Category Archives: middle class gets the shaft
Posted on Oct 11, 2007
By Bill Boyarsky
Sen. Barack Obama’s fundraising among middle-class blacks tells much about them—and about America.
This aspect of the presidential election hasn’t received much attention lately, as an anxious nation awaits the verdicts of two small and atypical states.
In Iowa, blacks comprise just 2.3 percent of the population. In New Hampshire, it’s 1 percent. That’s compared to almost 13 percent for the entire country. (Why can’t important primaries be governed by laws similar to those requiring juries to be at least somewhat representative?)
I got interested in the middle-class contributions while digging into the Obama campaign.
A couple of longtime black politicians told me that the size of Obama contributions from their community was big. “I’ve never seen so many African-Americans with a lot of money,” one of them said. “I didn’t know there was that much wealth.”
The phenomenon is occurring in prosperous black areas across the country. A few months ago, USA Today surveyed political giving in nearly 600 ZIP codes that included a substantial number of African-American households with incomes above the black national median household income of $31,000 a year. Obama received about 70 percent of the contributions.
I looked at an area I know, View Park and Windsor Hills in Los Angeles. This is not the bleak black and Latino L.A. so beloved by filmmakers, television stations and newspapers which immerse themselves almost exclusively in black crime and other tragedies. Big, luxurious homes adorn this hillside several miles northwest of the poor neighborhoods in the South Los Angeles flatlands. View Park and Windsor Hills are 88 percent black, with a median household income of $73,118, the U.S. Census reported, more than the Los Angeles County household total of $51,447. Almost 70 percent of the people living there are families.
The overwhelming number of contributions from there went to Obama, with Hillary Clinton receiving just two, according to the latest tabulation of The Center for Responsive Politics. That’s not surprising. Nor does it mean Hillary Clinton is friendless in the black community. African-American political commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson wrote in the Huffington Post that Clinton “runs neck and neck with Obama in the race to net the overall votes of blacks. … They are not naïve about Hillary. They know that GOP hardliners are licking their chops at a Hillary candidacy … yet she still seems a far better bet than Obama to beat back the assault.”
What is as interesting as the horse race is the nature of the Obama contributors. Among them in Los Angeles’ View Park and Windsor Hills are a producer, a chief executive officer of a business consulting company, a nationwide bank senior vice president, lawyers and a restaurant owner.
California state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is campaigning for Obama, said the Illinois senator’s message resonates strongly with such people. “His vision of hope and morality and basic centrist politics is grounded in a moral sensibility that is hard to argue with,” Ridley-Thomas said.
“It’s how he talks about personal responsibility,” said another Obama supporter, “how we raise our kids, being responsible for our actions. It is a message people long for.”
That was evident last year when Obama spoke at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, the city’s oldest black church and, with 19,000 members, a center of middle-class black L.A. People who were there said he was repeatedly cheered as he delivered his message of hope and responsibility to a congregation marking the 15th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots.
First AME reaches deep into the black community with programs ranging from rehabilitating prison inmates to fostering business development. The church also does tutoring and college preparatory training. Located at the northern edge of South-Central Los Angeles, it was in the middle of the 1992 fires and violence..
That’s where I spent the first night of the riots, watching members of the congregation join with neighboring Latino apartment dwellers in fighting fires with garden hoses. Just down the street on West Adams Boulevard, young black men battled cops. When I walked toward the fighting, two men from the church grabbed me, turned me around and said, “This is no time for journalistic heroics.” Later on, I snuck back to observe the action.
As First AME and Obama see it, life should be an upward path, with young blacks turning from fighting cops on West Adams Boulevard in favor of the respectability and pious activism of First AME, rising from the poor, crime-heavy flatlands of South L.A. to more peaceful and prosperous neighborhoods in the city or the suburbs or to the affluence of Windsor Hills and View Park.
But the upward path is becoming more difficult. In 2005 the Urban Institute found that “despite some progress during the 1990s, the share of African-Americans joining the middle class in the U.S. has stagnated over the past 20-30 years.”
The stagnation coincides with roadblocks on the upward path—reduced funding for public elementary and secondary schools and public universities and ending affirmative action in higher education.
Removal of roadblocks is the goal shared by First AME members and middle-class blacks around the country. They are, as Obama supporter Ridley-Thomas put it, “politically and economically progressive” but “on moral issues, more conservative.”
Obama’s effort to translate support into a historic presidential victory will be difficult. Hillary Clinton is strong, and her husband, Bill, is popular among blacks. White Iowa is important to Obama’s hopes. If Clinton wins, she’s in great shape. If either John Edwards or Obama wins, the ever-fickle media will conclude she’s doomed.
But, win or lose, Obama and his supporters are showing America a black political landscape seldom visited by journalists. Why, wondered Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, an African-American, “do editors, reporters, columnists and television producers keep only two phone numbers on speed dial for use whenever any news breaks concerning a black person?”
Those are, of course, the numbers of the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Black America today is much more complex, a mixture of rich, middle class and poor, a subtlety often missed in the sound bites of Jackson, Sharpton and their counterparts around the country.
Today’s NYT has an article which caught my eye. The title: In opposing Tax Plan, Schumer Breaks with Party. Now, Schumer is a Senator from New York, where most of the hedge private equity funds roost. I realize they are a part of his constituency..but please..they are NOT humans. Sure, humans run them and make money from them…but they are NOT people, and folks that use these types of investments aren’t trying to make ends meet.
But Schumer holds a two very important posts that relate to hedge funds and private equity funds, he is on both the Banking and Finance committee’s. In fact..Chuck raked in more than $1 million large for the Democratic Senatorial Committee from these guys.
The NYT article calls him “Pro-business”..I call him a shill for the top 1%. Perhaps that is a little harsh..but you can not call yourself a supporter of the middle class AND a supporter of the hedge and equity funds. Nope, you really can’t do that Chuckie.
There is a bill in the works that wants to raise the taxes on these types of investments. Even Hillary, Obama and Edwards have come out in support of these taxes that will provide revenue for health and educational programs..not to mention relieve some of the burden of taxes on the middle class. I mean..really now..if Corporate-loving Hillary can support it..it can’t be all bad for investors right?
But Chuckie has his state and its employers to think about he says. There is this interesting tidbit in the NYT writeup:
“Mr. Schumer said in an interview that he was torn between the need to protect an industry vital to his home state and the need to generate revenues to finance government programs. He said a tax increase on private equity and hedge fund executives could lead to an exodus of jobs and companies from New York, and even from the country. He said the plan, if enacted federally, would also lead to an increase in New York State tax that would further bear down on the industry. He said he worried that the industry was being unfairly singled out.”
I call bullshit on that right now. So does the other Senator from NY, Charles Rangel. I am sick and tired of businesses using the “we will move our operations if we don’t get what we want” shtick..I could puke. It’s a time-honored tradition for them to use that line isn’t it? It’s a threat to get what they want.
Well, the middle class has been getting the ever-loving shaft for decades now..and they need a friggin break, not the damn hedge and equity funds. Hell, even a senior exec from Citigroup, Robert E. Rubin is calling this tax a good move for the love of Christ. Joe Schocken, the chairman of Broadmark Capital, an investment banking and private equity firm in Seattle, backs the bill and calls it fair.
This tax move will raise billions annually. It will only hit those top 1%ers remember..so I don’t give a Rats Ass who Chuck Schumer’s voting base is..this tax isn’t going to kill off any investors or cripple the damn industry, because its folks that make a shit-load of cash every year and don’t work for it..you know..unlike the middle class that works for their money.
Schumer’s stance on this bill really pisses me off. I have always thought highly of him until this came out. If Hillary the biggest Corporate Shill alive can back it..so can Chuckie damn it. And if he doesn’t see the light I will have to call him what he is..a carpetbagging sumbitch who will once again fuck over the middle class so those that already have their nest eggs can get their greedy little fingers on more money they won’t be able to spend in their lifetimes.
Come on Chuck..give the middle class a fucking tax break for a change and put some money into the federal coffers for educational programs you fuckwit..screw those top 1%ers….Stop pandering to them. If there is any doubt why Chuckie panders to these guys..get a load of this nugget from the NYT writeup:
“From January through June, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised nearly $2 million from executives and employees of private equity and hedge fund firms like the Carlyle Group and the Blackstone Group, according to analyses of campaign finance disclosure reports conducted by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that researches the influence of money in politics, and by The New York Times. The $2 million figure, which includes contributions from relatives of employees and executives, is a low-end estimate because many donors do not list their employers on financial disclosure reports.”
Ain’t that something? You bet it is..and it smells like fresh dog poop if you ask me.