Boyd Charges Speaker Boehner with Wasting Taxpayer Dollars on Nonsense

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President, Black Farmers Association

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Boyd Charges Speaker John Boehner With Wasting Taxpayer Dollars on Nonsense

Posted: 07/12/2014 7:25 pm EDT Updated: 07/12/2014 7:59 pm EDT
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BOEHNER JULY 2012

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Common sense and decency seem less and less important to Republicans in the House of Representatives as they continue their shameful conduct toward President Barack Obama for trying to do his job.

Americans are facing chaos in the immigration system, a still-recovering economy, heavy-duty foreign policy issues and many other serious challenges. Yet, the Republicans, and their pitiable leader John Boehner sink to new levels of absurdity by the day. On Thursday, Boehner announced that Republicans intend to sue the President for changes to his signature health insurance law, known as “Obamacare.”

Speaker Boehner has been talking about his plans to sue the President for over a month. He should proceed with caution. The American people are sick and tired of being sick and tired at this “do-nothing” Congress. House leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) lost his party’s primary to a political unknown because he was out of touch with voters in his conservative leaning district in the suburbs of Richmond Virginia. This should be a warning bell for many House Republicans.

The House Rules Committee recently has fallen into line with this sue-the-President scheme by making public a copy of the draft legislation outlining Republican complaints. But where does it stop? Instead of working for the American people as they were elected to do, they are wasting time, money and energy on this kind of nonsense.

The real issue at hand is a simple one: Republicans in Congress simply are not willing to work with President Obama. The President time and time again has extended an olive branch to Speaker Boehner in efforts to build cooperation.

Republican lawmakers say it’s Obamacare that bedevils Congressional cooperation. But wounds run deeper than that. Republicans have been trying to repeal the law for years, claiming it will ruin the country financially and that Americans would refuse to enroll in its coverage. The cynics and critics were wrong. Millions of Americans signed up for Obamacare and the country has moved on with business as usual.

No, this latest fiasco is not about the Affordable Care Act. It is about Midterm elections. Yes, it is about politics, and the reality that Republicans have little progress to report to their constituents. They have little that they accomplished on behalf of the Republican base. They should have thought of that last year while they put their energies blocking any idea the President had to move the country forward instead of doing the business of the people they were elected to serve.

Republican are so desperate they are even speaking of impeaching President Obama. They had better hope they keep their own jobs come November. Meanwhile the president is not sitting on his hands waiting for Speaker Boehner to come to his senses.

I have to commend President Obama for using his executive powers to move the country forward! That’s exactly what he was elected to do. Bravo!

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Federal Judge’s Decision Closes Black Farmers’ Lawsuit, Leaves Some Disappointed

Federal Judge’s Decision Closes Black Farmers’ Lawsuit, Leaves Some Disappointed

Posted: 03/19/2014 10:15 am EDT Updated: 03/19/2014 10:59 am EDT

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A federal judge’s recent ruling has finally settled outstanding issues in the black farmers’ long-running lawsuit, nearly 30 years after I first started protesting discrimination by the United States Department of Agriculture, Congress and the Department of Justice U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman’s recent ruling will put to rest the expectation of compensation that many farmers still hold. Our phone lines ring constantly from black farmers who either have been denied in the lawsuit’s adjudication process or believe their applications to join the suit are still pending.

The deadline to join the case passed nearly two years ago, in May 2012. It took decades to reach that date, when the black farmer’s bill we lobbied for over several for decades was signed into law on December 8, 2010. I wore out many pairs of shoes on Capitol Hill trying to persuade Congress to pass the Cobell Settlement legislation for $3.4 billion and the black farmers’ settlement bill for $1.15 billion.

Of the 80,000 black farmers who filed late were eligible to take part in the settlement, over 17,000 plaintiffs received a $50,000 cash award and $12,500 in an IRS account to pay related taxes.

Because the settlement took decades to resolve many black farmers died waiting for justice. Many of their families are now dealing with heirs’ claims. The remaining farmers received a denial letter. The National Black Farmers Association answers every call, but it’s a frustrating process, for we have very limited resources and the farmers need and deserve answers.

Judge Friedman’s recent decision provides clarity to black farmers who were denied in the settlement process. Read the ruling here.

Sadly, some of those still seeking compensation were the victims of fraud, the kind of scurrilous scams that usually turn up when a person or group receives a windfall. We get calls from black farmers who seem to think they have applied in the settlement process, despite my many warnings about schemers who charged some farmers a $100 fee and pretended to file their claims.

The settlement process was abused. There was no fee to file. There are no billions of dollars to compensate those who were denied in the settlement. The black farmer settlement is over and Judge Friedman’s decision provided little hope for those who were denied in the process.

Our work is not finished. Black farmers still face unfair practices and still struggle to gain our rightful place in America’s agriculture and food production systems. For example black farmers have yet to supply McDonald’s with one egg or slice of lettuce or onion. Black families are welcomed as consumers. We’re seen as good enough to purchase a Big Mac or Happy Meal but not good enough to sell to corporate producers. It’s a sickening realization. This is an example of discrimination against a group of people. It contributes to the decline of the black farmer as well as loss of land.

With such injustices outstanding, I regret the need to discourage anyone’s expectations, but I am obliged to provide the facts of the case. I know and understand that the judge’s decision was not what the denied black farmers wanted to hear from the court. But I respect the decision. I and others worked hard and fought long to win payments to deserving black farmers. It is hurtful to know others come along and take advantage of some elderly black farmers who had already endured mistreatment by their own government.

Timeline

May 13, 2011 — Preliminary Approval granted by the Court

June 3, 2011 — Notice period — Notice was sent to potential class members regarding when the Court was to conduct a Fairness Hearing to decide whether to grant final approval to the settlement and how class members could submit any comments or objections to the settlement.

August 12, 2011 — Objection deadline and deadline to submit a notice of intent to appear and speak at the fairness hearing.

September 1, 2011 – Fairness Hearing to hear any objections and decide whether to grant final approval.

October 27, 2011 — Final Approval granted by the Court.

• November 14, 2011 — May 11, 2012 — Claim submission period

May 11, 2012 — CLAIM FORMS MUST HAVE BEEN POSTMARKED NO LATER THAN MAY 11, 2012.

July 19, 2013 — Claim adjudications — The Court-appointed neutral third parties finished their review of all completed claims timely submitted by class members.

August 2, 2013 — Computation of settlement payments — The claims administrator computed the number of approved claims and the amount of the awards to be paid to successful class members and prepared the formal accounting required by the settlement agreement.

August 23, 2013 — Approval of class counsel’s motion for approval of payments — As required by the settlement agreement, on August 6, class counsel filed with the Court a motion for approval of distribution of funds. This motion was unopposed, and the Court entered an order granting the motion on August 23.

August 31, 2013 — Claim determination letters mailed by the end of August to all successful class members as well as to class members whose claims were denied checks to be sent to successful class members approximately 30 days after the claim determination letters were mailed

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Judge Friedman’s Ruling on Denied Claims Dated 03/05/2014

Click Here to View Judge Friedman’s Decision on Denied Claimants Seeking Reconsideration of their Claim Determinations - http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/district-of-columbia/dcdce/1:2008mc00511/132549/401/0.pdf?1394103820

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John Boyd President of the National Black Farmers Association on the Affordable Healthcare Act

Affordable Health Care Is Right for America — and a Worthy Tribute to Black History Month

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Fast-forwarding to the end of Barack Obama’s presidency is becoming routine as eager political and media watchers jump the gun on how his two terms will be judged. Much of this future watching is discussion is focused on the Affordable Care Act. That revolutionary law, a.k.a. “Obamacare,” is rightly considered his highest accomplishment and his administration’s signature legislative effort thus far.

It is hard to argue against that view, especially since many previous presidents labored to no avail to overhaul America’s faulty healthcare system. In the context of that history of failed attempts, getting the law through Congress must be seen as a major achievement.

We now know, however, that when President Obama signed the ACA into law on March 23, 2010, after a mighty in Congress, the battle in many ways had just begun. And on it goes. Conservative law makers were shocked when Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts slammed efforts to undo the law in the courts. His surprise supporting vote to affirm the ACA in a five-to-four decision at the end of the Court’s 2012 session was not enough to silence critics. His finding that it is indeed legal to require that most Americans obtain health insurance under congressional power to levy taxes still did not deter hardliners on the Right who fight on today.

And in Congress nearly 40 efforts to repeal or radically amend the ADA have been brought to a vote — and failed. Meanwhile, the “party of ‘NO’,” as one GOP leader dubbed them, has done very little to pass legislation to help America’s poor and hardworking middle-class citizen. Instead Congress continues to try and block what Americans need most — affordable health care. I continue to read about the health care repeal bills, but seldom hear or read about what the critics would offer as an effective alternative.

It seems that those who have the best healthcare available, provided for them by taxpayers who elected them to represent the people are determined to deny that critical coverage for other Americans.

A survey conducted by the National Black Farmers Association and the National Women Farmers Association in 2009 found that 68 percent of their members had no healthcare insurance, though most did have car insurance and homeowner’s insurance. In many states it is against the law to drive a motor vehicle without an auto policy or obtain a mortgage without a homeowner’s policy. We never hear of any efforts to repeal those laws, which protect loss of things that can be replaced.

Why is it so difficult to gain wider support for insuring America’s greatest asset, expanding the security of protecting one’s health — which cannot be replaced? Is it a resistance to putting the “little people” on a level with the more affluent in our society? Is the notion of equality so threatening to America’s economic elites?

I heard President Obama state in a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus that under the ACA most Americans can obtain coverage for about a hundred bucks less than the cost of most cell phone bills. Conservatives have tried everything to delay progress on affordable health care, focusing for months now on the troubled website that slowed the initial rollout. Thus far their negativity has failed. People who are not computer-literate recognized that signing up was as simple as picking up the phone and calling the toll free number. It’s that easy to just get it done, especially for African Americans and other long-excluded groups.

What better way to observe Black History Month than to recognize the fact that we have a disproportionate rate of serious health problems. Certain conditions affect our communities at a higher rate than others, including heart attack, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer. I often hear members of the National Black Farmers Association share their frustration at not being able to find coverage due to a pre-existing condition. The Affordable Care Law removes that barrier.

It is time to protect our future well-being, sign up for coverage and at the same time preserve President Obama’s rightful legacy. Just sign on to healthcare.gov or call toll free: 1 800 318-2596.

Opponents have done their best to deny you this hard-won protection. Don’t hand them a victory by neglecting to make good use of it, for yourself, your family, your president and your country. Maybe then Congress will respect this much-needed accomplishment and get busy working on other business, for the people.

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John Boyd President of the National Black Farmers Association on the Farm Bill

Writer John W. Boyd, Jr.

Farm Bill: Too Little Too Late: Congress Short Shrifts Poor Families and Small, Minority Farmers

Hunger is almost sure to increase in many American households under the Farm Bill that finally passed the House of Representatives Wednesday (January 29).

It would be obscene not to mention food subsidy cuts first — before addressing the other harsh and disturbing realities of this overdue legislation. The massive bill cuts $8 billion from SNAP, the program widely known as the food stamp program — less food for the most needy.

Experts estimate that the reduction of $90 a month in nutritional support for 850,000 households will cost each one about one meal a day, or 34 per month. Hunger will be unavoidable. Some $200 million in increased allotments to food banks in the bill could help offset the SNAP reductions somewhat.

The bill, which has bipartisan support and a recently struck deal with the House and Senate leaders, is expected to have a Senate vote soon. The measure was sent along to the Senate on a vote of 251-166 after years of turmoil, fighting and bickering.

Democrats wanted smaller cuts. Republicans wanted more. President Obama has spoken against reductions in the food supplement program, but his response to this specific bill is not known. This five-year bill will be the first passed since 2008.

Conservative Republicans in the House repeatedly helped to defeat numerous versions of the bill pushing for a five percent or greater reduction in food stamps. No legislation is perfect, but I just can’t stomach these cuts to America’s hungry and needy children.

Many of us farmers and advocates worked very hard on the Farm Bill. I wanted to see more reform for federal crop insurance for minority farmers. The larger farmers will receive the most help while small and minority farmers will receive little to no relief under the federal crop insurance program.

I was also pushing for more transparency. If recipients get large payouts from federal crop insurance then you the American people should know who gets how much. Those bills and amendments failed in the House compromise as well.

Why has it taken so long for Congress to act on the farm bill? The Farm Bill has been in the making since 2011. Here it is 2014 and the delaying tactics echo against President Obama’s plea during his State of the Union Address last week for members of Congress to get more work done for their constituents.

One measure that I have been working on for decades, referred to in Congress as “2501,” would enable minority farmers to get technical assistance and outreach to access Department of Agriculture programs and services.

The measure has been included in both House and Senate versions for $10 million as a competitive grant program for 1890 and 1860 land grant colleges and universities. It is a relatively tiny amount compared to what is needed to help black and other small farmers return to farming and succeed.

Farming is one of the few things the U.S. can claim superiority on. But Brazilian farmers are quickly closing the gap because of that nation’s more favorable weather conditions, allow the farmers to grow multiple crops a year.

On the positive side, the bill dampens the $4.5 billion direct payments to mega-farms and farmers. It puts pressure on farmers to purchase federal crop insurance in order to maintain farm subsidies. But it still allows large farmers such as corn wheat and soybean producers to benefit heavily from the federal government.

I am a witness that small and minority farmers do not fare well on Capitol Hill. We advocates have worked diligently trying to inform both chambers of Congress on issues important to small farms. Still, the focus there is on serving a few large scale farms and corporate farms. We have small towns in rural America shutting down for loss of business from small farmers around them.

If we want to revitalize rural America, the way to do it is put small farmers back to work, provide them with timely loans, and open access to all federal programs regardless of race. This farm bill clearly misses the boat.

Too little. Too late

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President Obama and First Lady Spotlight Higher Education Improvements at White House Summit

President Obama is far out in front of our stale, stubborn Congress on the issue of expanding college education to more under-represented Americans, just as on many progressive programs this administration struggles to promote.

Last week the President announced his proposals to improve the college education system, but once again he has to use his executive powers to circumvent Congressional resistance and urge college presidents to do more to reach underserved populations. Why? Because our legislature still seems set on stiff-arming against doing what is right for our next generation of leaders.

As I struggle to pay for my son’s college education at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, I know full well that the high costs of tuition, meals, housing and transportation are just off the charts for middle class Americans. I can only imagine how much these hurdles must strain the growing number of families that are sinking financially.

Let’s face it, without a college degree this day and time, a young person is almost guaranteed to have a tough row to hoe for the future. If anyone believes that a generation divided between those with a collegeeducation and those shut out of one is good for our nation is wearing blinders.

“More than ever a college degree is the surest path to a stable middle class life,” President Obama said during his January 15 summit on expanding college access for lower-income students. The meeting was part of his aggressive effort to push for social advancements, using his presidential powers in lieu of Congressional support.

First Lady Michelle Obama brought her own full-voiced support to the President’s agenda with a moving and eloquent speech about her professional rise by way of an Ivy League education. Hard work and exceptional opportunities enabled her success at Princeton University and Harvard Law School, she said. Such access was beyond her family’s blue-collar background, she said, but not beyond today’s youth if they get solid support.

“If Princeton hadn’t found my brother as a basketball recruit, and if I hadn’t seen that he could succeed on a campus like that, it never would have occurred to me to apply to that school,” she said. “There are so many kids out there just like me — kids who have a world of potential, but maybe their parents never went to college or maybe they’ve never been encouraged to believe they could succeed there.”

The First Lady challenged colleges and universities to improve their efforts in enroll low income high school students who are ready to take on college studies.

But the White House’s initiatives on education will never be enough to meet the President’s goal of being first in the world on college graduation rates. The question is whether we are doing enough as citizens to challenge and strengthen our educational system? The answer is “NO.”

The President and First Lady opened the door. Now, we have to do our part as parents and leaders in our own communities. We can do so by getting involved in our own state programs and policies, by contacting the U.S. Department of Education and becoming informed about what resources are available for students preparing to attend college. What can we change? For example, do we tolerate school counselors who give more support to students from affluent families than those of poorer parents?

Or, how about mentoring one student; think of how much a difference that would make if each American who went to college made a commitment to help one student reach that goal? We, as everyday citizens have to start doing more to make college more accessible and affordable for our children. I believe that we can all find creative ways to further the initiatives the White House announced in these three main areas:

–Reaching out to elementary, middle and high school students in hopes that by engaging earlier, more students will be encouraged to pursue higher education.

–Boosting remedial programs so underprepared students will still have opportunities to succeed.

–Seeking to ensure lower-income students aren’t disadvantaged by lack of access to college advisers and inability to prepare for entrance exams like the SAT and ACT.

As I watched the announcement I expected more college and universities to come forward and endorse the administration’s efforts. I anticipated more from corporate America, especially as often read about how fortune 500 companies cannot find enough qualified persons to fill certain positions. It is not too late.

The President and First Lady have presented a starter set of solutions to the “problem,” which I see as an opportunity. We have to urge businesses and other institutions to invest more resources in college scholarships, mentoring programs and other drives to help raise expectations and mold the minds of young people.

How can we be the greatest country in the world and not provide more muster than we do now toward elevating education? To put it simply, we can do better.

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