Democracy, Negro Spirituals, & Roland Martin

Gay Tagging police and Roland Martin are going to develop a made for TV mutual admiration sideshow….. violence against gays (especially kids) is a serious issue, but there is a fuzzy area where overreach comes into question…. this may be close to one of them ….. or at the very least there should be a mulligan of sorts for a stupid play, but we are at the cusp of morphing into a zero tolerance society where any reference to violence ends in (u guessed it) punishment, with the attendant innocent victims, and missed opportunities for real dialog.

When Roland Martin tweeted  “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him.”[1] during SuperBowl XLVI, GLAAD – Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said the remark advocated violence against gays. CNN subsequently placed him under suspension.

If Giselle Bundchen (wife of Tom Brady), made a Victoria Secrets ad sans wings, and the same comment was made with reference to married men, the tweet would not even have been a footnote ….. anywhere in cyberspace.

The question begs to be asked…. who exactly died and made GLAAD the new keepers of the Kark Rove playbook for connecting the gay dots. Even if one stretched the comment to include gays it seems that there is sufficient reasonable doubt that they were not the only possible target segment. David Beckham has enough of a rabid soccer following, and female audience (think jealous male), to warrant the remark, and if that were not enough it also brings to question whether or not another ‘straight’ guy can admire a male physique without being labeled “gay”…. which would put GLAAD in the unenviable spot of ‘gay tagging’ most guys who buy “Muscle and Fitness”, and “Men’s Health” magazines…. as Wendy Williams would say, “How U doing”.

That was actually the less SERIOUS part (did anyone catch that if I used “funny” instead of “less serious”, then GLAAD could come after me as well)…. It gets a lot tougher from here on in, but there are two decent points.

Martin Luther King Jr. (E1)

First, the Negro Spirituals were a fascinating part of the culture of passive resistance adopted during slavery. The admirable takeaway is that even under the worse of times the African American spirit has endured and found ways to thrive, prosper, and survive. This is no small feat, and though some point to the welfare system as being a bedrock for African American advancement, the fact is that the African American came out of slavery with nothing more positive than the scars on his/her back. Welfare, as much as a progressive tax system, acting at both ends of the economic continuum, stabilizes the economy through good and bad periods. (Society benefits, and of the 40 million Americans in poverty, approximately 10 million are African American and 20 million are White.)[2] These processes are crucial programs in linking, and tempering the needs of a capitalist system with a liberal democratic system. This is the umbrella under which American society provides recourse for the minorities, but a working democracy of this scale is as undefined, unmanaged, and untested as any other ideology in history. It is imperative that minorities continue to be unbiased supporters, and advocates for the clear, and unequivocal development of individual rights.

Through the (say) two hundred years of American slavery (1865), and the 100 more years to the civil rights movement of the 1960s it seems odd that any African American has not learned the lesson that he has not earned the right to offend ANYONE, (although some groups have earned the right to fire everyone, or be recognized as sovereign entities[3]). After arguably being subjected to the worst example of human degradation, evil, and humiliation, devised by a society of any life form known to man, the empathy for marginalized groups, and minorities should be embedded in the DNA of the black diaspora everywhere. If anything, in an ideal world we should all aspire to be drum majors “for justice, peace and righteousness,”.[4]


The African American Berry…. the “Sweet Spot” for Credit Card Companies

Economist Thorstein Veblen posits that credit card companies are purely parasitical, charging numerous fees and penalties amounting to over $90 billion in revenue each year. According to a BCS Alliance study, credit card companies rake in profits of $30 billion each year. Penalty fees alone added up to some $20.5 billion in 2009, according to industry consultant R.K. Hammer.[1]

Demand destruction (DD) can be applied to the issue of credit card (revolving) debt, where the cost of credit is the “interest rate”, and the supply of credit is tightened through the use of credit scores. DD can occur during a period of high prices or constrained supply, and results in decreased demand.[2]

The above graphic shows credit card debt from a peak of $973.6 billion in Aug. 2008.

The following points are highlighted in the 2011 study, CREDIT CARD ILLS: REDUCING RACIAL DISPARITIES IN DEBT, by Andrea Freeman.[3]

  • Over eighty percent of households now possess credit cards.
  • Fifty-four percent of white households carry a revolving balance on their credit cards, compared to 85% and 79% percent of African American and Latino households, respectively.
  • Fifteen percent of African Americans and 13% of Latinos pay over twenty percent in interest, while only 7% of whites pay that much.
  • In 2009, the median net worth of Latino households was $7,932, as compared to $88,651 for white households.
  • In 2006, the Boston Federal Reserve Bank published “Credit Card Redlining,” a study by Ethan Cohen- Cole comparing the terms of credit card agreements entered into by credit card owners with identical risk profiles and payment histories living in different areas. The study revealed significant differences in credit card terms based on the racial makeup of the users‟ neighborhoods.

From the study “The Rapid Growth of Credit Card Debt in America”, by Jose A. Garcia, 2007.[4]

  • In 2004, 46 % of very low-income (under $9,999 per year) credit card indebted households spent more than 40 % of their income to pay off debt.
  • On average, African Americans and Latinos earn 62 and 69 cents, respectively, for every dollar earned by their white counterparts.
  • African-American and Latino households carry about $2,000 less debt, on average, but their balance amounts on average to more than 60 percent of their total available credit card limit compared to 47 percent for white credit card holders.
  • Seventy-five percent (in 2004) of households lacking medical coverage for all their members carried debt on a credit card compared to 55 percent of families that had medical coverage for all members of the household.

The credit card problem is an issue that families have to address. What theoretically can be used to make ends meet, has been abused to the point where families become indebted for the long term. This recession may provide an opportunity to reverse this path and adopt less appealing (short term) measures like saving, and consumption deferral.

Obama, Robin Hood, Little Bernanke, and the Republican Sheriff of Washington.

This is my favorite bedtime story.

Cue the main characters,

  1. Robin Hood was really a brilliant economist who engaged in short term wealth redistribution strategies when unemployment swept the landscape and the costs of the Wall Street (subprime) wars threatened to ruin the economy.
  2. Little John (alias Big Ben Bernanke) was the Fed chief, Robin’s hit man, who as the precursor to the underrated enforcer type will always be saddled with the “lack of good timing”, and “enough is enough” bias.
  3. The Sheriff of Washington is the villain of the piece who plays a pivotal role in securing the assets of the rich and protecting the status quo.


Flow of Aggregate Income


The main point of the plot is wealth redistribution.[1] The top 20% of households pull in close to 50% of the Aggregate Income. Robin and his band of merry Democrats can’t butcher the wagon trains and spread money willy nilly throughout the countryside.  The disadvantage of this extreme, (while reducing red tape), is that the poor folk lack incentive to keep working and the working folk lack incentive to keep working. Thankfully, a lot of bloodshed is averted by having a progressive tax system. The beauty is that the wagon-trains get hit even before the money gets comfortable in the coffers of the wealthy.


Cue Isaac Newton and the apple.[2] The simple truth is that the rules for keeping a bounded system in equilibrium (static) does not apply to a system in motion (dynamic).  This is a perfect segway into the subplot. How can the sinister Sheriff convince the world that gravity works both ways and that “trickle down” economics really works.

Trickle Up Economics


The truth is that it doesn’t. The sucking sound you hear is the sound of wealth being continually transferred from the lowest 60 percentile to the top 5 percent of households.  Through good times and bad (shown in red)[3], the spigot keeps flowing.

Cue the Happy Ending…..  are you insane??? There is neither a happy ending nor a soft landing… that is unless you’re part and parcel of the “Top 5%”. Robin and Ben never get the gravity reversing “economic” plot right, (read as unemployed people have no patience) , the Sheriff wins (and in spectacular fashion binds one of Big Ben’s arms), and the people go back to dreaming of venison, while munching on Mickey Dees fries, with tea.








In the US the difference between the Prevalence of Obesity (POB)[1], in Black men and Black women (just taking the statistics at face value) is a full 7.6 percentage points (pps). In Whites the men are ahead by 3.6 pps, while in Hispanics the women are ahead by some 1.6 pps.  There is absolutely no good news here for the African American Community.  The POB for Blacks (M & F) outstrip Whites by 12 pps and Hispanics by 7 pps.  A cultural distinction is that some Black women tend toward the Mende ideal of feminine beauty, while some White males tend toward the benevolent Marlon Brando (Godfather) extreme.

Obesity Prevalence by Race

Adverse Impact of Obesity

  • Increased Healthcare costs
  • Increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, pulmonary embolism[2]
  • Lower quality of life (insomnia, chronic fatigue)


To combat obesity, and its associated chronic diseases, the Expert Report[3] advises,

  • fewer foods high in saturated fat,
  • less sugar,
  • less salt,
  • more fresh fruit and vegetables,
  • one hour of moderate-intensity activity each day.

Recommended  Diet

  • 55 – 75 % carbohydrates
  • Less than 10% sugar
  • 10 – 15% protein
  • 400 g of fruit and veggies
  • between 10 – 30 % of fat (saturated fat less than 10% of this)

Sowo-wui (Ndoli Jowei) : "The Sande woman is not a child!!"

The many reasons for avoidable obesity lie in a mix of poverty, lack of education regarding cause and effect, and the higher cost and lack of availability of healthy food groups. One of the most difficult problems however in combating the obesity fight is the mindset of the individual.  The cultural norms regarding food groups – for example diets high in carbohydrates and salt, set early patterns for increased obesity in later years.  In some cultures a more rotund figure is seen as a mark of prosperity, and good living. The onus is on society to improve the communication of the dangers of an above average sedentary lifestyle, and the myriad disadvantages posed to the individual, especially the children.

Africa, PIIGS, GDP and Haiti

Lately the economic troubles facing the PIIGS, (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) has roiled financial markets and further muffled credit markets.  What is far from apparent is that the standard of living in these areas is much higher than most areas in Sub Saharan Africa, Haiti, and Cuba and yet the poverty of these areas continue to be neglected by the mainstream media.  The closest analogy would be to sensationalize Warren Buffet having to change a tire on his car while ignoring the fact that in some countries children have to walk miles to get to school.[1]

Economic Data (GDP) for Selected Countries

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP)[2], is a measure of a country’s output. Where it becomes interesting is when one looks at the GDP per capita, which can be used as a proxy for the average salary in a country, (see income approach).[3]

What the grid shows is that the per capita values between the African countries and their European counterparts show embarrassingly high disparities. The fact is that while a strike (civil unrest) in Europe more likely represents being able to afford a backyard pool or better retirement benefits, a strike in Tanzania represents basic items concerning food, education, and shelter.

To add insult to injury the general consensus is that the problems faced by many African countries stems from greed, mismanagement, and ineptitude of governance.

The following chart shows the colonization of the continent in 1914.[4]

Colonial Africa 1914

African history shows the manipulation of various tribes by colonial powers, (Chowke vs Lunda)[5] , and the exploitation of the arts and resources of the continent have resulted in long term weaknesses in the African economic framework.

It should come as no surprise however that several of the colonial powers which invested in the unsustainable exploitation (Portugal, Italy, and Spain), now find themselves losing ground on the economic front without surplus capital provisions from the African continent.

Re-Framing the African American Poverty Picture

It seems like every time the census numbers are released I diligently search for the poverty numbers related to African Americans. Today was no different … African Americans once again were the highlight of the highlights… There we were leading the pack with a poverty rate of 25.8%[1], maintaining the status quo, and weighing down the economy, the country, and the rest of the known universe.

Population by Race

I think poverty is a serious problem and nitpicking over percentage and basis points is pretty childish all things considered. My perspective however is that there are several ways to frame the African American poverty dilemma and the one typically used is by far the least flattering (most demeaning),  to the African American.  It turns out that between 2008 to 2009 the AA community arguably reduced the percentage of the total number of AAs in poverty by -1.07% (-107 basis points), as compared to Whites (-0.097%), or Hispanics (-.124%).  This is what I prefer to hear when there’s an AA family in the White House, and  a Democrat (for the time being) in the Presidential seat. Under President Clinton the AA poverty rate was substantially reduced. For the few of us not on our percentage game it may come as a surprise that of the 43.6 million Americans in poverty 18.8 mil are White, 11.9 mil are Hispanic, and 9.6 mil are African American.

African American Poverty rate under the Red and Blue

The following chart[2] showing the movement of the AA poverty rate during recessionary periods from 1980 to 2009 is also encouraging since during these periods the income gap between the rich and the poor typically increase.

African American Poverty Rate against Recessionary Backdrop

The recent historical data would imply that on a comparative basis the African American community is steadily coming to terms with handling poverty within the ranks.  There are a lot of ways to look at this, but in the final analysis maybe there is something in this data that’s a little positive, or at least something we can put a positive spin on.  For the rest of you who may have some time on your hands I leave the analysis and number crunching for last :0).

African American Poverty Rate Analysis




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