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"You have to understand people like George Bush. He's a nice guy. We need to learn from him. Remember what Bill Clinton did: He figured out what Republicans were doing well, and instead of complaining about it, he figured out a way to do it better." – Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN)

The Black body politic has been invaded by corporate money, which seeks through its media arms to select a “new” Black leadership from among a small group of compliant and corrupt Democrats. Memphis Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. is a principal vector of the disease, an eager acolyte of the corporate-funded Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), and now the point man among Black Democrats in the Republican mission to destroy Social Security.

Ford should also be known as the “Black Man Who Dances With Blue Dogs” – one of only two Black congressional members of the Blue Dog Democratic Coalition (the other Black and Blue Dog is Georgia Rep. Sanford Bishop). C-span congressional scholar Ilona Nickles aptly describes the Blue Dogs as “closer in purpose to a former coalition of southern Members of the House known as the ‘Boll Weevils,’ whose heyday was in the early 1980's. These Members defected as a group from the Democratic party to vote with Congressional Republicans on budgetary and tax bills.”

Harold Ford is preparing to defect from the Democratic and Congressional Black caucuses in service to George Bush’s Social Security privatization scheme, which he has embraced in principle. Blue Dog and DLC congresspersons form the core of the Democrats that Ford hopes will join Republicans, like South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, “to create an ownership society in a variety of creative ways, and move away from ‘if you’re for privatization, you’re with the Republicans’ and ‘if you’re against it, you’re with the Democrats,’” in Ford’s words.

“Ownership society” is, of course, the slogan George Bush has deployed in his campaign to transfer trillions of Social Security dollars to Wall Street. White House guru Karl Rove must be giving Harold Ford copies of Bush’s scripts. The 34-year-old congressman has been mimicking Bush on Social Security since at least April of last year, when Ford addressed a forum organized by Centrists.Org, the Concord Coalition, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget at the New America Foundation, and the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security. The latter is a front set up by the National Association of Manufacturers specifically to undermine Social Security. Centrists.Org is the Blue Dog Coalition’s think tank, the Concord Coalition opposes “entitlements” of all kinds and spreads hysteria about the coming “bankruptcy” of Social Security, while the New America Foundation’s Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is a public policy factory for a mix of DLC Democrats and “moderate” Republicans. All are slaves of corporate funding.

What do these people have to do with Rep. Ford’s mostly Black constituents in the 9th Congressional District in Memphis, Tennessee? Nothing. They are denizens of purely corporate constructs that share no constituencies on Ford’s home turf or in any significant sector of Black America. The congressman has journeyed far afield to inhabit a Neverland much more dangerous and alien to Black interests than anything Michael Jackson could conjure or imagine. Harold Ford has crossed over to the corporate side of the world, beyond redemption. And he’s not alone. As we wrote in our December 2, 2004 Cover Story, “Black Dems Must Clean Up Their Own Act “:

”One-fifth of the CBC are members of the DLC. These include Harold Ford, Jr. (TN)…Artur Davis (AL), beneficiary of the 2002 corporate cash offensive that also ousted Cynthia McKinney in neighboring Georgia; David Scott (GA), possibly the most conservative-voting member of the CBC, also a 2002 Black “New Democrat”;  Gregory Meeks (NY), Juanita Millender-McDonald (CA) and James E. Clyburn (SC), an otherwise decent man who nevertheless finds it useful to co-chair his state’s DLC; and Albert R. Wynn (MD),who is proud to have “represented the Congressional Black Caucus on the [House Democratic] Caucus Democratic Leadership Council.”

Not all of these tainted Black politicians will abandon the historical Black Political Consensus to support privatization of Social Security – the founding program of the New Deal – but Harold Ford has already sprinted across the great divide. Ford’s personal ambitions and utter lack of principle have propelled him beyond the boundaries of the Black Consensus and, therefore, outside of the African American conversation. The problem is: Black people don’t control the terms of their own conversations. Corporate dominion over media is just as endemic to the Black airwaves and print outlets as to general media, and these media corporations celebrate crossover dreams even when they are the product of treachery against historical and current Black aspirations.

More troubling, progressive Blacks, including the 18 members of the Congressional Black Caucus (out of 43) that belong to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, are loathe to confront treason in the ranks, and thus allow malefactors like Harold Ford to work their show for the rich white corporate folks, without political penalty. Ford’s constituents in Memphis don’t even know that he’s stabbing them in the back. Yet Harold Ford’s cut is the deepest cut of all: "I'm a Democrat because I think we are more often right,” Ford told the Nashville Scene, back in March. “But there are some things some Democrats believe that I don't. I don't think government is an insurance program."

With that statement, the well-educated but ill-raised Harold Ford reveals that he either misunderstands or opposes the very premise of Social Security, which is an insurance program against the vissisitudes of the stock market.

On August 14, 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt described his new Social Security Act to the U.S. Congress in these words:

"[It] represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means completed – a structure intended to lessen the force of possible future depressions, to act as a protection to future administrations of the Government against the necessity of going deeply into debt to funding relief to the needy, ­a law to flatten out the peaks and valleys of deflation and of inflation – in other words, a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness."

Social Security was conceived as an insurance policy against the inevitable booms and busts of capitalism – economic tremors, and sometimes earthquakes, that wreak excessive damage among African Americans like Harold Ford’s Memphis constituents. In his zeal to position himself to run for Bill Frist’s Senate seat in 2006, Ford would destroy the last major government program that gives the United States any claim to civilization among industrial nations. He is already embarked on a crime of historic proportions.

Ford has enlisted in a multi-trillion dollar scam, “a fake solution to a fake crisis,” as Princeton University economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman puts it. There is no “crisis” in Social Security, but the Bush administration is determined to create one at the cost of trillions of dollars in order to destroy the last major vestige of Roosevelt’s New Deal while filling the coffers of their Wall Street patrons. “The date at which the trust fund will run out, according to Social Security Administration [SSA] projections, has receded steadily into the future,” writes Krugman in a special issue of the scholarly journal, Economists’ Voice. “Ten years ago it was 2029, now it’s 2042. As Kevin Drum, Brad DeLong, and others have pointed out, the SSA estimates are very conservative, and quite moderate projections of economic growth push the exhaustion date into the indefinite future.”

The promise made to aging Americans (that is, all of us) under the Social Security program is the same one made to foreign holders of American debt: you will be paid. What George Bush and surrogates like Harold Ford are threatening – and it is a monstrous threat – is to renege on Americans who have contributed heavily into payroll taxes for most of their lives, while maintaining obligations to the foreigners who finance chronic U.S. debt. Both Social Security and the offshore debt are secured by the “full faith and credit” of the American government. That means, in Krugman’s analysis,we can't have a Social Security crisis without a general fiscal crisis – unless Congress declares that debts to foreign bondholders must be honored, but that promises to older Americans, who have spent most of their working lives paying extra payroll taxes to build up the trust fund, don't count.”

Social Security is, in fact, the great scapegoat for the Bush Pirate regime’s current and future corporate raids on the U.S. economy. “The long-term cost of the Bush tax cuts is five times the budget office's estimate of Social Security's deficit over the next 75 years,” writes Krugman, in his New York Times column. “The botched prescription drug bill passed in 2003 does more, all by itself, to increase the long-run budget deficit than the projected rise in Social Security expenses.” The prescription drug bill is a massive transfer of public funds to the pharmaceutical industry, without lowering prices for American consumers, the highest by far in the world – the job Republicans were put in office to perform.

Along with the fake Social Security crisis comes fake Black leadership, in the person of Harold Ford, vouched for by People magazine as one of the “50 most beautiful people in the world.” Ford, the perfect example of bamboozlement, and armed with a total immunity to facts, is so dense that he believes his relative youth trumps reason and data. “I’m 33 years old, and many in my generation will tell you they’re not expecting to be able to rely on Social Security,” Ford told the April meeting of anti-Social Security mercenaries. He was simply repeating a Bush line that is not rooted in reality, but endlessly echoed in corporate media. The Bush plan is, however, a self-fulfilling prophecy, designed to destroy both the political premise and financial basis of Social Security in the United States.

Lots of young Black people are not as dumb or duplicitous as Harold Ford. Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, a vice president of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation who is roughly Ford’s age, notes that the 20 cents on the dollar “gap” in Social Security  inputs conservatively projected for the year 2052 is a statistical blip on the half-century screen. “What privatizers don’t want Americans to know is that this 20 cent gap per dollar of promised benefits is manageable and can be closed without radically altering the system,” wrote Rockeymoore, in the December 16, 2004 issue of The Black Commentator. “In fact, the tax cuts President Bush gave away to the wealthiest one percent of Americans could have covered the amount of the long-term Social Security shortfall and there would have still been money left over for other important priorities.”

Rep. Ford’s dialogue with sworn enemies of Social Security has led him to devise schemes to “target benefit levels to those who actually work longer” – a dagger in the heart of Black Americans, who are forced to work under less reliable terms of employment and with less compensation than whites. Thus, Ford would exacerbate the institutional racist bias against Black workers – a population about which he appears to know nothing. But Dr. Rockeymoore, does:

“Because of historical patterns of discrimination in the U.S. education system and labor market, African Americans are more likely to earn a modest living during the course of their working lives, more likely to have experienced spells of unemployment or underemployment, and more likely to retire with less income from private pensions, assets or personal savings.”

The Bush administration’s assault on the last bastion of the American social safety net can be repulsed, but only if we reject the Trojan Horses who have been positioned in Black ranks – most notably, Harold Ford. The deplorable state of Black media has set charlatans like Ford free to trot around the country, forging alliances with Republicans and Dixiecrats at will. Ford was among the “Four Eunuchs” of the Congressional Black Caucus who endorsed George Bush’s Iraq War powers, in October 2002. He was re-elected the next month, and two years after that, as were the three other eunuchs.

There seems to be no accountability in Black politics, no incisive coverage of political figures on Black radio and effective print media (forget television), and no reliable campaign contributions except from the corporate sector and stingy labor unions. In this environment, media caricatures like Harold Ford thrive. The virus spreads, undermining the Black Political Consensus that nevertheless propels 90 percent of us in the same direction, every presidential election.

But we fail to exercise due diligence on the home front, in our own districts. That’s why Harold Ford exists, as a political figure. We hope this article finds its way into as many Memphis households as possible, where it can do the most good.

Harold Ford styles himself as the candidate of youth. However, we know that greed and ambition are as old as dirt.


January 6 2005
Issue 120

is published every Thursday.

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