hours per night, which is associated with the lowest levels of morbidity, poor health, and mortality or death. Long sleep is considered more than seven hours per night.

Lack of sleep is a growing health concern
The 10-page report, published in the June 13, 2013, edition of the “American Journal of Epidemiology”, noted that lack of sleep is a growing public-health concern because it has been linked to increased weight gain, obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and mortality.   

Harvard School of Public Health reported that in all industries combined, African-Americans working in professional or management positions were more likely to experience short sleep than their white counterparts. Some 42 percent of blacks experienced short sleep, compared to 26 percent of white workers, the study found.

“With increasing numbers of blacks entering professional and management roles in numerous industries, it is important to investigate and address the social factors contributing to short sleep disparities in blacks, compared with whites in general, and particularly in professional settings,” said the study’s lead author Chandra Jackson, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. 

African-Americans often are under intense-job scrutiny from their white colleagues. In addition, blacks are not connected to social networks that assist their white coworkers on the job.

 Black men and black women often are isolated on the job because some of their white coworkers don’t speak to them and in some cases, they mutter racial slurs and make nasty comments about President Barack Obama.
Yet at the same time, African Americans are very fearful of losing their jobs. 

Blacks who worked in support services also were more likely to experience short sleep than whites, 37 percent for blacks, compared to 26 percent for whites.

Blacks who worked as laborers also experienced short sleep, compared to their white coworkers. Some 35 percent of black laborers experienced short sleep, compared to 32 percent of white workers.

The retail and the food industries were the only industries where blacks and white had similar rates of short sleep.

Cell phones and the Internet contribute to lack of sleep
The study notes that the Internet, cell phones and other communications devices also may contribute to short sleep.

“The Internet and mail capabilities, cellular phones and other communications devices have resulted in employees becoming perpetually available and capable of communicating and engaging in work in ways and during times that may displace sleep,” the report said.

The study also noted that blacks are more likely to work nontraditional shifts and nonstandard work schedules, which disrupt circadian rhythms, increasing their appetite for sweet and salty foods. In addition, African-Americans may work multiple low-wage jobs and still live in poverty, leading to short sleep.

Obesity as a disease: Implications for treatment and reimbursement

Dr. Lee M. Kaplan

Dr. Lee M. Kaplan

By: ELIZABETH MECHCATIE,

WASHINGTON – Despite the recent attention given to considering obesity a disease, there are still many limitations to providing treatments for obesity and receiving adequate reimbursement for those treatments, Dr. Lee Kaplan said at a public workshop cosponsored by the Food and Drug Administration and the American Gastroenterological Association.

The American Medical Association resolution to recognize obesity as a disease in 2013 has no legal authority, and therefore does not represent as much progress as suggested by the media attention surrounding the announcement, said Dr. Kaplan, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center, Boston.

The AMA resolution was preceded by the Internal Revenue Service’s determination that obesity could qualify as a medical deduction in 2007, and in 2008, the Obesity Society provided support for considering obesity as a medical disorder.

But despite these apparent signs of progress, limitations remain. Weight loss drugs are excluded under Medicare Part D coverage, and while Medicare has started coverage for nutritional counseling, only services provided in a primary care setting are covered, he pointed out. An estimated 1 of every 400 people with obesity in the United States has bariatric surgery every year, but 1 in 100-150 of every 400 meets the criteria for surgery, which “doesn’t sound like we are addressing the problem very seriously,” he said.

One problem is that obesity, which has many causes, is lumped together “into one big group,” raising the issue of whether treating obesity would require an investment that is so huge, “that even as a society we cannot make it.”

A critical issue is how to define obesity, Dr. Kaplan said. A simple definition is excess fat accumulation that presents a risk to health, but this definition does not include ways of measuring excess fat. One measurement, body mass index, is a marker, not a definition of obesity.

A major barrier is the development of an effective therapy, he said, noting that other than gastric bands, there are no devices on the market to treat obesity, and the four drugs approved by the FDA have modest efficacy overall and are not widely used. Another major barrier is “provider utilization,” getting the provider to prescribe treatments and obtain reimbursement for the costs of treatment.

“There is also a large gap between the relatively noninvasive treatments and the invasive, more effective therapies, which needs to be filled by midlevel therapies,” he said. Those therapies should be gastrointestinal therapies almost exclusively, he added. The current treatment strategy is fairly simplistic: Patients are asked to change their lifestyle and when that does not work, the next step is to see a dietician, psychologist, or another professional to help with their lifestyle changes, followed by the addition of medication if that does not work. Surgery is broached in a small number of patients.

“Obesity is a disease whether we call it one or not, because it behaves like a disease,” and there are implications to viewing it as a disease, he said. Therapy should be physiologically based, and the heterogeneity in the underlying causes of obesity, which explains the variable treatment responses, provides an opportunity to benefit selected subpopulations.

Considering the number of disorders that are associated with obesity, it is not surprising that treatment responses vary widely, Dr. Kaplan said. People with one defect may do better than others with gastric bypass, and some people may respond better than others to the approved combination of phentermine and topiramate (Qsymia) – as reflected in the ranges of response rates associated with these therapies, he pointed out.

The average excess weight loss with gastric bypass, the most effective therapy for obesity, is about 65%, but it can be as low as 20% in some people. With banding, some patients lose all or most of their excess weight, but most lose about 25%-30%, he said. Similarly, Dr. Kaplan found some patients responded well to treatment with sibutramine (which is no longer marketed), while others did not respond well; the same pattern was seen with lorcaserin.

“Whether you’re talking about a drug, a device, surgery, or lifestyle modifications, … you see this very broad response,” because there are subtypes of obesity, he said. Identifying the subgroups of patients that are highly responsive to any of these treatments could increase the success rate of the treatment, he noted.

Georgia’s Deal: Tighten ER access

NathanDealBy Steve Benen,

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has a problem: rural hospitals keep closing, overwhelmed by financial troubles they can’t solve on their own. The obvious solution – accepting Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act – is the one thing Deal refuses to even consider.
There is no great mystery here as to why the rural hospitals can’t keep their doors open. These facilities have routinely covered low-income Georgians who don’t have insurance, leading to facilities that can’t pay their bills. Medicaid expansion would “help rural hospitals by turning many of their uninsured patients into paying patients,” but the governor and GOP state policymakers won’t budge.
But don’t worry, Deal is ready to think outside the box.
Gov. Nathan Deal has often called on Congress to reconsider the Affordable Care Act. But on Monday evening, he pushed his former Washington colleagues to revisit a separate health care law that fewer politicians openly critique.
The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act is a 1986 law that requires hospitals to provide emergency health care treatment to anyone who needs it, regardless of citizenship or their ability to pay. It’s provided life-saving care to countless people, but it’s also strained hospital resources and turned emergency rooms into the first stop, instead of a last resort, for some.
“If they really want to get serious about lowering the cost of health care in this country, [federal policymakers] would revisit another federal statute that has been there for a long time,” Deal told a crowd of dozens at a University of Georgia political science alumni gathering.
Let this one roll around in your mind for a moment.
Uninsured Georgians in rural parts of the state have shown up for medical care at emergency rooms that can’t turn them away. The hospitals provide care, as required by law, but the financial strain ultimately proves to be too great a burden for some facilities.
Deal’s solution isn’t to extend coverage to struggling families, thereby creating paying health care consumers for the hospitals; Deal’s solution is to make it easier for the hospitals to deny care to the struggling families.
In his remarks this week, the Georgia Republican went on to say, “I think we should be able in this passage of time to figure out ways to deal with those situations but not have the excessive costs associated with unnecessary visits to the emergency room.”
Well, if you expand access to insurance and guarantee easy access to preventive care, unnecessary visits to the emergency room would go down. Too bad Deal opposes expanded access to insurance and guaranteeing easy access to preventive care.
To be sure, I should emphasize that as a matter of hospital financing, Deal’s argument is not without merit – if medical facilities were able to simply deny care to the uninsured, those hospitals would definitely save lots of money.
But on the other hand, people would die from treatable ailments, paying with their life because they had the nerve to be poor.
Let’s also note that prominent Republicans have spent the last few years arguing that the uninsured rate in the United States – even before “Obamacare” – is actually 0%. Why? Because Americans can always seek medical attention at the emergency room.
It’s a truly outrageous argument on its own, but for Georgia’s Nathan Deal, it’s also apparently a solution that’s outlived its usefulness.

’Prehypertension’ boosts stroke risk, research says

(Photo: PhotoDisc)

(Photo: PhotoDisc)

By Kim Painter,

People with prehypertension — blood pressure above ideal levels but not high enough to be called hypertension — have a significantly increased risk of stroke, according to a new study that reinforces previous findings.

The study from Chinese researchers, published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, is a good reminder that the risks of rising blood pressure start before readings reach 140 over 90 millimeters of mercury, the point at which hypertension is diagnosed, say experts in the United States.

The 49 million Americans with prehypertension (blood pressures between 120/80 and 139/89) should pay attention to their numbers and try to reduce them — starting with controlling their weight, exercising and eating a diet low in salt and high in fruits and vegetables, the experts say.

But experts disagree about whether any of those people should take blood pressure drugs, a measure that the authors of the new study say deserves more study.

Cutting stroke risks for the 30% to 50% of adults worldwide affected by prehypertension could have “a major public health impact,” study co-author Dingli Xu said in an email. Xu is a physician at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China.

STORY: Advice would put fewer Americans on blood pressure meds

For the study, Xu and colleagues combined data from 19 previous studies involving more than 760,000 people followed for four to 36 years.

They found that those with blood pressures in the prehypertensive range were 66% more likely to have strokes than those with ideal blood pressures, below 120/80. The risk rose as the numbers did, nearly doubling at levels above 130/85. The link showed up whether or not people had other risk factors, such as diabetes and smoking.

Other studies have found that people with full-blown hypertension have stroke risks three to seven times higher than normal, Xu says.

There’s no question the stroke risks associated with all levels of elevated blood pressure are real, say two experts not associated with the study.

“Studies have showed time and time again that the higher the blood pressure, the higher your risk of some of these bad outcomes such as stroke and also heart attack, heart failure and kidney disease,” says Paul James, a professor of family medicine at the University of Iowa.

“We want the public to understand that you need to do something” when blood pressure rises, even before it reaches hypertensive levels, says Ralph Sacco, a spokesman for the American Heart Association and a neurologist at the University of Miami.

“Lifestyle modification is the No. 1 recommended approach,” Sacco says, and James agrees. But the two disagree on whether antihypertensive drugs have a role.

James says no. He helped write recent guidelines on blood pressure treatment that recommended against medications for certain people with prehypertension who also have diabetes or kidney disease. The guidelines, which are controversial, also recommend against treating people over age 60 with drugs unless their numbers are well in the hypertensive range, at 150/90 or above. For younger people, the guidelines say treatment should start at 140/90.

Those recommendations are based on gold-standard studies, James says. He says “no randomized, controlled clinical trials have ever been able to show benefit by giving medication” to broader groups of people.

He notes that medications to control blood pressure can have side effects that include lightheadedness, swollen feet and low potassium levels. One recent study also found an increased risk of serious falls in older adults taking the medications, he says.

But Sacco, who is critical of the guidelines, says he worries about not treating some people at particularly high risk for stroke who are unable to get their borderline blood pressure under control with lifestyle changes.

“I think it depends on the individual,” he says, and on additional risk factors ranging from diabetes to family health history. It makes no sense, he says, “to say that at 140 you are hypertensive but at 139 you are not.”

Republicans are angry about the poor getting food … so, who are these people?

Speaker John Boehner is angry that states are "cheating" (following the law) to prevent food stamp cuts.

Speaker John Boehner is angry that states are “cheating” (following the law) to prevent food stamp cuts.

by Laura Clawson,

As Republicans gnash their teeth over a series of states blocking the nutrition assistance cuts Republicans worked so hard to achieve, who exactly is benefiting from food stamps?

The annual report from the United States Department of Agriculture showed that about 45 percent of food stamp benefits went to children under 18, totaling about 20 million youngsters. Nine percent of recipients were age 60 or older, and nearly 10 percent were disabled adults who were under 60, according to the analysis of food stamp usage for the fiscal year that ended in September 2012.

So, yes, more than 60 percent were people we don’t expect to be in the workforce. At least, not if we retain some basic humanity. And a substantial percentage—about four in ten—live in a household in which someone is working. Because working poverty is very definitely a thing.

There are some simple, effective ways to reduce Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program spending. Raise the minimum wage. Invest in jobs. But that’s not The Republican Way. They’d rather cut the aid that keeps people fed without addressing the reasons they’re hungry to begin with.

Report says blacks, Latinos losing economic ground

By JESSE J. HOLLAND,

WASHINGTON —

African-Americans and Latinos are losing economic ground when compared with whites in the areas of employment and income as the United States pulls itself out of the Great Recession, the latest State of Black America report from the National Urban League says.

The annual report, called “One Nation Underemployed: Jobs Rebuild America,” noted that the underemployment rate for African-American workers was 20.5 percent, compared with 18.4 percent for Hispanic workers and 11.8 percent for white workers. Underemployment is defined as those who are jobless or working part-time jobs but desiring full-time work.

The report also said African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to be unemployed. The unemployment rate for blacks was 12 percent in February, compared with 5.8 percent for whites.

“Many Americans are being left behind, and that includes African-Americans and Latinos who are being disproportionately left behind by the job creation that we see,” National Urban League President Marc Morial said.

Despite the dismal numbers, an analysis by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found African-Americans significantly more optimistic about their future standard of living than whites, regardless of income level, education or partisanship. Overall, 71 percent of blacks surveyed in the 2012 General Social Survey agreed that they have a good chance of improving their standard of living, outpacing the share among whites by 25 percentage points.

The survey found high optimism even among blacks who say racism is a cause for economic inequality.

Such findings illustrate “a level of optimism in the African-American community and it’s important to lift that up,” said La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which released similar findings this week in separate research.

The National Urban League is pushing for several economic measures, including an increase in the minimum wage, an issue being debated in Congress. Democrats backed by President Barack Obama want to force election-year votes on gradually increasing today’s minimum to $10.10 by 2016, an effort that seems likely to fail in Congress. Republicans generally oppose the proposal, saying it would cost too many jobs.

“More must be done in post-recession America to try to help people and help communities close these gaps,” Morial said.

The National Urban League derives its numbers from an “equality index” that is based on nationally collected data from federal agencies including the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Center for Education Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With full equality with whites in economics, health, education, social justice and civic engagement set at 100 percent, the National Urban League said this year’s equality index for blacks stands at 71.2 percent, a slight improvement over last year’s index of 71.0 percent. However, the economic portion of the index dropped from 56.3 percent to 55.5 percent.

The equality index for Hispanics improved to 75.8 percent, compared with 74.6 percent last year, while the Hispanic economics index declined from 60.8 percent to 60.6 percent.

The report for the first time ranked large American cities from most equal to least equal when it comes to income equality and unemployment equality.

Memphis, Tenn., ranked the most equal for Hispanics when it came to unemployment equality, because in that city the Latino unemployment rate was only 3.8 percent, compared with a 6.5 percent unemployment rate for whites. For blacks, the Augusta-Richmond County, Ga., metropolitan area was most equal, with a 13.3 percent unemployment rate for blacks and an 8.5 percent unemployment rate for whites.

When it came to income, the most equal city for blacks was Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., where the median black household income was $44,572, while the median white household brought in $57,252. For Hispanics, Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla., was most equal, with median Hispanic income of $39,434 and median white income of $44,014.

How Paul Ryan’s Budget Paves the Way for Another Financial Crisis

Rep. Paul Ryan leaves a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill, April 2, 2014 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Rep. Paul Ryan leaves a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill, April 2, 2014 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

George Zornick,

Representative Paul Ryan released his budget blueprint this week, and fans of his work were no doubt pleased: it called for $5 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, focused heavily on domestic, non-military spending. Safety net programs like Medicaid and food stamps would face savage cuts, and the Affordable Health Care Act would be repealed entirely. Meanwhile, both corporate and individual tax rates would be lowered.

It is easy to make the case that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer under Ryan’s so-called “Path to Prosperity” plan: one needs only to look at the literally trillions cut from Medicaid and food stamps while the rich pay much less in taxes.

But it’s important to refine that point and note that the financial sector in particular gets many special favors in the Ryan plan. After all, it is one of Ryan’s leading benefactors and he can even be spotted sipping $350 bottles of wine with industry leaders from time to time. And his budget is no doubt a path to prosperity for them.

Moreover, in three crucial ways Ryan’s budget not only gives Wall Street more leeway to act recklessly, but makes it more likely that average Americans face the consequences.

Cutting the Securities and Exchange Commission budget: Already, the head of the SEC is complaining that her agency’s budget is not nearly adequate to police the country’s massive financial sector. In a speech earlier this year at SEC headquarters, director Mary Jo White said, “our funding falls significantly short of the level we need to fulfill our mission to investors, companies and the markets.” The SEC has only 4,200 employees, but must regulate eighteen different stock exchanges and over 25,000 different market participants—and the agency’s responsibilities are growing thanks to new mandates from the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation.

Ryan has a much different take in his budget: he thinks the SEC is just too big. He doesn’t apply a dollar figure, but makes it clear the agency’s already meager budget should be substantially “streamlined.”

“In the run-up to the financial crisis and its aftermath, the SEC repeatedly failed to fulfill any part of its mission,” his blueprint notes, ticking off a familiar list of whiffs, from the unsound nature of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers to the Ponzi schemes run by Allen Stanford and Bernie Madoff.

So far, so good. But Ryan goes on: “These failures have taken place despite significant increases in funding at the SEC, which has seen its budget increase almost sixty-six percent since 2004.”

Apparently, the extra money was the problem. “This resolution questions the premise that more funding for the SEC means better, smarter regulation. Adding reams of regulations to the books and scores of regulators to the payrolls will not provide greater transparency, consumer protection and enforcement for increasingly complex markets. Instead, the SEC should streamline and make more efficient its operations and resources.”

In short: since the SEC failed to adequately police Wall Street at a time its budget was increasing, the magic solution would be to cut the agency’s budget, because ipso facto the agency’s performance would get better.

This line of thinking would not be unfamiliar to those who follow Ryan’s recommendations for federal anti-poverty programs, and it’s just as wrong here as it is there. As the agency’s director herself pointed out (on several different occasions), the SEC plainly needs more resources to conduct better regulation of a huge financial sector. Ryan provides no evidence, aside from that odd logical twist, that reducing the number of SEC staffers poring over filings from hedge funds would somehow increase oversight of those outfits.

Transferring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau budget to Congress: Here Ryan resurrects a longstanding GOP proposal: that Congress, not the Federal Reserve, should fund the CFPB.

As it stands now, the bureau’s budget is essentially guaranteed. It can ask the Federal Reserve for funding up to a certain cap, and that request cannot be denied. The caps are fixed percentages of the Fed’s operating expenses. This guarantees autonomy from a Congress where many members (like, say, Ryan) are elected thanks to campaign contributions from the big financial institutions the CFPB polices.

Ryan claims to have a problem with this arrangement only because the Federal Reserve’s profits are supposed to be returned to the Treasury to reduce the deficit, but instead a portion of them are siphoned off to a new bureaucracy—one in which he suggests via scare quotes is ineffective. “Now, instead of directing these remittances to reduce the deficit, Dodd-Frank requires diverting a portion of them to pay for a new bureaucracy with the authority to write far-reaching rules on financial products and restrict credit to the very customers it seeks to ‘protect,’” says the blueprint.

CFPB funding would thus be transferred to Congress under the Ryan plan, and subject to annual appropriations. He doesn’t say what Congress should do with that budget once its under legislators control, but one needs only to look to his SEC budget proposals to get a sense of what would likely happen.

Ensuring Taxpayer Bailouts of Big Banks: This is another up-is-down situation where a lot of unpacking of Ryan’s language is needed. His budget says:

Although the proponents of Dodd-Frank went to great lengths to denounce bailouts, this law only sustains them. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation now has the authority to access taxpayer dollars in order to bail out the creditors of large, ‘‘systemically significant’’ financial institutions. This resolution calls for ending this regime, now enshrined into law, which paves the way for future bailouts. House Republicans put forth an enhanced bankruptcy alternative that—instead of rewarding corporate failure with taxpayer dollars—would place the responsibility for large, failing firms in the hands of the shareholders who own them, the managers who run them, and the creditors who finance them.

Sounds good! But that would actually accomplish the exact opposite.

Indeed, Dodd-Frank gave the FDIC the power to wind down too-big-to-fail banks, which is called “resolution authority.” In a crisis, if a failing bank is deemed too big for traditional bankruptcy, a panel of bankruptcy judges can place it in receivership under the FDIC. That FDIC in turn then makes a plan for winding down the institution safely—something Barney Frank called a “death panel” for big banks.

Crucially, under this structure, taxpayers can’t end up paying for this wind down—Dodd-Frankexplicitly forbids it. Any taxpayer money used upfront to ease the firm into bankruptcy would be recouped by a structured sale of the bank’s assets. (Note that Ryan sneakily says the FDIC has the authority to “access taxpayer dollars,” eliding the fact that in the end it has to pay them back.)

Ryan’s alternative is to end FDIC’s resolution authority and simply “place the responsibility for large, failing firms in the hands of the shareholders who own them, the managers who run them, and the creditors who finance them.”

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That’s akin to just saying “it will all work out.” It is unlikely in the extreme that the shareholders and managers can somehow bail out a failing big bank, especially in a crisis. Inevitably, Congress and thus taxpayers would have to step in, without any of the established authority like asset sales that the FDIC now possesses.

Ryan’s plan would lead to more taxpayer bailouts of failing big banks—and by stripping down the budgets of the agencies meant to oversee those institutions, make failure more likely in the first place. But in the meantime, his friends on Wall Street could enjoy less regulation, less oversight, and more comfort that taxpayers will someday come to the rescue.

The Supreme Court ’s Ideology: More Money, Less Voting

President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Martin Luther King, Jr. on Aug. 6, 1965 upon signing the Voting Rights Act. Credit: Yoichi R. Okamoto, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum

President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Martin Luther King, Jr. on Aug. 6, 1965 upon signing the Voting Rights Act. Credit: Yoichi R. Okamoto, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum

By Ari Berman,

In the past four years, under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court has made it far easier to buy an election and far harder to vote in one.

First came the Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which brought us the super PAC era.

Then came the Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act.

Now we have McCutcheon v. FEC, where the Court, in yet another controversial 5-4 opinion written by Roberts, struck down the limits on how much an individual can contribute to candidates, parties and political action committees. So instead of an individual donor being allowed to give $117,000 to campaigns, parties and PACs in an election cycle (the aggregate limit in 2012), they can now give up to $3.5 million, Andy Kroll of Mother Jones reports.

The Court’s conservative majority believes that the First Amendment gives wealthy donors and powerful corporations the carte blanche right to buy an election but that the Fifteenth Amendment does not give Americans the right to vote free of racial discrimination.

These are not unrelated issues—the same people, like the Koch brothers, who favor unlimited secret money in US elections are the ones funding the effort to make it harder for people to vote. The net effect is an attempt to concentrate the power of the top 1 percent in the political process and to drown out the voices and votes of everyone else.

Consider these stats from Demos on the impact of Citizens United in the 2012 election:

·  The top thirty-two Super PAC donors, giving an average of $9.9 million each, matched the $313.0 million that President Obama and Mitt Romney raised from all of their small donors combined — that’s at least 3.7 million people giving less than $200 each.

·  Nearly 60 percent of Super PAC funding came from just 159 donors contributing at least $1 million. More than 93 percent of the money Super PACs raised came in contributions of at least $10,000 — from just 3,318 donors, or the equivalent of 0.0011 percent of the US population.

·  It would take 322,000 average-earning American families giving an equivalent share of their net worth to match the Adelsons’ $91.8 million in Super PAC contributions.

That trend is only going to get worse in the wake of the McCutcheon decision.

Now consider what’s happened since Shelby County: eight states previously covered under Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act have passed or implemented new voting restrictions (Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina). That has had a ripple effect elsewhere. According to The New York Times, “nine states [under GOP control] have passed measures making it harder to vote since the beginning of 2013.”

A country that expands the rights of the powerful to dominate the political process but does not protect the fundament rights of all citizens doesn’t sound much like a functioning democracy to me.

Republican Paul Ryan’s Budget Makes the Poor and Seniors Worst Off!

AP Photo/Kevin Poirier)

AP Photo/Kevin Poirier)

By Greg Sargent,

The two big political news stories of the moment — the new Paul Ryan budget, and the successful attainment of seven million Obamacare signups — have the potential to reshape, at least to some degree, the battle for the Senate.

By my count, eight House Republicans are currently running for Senate — and will likely have the Ryan budget hanging around their necks, if and when they support it, and if Dems are then able to make it a liability for them.

The DSCC is hoping to use the Ryan budget to amplify its ongoing effort to tie GOP candidates to the Koch brothers, by labeling the Ryan blueprint the “Koch Budget.” The DSCC will be sending state-targeted releases out today hitting all the GOP Senate candidates for supporting a budget that is “bought and paid for by Charles and David Koch,” and “forces seniors to pay more while providing tax breaks for billionaires like the Kochs.” The release says:

The Koch brothers are spending millions across the country each month, more than $30 million so far this cycle, to buy themselves a U.S. Senate that supports a budget that benefits billionaires like the Kochs and forces seniors to foot the bill. Across the country, GOP Senate candidates support a “Koch Budget” that is bought and paid for by Charles and David Koch and would force over 45 million seniors to choose between traditional Medicare and a voucher program in order to provide tax breaks for billionaires.

House Republicans running for Senate include: Tom Cotton against Senator Mark Pryor; Bill Cassidy against Senator Mary Landrieu, Cory Gardner against Senator Mark Udall; Steve Daines against appointed Senator John Walsh; Shelley Moore Capito for the open Dem seat in West Virginia; and Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, and Jack Kingston vying to face Michelle Nunn in Georgia. So we may end up with House Republicans who have supported the Ryan budget as the Senate nominees in six states.

The Ryan budget’s deep cuts to the safety net and other programs (such as Pell Grants and education and job training), and its transformation of Medicare, are perhaps best summarized by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Bob Greenstein, who describes his blueprint as a “path to adversity” for “tens of millions” that “claims  to boost opportunity and reduce poverty while flagrantly doing the reverse.” Greenstein concludes: “Despite Chairman Ryan’s rhetoric on fighting  poverty and boosting opportunity, no fair-minded observer can claim that his  proposals actually reflect those priorities — or sugarcoat their harsh impact  on tens of millions of low- and moderate-income Americans.”

As Jonathan Weisman puts it, the Ryan budget is basically a “political manifesto” designed to satisfy conservative House members who “demanded a document they could take to their strongly Republican districts.” But if Dems have their way, they will be able to use it in statewide races, where the electorate may be somewhat more diverse, to galvanize core supporters and draw a sharp economic contrast in the eyes of swing constituencies.

The Dem effort to tie the Ryan budget to the Koch brothers is another reminder that the Dem approach is not simply about tarring Republicans with faceless plutocrats. Rather, it’s all about dramatizing GOP policy priorities, which are animated by a continuing obsession with 47 percenterism and unremitting hostility to government and the safety net that will hurt working and middle class Americans. The argument is that GOP priorities would set back efforts to increase economic mobility and protect ordinary Americans from economic harm, while exacerbating an economic status quo that is rigged against them and for the one percent. No question, the map for Dems is so daunting that nothing may be enough to stave off major losses. But the Ryan blueprint could help Dems make their central argument.

* DEMS WILL CONTRAST OBAMACARE WITH RYAN BUDGET:Meanwhile, it’s good to hear, via the New York Times, that Congressional Dems who had been running scared over Obamacare now think the seven million enrollments allow them to attack Republicans more directly on the consequences of repeal and contrast the law’s expansion of coverage with Paul Ryan’s proposed deep cuts to the safety net. However:

“I never said that we would run on it,” Ms. Pelosi said in an interview. “That wasn’t why we passed it. But we are not running away from it.” In the end, she said, “elections are always about jobs and the economy.”

Dems have an opening to hit Republicans hard over the consequences of repeal, but that is more about fighting the issue to a draw and broadening out these races to other issues, particularly the Ryan budget and pocketbook issues like the minimum wage.

* SENATE REPUBLICANS WORRY ABOUT GOP’S OBAMACARE OBSESSION: The Hill reports that GOP Senators are increasingly worried that the party’s single-minded obsession with Obamacare won’t be enough in 2014. Here’s Senator Dean Heller, who has criticized the House GOP for failing to extend unemployment benefits, even as it continues to push for repeal:

“It’s my opinion that the Affordable Care Act is going to play in this election, but I don’t think it’s the main issue. I think the main issue is going to be the economy and jobs. If we have solutions and answers on the economy and jobs, I think that the Affordable Care Act will take a back seat to it. If we think we’re going to win or lose the majority based on one single piece of legislation … I think we’re mistaken.”

Republicans have adopted a strategy of doing little in the way of policy because it could upset a dynamic in which Obamacare alone will supposedly deliver a glorious victory, with no indication that they even considered the possibility that it could work out tolerably well and recede as an issue.

* OBAMACARE GETS BIG HEADLINES: Mike Allen summarizes the headlines that greeted the health law’s successful achievement of seven million signups:

USA Today cover, below fold: “Health care’s comeback kid: Obama exults in 7M enrollment mark” …

WashPost, top of col. 1: “7.1 million sign up for health plan by deadline: Late surge meets original forecast, defies more recent skepticism” …

NYT A1: “Obama Claims Victory in Push For Insurance” …

L.A. Times 2-col. lead: “Health law overcomes big hurdle: The Affordable Care Act enrolls 7.1 million; the GOP, whose base is less likely to benefit, remains opposed.”

I doubt this will be enough to meaningfully shift opinion on the law, but it’s plausible that it will now fade from the headlines. Not that this will put the slightest dent in GOP certainty that the health law alone will deliver he Senate.

* WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT OBAMACARE ENROLLMENT NUMBERS? Glenn Kessler has a wonky and useful dive into what we really know and don’t know about how many people are benefitting from Obamacare who previously weren’t. Notably, Kessler says Obama is probably on safe ground in asserting that 7.1 million people “signed up” for private insurance under the law, though many unknowns remain, such as how many were previously insured and how many paid premiums.

I would only add that — all the spin aside — enrollment numbers don’t really tell us much about the law’s long term prospects, which will turn heavily on how dozens of individual marketplaces fare in the states.

* JINDAL TO UNVEIL “ALTERNATIVE” TO OBAMACARE: The Post scoops that Bobby Jindal, as is set to unveil a new “alternative” to Obamacare today, as part of his efforts to position himself as a 2016 presidential contender. It would repeal the law and replace it — prepare to be shocked — by longtime GOP staples like block-granting Medicaid and allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines.

“There is a void out there,” says Jindal. “I absolutely think the country deserves a debate, and if Republicans are going to succeed, we better have more than bumper stickers.” Take it as a positive that Republicans increasingly realize repeal alone is a nonstarter and that they need to be seen offering alternatives.

* MINIMUM WAGE AS MOTIVATOR OF VOTING: Obamacare foes on twitter are already very excited about the new Quinnipiac poll finding that approval of the health law is at 41-55, and that 40 percent say they’re less likely to vote for a candidate who supports it. But the poll didn’t test repeal — the actual GOP stance — and it also finds that 50 percent are moreinclined to vote for a candidate who supports the minimum wage hike, which Dems will campaign on this year.

* WHY REPUBLICANS WON’T SUPPORT IMMIGRATION REFORM: Another interesting tidbit from the new Quinnipiac poll: While 39 percent of Americans say they are “less likely” to support a candidate who backs a path to citizenship, an overwhelming 60 percent of Republicans falls into that category.

* AND WAR OVER MEDICAID EXPANSION HEATS UP IN VIRGINIA: The standoff in Virginia continues over whether the state will adopt its own version of the Medicaid expansion, with Governor Terry McAuliffe (who campaigned on the idea and won) and state Democrats continuing to insist they will not support any state budget that doesn’t include one. Conservatives appear equally adamant in opposition, and the standoff could produce a government shutdown.

Achieving the Medicaid expansion in Virginia would expand coverage to as many as 400,000 people and constitute a significant victory for Obamacare.

What else?

Discrimination Against Children of Color Begins in Preschool, Says New Study

(Photo via Shutterstock)

(Photo via Shutterstock)

By Judy Molland,

The racial disparities in American education, from access to high-level classes and experienced teachers to discipline, were highlighted in a report released on March 21 by the Education Department’s civil rights arm. Turns out, black students are more likely than other racial groups to be suspended from U.S. public schools, even as preschoolers.

African-American children represent about 18 percent of children in preschool programs in schools, but they make up almost half of the preschoolers who are suspended more than once, the report said. Six percent of the nation’s districts with preschools reported suspending at least one preschool child.

Minority Students Most Subject to Suspensions

Advocates long have said get-tough suspension and arrest policies in schools have targeted mostly minority students, but much of the emphasis has been on middle school and high school policies. This was the first time the department reported data on preschool discipline.

As The Daily Beast reports:

In 2012, for instance the Department of Education found that blacks accounted for 35 percent of students suspended at least once, and 39 percent of all expulsions. This, despite the fact that African Americans are just 18 percent of the total student population.

And of course, there are particular places where the rates of suspension and expulsion are insane. Of the students suspended under zero tolerance policies in New Orleans in 2009, for instance, all of them were black.

Earlier studies have found that these high suspension rates for black students, and especially males, exist among older students as well, Yale associate professor Walter Gilliam said. The race gap “was bad then, and it’s bad now,” Gilliam said. “You don’t have to be able to split hairs to see how disproportionate it is.”

Not Just Expulsion: Also About Referrals and Remedial Classes

It’s not just about being kicked out. The Daily Beast reports that compared to their white counterparts, black boys are three times more likely to be placed in remedial or “problem” classes, as opposed to receiving counseling or a diagnosis. In 70 percent of school-related arrests, it is black or Latino students who are involved. The same goes for referrals to law enforcement; in one Mississippi school district, for example, 33 out of every 1,000 students have been arrested or referred to a juvenile detention center, the vast majority of whom were black.

This Is All Part of the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Social-justice activists have been raising the alarm for years now about the “school-to-prison pipeline,” which the ACLU describes ”as a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.” It works like this: students, especially students of color, are hit with outrageous and disproportionate disciplinary measures in the school system.

This causes them to fall behind in their classes, but it can also result in students being suspended or shuffled off to separate classes for troublemakers. This of course results in higher dropout rates and eventually higher imprisonment rates.

There are myriad reasons why this is happening, but at least in some parts of the U.S., more enlightened thinking is taking over.

Restorative Justice

Restorative justice is the name of a program increasingly offered in schools seeking an alternative to “zero tolerance” policies like suspension, expulsion and truancy courts.

Since suspending students, or sending them to court, often leads to academic failure, thereby perpetuating the very behavior it is seeking to address, restorative justice instead provides a way of addressing negative behavior by keeping a student at school and using various means to encourage the offender to take responsibility and make amends.

The approach, which is now taking root in schools in Oakland, Calif., as well as Chicago, Denver and Portland, tries to nip problems and violence in the bud by creating stronger and more open relationships between students, teachers and administrators.

This is an important step forward, but I think we need to look at the statistics about minority preschoolers, and ask ourselves why these young children are so angry? Why do they need to act out? The answer will take us far beyond the education system.

 

FTC reviewing proposed Phoebe/Hospital Authority settlement

A Tennessee group is asking the Georgia Department of Community Health to clarify the application of Certificate of Need regarding Phoebe North

Workers at Palmyra Medical Center remove the “Y” in Palmyra on the front of the building in 2012 after the hospital was purchased by the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County, which leased the facility to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Inc. The Federal Trade Commission, however, is currently reviewing a proposed settlement deal reached last August. (Albany Herald file photo)

Workers at Palmyra Medical Center remove the “Y” in Palmyra on the front of the building in 2012 after the hospital was purchased by the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County, which leased the facility to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Inc. The Federal Trade Commission, however, is currently reviewing a proposed settlement deal reached last August. (Albany Herald file photo)

By Terry Lewis,

ALBANY — New questions have arisen over Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s operation of Phoebe North. Many thought the merger was a done deal after last year’s settlement proposal by the Federal Trade Commission. The proposed agreement, however, remains unapproved by the FTC six months later.

In April 2011, the FTC pursued litigation against Phoebe Putney Health System, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, HCA, Palmyra Park Hospital, Phoebe North and the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County, challenging the Hospital Authority’s acquisition of the former Palmyra Medical Center. After a U.S. Supreme Court decision in February 2013 reversed lower court rulings that had exempted the purchase from federal review, the FTC, Phoebe Putney Health System and the Hospital Authority agreed to a proposed settlement last August.

The proposed settlement stated that the Hospital Authority would retain ownership of Palmyra Medical Center that it purchased from HCA for $195 million. Phoebe Putney would lease and operate the facility that was renamed Phoebe North, while agreeing to not oppose new Certificate of Need (CON) applications for a hospital in Metro Albany and Mitchell County for five years and to not make certain acquisitions in those six counties for the next 10 years without first notifying the FTC.

On March 14, however, the FTC was granted a motion in the U.S. District Court of Middle Georgia to extend the court deadline for the filing of the necessary case dismissal documents in regard to the Hospital Authority’s purchase of Palmyra. The FTC requested the extension “because the Commission is still considering a potential settlement of the underlying administrative procedures.” The motion was unopposed and U.S. District Court Judge Louis Sands granted an extension until April 14.

“As far as Phoebe and the Authority are concerned, the matter was resolved appropriately last August based on standing law and precedent, which the Federal Trade Commission recognized in its analysis at the time.,” Tommy Chambless, Phoebe senior vice president and general counsel, said. “We anticipate a final order consistent with the earlier order.

“In the meantime, Phoebe has not wavered in its planning for the utilization of the North Campus, which is designed to enhance the delivery of health care for the community we serve.”

Calls to the FTC for comment were not returned. FTC Commissioner Julie Brill, in an article published earlier this month in Mlex (a publication that covers regulatory stories), however, indicated the settlement proposal was still being reviewed by the FTC. “Phoebe’s not done yet,” she was quoted as saying. “It’s a proposed order. It has not been finalized.”

The sticking point, according to merger opponents, centers on their contention that the FTC misinterpreted Georgia’s CON law. The FTC cited Georgia’s CON law, which it described as “strict,” in determining that the option of ordering the divestiture of the former Palmyra Medical Center was “unavailable” to the agency.

Also, another player emerged earlier this month when the North Albany Medical Center LLC (NAMC), a group based in Franklin, Tenn., that registered with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office in December, issued a news release stating it has filed a Letter of Determination (DET) request with with the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH). The letter asks for confirmation that the state’s CON law would not prevent the sale of the former Palmyra Park Hospital should the FTC order that the property be decoupled from Phoebe management.

NAMC attorney Victor Moldovan said the proposed settlement wasn’t final because the FTC had yet to vote on approving the settlement. “They can approve, delay or reject the settlement,” Moldovan said. “I can’t speak for the FTC, but I am not aware of any deadline for them to move forward or not.”

Moldovan did not say what interest his organization, which has no Albany area partners, has in Phoebe North. The address listed on the Secretary of State’s website for the NAMC, however, lists the same location and suite as Surgical Development Partners of Franklin, Tenn. That group, according to its website, provides, hospital management, development and funding.

Dr. Joe Stubbs, an Albany physician and vocal critic of the Palmyra acquisition, met with the FTC earlier this month to express his concerns.

“I’m glad they are interested in taking another look at the proposed settlement,” Stubbs said of the FTC. “They may well not accept the proposed settlement. I think an administrative hearing would make it pretty obvious that Phoebe has created a monopoly. Now they are trying to throw up a smoke screen by using Georgia CON laws, and I don’t think it applies.

“The real question is do they really need the CON if a decoupling occurs?

Stubbs then criticized the Hospital Authority, saying the group should have placed the lease for the acquisition out for competitive bid rather than choosing Phoebe, which manages Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital under a long-term lease with the Authority.

As part of the August settlement proposal, Phoebe and the Authority agreed that for the next 10 years they would not acquire without prior notification to the FTC a general acute care hospital, an inpatient or outpatient clinic or facility, or a physician group practice of five or more physicians within a six-county region — Dougherty, Terrell, Lee, Worth, Baker (which comprise the Albany Metropolitan Statistical Area) and Mitchell.

Phoebe and the Authority also agreed that for the next five years they would not file any objections with the Georgia DCH to the issuance of a CON for a new general acute care hospital in the same six-county region. Phoebe and the Authority are not restricted from objecting to CON applications for other projects, but agreed to provide a copy of any such objection to the FTC.

Phoebe also agreed to provide annual reports of its compliance with these provisions for the next decade.

In the proposed agreement, Phoebe and the Authority agreed to stipulate that the acquisition of the former Palmyra Medical Center might lessen competition within the relevant service and geographic market.

The Phoebe hospital board and the Authority board voted Aug. 26 to approve the settlement proposal.

Democracy vs. Oligarchy

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders

In his 1943 painting “Freedom of Speech,” Norman Rockwell illustrated American democracy in action by depicting a man speaking up at a town meeting. A framed poster of Rockwell’s painting hangs proudly on a wall in my Senate office in Burlington, Vt.

Since 1990, when I was first elected to Congress, I have held hundreds of town meetings in almost every community in Vermont. Just this past Sunday I held a town meeting in Middlebury, Vt., with a video connection to meetings in three other towns. At these town meetings I listen to what my constituents have to say, answer questions and give a rundown of what I’m working on and what’s going on in Washington.

This process — an elected official meeting with ordinary citizens — is called “democracy.”

Ironically, at the same time as I was holding town meetings in Vermont, a handful of prospective 2016 Republican presidential candidates (Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Chris Christie and Scott Walker) trekked to Las Vegas to audition for the support of Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino tycoon who spent at least $93 million underwriting conservative candidates in the last election cycle. Those candidates were in Las Vegas for the sole purpose of attempting to win hundreds of millions from him for their presidential campaigns.

The disastrous 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United threw out campaign funding laws that limited what wealthy individuals and corporations could spend on elections. Since that ruling, campaign spending by Adelson, the Koch brothers and a handful of other billionaire families has fundamentally undermined American democracy. If present trends continue, elections will not be decided by one-person, one-vote, but by a small number of very wealthy families who spend huge amounts of money supporting right-wing candidates who protect their interests.

This process — a handful of the wealthiest people in our country controlling the political process — is called “oligarchy.”

The great political struggle we now face is whether the United States retains its democratic heritage or whether we move toward an oligarchic form of society where the real political power rests with a handful of billionaires, not ordinary Americans.

Clearly, if we are to retain the fundamentals of American democracy, we need to overturn the Supreme Court decision. The fact that more than 500 communities and 16 states have expressed support for overturning Citizens United is a good step forward, but much more needs to be done.

Overturning Citizens United, however, is not enough. If we are serious about elections being fought over ideas, we must move toward public funding of elections.

The Distributional Games

ROBERT REICH

ROBERT REICH

By Robert Reich’s,

Every year I ask my class on “Wealth and Poverty” to play a simple game. I have them split up into pairs, and imagine I’m giving one of them $1,000. They can keep some of the money only on condition they reach a deal with their partner on how it’s to be divided up between them. I explain they’re strangers who will never see one other again, can only make one offer and respond with one acceptance (or decline), and can only communicate by the initial recipient writing on a piece of paper how much he’ll share with the other, who must then either accept (writing “deal” on the paper) or decline (“no deal”).

You might think many initial recipients of the imaginary $1,000 would offer $1 or even less, which their partner would gladly accept. After all, even one dollar is better than ending up with nothing at all.

But that’s not what happens. Most of the $1,000 recipients are far more generous, offering their partners at least $250. And most of partners decline any offer under $250, even though “no deal” means neither of them will get to keep anything.

This game, or variations of it, have been played by social scientists thousands of times with different groups and pairings, with surprisingly similar results.

A far bigger version of the game is now being played on the national stage. But it’s for real — as a relative handful of Americans receive ever bigger slices of the total national income while most average Americans, working harder than ever, receive smaller ones. And just as in the simulations, the losers are starting to say “no deal.”

According to polls, they’ve said no deal to the pending Trans Pacific Trade Agreement, for example, and Congress is on the way to killing it.

It’s true that history and policy point to overall benefits from expanded trade because all of us gain access to cheaper goods and services. But in recent years the biggest gains from trade have gone to investors and executives while the burdens have fallen disproportionately on those in the middle and below who have lost good-paying jobs.

By the same token, most Americans are saying “no deal” to further tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. In fact, some are now voting to raise taxes on the rich in order to pay for such things as better schools, as evidenced by the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York.

Conservatives say higher taxes on the rich will slow economic growth. But even if this argument contains a grain of truth, it’s a non-starter as long as 95 percent of the gains from growth continue to go to the top 1 percent – as they have since the start of the recovery in 2009.

Why would people turn down a deal that made them better off simply because it made someone else far, far better off?

Some might call this attitude envy or spite. That’s the conclusion of Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, in a recent oped column for the New York Times. But he’s dead wrong.

It’s true that people sometimes feel worse off when others do better. There’s an old Russian story about a suffering peasant whose neighbor is rich and well-connected. In time, the rich neighbor obtains a cow, something the peasant could never afford. The peasant prays to God for help. When God asks the peasant what he wants God to do, the peasant replies, “Kill the cow.”

But Americans have never been prone to “kill the cow” type envy. When our neighbor gets the equivalent of new cow (or new car), we want one, too.

Yet we are sensitive to perceived unfairness. When I ask those of my students who refuse to accept even $200 in the distribution game why they did so, they rarely mention feelings of envy or spite. They talk instead about unfairness. “Why should she get so much?” they ask. “It’s unfair.”

Remember, I gave out the $1,000 arbitrarily. The initial recipients didn’t have to work for it or be outstanding in any way.

When a game seems rigged, losers may be willing to sacrifice some gains in order to prevent winners from walking away with far more — a result that might feel fundamentally unfair.

To many Americans, the U.S. economy of recent years has become a vast casino in which too many decks are stacked and too many dice are loaded. I hear it all the time: The titans of Wall Street made unfathomable amounts gambling with our money, and when their bets went bad in 2008 we had to bail them out. Yet although millions of Americans are still underwater and many remain unemployed, not a single top Wall Street banker has been indicted. In fact, they’re making more money now than ever before.

Top hedge-fund managers pocketed more than a billion dollars each last year, and the stock market is higher than it was before the crash. But the typical American home is worth less than before, and most Americans can’t save a thing. CEOs are now earning more than 300 times the pay of the typical worker yet the most workers are earning less, and many are barely holding on.

In 2001, a Gallup poll found 76 percent of Americans satisfied with opportunities to get ahead by working hard, and only 22 percent were dissatisfied. But since then, the apparent arbitrariness and unfairness of the economy have taken a toll. Satisfaction has steadily declined and dissatisfaction increased. Only 54 percent are now satisfied, 45 percent dissatisfied.

According to Pew, the percentage of Americans who feel most people who want to get ahead can do so through hard work has dropped by 14 points since about 2000.

Another related explanation I get from students who refuse $200 or more in the distribution game: They worry that if the other guy ends up with most of the money, he’ll also end up with most of the power. That will rig the game even more. So they’re willing to sacrifice some gain in order to avoid a steadily more lopsided and ever more corrupt politics.

Here again, the evidence is all around us. Big money had already started inundating our democracy before “Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission” opened the sluice gates, but now our democracy is drowning. Only the terminally naive would believe this money is intended to foster the public interest.

What to do? Improving our schools is critically important. Making work pay by raising the minimum wage and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit would also be helpful.

But these are only a start. In order to ensure that future productivity gains don’t go overwhelmingly to a small sliver at the top, we’ll need a mechanism to give the middle class and the poor a share in future growth.

One possibility: A trust fund for every child at birth, composed of an index of stocks and bonds whose value is inversely related to family income, which becomes available to them when they turn eighteen. Through the magic of compounded interest, this could be a considerable sum. The funds would be financed by a small surtax on capital gains and a tax on all financial transactions.

We must also get big money out of politics — reversing “Citizens United” by constitutional amendment if necessary, financing campaigns by matching the contributions of small donors with public dollars, and requiring full disclosure of everyone and every corporation contributing to (or against) a candidate.

If America’s distributional game continues to create a few big winners and many who consider themselves losers by comparison, the losers will try to stop the game — not out of envy but out of a deep-seated sense of unfairness and a fear of unchecked power and privilege. Then we all lose.

Democrats should play offense on Obamacare

robinson_212EUGENE ROBINSON,

Here is what Democrats should learn from their party’s loss in a special House election in Florida last week: Wishy-washy won’t work.

Republicans obviously are going to make opposition to the Affordable Care Act the main theme of their campaigns this fall. Democrats will be better off if they push back hard — really hard — rather than seek some nonexistent middle ground.

The contest between Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly in Florida’s 13th Congressional District was almost like a laboratory experiment. The House seat was held for decades by the late C.W. Bill Young, a Republican, but voters are evenly balanced between the two parties. Sink was better known, having narrowly lost a race for governor in 2010; Jolly had deeper roots in the community. Neither displayed an overabundance of charisma.

Jolly’s narrow victory — he won by about 3,500 votes out of about 184,000 cast — is not a death knell for the Democratic Party’s prospects come autumn. But it does suggest how Democrats should not run in close races. Jolly has to run again in November, and if Sink gets another shot at him, I’d suggest she do things a bit differently.

Jolly ran what amounted to a one-note campaign: Repeal Obamacare. Given the large number of retirees in the district, he hammered away with the untrue GOP claim that the health-care law somehow weakens Medicare. Jolly followed his party’s leadership in declining to propose a coherent set of different health insurance reforms to replace the ACA.

Sink defended President Obama’s signature achievement but added the caveat that she wants to “keep what’s right and fix what’s wrong.” This is the course of action most voters would prefer, according to opinion polls. But as a campaign position, “fix what’s wrong” sounds weak and equivocal — especially when contrasted with the bold GOP promise of repeal.

That promise, of course, is dishonest. House Republicans have alreadystaged 50 meaningless votes to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act, knowing that none of the measures had a prayer of making it through the Senate. Even if the GOP were to control both chambers, Obama would veto any repeal bill that reached his desk.

Democrats facing close contests this fall should play offense on Obamacare, not defense. They should tell voters that the ACA is a landmark achievement — the biggest expansion of access to health care in decades, fulfilling a long-held progressive dream. They should accuse their GOP opponents of playing voters for fools by cynically pretending that repeal is just around the corner.

Democrats should talk about what’s right with the ACA. They should talk about the millions of formerly uninsured Americans who now have coverage. They should talk about the millions of others who now arecovered under Medicaid. They should talk about the young people who are able to be covered under their parents’ policies. They should talk about the diabetics and cancer survivors who now cannot be denied coverage because of their conditions.

The Democratic Party has long taken the position that no one should have to declare bankruptcy because of illness, that no one should have to choose between paying for medicine and paying the mortgage. If Democrats can’t proclaim these beliefs with pride, why on earth are they running?

Being positive rather than negative on Obamacare won’t be enough, however. Democrats also need to give their voters a compelling reason to go to the polls — and that means explaining, in the most urgent terms, just what is at stake.

Today’s Republican Party is not “conservative” by any reasonable definition of the word. It is a radical party seeking to dramatically alter the social compact by which we have lived for decades.

Republicans, if they could, would slash Social Security benefits and turnMedicare into a voucher program. They, not Democrats, are the ones who threaten the safety net for seniors.

Republicans refuse to invest in our decaying infrastructure. They want to do away with government regulation that has given us cleaner air, healthier food, safer workplaces. They seek ultimate control over women’s reproductive rights and have already made it oppressively difficult to terminate a pregnancy in many states. Instead of comprehensive immigration reform, they propose “self-deportation.”

The Republican agenda is dangerously wrong for America. The majority coalition that elected Obama twice isn’t accustomed to voting in midterm elections. Democrats need to explain why this year has got to be an exception.

Stand Your Ground Is About to Get Even Worse in Florida

12-year-old Jaylen Reese marches to protest Zimmerman’s verdict.(CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DAVID GOLDMAN)

12-year-old Jaylen Reese marches to protest Zimmerman’s verdict.(CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DAVID GOLDMAN)

By Nicole Flatow, 

Attempts to roll back any of the Florida Stand Your Ground law’s most incendiary elements have foundered more than two years after the death of Trayvon Martin. But a bill to expand the law passed Thursday, mere months after it was introduced.

The National Rifle Association-backed bill would extend Stand Your Ground-like protections to those who point a gun at an attacker or fire a gun as a self-defense threat or warning, expanding the scope of the discretion judges and juries retain to exempt shooters from criminal charges for gun violence. The final bill also includes a provision to keep Stand Your Ground records secret.

The “Threatened Use of Force” bill passed the Senate Thursday 32-7, and will become law if signed by Gov. Rick Scott (R). The bill initially gained traction after Republicans exploited the outrage over the 20-year prison sentence for Marissa Alexander, who fired a warning shot during an altercation with her abusive husband. The bill was then dubbed the “warning shot” bill, because a judge rejected Alexander’s move to invoke the law. But opponents were quick to point out that injustice in Alexander’s case hinged in large part on a draconian mandatory minimum sentence that required the 20-year prison term, insensitivity to domestic violence, and racial disparities that are already baked into the existing Stand Your Ground law.

Rather than protect those like Alexander, the law is likely to expand immunity for violent conduct in as vague and sweeping a manner as Florida’s existing Stand Your Ground law, and could represent the newest mechanism for encouraging even more vigilantism.

A new amendment that made its way into the final bill would also make secret all records from Stand Your Ground cases, meaning that the records would be sealed in cases where charges are later dropped, and those who are granted immunity would have their records expunged. But the law also means that media outlets seeking to document the impact of the law would not have access to any records.

Dream Defenders Legal and Policy Director Ahmad Abuznaid called this a “double standard,” pointing out that no legislation in Florida protects young children arrested for offenses that often amount to disciplinary violations. “If the legislature is concerned with expunging criminal records, they should start with the tens of thousands of students who were arrested in school for minor misbehavior last year or the many people of color unable to vote in Florida because of a broken criminal justice system – not defendants with an itchy trigger finger and unchecked biases against black and brown people,” he said in a statement.

Last summer, Dream Defenders led a sit-in at the Florida Capitol that lasted more than eight days imploring repeal after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin. But those efforts have been summarily rejected, even after a review panel was commissioned to identify flaws in the law. That “farce” panel stacked with many of the original proponents of the law did not even consider studies finding that the law is associated with a significant increase in homicides, has a disproportionate impact on African Americans, and does not appear to deter crime at all. The NRA continued its lobbying on this warning shot bill even as trial was underway for the killing of another Florida 17-year-old, Jordan Davis.

Over the past two years, Florida courts have granted immunity under the Stand Your Ground law to a man who went back to his car to get a gun, and another who shot an acquaintancefor threatening to beat him up. And just last week, an appeals court ruled that a prison guard could invoke the law to defend allegations that he severely beat an inmate on the job. There is another new compromise bill advancing in the Senate intended to make some reforms to the law, but even that bill would make the legal process even easier for defendants.

Taking the Supreme Court back

DFA-dean-mccutcheon-callout-109x300We already know that holding the Senate this November matters. But the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Wednesday underscores just how crucial holding our majority in the Senate is — and how the fate of our democracy could depend on who wins just a handful of seats in November.

The extreme right-wing justices on our current Supreme Court have made it clear that they want to eliminate every barrier restricting corporate shills like the Koch Brothers from controlling our political process. First, there was Citizens United. Now, the McCutcheon decision, which eliminated all aggregate caps on campaign donations. And in his opinion this week, Chief Justice Roberts set the stage for successful challenges of every single remaining element of campaign finance reform.

Fortunately, we have a stronghold that we can use to turn the Supreme Court around for good: the U.S. Senate, which single-handedly decides the fate of nominees to our nation’s highest court.

Turnover in the Supreme Court can happen without warning. Republicans have used these openings over the past several decades to build a court that tows the line for special interests and makes decisions based on ideology, not legal precedent.Now, we need to take the court back. But we can’t do it if we lose our majority in the Senate now.

The Supreme Court couldn’t have made the stakes more clear: If we are ever going to get our democracy back, we need to hold the Senate NOW. Pitch in $3 now so DFA can double our efforts in tight Senate races.

The debate over big business money in politics couldn’t be more personal to me. In 2004, my campaign was able to beat the odds and gain national prominence by ditching the special interests and focusing on the grassroots. Small-dollar donations and on-the-ground volunteers — not piles of corporate cash — made our organization as formidable as it was.

But that was before Citizens United. It was before McCutcheon.This new flood of special interest money makes it harder than ever to run people-powered campaigns that give working Americans a say the way mine did. And with every bad ruling, it will become more and more difficult for progressives to avoid turning to corporate cash to get their point across.

We deserve an America where every single person’s voice is heard — not one where the 1% get all the “speech” their billions can buy them. Together, we can turn these precedents around and give our government back to the people. The fight for our democracy starts now, with DFA’s support for progressive champions in the Senate up for reelection like Jeff Merkley and rising stars like Rick Weiland — who is running an inspiring Senate campaign in South Dakota driven by his opposition to Citizens United.

If we can help people like Jeff Merkley and Rick Weiland win in November, they will help us get the Supreme Court — and our democracy — back on track.

We know the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson won’t be sitting on the sidelines this year. We can hold the Senate — but only if we go all in right now. Donate $3 today to help our endorsed candidates keep the Senate securely in Democratic hands.

Thank you for fighting with us when the stakes are highest,

– Howard

Gov. Howard Dean, Founder
Democracy for America

Whites to Take Back School Board Majority

DEMOCRAT SENATOR FREDDIE POWELL-SIMS MADE IT POSSIBLE

After years of successfully battling the three minority White racists school board members and their supporters for control of the school board through dirty tactics, the Sumter County Black community appears to have lost the battle. The Black community has waged a fierce, successful battle against this group for years to maintain control. And the community would have won this latest battle had Black Democrat Senator Freddie Powell-Sims not lied to the Black community that she would not sign GA House Bill 836. As a senator representing a portion of Sumter County, Powell-Sims’ approval was critical for the Bill to pass, and,
in the end, it removed the Black majority board members. The Bill reduces the nine school board seats to seven. Democrat-turned Republican Representative Mike Cheokas introduced Bill 836. Once the Bill was approved, the Sumter County Election Board scheduled a May 20, 2014 elections.

Black citizens in Sumter County thank NAACP President Rev. Mathis K. Wright for his courageous efforts to stop the damage Powell-Sims caused. He appeared in Federal Court to save the Sumter County school system-a system that Powell-Sims once worked in as a principal. With a stroke of the pen, Powell-Sims removed a legitimate group of Black elected officials and returned the system over to a White-racist controlled group to manage a $76 million budget with an 80% black-student population.

Since the majority Black board members were elected in 2011, White racists in the community have mobilized to remove them. The bitter and abusive tactics of the White board members was shameless. This group used a variety of schemes to try and remove the Black elected board officials with lies, threats, and intimidations. The White board members first tactic was to call a mass meeting of mostly screaming and angry Whites, chanting the newly elected Black board members lack leadership; therefore, students would suffer. The Black board members have far more experience as veteran educators and tenure serving on the school board. The three Whites are not educators and two of them have only served a short time on the board.

The local District Attorney Plez Hardin joined the racist Whites move to intimidate the Black board members. When have you ever heard of a DA investigating a school board on such feeble charges? The DA hastily convened a grand jury, a stunt that proved to fizzle out.

The third tactic employed by the group was a little more involved and serious. The three sitting White board members recruited the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to threaten the Sumter County School’s accreditation if the Blacks continue to refuse to work harmoniously with their Whites colleagues. SACS threatened to pull the school’s accreditation if they kept trying to stop the redistricting plan with seven seats. The redistricting discussion was totally outside of SACS’s purview, and should have been off limits to SACS.

As a result of SACS wrongful actions, the black board members had to attend a hearing at the State School Board in Atlanta, GA. At the hearing, DA Hardin made an absolute fool of himself. Plez Hardin was unable to answer even simple school board questions. And, at the hearing, the president of SACS was in attendance and said, based on the merits of the accusations, that he would have never put Sumter County on probation. Despite that surprised acknowledgement by SACS president, SACS still continued threatening Black board members to remove accreditation.

Because all the above tactics failed by the three White school board members, the final tactic was to have a GA Bill passed to achieve what they could not do legally in their other attempts. Sumter County Republican State Representative Mike Cheokas introduced House Bill 836. The Bill would reduce the nine school board seats to seven. Once Cheokas introduced the bill, he had to lobby Sumter County’s Senator Freddie Powell-Sims. Cheokas’s bill could only pass if Powell-Sims signs it. Democrat Powell-Sims-a Black female educator signing was a crushing blow to the Black community. And it was especially hard to take
since she promised the Black community that she would not approve the bill.

Senator Powell-Sims is the reason why Sumter County is holding the May 20, 2014 election. Rev. Wright filed an injunction to stop the election but failed. The Judge that reviewed the case did grant the community a chance to challenge the election based on the merits of the case. So, all is not lost if the Black people in Sumter County will turn out and vote.

Sumter County Black ministers need to talk to their congregations and encourage them to registered and vote. Black organizations need to get serious and help in the fight to take back our schools. Senator Freddie Powell-Sims’s traitorous actions should be a wakeup call. She has caused a serious setback for our Black community. We are a resilient group of people, and we can rise again by ensuring we vote
in large numbers come May 20th election and beyond. The demographics are in our favor as the Black and Hispanic populations are growing rapidly. It is just a matter of time when we will take back our Sumter
County School Board, Americus City Council, and the County Commissioners.

Black citizens that Powell-Sims represent in the 12th Senatorial District (Baker, Calhoun, Clay, Dougherty, Randolph, Stewart, Terrell, Quitman, and Weber) should do all they can to vote her out of office. She, like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, can’t be trusted.

Protestors say “Deal Must Go”

(l-r) Craig Walker, John Marshall, MD, Eugene Edge, Jr. and Harold Martin, MD.

(l-r) Craig Walker, John Marshall, MD, Eugene Edge, Jr. and Harold Martin, MD.

By Staff Reports,

ALBANY, GA – Governor Deal’s visit to Albany was not met without some controversy today.

Protesters stood outside Mt.Zion Baptist Church where the Governor spoke picketing with signs saying “Deal Must Go.” They were physicians and members of the Americus NAACP. They’re upset Deal chose not to allow Medicaid expansion in Georgia. They’re also against the Governor’s proposal to get rid of the Emergency Treatment and Labor Act that allows anyone that does not have insurance to receive treatment in the emergency room.

“Most young people that don’t have insurance, they get hurt or they get sick and if left to the Governor; they can be turned away from the emergency room. As a physician I have to protest the Governor blocking Medicaid,” said John D. Marshall, MD.

Dr. Harold Martin says he’s also against the Governor’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act and his support for gun carry laws. The protestors say more than 600,000 Georgians are suffering and can’t get medical care because of the Governor’s position.

 

Councilwoman Shirley Green-Reese: A Study in Black Self-Hatred

Green-Reese votes with Whites against Craig Walker addressing city council.

Green-Reese votes with Whites against Craig Walker addressing city council.

Staff Reports,

Americus City Councilwoman Shirley Green-Reese began serving on the Council in 2014, and her first act on the council was to place a motion to reduce the time a citizen can speak to the Council from 5 to 3
minutes is a concern. Reese’s motion was quickly seconded by one of her White council members. Blacks attending the meeting immediately realized that Reese’s motion was aimed at Craig Walker, a frequent speaker at the council. Craig Walker, a former vice president of the Sumter County NAACP, often discusses uncomfortable racist issues that concern the Black community at the meetings. Some observers have coined the Green-Reese’s motion, “the Craig Walker Three-Minutes Motion.” The other two Black Council members Juanita Wilson and Nelson Brown voted against the reduced time allotted for citizens to speak.

The Black community suffered under former Black Councilwoman, Eloise Paschal, who often voted more with her White colleagues than with her Black colleagues against Blacks’ concerns and issues. With her motion on the council to repress the voices of the citizens, or her aim targeted at stopping a particular voice, Green-Reese motion has indicated that she too lacks interest in hearing about Black concerns or issues. This motion comes in spite of Reese’s article she wrote in the racist Americus Times Recorder newspaper that she wants to bring the races together. She is off to a terrible start. Dr. John Marshall says
Reese’s statement in the Times Recorder was humane and respectful but “the White council members must want to achieve the same unifying goal as Reese does.” However, Marshall continues, “I think Reese
has shown her ignorance early with her motion. Soon, she will become a full-blown Eloise Paschal, Clarence Thomas and Freddie Powell-Sims. All three are noted for their ‘I don’t give a damn’ vote against Black progress.” These three are often pictured as “enablers” for their White colleagues’ shameful and racist actions.

Although a newcomer to the political process, Dr. Shirley Green-Reese has a history of suing Historically Black institutions for sex discrimination in her quest to pursue an athletic director position. She holds a
doctorate in physical education. Green-Reese sued Savannah State University because they would not interview her for an athletic director position. In October, 1996, Albany State University, a historically Black institution similar to Savannah State University in Savannah, GA, demoted Reese to the position of associate professor of health, physical education and recreation, and hired a man to serve as athletic director.

In June, 1997, Albany State notified Reese that her teaching contract would not be renewed for the 1998-1999 academic year. She had worked at Albany State, serving as associate athletic director and an interim athletic director in 1995 and 1996. She filed charges with the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity in November 1997, alleging that she had been discriminated against by Albany State.

In March 1998, a senior coordinator for the commission encouraged Reese to apply for the athletic director job at Savannah State University. In June, she was informed that she should not be considered for the job. Reese asked George Williams, who chaired the search committee for athletic director at Savannah State, why they chose Jerome H. Fitch over her. He told her that she did not have enough coaching experience.

Reese has coached high school girls’ basketball and track and field, and the cheerleaders at three different colleges. An obvious contrast, Fitch has served as head basketball coach, tennis coach and golf coach at several colleges over the years, according to Savannah State.

Just as Reese attacked two Black institutions, she has attacked Craig Walker for the interest of her White council members, Marshall said. He continues, “As a civil rights activist in Sumter County, I have witnessed White elected officials always vote together on the City Council and on the local school board. I have never seen one White break ranks to vote with their Black colleagues. Please correct me if my observations are wrong.” Now I don’t know why the universities didn’t hire or continued Councilwoman Green-Reese’s services, but I do know her motion was mean-spirited against Walker and her motion satisfied her White colleagues, Marshall said.

Americus Black community continues to be deceived by Black politicians who join White racists to derail Black progress. Recently, the community was betrayed by GA State Senator, Freddie Powell-Sims who signed a local GA Legislative Bill that changed our school districts from nine to seven. Powell-Sims, a Democrat who represents the 12th Senatorial District which includes Baker, Calhoun, Clay, Dougherty, Randolph, Stewart, Terrell, Quitman and portion of Sumter County, signed GA House Bill 836 that was introduced by local Democratturned Republican Representative Mike Cheokas. Powell-Sims had assured members in the Black community that she would not support HB 836. Her assurance meant nothing; she lied. As a result of Powell-Sims approving HB 836, the Sumter County Black community has lost the school board’s Black majority. Unfortunately, the Black community has elected three Black female educators to represent them [Powell-Sims, Green-Reese, and retired Council woman Eloise Paschel]. And once in office, each one of these educators has not hesitated to support their White colleagues’ anti-Black positions, regardless of the dire consequences to their Black citizenry.

Dr. Marshall informed that he will continue to attend the City Council’s monthly meetings along with Craig Walker to signal Green-Reese that she cannot silence the Black voice. We will still have a lot to say to the council during our allotted three minutes. The Americus Sumter Observer newspaper devotesan inordinate amount of coverage on Blacks, especially elected officials, whose actions hurt Black people that benefit White racists in and around Sumter County, Marshall says. It bothers us to speak negatively of the late Raymond Green’s sister, Dr. Green-Reese. Her brother was a great Councilman. He was not educated with a doctorate degree like Green-Reese, but he had common sense and used it wisely. We miss him greatly. He kept his people updated and he voted in the interest of his constituents.

Juanita Wilson and Nelson Brown continue to vote in the best interest of all of our citizens. But we applaud them for not voting to hurt or stifle the Black community’s voice. Green-Reese’s motion clearly indicates that she is reckless, and a reckless elected official must be exposed to the public. The Black community suggests to Dr. Reese that she observe the actions and behaviors of her White fellow colleagues. She will discover, among other things, that they make decisions together, that their decisions benefit their constituents’ and their individual interests. That is survival politics 101; why is that so hard to discern by educator Green-Reese. Perhaps politics is not Green-Reese’s forte and that she should consider her quest to become an athletic director. The Black community wishes her luck in the latter.

Court Says the Sumter County School Board Case Shall Proceed on the Merits!

Rev. Mathis K. Wright, Jr.(ASO file photo)

Rev. Mathis K. Wright, Jr.(ASO file photo)

Staff Reports,

Federal Court Judge, W. Louis Sands issued his Order on Thursday, April 3, 2014 and concluded that the Court will notice the parties by separate Order to prepare a joint proposed scheduling and discovery Order. This case shall proceed on the merits.

Judge Sands told Rev. Mathis K. Wright, Jr., (a Pro se litigant) that he had done a very good job representing himself in his courtroom, and had handled the pressure well. However, Judge Sands encouraged Rev. Wright to seek legal counsel to assist him further because of the complexity of a Section 2 complaint or claim.

Section 2 claims are very difficult and many attorneys will not take on these cases. However, Rev. Wright knew that the laws had been broken to secure the March 18th and the upcoming May 20th school board elections. He fearlessly pursued those who criminally pushed their agendas forward to unseat the majority Black Americus and Sumter County School Board Members.

Sumter County Attorney William (Bill) Nesmith, who represented the defendants in the Wright v. Sumter County Board of Elections and Registration lawsuit prayed to the Court for Wright’s case to be dismissed totally but he was denied and judge said the case would proceed on the merits.

Wright said that this was a small victory and that he believes that he will win the war on the merits of this case. Contrary to what the local news’ sources have reported; Wright said that he has accomplished a great deal and this fight is far from over.

EEOC Leader to Speak at NAACP 37th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet

Bernice Williams-Kimbrough(Submittedt)

Bernice Williams-Kimbrough (Submittedt)

Staff Reports,

Bernice Williams-Kimbrough was appointed Director of the EEOC Atlanta District Office in September 1996. The Atlanta District Office includes the Savannah Local Office located in Savannah, Georgia. The
District’s jurisdiction covers the State of Georgia, the City of Charleston, and 12 surrounding counties in South Carolina. Ms. Kimbrough directs one of the largest district offices in the country.

The EEOC Atlanta District Office has a staff of over 100 employees comprised of investigators, mediators, law judges who investigate, mediate, litigate, and convene hearings on charges of employment discrimination. The District receives about 6000 private sector cases and 400 federal sector cases annually. The District also has an active outreach and public education program.

A career EEOC employee, Ms. Kimbrough’s career spans more than 30 years of federal service. Previous EEOC assignments include District Enforcement Manager, Supervisor, and Senior Investigator in the Detroit District Office. She is an alumna of the Senior Executive Service Leadership Program and serves on numerous boards and committees including the Atlanta Federal Executive Board and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Ms. Kimbrough has received numerous awards in recognition of her performance, leadership and contributions to the achievement of the EEOC’s mission. She has been honored with Outstanding Service Awards,
one of the highest honors given to government executives. Ms. Kimbrough has also received other notable awards and recognition for her service to the public. In 1999, she was recognized as one of the most powerful women in Georgia by Governor Roy Barnes. In 2000, the Georgia State Senate adopted a resolution honoring Ms. Kimbrough for her many years of exemplary public service in Georgia. In 2008, she received the prestigious “Woman of Distinction Award” from the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP. This Award honors women whose leadership and work in civil rights have made a difference in the lives
of Georgians.

Ms. Kimbrough holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Ft. Valley State College and a Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of Detroit, School of Law.