UFE's E-News October 2009

In this Issue:


Article One

Amaad Rivera Wins Emerging Leader Award

UFE is proud to announce that Amaad Rivera, our Racial Wealth Divide Initiative leader, is one of two recipients of the Horace Seldon Emerging Leader Award. It's an honor to be able to celebrate this achievement with Amaad — he has done amazing work to combat structural racism and address the racial wealth divide in America, and we couldn't be happier for him.

The award, among others, is given annually by Community Change, Inc. (CCI) to honor individuals who challenge structural racism in all the places it can be found. CCI is an organization that promotes racial justice and equity through antiracist learning and action. The award ceremony will be Tuesday Nov 10th from 6:00 — 8:30 PM, details are available on CCI's website.

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Article Two

Where's the Strategy in the Stimulus?

When it comes to job creation and preservation, folks seem to be all about the numbers — you can even track them yourself on the government's fancy interactive website.

But don't let the flash video and roll over maps distract you from digging deeper and asking the right questions. Numbers are well and good, but it's not enough to know jobs are being created. We need to know what kind of jobs, and in what communities. We'd also do well to remember that the preliminary reports coming in only reflect a fraction of the stimulus package.

Most of the money went to "shovel ready" projects. Translation: the government shelled out a bunch of money for quick–fix projects that probably won't last. And, because of the time restrictions, few if any of the projects were strategically designed to benefit the communities that need it most.

Other aspects of the stimulus bill, like cash for clunkers and the housing tax credit also lacked strategic orientation and long–term vision. They were designed to benefit those they could already afford to have a car or buy a house, and to be a boon to our economy in the short-term. So where does that leave all the low–income communities of color that could really benefit from policies centered on asset building and wealth generation?

Numbers alone will mean nothing in the long run if policies that perpetuate inequality are behind them. Unemployment rates are still highest among people of color and underemployment is the worst it's ever been. We need to make sure we're addressing issues of race, gender and geography when designing programs for spending stimulus money.

It's up to us to demand that our tax dollars go toward projects directed at making improvements — in everything from education, to asset building, to environmental initiatives, to infrastructure - where it's needed most.

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Article Three

Immigration: It's Time to Dispel the Myths

America's broke — and we don't just mean in the wallet. There are a lot of issues that need fixing in this country and, the way we see it, we have yet to have an informed national discussion about many of them (we can all remember the WWE matches masquerading as "health care debate," can't we?).

Immigration is one of these issues, but it's hard to have a serious conversation about humane reform when Fox News is cracking jokes at the expense of millions of individuals. The sad truth is, mainstream media and right–wing fear mongering dominate populist understanding of issues like immigration reform until myths evolve into 'facts,' and ignorance shapes our public policy.

So, before we make any ill–informed decisions, let's educate ourselves and dispel some of the myths:

  • deindustrialization and deregulation have led to a loss of jobs with decent wages and benefits, not immigrants

  • migrants only remit about 10% of their household income, so a lot of the money they earn is staying in the country

  • immigrants, documented and undocumented, do pay taxes, lots of them: sales, property, and income taxes, and more. And undocumented workers who pay the income tax, don't receive a tax return – that money (well over $500 billion), is sitting pretty in the Earnings Suspense File (ESF) of the Social Security Trust Fund, just waiting for someone to claim in.

Immigrants make up a large part of our country and its workforce. And we need to have an open and civil national discussion that includes all voices, especially theirs, if humane reform is going to take place.

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Article Four

Reining In CEO Pay

Wall street is up in arms over Kenneth Feinberg's recent decisions on executive pay. The affected employees will see their average total compensation cut in half and their salaries cut by 90%. First up on the chopping block: former Bank of America boss, Ken Lewis. He will receive no salary for 2009 but will be taking home a retirement package worth nearly $70 million. Somehow, we think he'll land on his feet.

For decades, CEO compensation has been ballooning at an alarming rate, and rate of pay hasn't necessarily been reflective of performance. Well, there will be handouts no more — Feinberg's gonna make 'em work for it. CEOs will be awarded long–term stock grants that would tie pay to success of the company. This means if executives do a good job running their respective companies, they will still see the multi–million dollar paydays they are accustomed to. But if the company tanks, presumably because they did a poor job running it, their income will tank as well.

Many on Wall Street are unhappy with Feinberg's decisions. One executive claims he was "shocked," and the rulings were "much worse than anticipated." Most Americans will still only make a fraction of his salary — if they are lucky enough to have a job at all. And, linking compensation with success continues to leave room for gross inequality if CEOs play their cards right, so we have to wonder how much these regulations will truly rein in salaries and risky practices.

Reform should address the root principles that let compensation get so big in the first place. And in order for that to happen, lawmakers and the media need to hear from us; they need to know that they have support for reform from those whose interests they should have most at heart.

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Article Five

The Commons: From Tragedy to Celebrity

The recipients of the 2009 Nobel Prize in economics were announced on Monday October 12th. The prize was shared between two Americans, Elinor Ostrum and Oliver E. Williamson.

Ostrum deserves a special toast for several reasons. First, such high–level recognition of her work brings the idea of The Commons into the spotlight, which is fitting given how broken our current economic system is. Second, she is only the second non–economist to win the award and, as the first female recipient of the award, she shattered yet another glass ceiling for women the world over.

Ostrom's research, which essentially bridges political science and economics, focuses on community vs. private or governmental management of common resources like land, forests, irrigation waters and fisheries. One of her key findings is that successful governance can result when end–users — the people actually using the resources — actively participate in the process.

This directly contradicts the long–standing theory of the "Tragedy of the Commons," in which property rights and privatization are seen to be the only means to preserving finite resources.

The commons doesn't just refer to natural resources, however. It includes anything that is shared by members of local, national or even global communities. And it raises the idea that we can shift from a market–based society narrowly focused on private wealth, to a commons–based society focused on managing common assets so they benefit everyone. Essentially, it offers a framework for revamping our currently flawed economic system, and seeks to do so to benefit the many — an idea that is right up our ally.


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Amaad Rivera is one of the
recipients of the 2009
Horace Seldon
Emerging Leader Award

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