Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sandy Hooks Elementary, Assault Rifles, Gun Laws, NRA, Sen. Manchin, Vicki Soto

Guns Don’t Kill People—People With Guns Do!
By Mildred Robertson
You’re kidding, right?  Just when I thought an intelligent conversation could be had regarding gun violence in America, we see the National Rifle Association (NRA) cock its pistol and send politicians fleeing for cover. After coming out earlier this week as an advocate for a sane conversation about gun control, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin repeatedly praised and defended the NRA, saying on Wednesday that he’s “not supporting a ban on anything.”
It is apparent that Manchin was taken to the woodshed for promoting the idea that a discussion of gun laws was imperative following the horrific slaughter of the innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut. Falling back on the age-old adage that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” Manchin tried to defend the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment as the unfettered right to gun possession.  In his turn-about, he actually pointed to video games as the culprit spawning gun violence, citing the game “Grand Theft Auto” as an example.
Manchin and his gun-toting friends are partially right. While guns don’t kill people, people with guns do. It is unfathomable to me that the NRA or anyone else, for that matter, would fight for the right of the average individual to own a gun that can kill 20 people in a matter of seconds? While I am not a hunter, I am fairly certain you don’t need 20 rounds per second to take down Bambi.
But the truth is that an inordinate number of people are slain each year in America, many in senseless bloodbaths such as the one witnessed in Newton Connecticut. According to the Washington Post, Mother Jones has tracked and mapped every shooting spree over the last three decades. “Since 1982, there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii,” they found. The Post reports that in most cases, the killers had obtained their weapons legally.
It is obvious that the NRA has flexed it sizable political muscle to cow those who might be prepared to enter into serious discussion about reforming gun laws. But our politicians need to be bigger than that. The reform of gun legislation is far past due in this country.
At some point, our political leaders must muster the courage to stand up for what they believe. Just like Vicki Soto in that elementary classroom in Sandy Hooks, they must be willing to step into harms way to protect those over whom they have charge.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fiscal Cliff, African Americans, Black Buying Power, Tax Increase

Impact of Fiscal Cliff on African Americans

By Mildred Robertson

If you are African American making less than $250,000, you probably won’t see an increase in your income taxes under President Obama’s tax plan. In fact, roughly 2.0 million working African-American families and about 3.4 million African-American children would continue to benefit from the President’s improvements to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). However, if we plunge over the fiscal cliff, Blacks, along with other middle class house holds earning as little as $53,000, could see an increase of $2,200.

While many Republicans malign black families as “takers,” the fact is that African American spending helps drive the economy. With a buying power of nearly $1 trillion annually, if it were a country African-American spending would rank 16th in the world. Researchers anticipate black consumer spending will grow to $1.1 trillion by 2015.
As we look toward 2013, estimates indicate American consumers will spend about $5 trillion on retail sales. African American spending will account for many of those dollars.  Redirecting wages and income towards taxes will result in plummeting retail spending not only in the Black community, but nationwide. The result will be a real “trickle down” economy, where sales trickle down to nothing as consumers close their pockets to discretionary spending.

Let’s do the math. If we look at three different scenarios, we can get a good idea of what the fiscal cliff means to typical Americans.

A middle-income African-American family of four: a married couple with two children with income between about $50,000 and $85,000 would see a $2,200 tax increase.
·   1,000 because the Child Tax Credit will fall from $1,000 to $500 per child.
·   $900 because of merging the 10 percent tax bracket into the 15 percent tax bracket.
·   $300 because of the expiration of marriage penalty relief that provides a larger standard deduction for married couples.

A single African-American mother with three young children, ages 11 months to 6 years, working full-time at minimum wage ($14,500 annual income) would see an increase of $2395.
·  $1,725 because the Child Tax Credit will fall from $1,000 to $500 per child, while the threshold for refundability will be substantially stricter.
·   $670 because of the expiration of the EITC expansion for larger families.

An upper-middle-income African-American married couple with a 15-year-old at home and a 19-year-old in her second year at a public university with an income of $120,000 would experience a $4500 tax increase.
·   $700 because, instead of being able to claim the $2,500 American Opportunity Tax Credit to help with college expenses, they will only be able to claim the Hope Credit worth $1,800.
·   $500 because the Child Tax Credit will fall from $1,000 to $500 per qualifying child.
·    about $900 because of the disappearance of the 10 percent tax bracket.

Regardless of where you stand on the middle-class spectrum, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts will impact your financial stability. Right now, middle class Americans cannot take the hit. Estimates indicate that if taxes go up, American consumers will likely spend nearly $200 billion less in 2013. A decline in middle class consumption could slow the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 1.4 percentage points. That’s not good for African Americans. It’s not good for the middle class, and it’s certainly not good for America.