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The latest in Financial News – 3/22/10

23 Mar

India delivers growth for Domino’s Pizza

Chain’s new CEO expects international sales to surpass those in U.S. in 3-5 years.

Dr. Boyce: Why African Americans are More Optimistic than you Think

11 Mar

Why African-Americans are more optimistic despite fewer jobs

According to a recent survey by Experian, African-American consumption grew by over 50 percent from the year 2000 to 2008 ($590 billion to $913 billion), and it is expected to grow to over $1.2 trillion dollars by the year 2013. The study also shows that blacks are more economically optimistic than whites, with 36 percent of us stating that we expect our financial future to improve, as opposed to 31 percent for all adults.

The Experian study says a couple of things: First, it says that black people love to consume and that we are getting better at it. In fact, black people have historically been very good at buying things and working hard to get them, but we are not very good at production, investment and saving our money. We grab our tax refunds and run to the mall. We become highly paid corporate lawyers in order to purchase the house and car we really can’t afford. We are chubby kids in the economic candy store, accelerating our collective addiction to the monetary engines controlled by corporate greed.

 

Click to read

Dr. Boyce Money: Do you really have financial security?

5 Mar

by Dr Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

I’d like to ask you a quick question that I ask my students here at Syracuse University. It is also a question I had to honestly ask myself when I thought I was on top of the world after spending 12 years going through college and graduate school to earn a PhD in Finance (which was unbelievably difficult). The question is this: Do you have financial security? If you don’t have financial security, do you at least have job security? If you believe your job is secure, then how many jobs do you have?
If you are like most Americans, you probably have just one job. I am not here to tell you that this is wrong. But, I am here to tell you that you might want to rethink what it means to be economically secure.
At worst, economic security is not provided by just having a high income. In fact, in some ways, having a high income can make you less secure, since you are more likely to have higher monthly expenses. To some extent, having a high income from just one job can fool you into believing that you are financially secure, when the truth is that you might be one paycheck away from economic disaster.

Click to read.

 

 

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Brought to you by The Great Black Speakers Bureau, the top black speakers bureau in the world and Your Black World where you can get black news and black social commentary from Dr. Boyce Watkins and other leading black scholars.

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Dr. Boyce: Russell Simmons Rants on Banks

18 Feb

russell_simmons

by Dr. Boyce Watkins 

Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons seems to feel that banks are not treating the poor in a proper fashion. This week, in a rant on his site, “The Global Grind,” Simmons had this to say:
“They trick customers into doing things that are not good for them through lack of transparency, and surprise them with new fees when they can least afford it. I’m learning an important lesson about ethics or lack of ethics in this industry. In fact, I’m fighting with a bank right now that doesn’t know what kind of ass whipping they are going to get when I expose them for the abusive practices and exuberant fees they are charging the poor. What they are doing is trying to double their already outrageously high fees in exchange for providing absolutely nothing to my customers.”
Simmons went on to try to create a “movement” by adding a call to action:

“Let’s start the biggest public discussion ever about how banks treat us and expose these banks for their unequal treatment and unconscionable conduct. The time is now.”

 

Click to read.

The Economic Policy Institute – 2/16/10

17 Feb

 

12/07/09
American Indians and the Great Recession—Economic Disparities Growing Larger
Issue Brief

11/12/09
Getting Good Jobs to People of Color
Briefing Paper

07/21/09
Unequal unemployment—Racial disparities in unemployment vary widely by state
Issue Brief

03/09/09
Stuck in Neutral: Economic Gains Stall Out for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in 2000s
Briefing Paper

10/31/08
Hispanics and the economy: Economic stagnation for Hispanic American workers, throughout the 2000s
Briefing Paper

09/18/08
Reversal of fortune: Economic gains of 1990s overturned for African Americans from 2000-07
Briefing Paper

01/18/08
What a recession means for black America
Issue Brief

Web-only Content

Date
Title
Type

12/16/09
A bleak future for black children
Analysis & Opinion

12/09/09
High unemployment: A fact of life for American Indians
Economic Snapshots

11/12/09
Reversing the Decline in Good Jobs [event]
Other

11/10/09
Jobs creation effort needs to focus on good jobs
Economic Snapshots

09/18/09
Three lessons about black poverty
Analysis & Opinion

07/08/09
African Americans see weekly wage decline
Economic Snapshots

04/22/09
Among college-educated, African Americans hardest hit by unemployment
Economic Snapshots

09/05/08
Jobs Picture, September 5, 2008 – Special Issue
Economic Indicators

08/04/08
Understanding the black jobs crisis
Viewpoints

06/10/08
Subprime mortgages are nearly double for Hispanics and African Americans

News: 7-year old boy raises $160K for Haiti Relief

26 Jan

Talking about giving back, Charlie Simpson, a 7-year-old boy from England has raised over $160-thousand for the relief fund for Haitian earthquake victims.

The unselfish kid asked his mother if he could set up a sponsored bicycle ride around his local park in West London.  Originally expecting to raise around $1,000 for UNICEF Haiti appeal with a 5-mile bike ride on Sunday, donations poured in from his webpage and are still coming.

His mother Lenora Simpson stated,

" He was really upset by the pictures on TV. He actually burst into tears. He sat on my lap and we had a chat about the things he could do. He decided to do the cycle ride and he made me do a sponsorship form and that was it. We sent it out on the web and it just went everywhere."

Click to read.

Study Finds Financial Benefits to Marriage

20 Jan

Historically, marriage was the surest route to financial security for women. Nowadays it’s men who are increasingly getting the biggest economic boost from tying the knot, according to a new analysis of census data.

The changes, summarized in a Pew Research Center report being released Tuesday, reflect the proliferation of working wives over the past 40 years — a period in which American women outpaced men in both education and earningsgrowth. A larger share of today’s men, compared with their 1970 counterparts, are married to women whose education and income exceed their own, and a larger share of women are married to men with less education and income.

"From an economic perspective, these trends have contributed to a gender role reversal in the gains from marriage," wrote the report’s authors, Richard Fry and D’Vera Cohn.

 

Click to read.

Wyclef’s Charity Under Questioning

16 Jan

Haiti’s musician Wyclef Jean, left, arrives at the airport in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010, the day after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit his country. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

(AP)

Groups that vet charities are raising doubts about the organization backed by Haitian-born rapper Wyclef Jean, questioning its accounting practices and ability to function in earthquake-hit Haiti.

Even as more than $2 million poured into The Wyclef Jean Foundation Inc. via text message after just two days, experts questioned how much of the money would help those in need.

"It’s questionable. There’s no way to get around that," said Art Taylor, president and chief executive of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, based in Arlington, Va.

Taylor reviewed Internal Revenue Service tax returns for the organization also known as Yele Haiti Foundation from 2005 through 2007. He said the first red flag of poor accounting practices was that three years of returns were filed on the same day — Aug. 10 of last year.

In 2007, the foundation’s spending exceeded its revenues by $411,000. It brought in just $79,000 that year.

click to read.

Jobs Come and then Go

9 Jan

chart_job_losses_010810_3.top.gifBy Chris Isidore, senior writerJanuary 8, 2010: 11:31 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Employers once again slashed a substantial number jobs off their payrolls in December, according to adisappointing report from the government Friday. But there was a small glimmer of hope as well.

The payroll number for November was revised to a net gain of 4,000 jobs. That’s the first increase in jobs in nearly two years. The government had previously indicated that 11,000 jobs were lost in November.

Click to read.

Towanna Freeman: How do you find a way to be happy?

8 Jan

The following is an excerpt from the book, “The Millionaire Mentor” by Towanna Freeman (click her name to buy the book)

Happiness is a Choice You Make

If you are not a happy person that is a choice you are making. You have full control over your life and the decisions that you make. There are many factors which people measure happiness. Some people think money is happiness however they may absolutely miserable with what they do on a daily basis to make their money.

You might look at people who have absolutely everything and you strive to be like them. These things may be wealth, possessions, status, or even the position you hold at work. These things don’t create happiness. Happiness is a choice.

There are many people who have wealth and a high status who are completely miserable. They may be lonely, divorced and more. Happiness comes from within. These people may be working jobs they absolutely hate but just have a knack for making money.

Happiness is Subjective

There are things in life that can make you happy that are subjective. They are subjective because happiness comes differently for everyone.

You might find joy and happiness seeking thrills through rides like roller coasters and bungee jumping. This thrill may be more than torture for someone with a fear of heights who would never step foot on a roller coaster or ever be brave enough to jump from a bridge suspended by a bungee cord.

Everyone seeks happiness in their own way. What makes you happy is a natural high that you deserve to seek. There is nothing wrong with the things that you find joy in. You may be told you are crazy but that is because of the subjectivity.

Black Financial News: How ARe college students going to handle tuition hikes?

8 Dec

Watch this video, which describes the financial trauma for UCLA students as the result of a recent tuition hike.  It’s very interesting.

Towanna Freeman Talks about Being an Entrepreneur

23 Oct

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, AOL Black Voices 

An entrepreneur doesn’t think like everyone else. She is willing to take chances, disciplined enough to focus on a dream and passionate enough to pursue that dream. Towanna Freeman is in that category. AOL Black Voices had the chance to catch up with Towanna, to get some advice on striking out on your own, as well as managing a marriage, children and career, all at the same time.
1) What is your name and what do you do?
Have you noticed how so many people seem to be living an unbalanced life or living beneath their full potential? Well, I assist people, particularly women, who are ready to take life changing action to get that sense of balance back along with that greater feeling of fulfillment and happiness. I am also the principal consultant of Towanna Freeman & Associates, a management consulting firm with the primary emphasis on leadership coaching and employee performance improvement; the founder of the Young Women’s Empowerment Network a nonprofit organization that produces empowerment workshops, conferences, and other special events for teen girls; and the author of "Purposeful Action, 7 Steps to Fulfillment."

Click to read.

Black Money: Entrepreneurs Create their own Economic Recovery

11 Oct

From CNN 

Back in August, Federal Reserve officials suggested that the Great Recession was ending and the U.S. could expect "a gradual resumption of sustainable economic growth." But even with stock market indexes and the bottom lines of large financial firms bouncing back, small businesses can expect a longer slog to economic health.

"Small business performance is a lagging indicator of recovery in the same way that unemployment is," says Villanova University business school professor John Pearce II.

And it’s likely that small businesses will find this recovery even slower than previous ones. The downturn has especially hurt construction firms, retailers and food service providers, the vast majority of which employ fewer than 20 workers. To make matters worse, more than 110 banks have failed since early 2008, most of them community thrifts catering to the financial needs of local firms.

 

Click to read.

Senate Could Vote to Extend Jobless Benefits

7 Oct

With U.S. unemployment rising, lawmakers hope to resolve a logjam this week on a measure that would extend jobless benefits for those who already may have exhausted them, Senate aides said on Tuesday.

Congressional leaders had hoped to extend benefits before the end of September, when some 400,000 recipients were expected to use them up. But while the House of Representatives last month passed a bill, jobless benefits legislation stalled in the Senate due to a dispute over how many workers should be eligible.

While some details remained unresolved, the measure could come up for a vote in the Senate within days, said an aide to Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who argued that the legislation was too narrowly targeted.

Shaheen objected to legislation passed by the House that would extend benefits for jobless workers only in states where the unemployment rate is above 8.5 percent. The unemployment rate was 6.8 percent in August in Shaheen’s home state of New Hampshire.

Click to read more.

Get Sponsored!—Identifying the One Person Who Can Change Your Career Overnight

5 Oct

by Fenorris Pearson 

Even when I was a Vice President at Dell Computers, one of the most cutting edge companies on the planet, our problems remained the same. The variables changed, but the bottom line always came down to figuring out how to sell to one customer at a time. Reaching this critical objective becomes more complex as technology changes and the world becomes more advanced. As complacent as we’ve gotten with new technology and global opportunities, this much has become clear: what got you here won’t get you there. In fact, what positioned you here, might not even keep you here…

…At least, not without a sponsor.

These days competition isn’t just stiff, it’s rigid. You need every advantage you’ve got, particularly if you’re a recent grad, female or minority. Think hard work, an MBA and a well-rounded resume will get you to the top? Think again; that might be what got you here, but to get there – the proverbial corner office or CEO’s chair – you’ll need more than just a spotless resume and a 4.0 GPA; you’ll need a sponsor.

Click to read more.

Barack Obama’s Fear Language and the Economic Cost

10 Mar

By Dr. Boyce Watkins

http://www.DrBoyceMoney.com

Let’s be clear: This recession has become President Barack Obama’s personal War on Terror. Like the War on Terror, the enemy is evasive, the challenge is global, international cooperation is necessary, and the battle is unlike any other in our nation’s history. Wars are good for political business: when people get scared, politicians get a blank check to fulfill their legislative agenda. After 9/11, President Bush used fear to get the entire nation to sign onto the Patriot Act, and years later, we are wondering if someone is going to tap our cell phones and illegally imprison us for not eating our Freedom Fries. Bad legislation is like an STD: you can pick it up with a snap decision, but you pay the price for the next 20 years.

Click to read more.

 

Bernanke Says Financial System Should Be Overhauled

10 Mar

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks about reforming ...

The nation’s financial regulatory system must be overhauled to strengthen oversight of banks, mutual funds and large financial institutions whose collapse would put the entire economy in peril, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Tuesday.

"We must have a strategy that regulates the financial system as a whole, in a holistic way, not just its individual components," Bernanke said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations.

In his most extensive remarks on the subject, Bernanke built upon previous suggestions to bolster mutual funds and a program that insures bank deposits — and repeated his call for Congress to create a system to cushion fallout from the failure of a big financial institution.

The Fed chief’s remarks come as the Obama administration and Congress are starting to crafting their overhaul strategies. For the administration, critical work on that front will be carried out among global finance officials this weekend in London. That will help set the stage for a meeting of leaders from the world’s 20 major economic powers in April.

 

Click to read.

Dr Boyce Watkins in Essence Magazine

7 Mar

Dr Boyce Watkins, Finance Professor at Syracuse University, appears in the March issue of Essence Magazine to discuss money and investing in light of the 2009 Financial Crisis.

Dr. Watkins is one of the world’s leading experts in Finance and was the only African American in the world to earn a PhD in Finance during the year 2002.  For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.

Unemployment Rate Jumps to 8.1%

6 Mar

Employers axed 651,000 jobs in February, pushing the unemployment rate to its highest in 25 years, as companies buckled under the strain of a recession that is showing no signs of ending, according to a government report.

While that figure was near economists’ expectations for a 648,000 drop in non-farm payrolls, January and December job losses were revised sharply higher.

The Labor Department on Friday said the unemployment rate surged to 8.1% in February, the highest level since December 1983. That was above market forecasts for a rise to 7.9 from January’s 7.6%.

Cost-cutting employers are resorting to even bigger layoffs as they scramble to survive the recession, feeding insecurities among those who still have jobs and those who desperately want them.

"The pace of layoffs is fast and furious," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group, before the report. "We’re still in the teeth of this recession and the bite has not let up at all."

 

Click to read.

Woman Sues for $5,000 AT&T Bill

4 Mar

A woman who received a $5,077 bill from AT&T for data charges on her Netbook is suing the wireless carrier and RadioShack for fraud, reports Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica.

The lawsuit alleges that the two companies conspired to promote a netbook plus data deal that deliberately misled customers and tricked them into paying thousands of dollars per month for service.

Here’s Parks’ story:

Parks purchased a netbook from RadioShack in December of 2008 after the electronics retailer began advertising a heavily subsidized netbook deal: for $99.99 and a two-year AT&T contract, customers could buy a netbook with AT&T’s DataConnect plan, allowing them to get online from anywhere. The DataConnect service costs roughly $60 per month before the usual taxes and fees.

Click to read.

10 Quick Thoughts on the State of the Black Union – Things that Black Folks Should Know

1 Mar

By Dr. Boyce Watkins

www.BoyceWatkins.com

I love Tavis smiley and I love the State of the Black Union. I must also admit that my mouth (which my mother used to say will either “make me great or get me killed”) has probably burned any bridge I’ve had with Tavis, thus implying that you will likely never see me on a panel at The State of the Black Union conference. I am ok with that, since I don’t like traveling when I don’t have to, and I don’t like the idea of having to kiss pinky rings of old school leadership in order to fit in (once you accept someone’s support, you can become beholden to them, reducing your ability to be honest). Beyond that, I have a nasty habit of telling the truth, which is neither profitable nor popular. So, the Your Black World Coalition is going to be my venue of choice when it comes to matters of Black Public Policy. Our corporate sponsors are clean, which means that we have a green light to do what’s right without worrying about offending Exxon Mobile, Walmart, The Republican Party, or McDonald’s. Again, I say this with all love and respect for Tavis Smiley.

As a Finance Professor who has spent the last 20 years studying money, I want us to understand the nature of how financial incentives can play a role in the nature of a forum such as The State of the Black Union. This is especially true in the midst of a financial crisis, during which our financial challenges may lead us to make decisions that are not always in the best interests of our constituents. I want to make it clear that my commentary on the State of the Black Union in the past has not been intended to be destructively critical in any way, as I feel that the forum is an important and necessary component of the Black community. But I am going to propose some quick thoughts about the State of the Black Union that should be considered for the future. If this venue is to be considered an important component and gathering of some segments of Black leadership, it is critical that we understand how to properly manage the temptation by some to use the venue as a source of power.

1) Corporate sponsors should be properly vetted: If the State of the Black Union is to be presented as the pseudo-diplomatic forum that Tavis Smiley wants us to perceive it to be, then just any old sponsor simply won’t do. No banks accused of predatory lending using the venue to wash away their sins with a donation to the Tavis Smiley Bank account. No firms trying to sell liquor, tobacco or other products. No companies which appear to get rich from exploiting the poor. All potential corporate sponsors should be evaluated by an unbiased committee and careful consideration should be given to the nature of the donor, where the money is going and other ways that the sponsor must prove their interest in serving the community. President Obama would never allow his State of the Union address to be sponsored by enemies of his country, but that is what we are doing if we allow any dirty corporation to walk through the door to give us money for our forums.

2) Consider the political agendas: I went to a great conference a couple of years ago in Atlanta, and wondered why there were so many videos and speeches being shared that had nothing but good things to say about the Bush Administration. It didn’t take me long to figure out why – The Bush Administration was a major donor to the conference, and in exchange for their money, they wanted the organizers to persuade Black folks to become Republicans and to love George Bush. I don’t think it worked. The lesson to be learned is that taking care of the gatekeepers can mean that those behind the gate are being manipulated. Don’t let another man sell your brain. If your brain gets sold, you should get the money.

3) Be careful with the Obama-Haterology: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Tavis Smiley was a clear “homie” to Hillary Clinton. This close relationship, as well as some hope that he might be her Press Secretary, led to some “interesting” words being fired across the aisle last year as Barack Obama chose not to attend the conference. This forum is designed for the people and should not be used to reflect the personal agendas of a few powerful men. One must draw the line between carefully considered critiques on The White House vs. politicized attacks in response to being “dissed”. I too have critiqued our president, but I have always wanted him to succeed.

4) Kill the self-righteousness: There is no boss of the Black community. We are not children who need to be told what’s best for us. Being of a strong religious background, Tavis Smiley can sometimes become more of a preacher than a leader. There is this idea that he and a few others know the solutions and the rest of us don’t have a damn clue. Please get over your selves….we’re all smart people. This does not, for one second, imply that strategic and intelligent guidance cannot be meaningful. But this guidance must be balanced with mutual respect for the people you are serving.

5) Kill the “flossing”: Sometimes, when people get on their respective soap boxes, the forum can become a contest of who can make the most earth-shattering, slap-ya-leg, koolaid-coming-out-of-your-nose, “hoo-hoo-she-sure-is-funny!” moment. Due to the presence of media, which many people on the panel are seeking by attending this forum, we can be pressured to entertain more than enlighten. While entertainment is excellent, the focus must be on commentary which educates the public. I encourage the audience to watch the forum and listen to the content and substance of the rhetoric, and not be swayed by distractive inflections, body language or vocal tones. Some of us are very good at saying a lot and saying nothing, all at the same time.

6) FYI – Here is the source of Smiley’s power (for which I congratulate him): He gets C-span to show up and he has access to major White corporations. Were there no media and/or no corporate sponsorship, The State of the Black Union forum would cease to exist. This is not to disrespect the nature of the platform, but to help those who don’t understand business and media to see why so many of our leaders flock to the forum and why many Black leaders gladly appear on Fox News. Since they don’t have any other outlets for their work, this is one of the few provided. This gives a great deal of power to the owner of the platform, sort of like having the only grocery store or hospital in town. When Black folks get more ownership of media (even online media), the need to succumb to the power of others will cease to exist.

7) This is not the only forum in Black America: Kevin Powell, a man who will eventually be elected to Congress, holds Black male empowerment forums in New York City. The “Your Black World Coalition” has done amazing work in the past. “Color of Change” engages in meaningful, effective protest that is not sponsored by any of the corporations known for the exploitation of African Americans. “Dangerous Negro” is a group of young, intelligent brothers who are changing campuses across the world. Tavis Smiley’s insinuation that The State of the Black Union forum is the place you must be if you truly care about Black people is simply wrong. You can be in a lot of places and still care about Black people, which is why there are a lot of Black Bloggers, Black leaders and Black business people who are choosing not to attend The State of the Black Union.

8) The Money Makes a difference: I am a Finance Professor, which makes me the last person to criticize anyone for showing up to collect the cash flow. But the truth is that money is POWER. Money determines what we do and who we do it with. So, the idea that (what some consider to be) one of the most critical forums in the Black community is driven by corporate sponsorship granted by our historical oppressors is a very serious and problematic contradiction. I encourage us to find ways to sponsor other forums without sponsorship from mainstream corporate America so that we can speak real truth to power.

9) The Covenant with Black America: This is a great book. But it is still just a book. It is a book written to make a profit. When you see the book being advertised to you, there is a business model designed to sell the book. It is not the most important book in Black history, it is not necessarily a “must-read” for you and your kids. It’s just a book. Remember that. If the advertisers convince you that it is a “must-read”, then they’ve achieved their corporate objectives.

10) We need Tavis Smiley: Tavis, like most of us, has to make a living. He has done an amazing job with his work and platforms, and like the rest of us, he is not perfect. If you are compelled by his work, you should support him and support The State of the Black Union, I know I will. Also, just because Tavis seemed to have personal reasons for his attacks on Barack Obama, that doesn’t mean that his critiques were invalid. Yes, we have a Black President, but we need Black leaders. The greatest Black leader in the world is the one you see in the mirror. Get out there and do your thing.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor and author of “What if George Bush were a Black Man?” For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.

Dr Boyce Watkins Speaks on The State of the Black Union

28 Feb

I’ll start by saying that I love Tavis Smiley and have a tremendous amount of respect for him.  Ok, I’ve said it, and I meant it.  I hope you believe me as I write.

Tavis Smiley’s work in the Black community is critically important. But there is a difference between being an intelligent guide to enlightenment and being downright self-righteous. Tavis has a way of putting political leaders “on blast” for not showing up at his forums. When he held a debate for the Republicans in the 2008 Presidential Primaries, there were several Republican presidential candidates who chose not to attend. I understand being upset about this, because the Republican Party has paid dearly for its racism and ignorance of the needs of the Black community. Smiley responded to the Republican snub by putting the name of the candidate on the podium even if they were not there. This was a clear reminder to those in the audience that the leader “doesn’t care about issues in the Black community.”

When holding the State of the Black Union of 2008 (some confuse it with the State of Black America, issued each year by the Urban League), Smiley again invited as many political leaders as he could find, with Hillary Clinton being his star for the day. Then Senator Barack Obama, in the middle of a heated battle for Democratic delegates in Texas and Ohio, said that he could not attend the forum. Instead, he offered his wife Michelle to attend in his place. That’s when the drama got heated.

Tavis, appearing to be offended by Obama’s slight toward his conference, proceeded to nibble away at Obama’s heels every morning on The Tom Joyner Morning Show. The segments started with “he-say, she-say”, in which Tavis claimed that no one from the Obama camp offered Michelle up for attendance. But even if they had, Tavis claimed that no spouse of a presidential candidate would be acceptable for the conference, even Bill Clinton.

I must admit that I felt Tavis was doing a “Karl Rove” on the truth. It was also a slap in the face of Black women everywhere who have tremendous respect for Michelle Obama. Finally, Smiley’s words and actions bordered on petty and angered the millions of African-Americans who’d come to believe that Barack Obama could walk on water. While I’ve never felt that Obama could walk on water, I certainly did not understand Smiley’s confused obsession with Obama’s behavior. Smiley’s comments toward the Black presidential candidate reminded me of the same double standard I can sometimes get as a Black professor. You may have Black students who feel a certain degree of comfort with you, and thus empowered enough to attack you more than they would a White professor with whom they have no prior social affiliation. These situations can be nightmares, as they reflect problems with the collective self-esteem of the Black community, which leads us to feel that attacking and hurting one another is easier, and thus more satisfying than working together to fight Black oppression. In other words, Smiley was reflecting the same sentiment held by Black men who shoot one another on the street, but stand in fear of the racism in White America. Aaron McGruder, creator of the popular cartoon, “The Boondocks”, would refer to this as “a nigger moment.”

Phones were ringing off the hook, as I had friends from California to New York calling and asking “What’s wrong with Tavis?” I had no idea, since I don’t know Tavis personally. However, because we run in the same circles, I know plenty of people who know plenty of people who know Tavis. One of my great and respected friends, Kyle Bowser, is one of Tavis’ best friends, and Kyle rang my phone the day after I made my comments. Going through the blogs of other Black scholars, I had a chance to see their reactions. Melissa Harris-Lacewell at Princeton University, an intelligent (though somewhat elitist) scholar, happened to be incredibly poignant in her critique of Tavis Smiley’s behavior.

Melissa angered Tavis by writing a column that asked ”Who died and made Tavis King?”.  I wasn’t as direct in my critique of Tavis, but I did have some strong words for him. I did not want to deliver any commentary on the Tavis via the major networks, since I honestly feel that there are some conversations Black folks need to have behind closed doors. But given that we get nearly 100,000 Black readers per week on our website YourBlackWorld, I felt this to be a fitting venue to let the world know how I feel.

I issued a statement agreeing with my friend Roland Martin at CNN, who felt that Tavis was out of line by making such a strong demand on Obama at such a critical time. Yes, Hillary Clinton showed up in spite of being on the same campaign trail, but the fact was that Hillary was well positioned to win in the upcoming battlegrounds states, Texas and Ohio. Also, Hillary Clinton needed to regain the ground in the Black community that was lost when her husband Bill shot himself in the foot. The words out of Bill Clinton’s mouth were so vile, that his own “ghetto pass” was revoked immediately. Clinton had compared Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson, implying that he was simply a Black presidential candidate with no chance to win White voters. While Jesse ran a great campaign, the notion that Obama’s fate would be similar to his own was disappointing for many Black people to hear. Clinton was no longer one of us, and he certainly was not the “first Black president” anymore.

I also felt that Tavis should have been more careful about being too critical of Obama in light of the fact that he was accusing Barack of doing some things that he himself had been doing. For example, Tavis claimed that he was not going to give Obama a “ghetto pass” just because he was Black. Rather, he would challenge him and question him like he would anyone else. First, Tavis’ words presumed (self-righteously) that he knows what is best for Black folks and we cannot make this determination ourselves.  No one gives the “ghetto pass” to Ward Connerly (the guy in California fighting against Affirmative Action) or Condoleeza Rice, so the idea that Black candidates get votes only because they are Black is simply ridiculous. A “ghetto pass”, should such a pass exist, must be earned, and Obama had earned the love, trust and support of the Black community. To presume that people were supporting him just because he is Black is an insult to the collective intelligence of the Black community.

Secondly, Tavis himself had been long receiving the very same “ghetto passes” that he felt Black America was unfairly bestowing upon Obama. As powerful and revolutionary as Tavis may have sounded on The Tom Joyner Morning show, the fact that you hear “This was brought to you by Walmart” at the end of each segment reminds you that the message has been diluted by corporate sponsorship. No great Black revolutionary in American history has ever been brought to you by McDonald’s, Walmart, Wells Fargo, or any of the other corporations that sponsor Tavis’ forums.

Additionally, there is a clear reality in the life of Tavis Smiley, one that he cannot ignore: the Covenant with Black America, The State of the Black Union Conference, The “Pass The Mic” Tour, and everything else Tavis has done was created with the express objective of obtaining revenue and profitability for his corporate sponsors. Tavis has sold himself (and I do not use the word “sold” in a negative sense) to White American corporations as the broker of Black leadership. He is the man that many corporate executives believe they can go to in order to reach the African-American masses. We are the drugs, and he is the pusher: White corporate America represents the group of addicts getting high on the profitability of Black consumption.

As a Finance Professor, I must say that I see nothing wrong with the Tavis Smiley business model. I am not here to say that Tavis has “sold out”, for I don’t believe he has. We all sell something in order to make a living, and even the concept of “selling out” presumes that one has managed the thin line between making a profitable trade, versus giving up something of tremendous value. The problems with the Tavis Smiley business model arise when such a business model is pursued carelessly or selfishly. I do not accuse Tavis Smiley of being careless or selfish. However, his attacks on Senator Barack Obama, none of which were thrust on Senator Hillary Clinton, smelled of self-interest from a man who appeared to feel slighted that Obama jumped his place in the line of great Black leadership.

I felt sorry for Tavis after seeing the reactions of our readers on YourBlackWorld. Hundreds of emails and comments were coming in every day, with many readers claiming that they were once Tavis Smiley fans, but not anymore. Overnight, Tavis went from being incredibly popular, to becoming the Milly Vanilly of social commentary. I can’t help but wonder what happened behind closed doors, as I am sure his publisher became concerned that he could no longer sell books. His corporate sponsors were surely aware of the fact that he was not in control of the Black audience they were buying from him. I am willing to bet that his life was a mess, at least for a while.

I hope this year’s State of the Black Union Conference is a bit more balanced.  Tavis is a good brother who deserves our respect.  But it is my greatest hope that he learns the difference between balanced critiques and flat out “haterology”.  I do a lot of critiquing, but when it comes to Obama, I want him to succeed.  I sincerely hope that Tavis wants the same.

This is an excerpt from the book “Black American Money” by Dr. Boyce Watkins, to be released in April 2009.  For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.

 

How The Recession Affects Business Travel

25 Feb

One year ago, rising oil prices were taking travel costs to new heights and business travelers were feeling the pinch. Now travel prices are falling again, fueled by the global recession, and airlines, hoteliers and car rental companies are taking evasive actions to survive. Here are ten trends caused by the global economic meltdown, and what they will mean for business travelers in 2009:

1. Air travel on sale. With fewer travelers in this sputtering economy, airlines are desperately trying to fill seats. From January 2007 through July 2008, U.S. airlines raised fares 32 times, according to FareCompare.com. Less than two months into the new year, U.S. airlines have initiated 25 fare sales and prices are back to pre-2007 levels in many markets. If you still have funds in your travel budget, this is a good time to fly.

2. Capacity cuts continue. To counteract declining travel demand, U.S. airlines continue to trim their schedules. Most have already eliminated 10% to 20% of domestic flights and the Air Transport Association projects the seven largest U.S. airlines will cut another 3% to 10% this year. This means fewer seats available for last-minute purchase and more involuntarily denied boardings on oversold flights.

3. Ancillary fees proliferate. Although base airfares are declining, airlines are unlikely to relinquish the added revenues from those annoying ancillary fees for checked luggage, meals and snacks, in-flight entertainment, seat selection and more. United Airlines expects to earn $1.2 billion in ancillary fees in 2009. It’s difficult to avoid most fees unless you are an elite member of that airline’s frequent-flier program. Continental is the only major U.S. airline not charging for meals in coach and Southwest has shunned a la carte pricing, at least for now.

Click to read.

Obama Promises to Slash the Deficit

24 Feb

Urging strict future restraint even as current spending soars, President Barack Obama pledged on Monday to dramatically slash the skyrocketing annual budget deficit as he started to dole out the record $787 billion economic stimulus package he signed last week.

"If we confront this crisis without also confronting the deficits that helped cause it, we risk sinking into another crisis down the road," the president warned, promising to cut the yearly deficit in half by the end of his four-year term. "We cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences."

He said he would reinstitute a pay-as-you-go rule that calls for spending reductions to match increases and would shun what he said were the past few years’ "casual dishonesty of hiding irresponsible spending with clever accounting tricks." He called the long-term solvency of Social Security "the single most pressing fiscal challenge we face by far" and said reforming health care, including burgeoning entitlement programs, was a huge priority.

 

Click to read.

Stock Market At Lowest Level Since 1997

23 Feb

The Dow and S&P 500 tumbled to levels not seen in nearly 12 years Monday, as investors continue to worry that the government’s efforts to slow the recession won’t be sufficient.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 250 points, or 3.4%, according to early tallies., ending at the lowest point since May 7, 1997.

The S&P 500 (SPX) index lost 26 points, or 3.5%, ending at the lowest point since April 11, 1997.

The Nasdaq composite (COMP) lost 53 points, or 3.7%. The tech-fueled index has held up better than the rest of the market so far this year, closing at the lowest points since Nov. 20, 2008.

Stocks had gained in the morning on enthusiasm that the government may boost its stake in Citigroup, briefly assuaging fears that the troubled bank would have to be nationalized. But the early advance quickly petered out, as the worries of the last few weeks returned.

 

Click to read.

Young Black CEO Lawrence Watkins Discusses His Secrets to Success

23 Feb

Obama Seeks to Avoid Foreclosure

18 Feb

His massive stimulus plan now signed into law, President Barack Obama is turning to attack the home foreclosure crisis at the heart of the nation’s deepening economic woes.

His goal is to prevent millions of American families from losing their houses because they can’t make mortgage payments.

"We must stem the spread of foreclosures and falling home values for all Americans, and do everything we can to help responsible homeowners stay in their homes," Obama said Tuesday as he signed his tax cut and spending package into law.

The ambitious plan he was announcing at a Phoenix high school Wednesday was expected to offer government cash to mortgage companies that reduce interest rates — and therefore monthly payments — for homeowners in danger of default, according to several people briefed on the plan. What remained unclear was how the government will decide who qualifies for relief.

One Democratic official familiar with the plan said it also would allow homeowners to refinance their mortgages if they owed more than their homes were valued. Still another section would give bankruptcy judges more authority to change mortgages. That last provision has been opposed by lenders, who said it would add risk and lead to higher interest rates.

 

Click to read.

Obama to Sign Stimulus in Denver

17 Feb

President Barack Obama is ready to sign into law the most sweeping economic package in decades, a rescue plan meant to reinvigorate job creation, consumer spending and public optimism. Add the bill to an ever-growing deficit.

Capping the biggest victory of his month-old administration, Obama will sign the economic legislation Tuesday in Denver.

The setting, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, is meant to underscore the investments the new law will make in "green" energy-related jobs. It also allows Obama to get away from Washington, where the bill’s passage was a mostly partisan affair, and be among people who may benefit from the huge government intervention.

The flailing economy continues to dominate Obama’s time.

Tuesday is also when General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, which are living off a combined $13.4 billion in federal bailout loans, are due to hand in plans to Obama’s government about how they can remain viable.

And on Wednesday in Arizona, Obama will unveil another part of his economic recovery effort — a plan to help millions of homeowners fend off foreclosure.

 

Click to read.

Obama Celebrates Passage of Stimulus Package

15 Feb

US President Barack Obama early Saturday hailed a 787-billion-dollar economic stimulus plan passed by Congress, calling it "a major milestone on our road to recovery."

"This is a major milestone on our road to recovery, and I want to thank the members of Congress who came together in common purpose to make it happen," Obama said in his weekly radio address.

He promised to sign the package into law "shortly."

The comments came after the US Congress late Friday approved a 787-billion-dollar package of tax cuts and fresh spending to salvage the broken US economy, handing the president his biggest yet political victory.

The Senate voted 60-38 to pass the measure hours after it cleared the House of Representatives by a lopsided 246-183 margin, setting the stage for Obama to sign the measure into law before his self-imposed February 16 deadline.

 

Click to read.

Dr Boyce Money: Credit Card Companies Secretly Raising Interest Rates

14 Feb

By Dr. Boyce Watkins

http://www.DrBoyceMoney.com

In case you weren’t sure, credit card companies are not out to help you. If you are financially illiterate and uninformed, they are going to exploit you. If you are worried about the financial crisis, they are going to prey on your fear to get money out of you. They are also doing exactly what the rest of us are doing: trying to remain protected in a fragile economy.

The stimulus is stymied. The bailout is a failout. The stock market has consistently given a “thumbs down” to every piece of legislation passed in response to this crisis. Our economy is like the sick man who won’t respond to antibiotics. While the results of the latest package are yet to be seen, the truth is that no one is sure what will work. Every company is out to protect their assets and hold on to their cash, which means they no longer have much interest in loaning money to you.

Yes, this is true even if you have a good credit score, which is the ironic part.

Customers are opening their monthly statements to find that credit card companies have started to either ration credit (give less of it) or raise the interest rate being paid on outstanding debt. This doesn’t even count all the dirty tactics used, like using your payments to pay off low interest debt first, quietly getting rid of the grace period or charging interest on your balance from the prior two months vs. the current one. Even when you’ve been making payments on time for years, banks keep raising the bar to maximize shareholder wealth. When liquidity is scarce, those giving out water demand a higher cost per bottle. Additionally, higher default rates have justified the increase in interest rates, but higher interest rates increase the likelihood of default. It’s a nasty cycle, really.

Lawmakers are trying to intervene. Congressional hearings have taken place. Banks are being scolded by senators who keep telling them that this form of business practice is unethical and that they are gouging the American consumer. All this might be true, but what is also true is that you can’t force banks to loan you money. Also, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to legislate a strong economy.

If you have a less than stellar financial history, there is an even greater opportunity for your credit card company to raise your interest rates. If you have defaulted on other loans or are a slow payer in other areas, then they have no problem telling you to pay up or ship out. The days of easy money are long behind us, and companies are dramatically shifting their business practices.

The bottom line is that THEY’VE GOT YOU. They know that you’ve become addicted to the debt they so readily offered in the past, and this debt has become the lifeblood for the lifestyle to which you’ve chosen to become accustomed. They know that they can charge you a higher interest rate because you can’t do anything about it. Like a drug addict who is angry about paying more for his product, you really don’t have any other choice.

Well, maybe you do.

Here is one solution: tighten your economic belt. That means putting together a financial fitness plan today that consists of getting rid of as much debt as possible. I’ve mentioned in prior articles and on our website that paying off debt can be one of the best investments you make with your money. This is especially true if you have a stable job and are paying a high rate of interest to your credit card company.

So, the Dr. Boyce Challenge for this month is simple: Create a budget which includes the steady elimination of credit card debt. That means you should list every single expense you have for the entire month on one piece of paper or a spreadsheet. Don’t leave anything out. Count the money you want to use for getting your hair done, your nails, paying your mortgage, car note, whatever. Count everything. That will be your first step toward obtaining financial fitness.

As you create the budget, allocate at least 10% of your monthly after tax income toward reducing credit card debt. So, if you earn $3,000 per month after taxes,$300 per month should be allocated toward removing credit card debt, not including interest. So, if you owe $5,000 in credit card debt, you can remove this debt in roughly a year and a half. While $300 may seem like a lot of money to find in your budget, it’s there if you look hard enough. In fact, if you spend $10 per day on lunch and/or coffee, you can find the bulk of the money by taking your lunch to work. Make this one of the first bills you pay, not the last. The last bill is the one that only gets paid half the time. It’s easier to negotiate with creditors if you don’t need them so much. Take small steps toward finding your financial freedom.

Next month, we will move to step 2 of the Dr. Boyce Financial Challenge. While I confess that this change won’t be easy, I can promise that it will be worth it in the end. Be strong and remain focused, this is your opportunity to shine.

Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of “Financial Lipo 101: From financial fat to fitness”, to be released in April, 2009. For more information, please visit www.DrBoyceMoney.com.

Black News: Stimulus Plan Finally Gets Approval

14 Feb

The U.S. Senate gave final approval Friday to a $787 billion recovery package that President Obama hopes will help boost an economy in freefall with a combination of government spending and tax cuts and credits.

Sen. Sherrod Brown speaks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at right on the Senate floor Friday.

Sen. Sherrod Brown speaks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at right on the Senate floor Friday.

Approved earlier by the House, the plan — which went through multiple permutations as it bounced back and forth on Capitol Hill over the past week — now goes to Obama’s desk, where he plans to sign it into law by Presidents Day.

Spending in the package includes about $120 billion for infrastructure — new projects repairing bridges, roads, government buildings and the like — more than $100 billion for education and $30 billion on energy-related projects that Obama says will create "green jobs."

More than $212 billion goes to tax breaks for individuals and businesses, and another $267 billion is in direct spending like food stamps and unemployment benefits.

The Congressional Budget Office has predicted that the plan will create between 1 million and 3 million jobs.

Most individuals will get a $400 tax credit, and couples will get $800.

The vote by the Senate took several hours longer than a simple roll call of its 100 members generally would. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, attended a wake for his mother until about 8 p.m. Friday.

Voting began about 5:30 p.m. Then, the Senate chamber sat nearly empty until Brown arrived to vote about five hours later.

He was flown from Ohio to Washington on a plane provided by the White House, which said no commercial flights were available that would have allowed Brown to cast a vote and return to Ohio in time for his mother’s funeral Saturday.

Click to read

 

President Obama Gives a News Conference

10 Feb

President Obama Pushes to Avoid “Catastrophe”

10 Feb

President Barack Obama, pressuring lawmakers to urgently approve a massive economic recovery bill, criticized Republicans who have balked at the legislation Monday night and said, "I can’t afford to see Congress play the usual political games." Obama used the first prime-time news conference of his presidency to warn that a failure to act swiftly and boldly "could turn a crisis into a catastrophe."

With the nation falling deeper into a long and painful recession, Obama defended his program against Republican criticism that it is loaded with pork-barrel spending and will not create jobs.

"The plan is not perfect," the president said. "No plan is. I can’t tell you for sure that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hope, but I can tell you with complete confidence that a failure to act will only deepen this crisis as well as the pain felt by millions of Americans."

Obama addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House in a news conference that lasted almost exactly one hour. He hit repeatedly at the themes he has emphasized in recent weeks, including at a town hall meeting to promote his plan earlier in the day in Elkhart, Ind.

 

Click to read.

Your Black Politics: What Got Cut from Obama’s Package?

8 Feb

A coalition of Democrats and some Republicans reached a compromise that trimmed billions in spending from an earlier version of the Senate economic stimulus bill.

Senators worked late into the night to trim billions from the original stimulus bill.

Senators worked late into the night to trim billions from the original stimulus bill.

CNN obtained, from a Democratic leadership aide, a list of some programs that have been cut, either entirely or partially:

Partially cut:

• $3.5 billion for energy-efficient federal buildings (original bill $7 billion)

• $75 million from Smithsonian (original bill $150 million)

• $200 million from Environmental Protection Agency Superfund (original bill $800 million)

• $100 million from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (original bill $427 million)

• $100 million from law enforcement wireless (original bill $200 million)

• $300 million from federal fleet of hybrid vehicles (original bill $600 million)

• $100 million from FBI construction (original bill $400 million)

Fully eliminated

• $55 million for historic preservation

• $122 million for Coast Guard polar icebreaker/cutters

• $100 million for Farm Service Agency modernization

 

Click to read.

Obama Gets His Bill Passed

7 Feb

With job losses soaring nationwide, Senate Democrats reached agreement with key Republicans Friday night on an economic stimulus measure at the heart of President Barack Obama’s plan for combatting the worst recession in decades. "The American people want us to work together. They don’t want to see us dividing along partisan lines on the most serious crisis confronting our country," said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of two GOP senators who signaled support for the bill.

Officials put the cost of the measure at $780 billion in tax cuts and new spending combined. No details were immediately available, and there appeared to be some confusion even among senators about the price tag as floor debate continued late into the night.

The agreement capped a tense day of backroom negotiations in whichSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid, joined by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, sought to attract the support of enough Republicans to give the measure the needed 60-vote majority.

In addition to Collins, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he would vote for the bill. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, remained uncommitted.

 

Click to read.

Barack Obama Losing the War of Words Over Stimulus Package

5 Feb

At this crucial juncture in the push to pass an economic recovery package, President Obama finds himself in the most unlikely of places: He is losing the message war.

Despite Obama’s sky-high personal approval ratings, polls show support has declined for his stimulus bill since Republicans and their conservative talk-radio allies began railing against what they labeled aspork barrel spending within it.

The sheer size of it — hovering at about $900 billion — has prompted more protests that are now causing some moderate and conservative Democrats to flinch and, worse, hesitate.

The anxiety over lost momentum seemed almost palpable this week as the president in television interviews voiced frustration with his White House’s progress and the way his recovery program was being demonized as a Democratic spending frenzy.

In Obama’s own words in an NBC interview, it’s his job to “get this thing back on track.”

 

Click to read.

Dr. Boyce Watkins Speaks on National TV About Financial Liposuction

4 Feb

“Buy American” Clause Creates Test for Barack Obama

4 Feb

A contentious debate over a "Buy American" provision in the economic stimulus package poses an early test for President Obama on both domestic politics and foreign policy.

The Senate this week is considering an $885 billion bill designed to help mend the ailing economy, which requires all "manufactured goods" purchased with stimulus money to be made in the United States. The House already has approved a narrower bill mandating the use of domestic iron and steel.

To supporters, including labor unions that helped the Democrats retake the White House last year, a "Buy American" requirement is just common sense at a time of economic crisis and rising unemployment. Factories have been hemorrhaging jobs for years; manufacturing employment is now 12.9 million, down from 17.2 million at the end of 2000. If Congress doesn’t insist upon the use of U.S.-made materials, taxpayer funds could line the pockets of European or Chinese workers rather than hard-hit Americans.

 

Click to read.

More Families Move in together during Financial Crisis

4 Feb

Love isn’t all that’s keeping family together today. The bruising housing market is, too.

Last year, Kanessa Tixe’s dad had just finished building a three-family house when he lost his superintendent job in February. He wasn’t sure how to make the $5,000-a-month mortgage on the new house in Queens, N.Y.

So Tixe and her siblings decided to help out in an unusual way: They moved in. In December, her father moved into the first floor; her stepsister and husband moved into the second floor; and her stepbrother and Tixe took the third floor. The entire family has become roommates, banding together to pay rent and help their dad with the mortgage until he finds long-term tenants.

"We’re still living there now. Times are rough," says Tixe, 26, a publicist. "It’s been very beneficial that we’re all together. My stepbrother and I have a wonderful relationship now. We eat together for dinner, and I’ve become closer to my dad, too. This is an important time for family to help, the way the housing market is going. Our story is a testament to how families should come together to help with a mortgage."

The weak economy — which has brought surging foreclosures, sinking property values, vanishing home equity and mounting job losses — is playing a major role in family dynamics, pulling relatives under the same roof to pool their resources and aid relatives who’ve lost their homes.

 

Click to read.

Your Black Money: Helping Your Mom Save for Retirement

3 Feb

Question: My mother is 50 years old and has no 401(k), IRA or any type of retirement account that she can rely on when she is no longer able to work. What type of plan can I set up for her so she can start saving money? L.K., Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Answer: The issue of what adult children can and should do to help assure that their parents are financially prepared for retirement is one that’s getting more attention as lifespans increase and we become increasingly reliant on our personal savings to fund our post-career lives.

Typically, though, this is the type of question I get from baby boomers who, already squeezed by simultaneously saving for retirement and paying school and other child-rearing costs, now face the prospect of also having to provide financial assistance to retired parents.

 

Click to read.

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