America Is Not Broke... It's Broken

"There is a Wealth Gap Tsunami Affecting the African American Community"

Political Scientist Dr. Wilmer Leon
Political Scientist Dr. Wilmer Leon
  • Political Scientist Dr. Wilmer Leon
    Political Scientist Dr. Wilmer Leon
    Political Scientist Dr. Wilmer Leon
    Political Scientist Dr. Wilmer Leon
On July 5, 1852 Frederick Douglass gave his famous speech What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?  Douglass asked, “Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?” He then said, “I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us …The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me...This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”

As Americans recently celebrated another 4th of July Douglass’ words continue to ring true.  Too many of us were not included within the pale of the glorious anniversary! On June 18, 2012, almost 160 years to the day that Frederick Douglass gave his speech, Robert Johnson, founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies and founder and former head of BET addressed the Congressional Forum on the "Economic Empowerment in the Black Community."  He spoke about the troubling economic statistics impacting the African American community.  He referred to these statistics as representing a “wealth gap Tsunami.”  According to a PEW Research Center study, “The wealth gap between white and African American families has more than quadrupled over the course of a generation; the racial wealth gap increased by $75,000, from $20,000 to $95,000; the median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households; and at least 35% of African Americans have no assets"
Johnson went on to say, “Those in society who are generating wealth are beginning to look askance at supporting those who they deem to be nonproductive. So you have one group opposing transfer payments in the form of entitlements and another group arguing that we have to protect entitlements.”  He does acknowledge the fact that racism is playing a major role in these disparities. “There is a racial component to the employment and wealth gap between African Americans and white Americans that has to be addressed. Unfortunately, this country is uncomfortable with addressing that racial component...”

How is it that 160 years after Frederick Douglas said to White America, “The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me,” too many African Americans continue to suffer from a poverty, unemployment, income, and wealth creation Tsunami and those with means are opposed to transfer payments in the form of entitlements?  Contrary to neo-conservative and Libertarian doctrine and consistent with the Constitution, this government was formed in part to establish Justice…promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty…”

Republicans and many other conservatives look at the current unemployment rate of 8.2 percent and the $15T debt and claim that America can no longer afford entitlement programs such as welfare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  They claim America is broke.

A budget is a reflection of priorities.  People and governments will commit funds to the programs and areas that they deem important.  The Predator drone cost approximately $4M per drone, program development and operation costs of approximately $2.5B.  It is estimated that the US has incurred an additional $2.1 billion in additional fuel costs since Pakistan closed it border to US military shipments into Afghanistan in November.  Pakistan closed the border after the US refused to apologize for killing 24 Pakistani soldiers in a misguided drone strike.  These are billions of US taxpayer dollars being transferred to defense companies to fight a war that should never have been waged.

According to the New York Times US taxpayers paid roughly $16 billion in 2011 in aid to farmers through various programs… “The most controversial of these programs are the $5 billion in annual so-called direct payments to farmers of corn, soybeans and other crops, awarded simply for owning tillable farm land, even if they do not plant on it.”   According to the Times, “Powerful interests and political traditions continue to constrain efforts to cut subsidies.”  These are transfer payments from US taxpayers to wealthy farmers and agri-business. Apparently, conservatives do favor welfare, depending on the recipient.

According to Moody’s, as the US struggles with its deepest recession since the 1930’s, US corporations are sitting on records amounts of cash.  “US non-financial corporate cash holdings rose to $1.24 trillion at the end of 2011, reflecting the strength of companies' operations in emerging markets and the negative tax consequences of repatriating cash to the US.” Moody's also estimates nearly $700 billion, or 57% of the corporate cash total, is held overseas.  By holding this cash overseas US companies avoid paying US taxes on this money.

Robert Johnson is correct, there is a wealth gap Tsunami affecting the African American community.  The neo-cons are wrong, there is plenty of money to pay for social entitlement programs such as welfare, Medicare and Medicaid, social security, substantive job training and other education programs.  Americans have to shift their focus.

The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by some, not by others...It’s not that America is broke, its priorities are broken.

© 2012 InfoWave Communications, LLC
Dr. Wilmer Leon is a political scientist at Howard University and host of the nationally broadcast call in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon” on Sirius/XM channel 128. Go to or Dr. Leon’s Prescription @ or