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Don’t You Know We Love You

A lot of the news these days centers around the economy and how to revive and keep industries from dying. Politically, it is always a hot button issue. As this country rebuilds its economy; it must also deal with its reckoning with systemic racism and Black America. Black economists should be included in this conversation. One of the major issues is the large economic divide between White and Black Americans. Who better to offer solutions than black economists?

Economics appeals to many Black people because it studies resources, who gets them, when they get them, and why they get them. But, where are the Black economists? In the New York Times article, “It Was a Mistake for Me to Choose This Field,”  they found that, from 2017, only 3.2% of doctoral degrees in economics were awarded to Black people each year. They also found that more than 52% of Black economists experienced racism and/or discrimination, and less than half of 1% of all top economics papers across a 30-year period explicitly address race/ethnicity.

It has been nearly 100 years since, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, pictured above, became the first Black American economist, male or female. She received her Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania in 1921. On graduation day, she became the second black woman in the United States to receive a Ph.D.; the first, Georgiana Simpson, got her degree in German, a day earlier at the University of Chicago.

Alexander championed economic inclusion and justice, but was denied the ability to actually practice economics in the pre-Civil rights era. Because she could not practice economics, she later became a lawyer. Becoming the first Black woman to receive her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and the first Black woman to practice law in Pennsylvania. Despite being denied an official career in economics, Alexander still wrote economic papers and gave speeches on the current economic issues facing the country.

Alexander was the first economist to suggest a federal jobs guarantee, meaning that the government would provide jobs at a livable wage to all people willing and able to work. This concept was embraced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and has been a foundational concept in progressive politics ever since. Many economist today still endorse this idea which is often credited to Hyman Minsky in the 1960s. But that is not true. Sadie Alexander endorsed this idea two decades earlier. 

In March 1945, a year after President Roosevelt endorsed the jobs guarantee in a state of the union address, Sadie Alexander gave a speech at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College that endorsed the idea of full employment. The speech was given in honor of Mary McLeod Bethune under the theme of black women’s role in the post war southern economy. Alexander used the opportunity to analyze the overall status of black workers and to provide an argument for government assurance of full employment. 

Regardless of the racial and gender discrimination she faced, she was well accomplished. Alexander was appointed by Harry S. Truman to the President’s Committee on Civil Rights, which issued a report in 1948 that cited the gap between American ideals and practice. In 1981 President Jimmy Carter named her chairwoman of the White House Conference on Aging.

Alexander, who died on November 1, 1989, used her love of economics to serve marginalized voices through policy. But, she is not alone, Phyllis Ann Wallace, the first woman to receive a doctorate of economics at Yale University, focused on racial, as well as gender discrimination in the workplace. Abram Lincoln Harris, who published major economic studies in the 1920s and 1930s, made it a point to focus on “class analysis, black economic life, and labor to illustrate the structural inadequacies of race and racial ideologies.”

Today, black economists are still being marginalized. The Federal Reserve makes a point of saying it dedicates research and attention to racial economic outcomes. They also publicly champion inclusion, yet they have a poor record of building that inclusive workforce. J. Monroe Gamble IV, for example, is the first Black research assistant to work for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and he started in 2018. Across the board, of the Fed system’s 12 regional banks, 1.3 percent of economists identified as Black. Five of the banks no Black economists.

President Biden has nominated Cecilia Rouse, a Black economist, as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). Rouse will be the first Black chair of the organization, which was created in 1946. She has done extensive research on labor markets, education, and discrimination. Rouse previously served as one of three members of the CEA during the first two years of the Obama administration and on President Bill Clinton’s National Economic Council in 1998 and 1999. She is also Dean of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs. This is a good choice for Biden, but lower level staff positions are going to take a more systemic approach to diversify the Fed; this however, is a start.

Black Waiters Pay the Price

A report by One Fair Wage, found that Black food service workers received less tips during the pandemic than Whites as retaliation for enforcing social distancing and mask rules. One Fair Wage is a national worker-advocacy group, who provided aid to around 40,000 workers. They surveyed those workers and received 4,000 responses from workers in New York, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.. They found that almost 90 percent of Black workers said their tips dropped 50 percent or more after returning to work during the pandemic, compared with 72 percent of White workers. More than 70 percent of Black workers said customers tipped them less for enforcing social distancing and mask rules, compared with 60 percent of White workers.

This is in addition to the Black unemployment rate reaching nearly 10%, Black people being more likely to contract COVID-19 or knowing someone who has died from it, and Black people being less able to obtain unemployment insurance. 

“We already knew customers tipped Black people less than White people before the pandemic, but then to be punished more than other workers for trying to enforce these rules makes this an issue of life and death. The very divided nature of the nation is taking a toll on service workers having to serve the people who are the least likely to want to follow public health protocols. And the people bearing the highest brunt are, as always, Black workers.”

Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage and director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California at Berkeley

Are you being charged a COVID fee?

A survey by the Washington Post, of attorney general offices and financial departments in 52 states and territories, found that businesses are charging COVID fees from $5 disinfection fees in a hair salon to $1,200 extra food and cleaning fees at a senior living center. Many of these fees are not disclosed on the customer bill.  Consumers in 28 states have filed 510 complaints about these surcharges at dentist offices, senior living facilities, hair salons, and restaurants. 

Unfortunately, not all states protect consumers for hidden fees. Medical insurance law in some states require health-care providers to offer refunds if patients were unfairly charged for PPE; other states allow businesses to charge the extra fees if they are disclosed upfront. It is unknown how widespread this is, but health-care providers and residential facilities seem to be the worst offenders. In Michigan, the Attorney General Dana Nessel, had to send a cease-and-desist letter to 11 senior living facilities after 45 residents reported a $900 charge in “supplemental COVID-19 fees.”

Most reports of coronavirus surcharges have come from dentist offices. The American Dental Association said the cost of PPE has risen for most dentists but the choice to charge a fee is an individual dental practice decision. While it is understandable, that the cost of doing business is going up and customers often pay that cost. It is not understandable that the fees would not be disclosed. As a consumer, you tell me how much it costs and I decide if I want to pay it. Hidden fees will always receive ire from customers. 

This Chucky is Child’s Play

An Amber Alert mishap resulted in an alert looking for Chucky from the horror movies. The Texas Department of Public Safety said it was the “result of a test malfunction.” 

The alert warned that a child had been abducted by Chucky, a 28-year-old male with red or auburn hair and blue eyes who stands 3 feet 1 inch tall. His race was given as “Other: Doll.” It also warned of a 16-pound suspect wearing “blue denim overalls” and “wielding a huge kitchen knife.” The message also included an image of Chucky, the killer doll introduced in the 1988 horror movie “Child’s Play.”  According to the message, Chucky kidnapped another movie character, Glen, 5 years old who was last seen wearing a blue shirt with a black collar. This is just, plain hilarious! Check it out!

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