Obama to Unveil Debt-Reduction Plan

Zachary A. Goldfarb of the Washington Post reports that President Obama will announce a proposal on Monday to tame the nation’s rocketing federal debt, calling for $1.5 trillion in new revenue as part of a plan to find more than $3 trillion in budget savings over a decade, senior administration officials said.

The proposal draws a sharp contrast with Republicans and amounts more to an opening play in the fall debate over the economy than another attempt to find common ground with the opposing party. It also represents a more populist approach to confronting the nation’s economic travails than the compromises he advocated earlier this summer.

Obama will propose new taxes on the wealthy, a special new tax for millionaires and eliminating or scaling back a variety of loopholes and deductions, officials say. About half of the tax savings would come from the expiration next year of the George W. Bush administration tax cuts for the wealthy. Republicans like Paul Ryan are calling the special new tax for millionaires “class warfare.” The plan will not call for any changes to Social Security.

Well, we’re glad the president is taking a more “populist” approach to handling the debt, because the compromises have not been working for the populace; instead, they have been working for the wealthy. We don’t understand why taxing the wealthy is seen as class warfare but not taxing the wealthy isn’t.

Read more at TheRoot.com.

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Chris Matthews Makes Black History

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D.

MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews put his proverbial foot in his mouth last week following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address.

The world was watching President Obama, the man previously with the Midas touch. He had come under fire from many in the country, including his own party, with the Democrats losing the Senate seat in Massachusetts, thereby losing power in the Senate. President Obama’s poll numbers were also in decline, suggesting that citizens were losing faith in his ability to turn the country around.

I have to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to watching the address because I wasn’t interested in hearing him do more of the same — accept all of the responsibility for the problems in the country that preceded him, support his lame party that does not support him and not acknowledge that the only bipartisanship that the Democrats and Republicans have is to collectively work against him.

Imagine my surprise when President Obama came out swinging, taking everyone to task and demanding that we get over ourselves in order to create the change that is needed to move this country forward. Gone was the man who seemed to be slightly off of his game, at least by all media accounts; in his place, stood the president of the United States who had finally realized his power and concretely stated that he would use it to do what is necessary for this country.

I like tough talk, so my inner Republican stood up and clapped, even if the real Republicans tried hard not to clap in opposition to his policies.

Fast-forward to Chris Matthews, who was so visibly excited about the president’s speech because — say what you will about President Obama, but — the man can deliver a speech like few others. He has the ability to pull you in, connect and have you motivated to go out and change the world.

Matthews caught the bug and looked like he could barely contain himself. He was jovial and energetic as he ran back the plays of the actual address. Matthews, who can be a loudmouth, usually goes hard after folks, especially this president, so I waited for him to pounce; yet he didn’t.

What Matthews did do was make one of the craziest public statements that I’ve heard in a long time: The address was so good that he forgot that President Obama was black. REWIND. Take the needle off of the record. Come again? President Obama’s speech was so good that he forgot that he was black? Wow (in my Mos Def voice). In 1980s terms, I burst out laughing … and in today’s terms I was LMFAO.

Matthews dared say what so many people think, and while he tried to clean it up almost immediately, the words had landed.  Click here to read more.

This article originally appeared in Creative Loafing, where Nsenga Burton serves as cultural critic. Follow her on Twitter @ntellectual.

Rep. Joe Wilson: Have You Seen SC Politics Lately?

Yesterday during President Obama’s speech on health care, Republican South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson shouted “You Lie”. Democrats and Republicans have condemned the act as they should.

Like many racist White folks that are just enraged by the mere presence of a Black man in White House, Rep. Joe Wilson has clearly lost his mind. Heckling the president while he’s in the middle of making a speech? In my mind that doesn’t make him any different than the moron journalist who threw shoes at President Bush in Iraq last year. It was completely inappropriate behavior, lacked decorum and was dangerous. People defended Muntathar al-Zaidi as an act of protest, but I felt he was throwing those shoes at America. Even if you don’t like our representative, which I did not, there is no reason for that action, cultural norm or not.

Having said that, Rep. Wilson is out of line and his inappropriate behavior is not befitting that of a member of Congress. If we accept this type of behavior, how far away are we from all out brawl on the Congressional floor like some other so-called first-world countries?

What I find most appalling is that Rep. Wilson thinks that he is allowed to do this because of his extreme racism against President Obama. Imagine a politician from South Carolina feeling the need to call someone a liar? He did not call Governor Mark Sanford, an admitted infidel who lied about going hiking, when he spent state funds to go kick it with his “girlfriend” in Columbia – Latin America, not Columbia, SC. (more)

This article originally appeared as Joe Wilson: Heckling Obama is Unacceptable on TheLoop21.com, where Nsenga serves as managing editor.

Are Health Care ‘Town Halls’ Really That Bad?

OK. Enough is enough. Have these town hall meetings on health care reform really run amok or have we?

I must say that I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I turn on the television and see people fussing and fighting, pushing and shoving, yelling and threatening, bullying and harassing others in a “town hall” forum, which is supposed to be just that — a forum.

The Democrats steadily blame the Republicans for planting “hostile” people at these events, while the Republicans steadily blame the Democrats for doing the same. I don’t really care whose doing it, but I do care that in these news reports, very little of what people are talking about at these forums gets any press. Instead, it is presented as one major brawl, focused on irate folks who are destroying what should be a pretty simple process. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the media is lapping up these verbal and physical altercations instead of shedding light on a complex issue.

Clearly, there must be some town hall forums on health care reform that have gone as planned, with little to no drama, other than the challenging task of discussing a sensitive issue.

Why are these forums not being talked about or reported on in the mainstream media? Why is the media focused on the extremists as opposed to the rational folk who want to hear all sides before making a decision? I hear people all of the time, in grocery store lines, on the subway, at the airport, discussing the health care reform issue, and they are not shouting at each other, even though many disagree with each other. Why can’t we find these “regular” folks on the evening news?

Perhaps the insertion of a video camera inspires sheer lunacy because that is what appears to be rewarded in TV land. Are people performing for the cameras or are they truly so simple that they don’t know the difference between making an important point, and making fools out of themselves?

The line between what’s real and imagined has become way too blurry. Folks allow themselves to be mistreated and abused in order to be on TV. Big Brother, Hell’s Kitchen, Real Housewives, Fear Factor, Hitched or Ditched and a slew of relationship programming on VH1 like Real Chance of Love fit the bill. A reality show is only “real” if there is a brawl, fistfight or someone is being embarrassed or humiliated. Now it seems as if the news is applying this perverted standard to whether or not a town hall meeting on health care should be covered.

I suppose adults actually having a mature conversation about an extremely complex issue would make for boring television. I for one would like to hear what people have to say on both sides of the issue. People who are for universal health care are not on the same page about how to get there. People who are against health care reform don’t feel that way for the same reasons. That is the purpose of the “town hall” discussion, so that the information is out there, and people can make informed decisions.

When news broadcasts appear to be taking their cues from reality television, then Houston, we have a problem. (read more)

This article originally appeared in Creative Loafing, where Nsenga serves as cultural critic. She is an Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Goucher College and managing editor of TheLoop21.com.

Will Somebody Please Protect the Nation’s First Black President?

Enough is enough. President Barack Hussein Obama must be protected against zealots who are using every opportunity to harass, bully and intimidate supporters and the President by traipsing around with guns. At a protest in Phoenix, 12 people were carrying guns — one with a military style rifle, where the President of the United States of America was speaking. Let me state that again — The President of the United States of America.

Supposedly these gun rights advocates were permitted to operate in this “unsafe” space, because it is their constitutional right.  Is it their constitutional right to harass and intimidate people with the presence of guns at a protest about health care reform? Do their 2nd Amendment rights supersede my 1st amendment right to assemble or protest without the threat of violence? I am repulsed at the sheer and utter depraved indifference that law enforcement took with the President’s life by allowing these bullies to march around with rifles.  Just what are they protecting and who are they defending? I know — fear, racism and vengeance.  Not much has changed in this so-called time of change.

Some white men still think that it is their right to control everything including a person’s movement. The policing of bodies, especially of Blacks and women is as American as apple pie, and some racist and sexist holdovers won’t let go. When change comes, they do everything in their power to stop it, including relying on traditional modes of invoking and instilling fear in their perceived opponent.

Allowing this type of repugnant, venomous and abusive behavior to occur and to fester can lead to only one thing — another massacre or presidential assassination.  Why people need assault weapons at a gathering about health care, I don’t know.  Why they are allowed to operate in that fashion is even more bewildering. Nothing good has ever come from extremists with guns.

To allow people to have assault weapons in the same space as the President of the United States is unconscionable.  Not only are attendees at risk, but so is the life of the President of the United States of America.  Do we not value his life as much as other presidents because of the color of his skin? If that is the case, then that is the same perverted ideology that drives these gun rights activists over the edge.

They are not hiding their racism behind gun rights — they are in fact tying their racism to gun rights, which is as scary as being greeted at a forum by a gun-toting bigot who thinks his life means more than yours. I ask will somebody, anybody please protect innocent people and the nation’s first Black president?

This article originally appeared on TheLoop21.com, where Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. serves as managing editor. She is a cultural critic for Creative Loafing, writes the pop cultural blog Tune N, and is an Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Goucher College.

Is Dr. Regina Benjamin Too Fat to Be Surgeon General

America wants a smoking hot surgeon general. Who knew?

Apparently (based on reports from media outlets like FoxNews and ABC News), the new surgeon general nominee — Dr. Regina Benjamin — is not a good candidate for the job because she is slightly overweight. Really. It’s a good thing that people weren’t thinking about that when her “not-so-hot” predecessors were in office. I suspect that we would not have had any surgeon generals if that were the case. I liked the guy, but Dr. C. Everett Koop? Come on.

Benjamin, a 52-year-old family practice doctor who has dedicated her life to the poor by working in rural and impoverished areas, is seemingly not fit to be surgeon general because she is supposedly “unfit.”

Benjamin founded the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in 1990 in the fishing village of Bayou La Batre, Ala., where she also serves as CEO. Many of the patients lack health insurance, and about a third are immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

The clinic was heavily damaged by Hurricane Georges in 1998 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It also burned to the ground several years ago. Benjamin rebuilt the clinic after each setback and has continued to offer medical care to the village’s 2,500 residents. This is a woman who still makes house calls. This is a woman who mortgaged her house twice to rebuild clinics and drove around in a pickup truck treating patients. She’s not fit to be surgeon general because she’s “unfit”?

Benjamin received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant for treating patients in the Gulf Coast region regardless of their ability to pay. She is the first African-American woman to serve on the board of the American Medical Association, former associate dean for rural health at the University of South Alabama’s College of Medicine and former president of the State of Alabama Medical Association. She was tapped because of her focus on prevention in her treatment of patients.

In her acceptance of the nomination, according to a CNN report this month, Benjamin spoke about the toll of preventable illness as the reason why her family was not with her at the announcement. “Her father died with diabetes and high blood pressure; her older brother and only sibling died at age 44 of an HIV-related illness; her mother died of lung cancer after taking up smoking as a girl; her mother’s twin brother could not attend because he is at home ‘struggling for each breath’ after a lifetime of smoking.”

This is a woman who is going it alone, tending to the needs of everyone, except herself, which is something that many women face in general and black women face specifically. Maybe this is why she’s “slightly overweight”?

Black women are the caretakers of the world and while we are taking care of everyone, no one is taking care of us. Dr. Regina Benjamin is an example of this common experience in the lives of black women.

That’s why it is so interesting that people are actually pretending to give a damn about her health. Since when did the health of black women become important? Breast cancer. Diabetes. Heart disease. You name it and we’re more likely to die from it.

Why do we care about Dr. Benjamin’s health now? In spite of all of her accomplishments and service to the community, at the end of the day, she is not supposed to have a position like this. She can take care of the world, but she cannot be the chief caretaker of the world. How ironic.

I find it interesting that people are not asking why she’s overweight. Poor health is tied to economics and the availability of healthy food items that are affordable. Dr. Benjamin did not grow up with money, so perhaps that is a contributing factor to her being plump. Heck, we all know what we need to do, but very few of us are doing it, which is why the average size of an American woman is 14. Most of us are not nearly as productive as Dr. Benjamin, but we’re still chunky. Instead of condemning Dr. Benjamin, perhaps people should support her and encourage her to make time for herself.

But that can’t happen. She’s a black woman. She’s supposed to give every ounce of her being to others, sacrifice her entire life, personal and otherwise, have the privilege of spending her life without a partner/spouse (she is unmarried like many dynamic, professional black women) and be rewarded with an early death. On top of that, she’s supposed to look like Halle Berry? Give me a break.

I think it’s interesting that some find this round, black woman to be scary. I guess fat, black women are only acceptable when making others laugh, or when we’re the butt of the joke. I thought America loved plump, black women — with all of the films and television shows that include them. I guess it’s OK to be fat and black when you’re pumping millions of dollars into a perverted media industry. Hell, movie studios even pay black men millions of dollars to dress up as fat black women in order to make the world laugh.

The way that Dr. Regina Benjamin is being treated — pun intended — is no laughing matter.

This article originally appeared in Creative Loafing where Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. serves as cultural critic. She is also managing editor of TheLoop21.com and Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Goucher College.

Dr. Regina Benjamin: Big Momma’s White House

Well it seems that the love affair with fat, black women is over. Dr. Regina Benjamin, who is slightly overweight, has come under fire for being rotund. Why? Because she’s up for the Surgeon General’s position and should offer a better visual representation.  Wow. After predecessors like Dr. C. Everett Koop, we want our 2nd African-American woman Surgeon General to look like Halle Berry. Awwwwwww. How cute? The fact that folks would rather focus on her one flaw (if indeed being slightly overweight is a flaw since the average American woman is a size 14) is quite tragic. You know you are truly qualified when people have to sink that low to find something “wrong” with a candidate who is so “right.” Double chin up Dr. Benjamin. You pretty much rock and anyone who doesn’t think so because you’re a little chubby, can kick rocks.