Black Americans should think like sovereigns

Since their emancipation from physical slavery in 1865, black descendants of slaves brought to what is now known as the United States have fought for full incorporation as citizens. For blacks, incorporation meant the right to own property, vote, move freely across provincial borders, and be free from racial violence whether perpetrated by individuals or the State.

The primary reason for the incomplete incorporation process was the view of the European that blacks, based on their race, did not have equal value as humans, a view that one group must have in order to justify enslavement. Another reason closely related to race is based on the process of becoming a nation-state, a process that caught blacks in the crossfire.

By the time blacks were physically emancipated from slavery, the United States was becoming a nation-state. Having abandoned the British monarchy 89 years earlier, by 1865 America was expanding westward riding the wave of white, Anglo-Saxon manifest destiny.  During the period after 1865, the United States continued its campaign of pacifying indigenous tribes while importing and regulating the movement of Chinese. And while there was internal conflict between other European ethnic groups and Anglo-Saxons, these groups were able to be incorporated much easier than indigenous tribes, the Chinese, or former slaves of African descent.

The Chinese and other Asian groups have managed to balance maintaining their culture while incorporating to some degree into the American political economy.  While state and federally recognized indigenous tribes have limited sovereignty and ownership or use of certain lands, these groups see internal and external threats to their culture including poverty, alcoholism, encroachment on tribal lands by certain corporations, and subjugation to blood quantum tests.

The common thread, in my opinion, between Asians and indigenous tribes is that they have some land to fall back on; some physical reference point that anchors their history and existence. Blacks in the United States do not have that advantage. Besides historical records of slavery and the use of DNA testing, blacks have little connection to the African continent. America is their “soil”, their roots and some would argue that their status as descendants of involuntary migrants and slaves means a perspective significantly different from people who came to the U.S. voluntarily.

The downside of the “involuntary migrants and slave status” argument is that it falls on the deaf ears of those for whom the United States was created. If such an argument was effective, incorporation of blacks into American society would have occurred a century ago. Moral or emotion-driven arguments do not result in acquiring and distributing sufficient resources necessary for individuals in a community to sustain themselves. The current approach asks that a white-dominated government distribute temporary, sub-par benefits that act as a replacement for capital.

Sub-par public educational services do not teach children critical thinking skills that go along with the life skills provided by their households. Sub-par medical services while subsidizing drug prices thus the revenues of the drug industry do not provide the wellness information that keeps individuals truly healthy. Sub-par public safety that subsidizes police terrorism not community security does not benefit blacks either. The American political system feigns a sub-par community approach when in reality it is a temporary bandage designed to keep the barbarians from knocking down the gate.

The American political economy has been telling black Americans to “go your own way” for some time now. Maybe it is time to listen.

 

Capital, technology, social media, & fake connection

Capital uses technology to create a singularity in the individual. This process toward “self-actualization” is the wrong one because the journey to self has nothing to do with technology or capital.
 
The downside of using technology to create a singularity is that as part of validating its use, technology markets itself to the masses as a way of creating a collective consciousness, a fake singularity.
 
I call it fake because trying to create a oneness with multiple, diverse, un-self actualized minds is dangerous and only leads to narcissism on steroids. It is the mistake that liberals, for example, have been making for the last 130 years of political history in the United States. One need only look at social media and see the effects.
 
Meanwhile, the masses, believing they are creating some good through collective behavior are merely being used by the few that herd them up into single-minded, over-emotional mania.
 
Eventually this fake singularity collapses on itself with violent repercussions as all shifts in mass political behavior eventually does as this fake singularity is exposed for what it truly is; a distraction.
 
What are the masses being distracted from? The fact that progressives have learned how to hoard and leverage inside information, move to urban centers, monetize this inside information, and raise rents on the poor, forcing the poor to move to lower quality areas.
 
Meanwhile, rich, liberal urbanites become more “singular” meaning less diverse as they show their true value system, one that was never built on diversity, but where a diversity narrative was merely used as a Trojan Horse that allowed them to infiltrate minority communities and run out people that neither look, act, or think like them.
 
Atlanta, Manhattan, San Francisco. We see it, but cognitive dissonance allows us to ignore it. The fake singularity has no room for an organic collective.

What happens when the State abandons black Americans?

In their book, The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age, James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg describe the demise of the welfare state with the political changes the information age will bring about. Those who can garner, manipulate, organize, distribute, and monetize information and use today’s digital technology to deploy this new capital from anywhere in the world will be able to achieve a level of individual sovereignty such that the protection services of the old nation-state will no longer be needed. The internet, cyberspace, will be their new jurisdiction, and with capital in the form of information, they will be able to carve out a minimized or tax-free environment in whatever physical jurisdiction they choose.

Information losers, according to Davidson and Rees-Mogg, won’t like this new world. This information-based economy will challenge their welfare state “employee” status. It is a welfare state employee status because in exchange for the “work” that they do at the polls i.e. their vote, information losers are awarded with transfer payments such as Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, and low-income housing. As the hoarders of the new capital, information, choose lower tax jurisdictions, information losers are left holding the bag containing reduced benefits, the result of a lowered tax base.

The recent tax reform legislation passed by a GOP-led Congress and signed by President Donald Trump is a small indicator of the leverage the wealthy have, especially those who make their income as sole proprietors or partners in a business where they are now beneficiaries of a 20% reduction in the taxes they would normally pay on pass-through income. Congress and the President will now have to reduce or eliminate programs made infeasible by a $1.5 billion tax cut.

There is no guarantee that tax cut goody bags will be continually given out in the future. If the GOP loses both chambers of Congress in this year’s midterms, then Democrats will pursue a rewrite of the tax reform, or at least put on a good show effort.  I say a good show effort because the response by the wealthy will be, “Remember the two trillion dollars we have stashed overseas? How about we keep it there?”

Black Americans are not in the information age game even though blacks over-index on social media sites and, as a proportion of their population, own as many smartphones as whites and Latinos. Black Americans are under-indexed when it comes to employment in information technology. In an article for The Huffington Post, Jamal Simmons noted that black women may be able to scrape up $36,000 for a tech start-up, but white males scrape up on average $1.3 million in start-up funds.

And while blacks and Latinos continue to represent low single-digit proportions of actual STEM employees (technologists, mathematicians, engineers), there are plenty of black consumers of entertainment content on Facebook and Instagram. This content is low value. It differs from information which can be used as an input for production.

You may ask, “Don’t blacks have a right to consume entertainment?” My answer would be, “It’s not about rights to consumer content. It’s about channeling as much time and energy into mining and distributing information that creates knowledge that solves the deep well of problems in the black community.

Meanwhile, the State apparatus that blacks have disproportionately relied on for economic support and political protection is becoming bankrupt. Based on this recent tax reform, one would not sound too cynical in concluding that the GOP was in cahoots with the plot to blow it all up.  The information winners will not think twice about leaving information losers behind.

Does Maryland SB 67 make access to public capital less expensive?

Proposed amendments to the Maryland Economic Development code appear to expand a pool of capital available for eligible businesses and eligible local governments. SB 67, pre-filed last October by Maryland senate committee chairman Thomas Middleton changes the name of the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Fund to the Advantage Maryland Fund.

In addition to the fund’s name change, SB 67 proposes lifting the maximum amount for local economic development project assistance from $2 million to $5 million. Recipients of this type of funding may include an individual, private business, a non-profit entity, or a corporation. Assistance may take the form of a grant, loan, or an investment.

Local governments seeking assistance in the form of grants, loans, or investment will see the cap on funding increase from $3 million to $5 million.

As written, SB 67 introduces some uncertainty as to the amount of interest the fund will charge on loans. The bill eliminates Section 5-325 (c)(1) through (e)(4) addressing particular levels of interest rates that are assessed depending on the type of project or loan recipient. Those sections are replaced with language reiterating that the Maryland Department of Commerce shall determine the payment terms of loans as well as the amount of interest assessed. The amendment also provides the Department the authority to assess a zero interest rate on loans and that for defaulters, the Department may impose a default interest rate.

In my opinion, Maryland, like the rest of the country, is entering a 2018 that promises rising interest rates. The Federal Reserve has signaled three more increases of its intrabank lending rate. The massive tax cuts approved by Congress this week with President Trump’s signing-off on tax legislation expected shortly will put upward pressure on rates as the federal government will no doubt enter the debt markets to borrow additional money at higher rates. I doubt if the Maryland Department of Commerce will authorize a zero interest rate on loans. In addition, project managers approaching the Fund for assistance may have to be extra persuasive when arguing that their projects will provide positive returns on investment and the creation of jobs.

Social media: Scourge of and escapism for Black America

Last week after ten years I gave Facebook the heave-ho. A friend from college sent me the invite to join back in 2007. I recall saying to him, “Kevin. Aren’t we too old for this bulletin board shit?” He responded that it appeared to be a great platform for keeping up with his kids. I said to myself that using it to keep in touch with my nieces seemed like a good idea. So I joined.

During that ten year period I connected online with interesting new people, high school and law school classmates. I have been fortunate to reconnect with family members and meet cousins on both sides of the family. In some ways it strengthened the ties within the lineages and helped drive home the importance of the tribe.

On the flip side, Facebook exposed a neurosis festering in Americans, and in particular Black Americans. Americans are divisive and lack critical thinking skills. By fueling the neurosis, Facebook, and I believe unintentionally, has contributed to the hyper-partisanship that the United States is experiencing. Facebook has made it very easy to allow its users to create near impenetrable silos thus discouraging worthwhile, thought expanding conversation and replacing it with ad hominem and vitriolic language, behavior that a civilized democracy is allegedly not supposed to reflect.

In short, Facebook has exposed an inconvenient truth; that civility is not the rule, but increasingly the exception to social interaction. It is not surprising that the Russian government was able to create fake pages and spread static loud enough to discombobulate the average voter. Facebook provides enough digital real estate for every Farmer Brown to build a silo of ignorance.

I used the word static as opposed to information. There is a reason. Facebook has built a business model on the ability of grab the attention of subscribers by encouraging them to exchange mostly valueless noise. The vast majority of static on Facebook cannot answer the question of “so what?” I believe that when you bombard the human brain consistently with meaningless noise, you erode a person’s critical thinking skills. And that is a scenario that Black Americans cannot afford.

Black American’s disproportionate use of social media is disconcerting because it feeds the narrative that Black Americans are not strategic thinkers and make political decisions based on their emotions. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are emotional cesspools, perfect places for those brave enough to opine on politics from an emotional, lack of depth perception. Making assertions based on static obtained from a cable news program is intellectually obscene given the political agendas of the cable programs on-air personalities.

Take for example the debate on net neutrality. The majority of comments on Facebook leading up to the 15 December 2017 vote were made by a vast majority of Facebook subscribers who had not read the net neutrality rules slated for repeal, had not read the section of the Communications Act upon which the rules were based, and were consistently conflating net neutrality principles with net neutrality rules. The two are different.

But when ignorance in social media post can go viral via a hashtag, the tide becomes unstoppable.

One can argue that I am being a bit uptight and prudish. Surely I should not expect every political media consumer to go out and read every bloody statute, regulatory code, etc., before making a decision. My answer is, yes, I do. Today’s political economy environment is where you extract the resources necessary for your physical, emotional, and mental survival. You are required to know it, just like your ancestors were required to understand the currents on the seas that they fished, and the terrain upon which the hunted and grew food.

Given African America’s lack of access to capital and the political abusive relationship it has with political parties, observing. extracting, analyzing, and distributing value-driven information upon which important decisions can be made is more important than digesting static filled content that passes through you as quickly as white rice, stripped of nutrients that keep you strong.