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Opinion: Here’s the verdict on that ‘terrible’ Obama economy

Obama Economy.

I had thought we’d wait until Jan. 20 to draw the line under the “Obama economy.” But seeing as Trumpists are already claiming credit for good economic news since the election, such as the rise in the stock market, I guess we can do it now. And the picture is pretty clear.

That “terrible” Obama economy? That picture of U.S. economic and industrial decline? That image of malaise and an economy that is no longer “great” and “doesn’t win anymore” and “doesn’t make anything anymore”?

It’s total nonsense.

There’s no point in trying to have a rational argument — or even talking facts — to angry people who shout “libtard!” at their opponents and cite Infowars or Sean Hannity as sources.

But for all those who didn’t vote for Trump — and that’s about 70% of adult U.S. citizens when considering the eligible population — here are the facts. I’ve compared the third quarter of 2008 — just before Obama’s election — with the third quarter of 2016. (I’ve included links to the data, although Trump’s tinfoil army, most of whom wouldn’t know an actual source if it hit them over the head, will just cry conspiracy theory, as usual.)

The Obama Economy
  Third-quarter 2008 Third-quarter 2016 Verdict
Gross domestic product (2009 dollars) $14.892 trillion $16.713 trillion Up 12%
30-year mortgage loan rate 6.46% 3.54% Nearly halved
Nonfarm payrolls 136.3 million 145.0 million Up 8.7 million
Uninsured (health) 45 million 27 million Down 18 million
Exports (2009 dollars) $1.766 trillion $2.163 trillion Up 22%
Un- and under-employed rate (U6) 11.8% 9.5% Down 20%
Median household income $50,303 $57,929 Up 15%
Manufacturing output per worker (2009 dollars) $382,977 $436,776 Up 14%
Dow Jones Industrial Average 9,319 18,332 Nearly doubled

Not bad. Especially as we were just plunging into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Of course, this isn’t all about the president (or Congress, for that matter). Growth mainly comes from the private sector — from entrepreneurs and workers. But presidents and governments play a role. They can foster an environment in which growth occurs. Or they can screw things up. If people blame President Obama for bad economic news, then they do really need to give him some credit for the good.

I’ll confess: When I first ran these numbers, I was surprised. I hadn’t realized they would be this positive. I guess I’ve been listening to the doom-and-gloom merchants too much.

But here’s a prediction: At the first sign of trouble next year, President Trump and his cheerleaders, like Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones, will say it’s the fault of that “terrible” Obama economy that he inherited.




Lone Juror Says He Can't Convict Ex-Cop in Walter Scott Killing!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_750/621769188.jpg

A lone juror said Friday he can't convict a white former police officer who fatally shot a black man in South Carolina, and the jury said they want to continue deliberating.

The juror in a letter to the court said "I cannot in good conscience consider a guilty verdict" against Michael Slager, a former patrolman who pulled over Walter Scott in North Charleston, and ended up shooting him as a bystander recorded the incident on video.

The jury foreperson said in a separate note to the court that it was only one juror who was "having issues," Circuit Judge Clifton Newman said. The juror opposed to conviction said in the letter, "I cannot and will not change my mind," Newman said.

But the jury said it wanted to continue deliberating, and requested to return at 9 a.m. Monday. The jury said it would have questions at that time.

Slager was charged with murder in Scott's killing, although the jury was allowed to consider a lesser charge of manslaughter in addition to murder.


Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, center, sits in the courtroom during his murder trial at the Charleston County court in Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Grace Beahm / Post and Courier via AP

Earlier, the jury said at around 1 p.m. Friday that it had been unable to come to a conclusion, and Newman ordered them to resume deliberations.

The jury at that time sent a message to Newman asking to see a transcript of the testimony from the man who took cellphone video of Slager shooting Scott. Newman offered to let jurors listen to audio of the testimony, but they declined, saying they didn't believe it would change anything and said they couldn't reach a verdict.

"If you do not agree on a verdict, I must declare a mistrial," Newman said. "The same participants will come, and the same lawyers will likely ask basically the same questions, and get basically the same answers and we will go through this whole process again."

Related: Judge Allows Jury to Consider Manslaughter in Walter Scott Trial

Slager, 35, has been charged with murder in the death of Scott, 50, who was not armed. Scott was shot five times in the back while running from Slager during the traffic stop.

On Wednesday, Newman said he would grant a request from the prosecution to let jurors consider a lesser charge of manslaughter in addition to murder. Murder carries a penalty of 30 years to life, while manslaughter is punishable by 2 to 30 years behind bars.

Related: Michael Slager Testifies About Killing Walter Scott: 'It's Been a Nightmare'

Slager testified for the first time in the trial on Tuesday and told the court that life has been a "nightmare" since the fatal shooting. He is free on bond.

"My family's been destroyed by this. Scott's family has been destroyed by this," he told the defense, holding back emotion. 




Trump’s Federal-Workforce Plans Will Blow Up the Black Middle Class … and a Lot More

If you’re black and work for the federal government, you were among a small, but very anxious, crowd of election night viewers who watched the results stream in with all the intensity of a football fan who had just bet his house on a bad playoff game. As any chance at an Electoral College victory vanished for Hillary Clinton, disbelief and the bottomless horror of what lurks around the corner quickly set in.

Less than two weeks after the four political horsemen rode in, your greatest fears were confirmed: President-elect Donald Trump, along with gloating congressional Republicans, wasted little time in announcing ambitious plans to further downsize the federal government.

For black folks—particularly black middle-class families that have historically (despite segregation and institutional hostility) relied on public sector jobs as a solid form of professional growth and upward mobility—this latest development might well be viewed as the end of their economic world as they know it. (See the Center for American Progress’ Farah Ahmad’s observations about that.)

We did see this coming. Congressional Republicans in recent years have been escalating longtime efforts to scale back the role, size and impact of the federal government, or what they’ve mordantly drilled into the public brain as “federal government overreach.”

White voters ate that up in droves this year as 2016 became the defining moment for that war. Ironically, only two (and a half, when counting the Maine split) states out of the 20 most dependent on federal funding were not Donald Trump Electoral College pickups. From battle cries for Affordable Care Act repeal to forcing government shutdowns that, politically, never backfired, Republicans spent an entire two terms of the Obama White House railing against the exaggerated “evils” of federal encroachment.

Now enter corporatist Donald Trump, with plans for a full-blown dismantling of everything near and dear to civil servants: reduced benefits and pensions; easy ways to get folks fired; mass federal-hiring freezes; eliminating unions in the agencies; and—the biggest of them all—the fall of the grade-based automatic pay raise.

Bad enough that black federal workers have a hard-enough time facing high levels of racial discrimination and being passed over for promotion (1 in 4 of all federal discrimination complaints are filed by black employees, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). But with black Americans constituting nearly 20 percent of the overall federal workforce (a proportion larger than their population size of 13 percent), slicing up the federal government is sure to have a negatively disproportionate impact on them—and, in a bigger way, thriving black middle-class communities in metropolitan centers like Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, which are major hubs of federal agency and contractor commerce.

It won’t just be black federal employees, either: Black professionals and entrepreneurs with small to midsize businesses relying on federal budgets stand to lose a lot, too.

That animus toward federal involvement in, pretty much,­ anything seems to conveniently fall on racial fault lines. Old-school Confederate sympathizer and former conservative talk show flamethrower Pat Buchanan nastily took a swipe at black federal workers in a 2011 blog titled, “Obama’s Race-Based Spoils System,” in which he accused the president of “impos[ing] affirmative action on the civil service in its senior levels.” He was just setting up the narrative.

It’s not all paradise for black workers, as Buchanan wrongly suggests. Black federal workers struggle for stability and advancement against the odds of racist norms. And when events like government shutdowns, hiring freezes or massive attrition take place, it’s cash-strapped, black public sector workers (compared with their comfortable white peers) who find themselves without a paycheck and under greater pressure to survive.

When compared with employment in a private sector where discriminatory odds are still stacked heavily against black workers, college graduates and potential hires, government jobs are not only “the good jobs” but are widely viewed within the African-American community as the best jobs. They are a relative escape from cruel private sector environments with much fewer protections.

As the Center for Labor Research and Education at UC Berkeley shows (pdf), blacks are 30 percent “more likely” to join the local, state and federal public sector workforce, translating into more than 20 percent of “all black workers [being] public employees, compared with 16.3 percent of nonblack workers.”

The Economic Policy Institute also notes that blacks represented 16 percent of the state and local workforce in 1997, a share that dramatically dipped during the recession to just 12 percent by 2011 (troubling when blacks accounted for a low 10.3 percent of the private sector workforce share at that time).

Government downsizing wreaks unspeakable socioeconomic havoc on black communities that are already distressed. The last shutdown resulted in up to $24 billion worth of national economic loss and 250,000 jobs cut, the effects of which were most pronounced among black families, including government contractors and other private businesses reliant on federal funds.

As CAP’s Ahmad points out, the 2013 shutdown may have resulted in the furloughs of 150,000 black federal workers. The effects are particularly acute in black middle-class communities with large pockets of federal workers, such as the D.C.-Baltimore Capitol Corridor, since middle-class blacks—as shown by Brookings’ Richard Reeves—do not have the same financial cushion as middle-class whites. In fact, the Urban Institute’s Steven Brown shows that they “still lag behind.”

Local economies feel the impact. The five non-Washington, D.C.-area states with the largest black federal civilian workforce populations are also home to some of the other largest concentrations of black communities in the United States: Texas, Georgia, California, Florida and Alabama.

States with large black federal workforces are also states with high rates of black poverty, from the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area to the five states mentioned above, as digging into Kaiser Family Foundation data details. Maryland, home to black-federal-worker-heavy Prince George’s County, has a black poverty rate of 14 percent; Texas is at 23 percent.

Black public-sector workers have already sustained heavy hits because of massive cuts in state, local and county government budgets that were vulnerable to recession, as University of Washington sociologist Jessica Laird discovered .

Using recession and fiscal tightening as an excuse, public sector executives and managers are systematically removing the comfort of public sector employment for black folks as the “great social equalizer” that it’s been: As Laird finds, “black public-sector workers are more likely to become unemployed than their white or Hispanic counterparts.”

A combination of pain felt by federal workers, the lack of revenue from government coffers flowing into the economy and the shortsighted slow death of crucial social programs—particularly during an economic recovery period leaving many out—will be widely felt. But black families and the communities they live in will certainly feel it the most.





If Trump Suceeds in Defunding Planned Parenthood, Black Women Could Be Affected the Most

President-elect Donald Trump has galvanized conservatives with his promise to defund Planned Parenthood Federation of America, one of the nation’s largest health care providers and advocates. He has written that he is “committed” to defunding the organization “as long as they continue to perform abortions,” and to reallocate its funding to community health centers that provide comprehensive health care for women.

Planned Parenthood says it has no plans to stop providing women with the full scope of health care, which includes abortions. In fact, there’s a headline on the front of its website that makes it clear that the organization is ready for a pitched battle: “These doors stay open.” The organization’s director of constituency communications, Alencia Johnson, says that despite the election of Trump and Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, 1 in 3 women will need the many services it provides at some point in their lifetimes.

“Our doors are open,” Johnson declares. “We’ve been around for 100 years. Since then, we’ve been fighting like hell to make sure there is access to health services regardless of race, ethnicity or religion, and we will see people and give them care.”

In its 2014-2015 annual report (pdf), Planned Parenthood says it supports 59 independent affiliates, which operate 661 health centers across the nation that saw 2.5 million patients last year. It also points out that it is the largest provider of sex education in the United States, and it breaks down the other health care services it performs. Forty-five percent of those services involve testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections; another 31 percent cover contraception; and 20 percent include cancer screening and prevention, pregnancy tests and prenatal services. Planned Parenthood also offers vasectomies.

The report says that 3 percent of its medical services were abortion procedures, just under 324,000. Planned Parenthood gets 43 percent of its revenue from government health-services grants and reimbursements. But the Hyde Amendment prohibits most federal funding for abortion.

Johnson notes that people come to the clinics for basic preventive health services—much more than just grabbing condoms out of the bowls at the counters. She adds that there has been a huge spike in donations as supporters prepare to help in the battle to keep Planned Parenthood from losing 43 percent of its revenues. “We’ve seen hundreds of thousands donate online or take action online,” says Johnson. “We understand that people see we need these services and there will be a huge fight over the next couple of years.”

Johnson, who adds that Planned Parenthood is grateful for the outpouring of support, says that the organization will be enlisting the help of what she calls its champions in Congress and at the state level. But 40 percent of Planned Parenthood’s patients are African American or Latino, among them a growing base of young black men, and those are the people whose voices Johnson thinks will show the nation how the clinics have been a step into “lives of opportunity” for many.

Linda Goler Blount, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Black Women’s Health Imperative, says that if Trump does defund its collaborative partner, the implications will be dire for the poor and for women of color.

“The ripple effect will be profound. … Most women who go to any publicly funded clinic—Planned Parenthood is the biggest, but there are a number that fall in the same category—go for well-women physicals, mammographies, cervical-cancer screening and contraceptive care. Few go for abortions,” Blount says. She says that if Planned Parenthood and other publicly funded clinics lose access to reproductive-care services, it could lead to higher rates of unintended pregnancy and could lead to higher rates of very dangerous types of abortions. That, Blount says, will lead to severe consequences, not only for low-income women but also for entire communities.

“The thing that will keep them in poverty is having kids that they are not financially or emotionally prepared to have. There’s no hope of them ever getting out of the cycle of poverty,” Blount explains, noting that this is how communities become destabilized. “We know what happens to health among the poor. There are higher rates of diabetes and heart disease, and mortality rates are higher.”

Conservatives are intensifying the defunding battle. Penny Nance with Concerned Women for America told a group of conservative leaders the day after the election that her organization would work hard to champion the issues that brought supporters out to the polls, including the effort to shift funding from what she called the nation’s largest abortion provider to community health centers that will care for the poor but won’t provide abortions.

“Concerned Women for America will begin nationwide, community-based prayer rallies outside Planned Parenthood clinics in key states urging the shift in funding around the country,” Nance said. “Senators will be put on notice that taxpayer dollars must no longer be used to take life.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), asked at his press conference last Thursday whether the Republican House would pass legislation prohibiting any federal funding for Planned Parenthood affiliates until the organization stops doing abortions, responded: “We’ve already shown what we believe with respect to funding Planned Parenthood. We put a bill on President Obama’s desk in reconciliation. Our position has not changed.”

The legislation, the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, was vetoed by President Barack Obama. The vote to override his veto failed. If similar legislation arrives on the desk of President Trump, it seems likely that he would sign it.




Unarmed black teenager fatally shot by white man who called him 'another piece of trash'

James Means, 15, was shot and killed on Monday.

On Monday night, 15-year-old James Means was reportedly shot and killed by a man he "bumped into" outside of a Dollar General store in Charleston, West Virginia. Means, a black teenager, was said to be unarmed.

That same night, police arrested William Pulliam, 62, in connection with the shooting. Pulliam was white and carrying a gun, despite the fact that, as the Charleston Gazette-Mailreported, he was not permitted to own a firearm due to a previous conviction for domestic violence.

Pulliam reportedly "admitted" to fatally shooting Means, telling police, "The way I look at it, that's another piece of trash off the street."

Witnesses reported that Means and Pulliam physically "bumped into" one another outside the store as Pulliam was on his way in on Monday evening. When Pulliam emerged from the store, he walked past Means again. The two "argued" before Pulliam allegedly shot Means twice in the abdomen, as Means' friends looked on.

Means died shortly after being transported to a local hospital while Pulliam reportedly "went to dinner" and then visited "a female friend's home," according to the Gazette-Mail. He was taken into police custody later that night.

Pulliam, whose criminal history includes physical abuse of his wife and daughter, has a history of harassing teens in the area with racial epithets, according to Means' friend Teonno White, 14.

White said that Pulliam would "pick on" his little brother and, when confronted, called White a "nappy Latino."

"He's just a real bad guy," White told the Gazette-Mail. White said he had called police about Pulliam in the past and was told simply to avoid him.

Pulliam was arraigned on Tuesday morning. Steve Ruby, an Assistant United States Attorney in West Virginia, told the Gazette-Mail that authorities were investigating Means' murder as a hate crime.

"That review is in its early stages, and the fact that a review is being conducted should not be taken as any indication of what the review's outcome will be," Ruby said.

According to the New York Daily NewsMeans' family described him as the kind of young person who could "light up a room, even on the darkest of days."






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