Economics & Finances for Black Folks…
By Brother Tracy Gibson…
It’s the economy, so DON’T be stupid!! More often than not, it’s really your personal economy that matters most—not only what national economic trends are happening and what is on the latest TV newscast. Frugal times require thinking hard and taking frugal, measured but direct actions. For most Black Americans and for most Black people in other parts of the world, times are hard and prospects don’t look too good. But we as a people have made it through tough times before. Just think back to what it must have been like for our ancestors who first came over to the Americas in chains with nothing but a few scraggly clothes on our backs. We didn’t speak the language; we had no food and probably were separated from our families. The task master’s whip was what we were getting used to and there was little hope for escape back to our homeland on the Continent of Africa. Those were hard, tough times!! I don’t say that to make light of what many of us are going through right now. I know some of us don’t have jobs, food to eat and even a place to stay. Somehow we have to lean on each other—GOD, our ancestors and a few other friends who will help as much as possible. We have to start to think in new and innovative ways because many of the things that are wrong with the U.S. economy are hard to fix and deeply rooted in the systemic problems caused by other administrations and designed—at least in part--by people who control billions of dollars and who promote war and destruction in the U.S. and throughout the world... (These people have our President on a chain. I will describe how later in Chapter 14). These are problems caused by the actions and inactions of leading businessmen and businesswomen, politicians and the so-called small Ruling Class of people who do NOT have our best interest at heart as Black people, to say the least. All that said and done, we have to realize that there are things we can, should and really must do. Our First Lady was not just having fun or joking when she constructed and planted a garden in the White House. She was setting an example for the rest of us. I don’t have enough dry land around my home to have a garden, but I thought about getting a small children’s pool and planting some herbs and vegetables for a garden that could go into that pool. When you don’t have enough food and you have tapped ALL your giving friends and relatives—and even asked a few who are unwilling and may have even gotten nasty with you, well, you begin to think in other ways & in other terms... I have been unemployed for over 10 years. The disability check I get is practically nothing, so I have had to think in other ways. We have gotten food from the food banks, shopped at the Dollar Store, and started a small business to keep up with bills and such. We have even fallen back on mortgage payments and had to declare bankruptcy. It is not an easy road to hoe right now, but I have faith that a brighter day is ahead for us. I am NOT depending on the government to help, except in providing a role model in the form, shape and actions of President Obama. I hope he will be able to provide more positive actions and maybe some ideas. I have tried everything to catch up on the mortgage, but have been unable to do so at this juncture. I keep trying and I talk to my therapist, friends, family and other loved ones about the situation to seek solace, comfort and other level-headed points of view... This is crucial when so many things like jobs and the economy are skewed and unstable. Some people and bankers & former credit providers want to cop an attitude with me because bills are not paid on time. There just isn’t any money—don’t they get it? I have tried, unsuccessfully, to go to graduate school. I have applied at just about every store in my neighborhood and out of town in Philadelphia also. I applied at: McDonalds, Burger King, Arby’s, K-Mart, T.G.I. Friday’s, Applebee’s, Sears, many marketing firms, PR firms, Borders Books, and on and on. (It says right on the back of the Final Call that there would come a day & a time when the White man would NOT provide any jobs for the Black man & His family... Has that time come? I think so!!) I have enlisted the help of the Vocational Rehabilitation Department of Delaware (because I’m disabled) and have gone on a few job interviews—I have still NOT found a job in my field that pays enough to really help my situation significantly... I have found a small so-called menial job that helps a bit. But financial problems persist. The fact that I’m now 54 doesn’t help—but guess what—God and the ancestors put me on this planet for a purpose and I’ll find that purpose sooner or later. When I do my compass & destiny will be set. I know I have some strong writing skills and that is why I’m writing this book. But there are a few other things I can do. I’m good at managing real estate and I think I will own another apartment building one day soon. But my credit score is down right now, so I have to work for a living and get things back in shape first. It will work out. But I’m under no illusion that our economy will just bounce back in a few short months. I think we all have to get out of that negative mindset and find other legal avenues to make money. There are all kinds of experts who say that a quick economic recovery just isn’t going to happen. Why? The reasons are many:
One: the auto industry in America has collapsed. That is thousands of jobs that will not be coming back in significant numbers any time soon and there are thousands of other jobs that are spinoffs to the auto industry such as parts supplies, other stores & restaurants in auto-industry-heavy cities such as Detroit and some places in Ohio. Some foreign auto makers have taken up the slack in some states—but for the most part the auto industry in the U.S. has put out a closed for good sign. There are now much fewer well-paying jobs. The president’s Stimulus Package and the Cash for Clunkers helped a bit, but the U.S. auto makers saw the writing on the wall many years ago, but they refused to retool, make better cars and they lost billions in business to foreign car makers like Toyota because Americans wanted cars that worked well and lasted for more than five years. Fact, Case closed!!
Second: The Bush/Cheney era has poured billions of dollars into two unpopular wars (in Afghanistan & Iraq) and the Obama Administration has followed suit for the first twelve months of his tenure. My contention is that those wars and the Pentagon itself (in its’ present state) are unsustainable. We can no longer be the policemen for the world—Libya and Pakistan included-- and all the world’s problems and people. The U.S. intelligence apparatus is incredibly costly and Presidents such as Reagan, Bush I, Bush II and even Clinton to a somewhat lesser degree, have made a shambles of our foreign policy—utilizing foreign intervention and dropping bombs like they were plastic eggs that would not hurt anyone. This has cost us friends around the globe. President Obama needs to take us away from these costly pro-war policies (like he promised), but he has not shown any inclination that this is what he will do. He still had a Bush man (Gates) in change of the Defense Department. It costs billions of dollars a year to run the Defense Department and there is a great amount of waste and unnecessary spending as I write this. And the wars go on and on and on. This is expensive, extremely expensive!! (Check out www.allthngsCynthiaMcKinney.com to get an up-to-date reading on the amount of people killed and the current cost of the war. Also please read my chapter on running a Peace Time Economy at Chapter 10). We need to switch to a peace-time economy and end those wars as soon as possible. It is ridiculous that there are men and woman serving three and four tours of duty—never or hardly ever getting to see their families and loved ones. We need to put some of those Congressman’s sons over there to fight and die and see how quickly the wars end. That’s right, lets re-institute a draft and see how quickly more Americans take this whole thing more seriously. There is a Congressman from New York City (a Democrat named Charlie Rangall from Harlem) who has proposed just that. He wants to make the war more up front to most Americans and less palatable to the rich people who can get their sons and daughters out of its’ harmful path by just NOT enlisting them. Right now almost exclusively poor Whites, and Black and Latin servicemen and service women are serving because the sons and daughters of the wealthy are off to Penn and Yale—not thinking about serving in the armed forces. There are also a few gung ho patriots serving, but they are quickly wising up as they now see more body bags coming back into Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware and as they see the thousands of people coming back with no legs, hands or other body parts blown off. This is no joke, as my dear sister Claudia often says…. This picture needs to change—drastically and as soon as possible!! We need those expensive wars to end and we need to stop seeing ourselves as policemen and make way for a Peace Time Economy!! Write and call The President and keep the pressure on him…..
Thirdly: The problems in banking and the mortgage industry are not going to go away easily. More people, like me are in foreclosure, filing for bankruptcy and unable to pay for their homes than at any point since the Great Depression—these are scary times we are living in. If you can pay your mortgage, you should be starting a rainy-day fund for any emergencies you might have in the near future. All you need is for someone to have a catastrophic illness and your whole family can be taken under financially. That is what happened to my family. Also: you should try to start a small business such as a multi-level marketing business to take up the slack and build some extra income for yourself & your family. ALSO: get some education, if you don’t have any. Don’t feel afraid to go back to school—no matter what your age is. President Clinton is the one who really started to deregulate the Banking Industry which led to the present mortgage crisis. President Reagan before him did also. President Obama has NOT, in my opinion, held the Banks accountable enough and watched that shrinking pot of money called the U.S. Treasury as miserly as he should have. There have been a few dollars for poor people, but President Obama was not the champion of the poor during the Primary Season in 2008, John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich were—and that is why I voted for John Edwards in the Primary—not for the Black guy. I did not vote for Obama in the Primary. (Dennis Kucinich was also a better champion for poor people and has a much better anti-war record than Candidate Obama ever thought of having as did Sister Cynthia McKinney in her run on the Green Party ticket for President of the U.S. in 2008). In a nutshell I’m saying we have to watch those federal dollars more and get real with the banks. They need to be making more loans to people of color and small business. But it doesn’t happen by osmosis!! We need to be writing Congress, the Senate and the President NOW!!! And we need to demonstrate if we can & if we need to. It is your right to go to Washington, D.C. and raise HELL when and if you feel it is necessary… We also need to be setting forth on missions to build economic stability and funding sources within our community. See Chapter 13 for more details.)
Fourthly: The fickle U.S. voters may well swing the other way in and 2012. [They already stupidly went the wrong way in 2010, but I blame that, at least in part, on the weak leadership in Congress among Democrats]. We might all find President Obama’s popularity is waning even after he ordered a band of Navy Seals to successfully go after Ben Laden… He needs to be less concerned about his popularity and make the tough decisions that need to be made now. A Health Care bill, with some teeth in it will save the government billions—and cost billions also. But the alternative is continuing with over 50 million Americans uninsured and a Big Drain on the whole Nation’s health care system. If foolish Independent voters & Republicans swing the other way and allow the Republicans to get back in power in 2012, (GOD-- Please forbid!!) we are in for another shake down of the common man for mo money for the wealthy investors, the banks, the pharmaceutical companies, the defense contractors and Big Oil. (This fight may yet be taken to the streets like we are witnessing in Iran, Egypt, Yemen and Syria much sooner than any of us think.) But getting a good, sustainable Health Care Bill with real teeth may be a much taller order than even President Obama’s capable people have anticipated. The Pharmaceutical lobby, the Right Wing of the Republican Party, the Southern Democrats (The Blue Dogs as they are called) and the other money interests in our Nation such as the insurance companies who would stop such a bill are pushing their influence hard and scoring points through use of the White Established Goliath Media (Through advertising and well-placed spokespeople) who want to see a good fight and smell partisan blood in the waters in D.C. on this one. If you have not written your U.S. Senators and your Congress people about getting a good health care bill, please do so very soon. The very lives of your children & grandchildren may be at stake!!
Lastly: Foreign affairs. The U.S. needs to switch from medaling in other country’s affairs (through expensive covert, secret operations, and using companies like Black Water as mercenaries and ``contractors’’ & using foreign aid as a carrot and weapons as a stick) and mind our own damned business!! [See my article on improving National Security in Chapter 5]. Republicans under George Bush II got us into two expensive and apparently long-lasting wars. It is time we stood up and said enough is enough and took care of the poor and indigent in our own backyard because they are starting to look a lot like us. . . The High Flying adventurism under past administrations (through the policies implemented by Henry Kissinger and other Secretaries of State) cannot become and have never ever really been sustainable—this is a fact that the Western Goliath Media and their owners as well as most of American’s politicians have yet to get through their heads and or admit to the American people!! We have seen the Bad Guys and often they are us—the United States with their gun boats, war ships, nuclear subs, nuclear weapons, stealth planes, drone missiles and so forth parked off the coast of some foreign country or flying overhead ready to destroy the enemy... Meanwhile we haven’t had a review of what WE are doing around the world to destabilize budding democracies in Third World Nations in a long time, if ever… Let’s take the Somali Pirate situation for example. Somalia’s fishing industry was carrying that east African nation’s economy just fine until Western nations like South Korea, Japan and Spain went over there and illegally delved into their lucrative fishing industry, robbing that African Nation of millions of dollars in fish (by some informed estimates as much as 300 million dollars’ worth of fish per year). This weakened the Somali economy and eventually gave rise to the so-called Somali pirates who now rob foreign vessels to feed their families and themselves and pay for basic needs that were formerly paid for from the wages from legal fishing. The ``pirates’’ are now a part of Somalia’s underworld of drug sales and piracy that took the place of the totally legal & lucrative fishing industry that was destroyed by the West as the United States stood by and did nothing. This is why the U.S. is so hated around the world. We talk a good game about democracy, but really do everything in our power to stave off democracy in fledgling democratic nations in Africa and Asia and Central America. We often take on the wrong enemies and unnecessarily create enemies through our outlandish and backwards foreign policies. We talk a good game about playing fair, and democracy, but when it comes down to the brass tacks of the situation, more often than not we are out for financial gain for ourselves and huge profits for ``our’’ corporate structure. There are endless other examples including what went down in Haiti under Jean-Bertrand Aristide and what the IMF and the World Bank did in Jamaica, for example... How was he [Aristide] deposed and who benefited? Our intervention in Panama, Iran and Nicaragua are other prime examples. The murder of Maurice Bishop in Granada during the Regan Administration also comes to mind. Bishop was considered one of the most informed and brilliant Black minds in the world when he was killed during the North American invasion of his tiny country. Who has maintained power and most of the money & land in South Africa even as Apartheid slowly crumbles? Who raped & murdered Africa in general and now doesn’t want to pay the bill for the dysfunctions & destruction that rape and murder has caused (check out ``How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, ‘’ by Walter Rodney, 1972.) for the real grass-roots low down on the root causes of our present-day oppression & international disenfranchisement. You might also want to read ``The Debt,’’ By Randall Robinson…
Conclusion: What we need to do economically is get more education & buy Black. But we need to be careful who we let our children’s minds—and our minds--open up to because the mind is our gateway to the future—and future investments. We need to send more of our children to historically Black colleges and historically Black universities because often they have the curriculums and the teaching staffs to delve into more of the truth than is to be found on the campuses of the regular state colleges or even the Ivey League system here in the U.S... If our youth do go to White dominated schools, they need to do so with questioning minds and armed with the real facts about the revisionist history and the lies, deceit and bull crap they will be taught about Black people there (Often the absence of Black people in history & in present curriculums is shameful at America’s established intuitions of higher learning). Many of our best and boldest leaders came from Black colleges and universities. If you can’t send your child there, at least make sure they have a solid Black Studies program on campus such as at Harvard or several other schools such as Temple University in Philadelphia or Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. And make sure your child takes Black Studies—it can be a real life saver and life line in school where some of our children get lost in very White environments and come back from school with an education but are more like White Zombies totally unable to relate back in the community from which they came from…. Otherwise you will be getting back something other than what you, as a progressive thinker and especially as a Black Nationalists, sent to school in the first place. Your child will be primed and ready to work for the established order and help build and maintain the very system that is oppressing us as Black people. We don’t need more handkerchief heads like that lackey Colin Powell or that Uncle Remus Clarence Thomas who sits so foolishly on the highest court in the land... Your child may be educated, but he or she might well be very confused, disoriented and confounded when he or she tries to interact with other Black people and Black organizations if he or she is not grounded in some sort of solid Black collegiate and or Black intellectual orientation and positive Black experiences. The child may end up at the CIA, the FBI, the State Department, the National Security Office or one of the many other so-called intelligence agencies or other Federal agencies that promote foreign intervention, Western & U.S. adventurism, Hegemony, White Supremacy and such. The cost of that whole so-called intelligence structure, I predict, will come into question very soon and may collapse along with the American banking, housing & mortgage system(s) and the American Auto Industry. The American Pharmaceutical Industry and the American Health Care Insurance Industry may also be substantially altered by the passage of a Health Care Bill or the fight that is taking place right now over such a bill. We also need to be saving money as I said before because the rainy day looks a lot like today. We need to support our own Black businesses of all grade, type and level of professionalism. If we get some service or product that is inferior, go to another Black business and write the folks that gave you the poor service or product and ask that they do better the next time if they want your support—don’t give up on them. Don’t give up on us because that is EXACTLY what you do when you turn to a White owned business instead!! You have given up on us and you have given up on yourself!! Also: if you have children or not, we all, as Black people, need to be reading or getting audio tapes of good Black books about our culture, lives, history, inventors and such (there are several listed in the back of this book!!). Another good suggestion for anybody wanting to improve their finances and economy is to turn the Idiot Box [TV] off as often as possible and tune in something that is worth tuning in!! Listen to NPR and other alternative radio stations for news such as the BBC. (FOX news, as you probably already know, is notorious for the lies and conservative drivel they serve up.) Stay clear of them as often as possible. (In the Philadelphia area there is WURD Radio, 900 AM for Black Talk Radio. They still have some lively and interesting guests there). Don’t be afraid to take your children to the library—especially you fathers—and look up books on saving, banking, Black history and culture. The investment you are making in your child is worth missing a game or two on TV—even over football season!! Trips to the Library can also help you get out of the pattern of work, home, dinner, private time and back to work every day, day in and day out. Do something different. Go to see a Black foreign film or go to a Black, Caribbean, African or African American museum or restaurant for a change (Give McDonalds and the major art Museums like the Philadelphia Museum of Art a break for GOD’s sake!!). Try the African-American & African Museums in Philadelphia, Washington and New York City —even if you have to plan a trip out of town to do so. Invest in your family and friends. You may find out you have some really nice people in your circle of friends, family and acquaintances!! If family or friends rip you off, tell them you feel they did so and that you won’t be supporting them again unless they change their ways and do better!! But don’t get into riffs over money, the family and friendship bonds are worth a lot more than this White man’s money.
Most of all, teach your child about economics, saving money and giving back to the Black community!!