Democrats are warning that vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s much-discussed budget proposal would “devastate” public and higher education in Pennsylvania.
“While President Obama has worked to make quality affordable education available and accessible to all, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s budget plan would, in fact, reverse that progress,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “Pennsylvania students would feel a devastating impact … all while preserving historic tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.”
The Obama campaign pulled together Nutter, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn from South Carolina and two teachers from Philadelphia public schools — Juanita Leyath, a speech therapist and Padraic McCaffery, an English and social studies teacher — to condemn the possibility of budget cuts to federal education spending should the Republicans seize the White House on Nov. 6.
Clyburn laid out the party’s point of view, saying that congressional Democrats, along with the president, have worked to lower the barriers to education.
“Just one example is the Pell Grant,” he said. “We took $60 million that would be going to banks to administer the program and turned the program into a direct loan so that colleges and universities would be able to direct those resources to the students themselves … we were able to double the number of students getting Pell Grants, and we were able to increase the grant size from around $4,600 per pupil to around $5,400 per pupil.”
Congress also provided $2 billion more for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, he said.
A Republican White House would reverse those gains, the two men agreed.
Nutter laid out a series of specific numbers, projections from the Obama campaign as to how the Romney/Ryan budget could impact Pennsylvania schools. The figures were based on across the board cuts under Ryan’s plan, which would slash federal spending by about 20 percent over the next decade.
According to those figures: $186 million in cuts for public schools, 12,000 fewer spots in Head Start, an average cut of $810 college scholarships for 313,000 Pennsylvania college students and 9,180 fewer work study positions for state college students.
In May, Romney visited a school in West Philadelphia, where he called for larger class sizes.
“Every second grader knows that’s not right,” Nutter said.
Romney has said he would not necessarily implement the Ryan budget, which includes $5.3 trillion in spending cuts — but since choosing Ryan as his running mate a week ago, debate on the plan has dominated the national conversation. While Ryan has laid out a plan that includes a set of sweeping numbers, he has consistently declined to get specific about exactly where he would cut or what tax deductions he would eliminate in an effort to balance the federal budget.
Leyath said she’s seen the impact of Obama’s plans personally. A teacher in Olney and the Northeast, she said the president’s stimulus package kept teachers working, allowing the district to keep class sizes smaller which ultimately benefits her students, who are “overwhelmingly Latino or African-American, or who come from low-income families.”
“I am standing with the president because I have seen how much he had done these last four years,” she said. “I know he is the man to keep us moving forward.”
Though President Obama’s election in 2008 was historic, this election might be the more important for African-American voters in Pennsylvania and other battleground states, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., told the Tribune, citing his concerns about the state’s new voter ID law.
“What the legislature has done here in Pennsylvania ought to be a wake-up call to African Americans,” he said.
Clyburn was in Philadelphia Monday as part of a larger tour of New England and the Northeast for the Obama campaign. In addition to appearing at a press conference with Mayor Michael Nutter and two public school teachers to discuss the potential impact of vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s budget on public education, the congressman sat down for an exclusive interview with the Tribune. A congressional veteran who has served in the House since 1993, Clyburn shared his candid opinions on a variety of topics.
Since August 11, when presidential candidate Mitt Romney named Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, national debate has centered on Ryan — largely considered a budget policy wonk — and how his potential budget might hit a number of social programs.
Ryan’s nomination has changed the face of the race.
“I do not feel the glee that everyone does,” said Clyburn. “Because, I think that his presence on the ticket stimulates both bases: ours and his.”
While that may seem like a good thing, Clyburn worried that voter ID laws in states controlled by Republican legislatures may successfully keep Obama supporters from the ballot box.
“Pennsylvania is ground zero in all of this,” Clyburn said. “If my base is ginned up, and they’re being denied the vote, which is certainly a possibility all too often here in Pennsylvania, then I’m not going to be gleeful.”
On a positive note, the ticket does highlight Republican tactics and the party’s approach to budgeting and a number of important social programs, he said.
“It does allow us to have the discussion we wanted to have,” he said, adding that in his estimation, neither Ryan nor Romney is a “credible candidate” because both have declined to lay out specific policy changes — instead rolling out vague policies and budget proposals.
“To me you aren’t a credible candidate if you don’t lay out specifics — if you don’t answer questions about what’s basic — and finances are basic,” he said.
That raises the stakes, Clyburn said, because voters can be entirely sure what a vote for the Romney/Ryan ticket would mean.
The congressman laid out a series of possibilities. If the Romney/Ryan ticket succeeds in capturing the White House, Republicans could repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act, change the way public and higher education are funded, slash Medicare and overhaul welfare. As he ran down the list of programs that could be affected — from healthcare to Pell Grants — Clyburn noted that cutting spending in almost any one of the programs would hit Blacks harder than other groups.
“It would disproportionately affect African Americans, negatively,” he said, adding: “And, it would disproportionately hit the Mitt Romneys of the world too, in a positive way.”
According to Clyburn, the president’s health care reforms, his education spending and Pell grant funding have helped Blacks.
“This has a positive impact for African Americans, probably a greater impact on African-American households than any other group,” he said.
If Sen. Timothy Eugene Scott is the GOP standard bearer in the 2016 presidential elections, will any Black Americans vote for him? The appointment of Scott to a U.S. Senate seat representing South Carolina is the Republicans’ most recent example of doing everything they can to shed the perception that the party is comprised, and run by old, White men. Being anti-Republican, however, is systemic among African Americans.
Making Scott the first African-American senator from the South since Reconstruction is a major step forward for the Republicans. The move made Scott the GOP’s most prominent African American. If Scott runs for president, as did Sen. Barack Obama, it’s questionable how Blacks will vote. Some Blacks are calling Scott, “another Clarence Thomas.”
Seven Blacks have served in the U.S Senate – four happened to be Republicans. The first was Hiram Revels, a Republican from Mississippi. From the Civil War to struggles for equality in the 1950s and 1960s, the Republican Party has led the way on civil rights, abolishing slavery, passing the 14th and 15th Amendments, ending Jim Crow and enacting the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Like so many of today’s Black males, Scott was raised by a single mother. He was “lost and struggling” until a Chick-fil-A franchise owner took an interest in him. It was this relationship that taught Scott individualism and conservative values. Scott praises his mother and the late conservative entrepreneur John Moniz, for teaching him “basic Biblical business practices.”
Scott is the type of Black success story most would brag about. After barely making it through high school, Scott went to college on a football scholarship, became an insurance salesman and eventually a U.S. congressman and senator. Scott’s story is akin to many Americans who struggle early in life and rise to greatness through hard work and determination.
Scott is a Black role model. Unfortunately, many of the opportunities Scott was able to take advantage of are not available today. Prior to being elected to Congress in 2010, Scott served on the Charleston County Council for 13 years, including four terms as chairman and in the South Carolina House of Representatives for two years where he was elected Chairman of the Freshman Caucus and House Whip. He owned Tim Scott Allstate and was a partner in Pathway Real Estate Group.
African-American U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina’s only Democratic congressman says, “I am confident Tim Scott will represent South Carolina and the country honorably.” The South Carolina African-American Chamber of Commerce says, “He brings a unique – and badly-needed perspective – to Washington.” The 47-year-old-Scott is a Tea Party conservative and isn’t married, making South Carolina the only state in the Union with two unmarried senators. Lindsey Graham is the other.
Scott is long on Biblical values and, in 1997, supported having the Ten Commandments posted outside county council chambers. Scott replaces Sen. Jim DeMint, an influential conservative and Tea Party favorite, who resigned to become president of the Heritage Foundation. DeMint took over the conservative think tank from Heritage founder Ed Fuelner, whose million dollar salary in 2010 was 10 times DeMint’s $174,000 annual Senate salary.
Scott’s appointment was an adept and “smooth move” on the part of Republicans. The move means that this new breed of Republicans are consulting veteran Black Republicans such as strategist Raynard Jackson who says, “Republicans will not gain significant Black support unless they take policy positions that advance core Black interests … African Americans need capitalism and conservative values, and Scott is a great vehicle.”
Prior to Scott, only six Blacks have served in the U.S. Senate. They were two Mississippians – Revels who served in 1870 – 1874 and Blanche Bruce who served from 1875 to 1881; Edward Brooke of Massachusetts from 1967 to 1979; Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois from 1993 to 1999; Barack Obama of Illinois from 2005 until he resigned after his presidential election in 2008; and Roland Burris, who was appointed to replace Obama and served until November 2010. — (NNPA)
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.
The question still remains. Did President Barack Obama make a mistake by endorsing gay marriage? Will the African-American community still support him?
“I cannot support the idea of gay marriage, considering I believe marriage should certainly be between a man and woman. After all, that’s the way God meant for it to be,” said one of Philadelphia’s more prominent ministers. “But, I still believe that President Obama is the best man for the job. Sometimes we have to put aside our personal beliefs for the betterment of this country. We are not always going to agree with the decisions of our president, or our leaders in general.”
By now it’s no secret that a significant number of the nation’s Black clergy have not agreed with President Obama’s decision to support gay marriage. Some were even offended. Needless to say, the results are varied.
Last Sunday, most of the African-American churches throughout the country had something to say about the issue. And while there was a serious outcry deriding the president’s resolution on the subject — most still spoke highly of the man himself. There was a minority, like the Reverend Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who spoke in favor of the decision and the president’s growing change of heart.
Bishop Timothy Clarke, head of the First Church of God, a large African-American church with a television ministry in Columbus, Ohio, was perhaps most typical. He addressed the president’s comments after receiving a flood of calls, emails and text messages from members of his congregation.
“No church or group is monolithic,” Bishop Clarke said to USA Today. “Some were powerfully agitated and disappointed. Others were curious — why now? To what end? Others were hurt. And others, to be honest, told me it’s not an issue and they don’t have a problem with it.”
Like others around the country, the bishop told his congregation that he opposed gay marriage. It is not just a social issue, he said, but a religious one for those who follow the Bible. “The spiritual issue is ground in the word of God.”
“That said, I believe the statement the president made and his decision was made in good faith. I am sure because the president is a good man. I know his decision was made after much thought and consideration and, I’m sure, even prayer.”
The conflicted sentiments within African-American churches reflect a broader struggle in the American public. A USA Today Poll showed that slightly more than half of Americans agreed with the president’s decision. A scientifically valid breakdown of African Americans was not available, but past polls have shown Blacks generally to be opposed to gay marriage.
The Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have also weighed in behind President Obama. Long-time segregation fighter and now U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina has gone further than Obama, saying it is a question of civil rights and should not be left to the states.
None of the local leaders believes the issue will have much effect on support among African Americans in the next election. “We are not one-issue people,” one minister said.
African Americans overwhelmingly vote Democratic, but they also have a strong history of following their religious leaders. The Black community has been among the least supportive of gay issues, even of African Americans coming out of the closet.
A Pew study last month found the percentage of Blacks favoring gay marriage has increased from 26 percent in 2008 to 39 percent now; those opposed, however, numbered just under half. Others note that even the conversation sparked by recent events was almost impossible a decade ago.
This divergence from other usually liberal sectors showed up in 2008 when Californians voted on Proposition 8 in support of a constitutional amendment to restrict marriage to separate genders. A CNN exit poll showed that 70 percent of African Americans supported Prop 8; at the same time, 94 percent voted for President Obama. Majorities of other ethnic groups also backed the measure, but not by numbers as large as the Black voters.
Although not loudly, President Obama himself opposed the amendment, which federal courts have since ruled unconstitutional, but without removing the stay on gay marriage.
The president, who also has belonged to African-American Christian churches, has said his position on same-sex marriage has been developing. Polls find that many consider his recent declaration in favor of same-sex marriage to be politically motivated in an election year after he was put in a corner by statements by Vice President Joe Biden.
When a few days later North Carolina voters passed an amendment to ban same-sex marriage, partnerships and civil unions (similar restrictions have been written into other states around the country), President Obama issued his ground-breaking statement. That landed him on the cover of Newsweek, which declared him the nation’s “first gay president.”
Pastor Enoch Fuzz of Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church of Nashville, Tenn., said last week that he understood why many pastors opposed gay marriage, although he supports gay marriage. “I know many in the Black community have trouble accepting gay marriage,” he said. “But all of us have gay friends or family, and we love them.”
Fuzz said he thinks the president’s comments won’t hurt him politically, although some African-American Christians may be upset with him.
“There’s really no better option,” Fuzz said to Religion News Service. “People are not going to go out and vote for Mitt Romney.”
In Columbus, Mayor Michael Coleman is confident Black churches and voters will stick with the president, even if they disagree over gay marriage. The four-term African-American mayor made the same conversion himself on the issue of gay marriage — for the same reasons — this year.
“I had to evolve on the issue and think it through, too, and I came to the conclusion it was the right thing,” said Coleman, a Democrat who supports Obama. “When it is the right thing to do, politics is irrelevant.”
Obama won’t be abandoned by Black churches either, not in the key swing state of Ohio, Coleman said. “Many in the pastoral community appreciate his courage in making the decision, even if they disagree,” Coleman says.
In North Carolina, where Black churches helped pass a constitutional amendment last week banning gay marriage, Ron Gates, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Asheville/Buncombe County, decided not to focus on gay marriage in his sermon last Sunday, but instead make it “a footnote,” so his continued support for the amendment was clear.
“I support my president and love my president, but I think he is wrong,” said Keith Ogden, pastor of the predominantly Black Hill Street Baptist Church in Asheville, to Religion News. “He is not God, and he doesn’t speak for all Black folk because he is African-American.”
Religion News Service and USA Today contributed to this report.
Zack Burgess is the enterprise writer for The Tribune. He is a freelance writer and editor who covers culture, politics and sports. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com.