Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Your Black Scholar: Lack of Minorities in Science Field a Problem

A study that surveyed Fortune 1000 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) executives representing leading science and technology companies in the United States, was released last week by Bayer Corporation. 

The survey found that women, African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields and that the result could hurt the nation as a whole. The findings of the study should alarm whoever is going to be the next president of the United States the report stated. Minorities are seen as perhaps the saving grace for the country if America is going to keep its place as the leader in the STEM industry, the report noted.

“What is most dramatic about this survey is the extent to which the Fortune executives speak with one unequivocal voice on these issues,” said Dr. Attila Molnar, President and CEO of Bayer Corporation. “Almost without exception, they overwhelmingly recognize this country’s great need to tap the potential of the entire STEM talent pool, and the importance of doing so at every point on the development continuum beginning in elementary school with high-quality, hands-on, inquiry-based science education, on through college where STEM talent is refined and recruited, and then into the workplace where it must be further nurtured and encouraged.”

Molnar and other executives believe that African-Americans are being exposed to science at an early enough age to pique student’s interests.

Chicago native Dr. Mae Jemison, who is also the first African-American woman to travel into outer space, agrees and said more has to be done to find talent in the Black community.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dr Boyce Watkins: The Real Story Behind the Financial Crisis

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

1) FDR had it partially right when he said that "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." While we have other worries as well, the greatest obstacle to economic progress is the HUGE psychological impact of Americans watching the stock market plummet right in front of their faces. This is going to cause consumer spending, lending, borrowing and investing to freeze like a deer in stadium lights. When people stop spending, economies start dying.

2) This crisis was a long time coming. De-regulation pushes down on the economic gas, but increases the chances of an economic crash. The dramatic growth of the past 8 years was a result of the same policies that are leading to the huge challenges we are faced with today.

3) Much of the impact of this crisis is a financial illusion. A large percentage of the devaluation in stock and home prices is driven by the fact that the original value was incorrect in the first place. When prices are out of whack, they must correct themselves. While a crisis may also be a correction, a correction is not necessarily a crisis.

4) Prepare for a period of "Financial McCarthyism" in America. Many baby boomers are closing in on retirement, and scared to death. To boot, many of these individuals have not properly prepared for retirement. When Americans get scared, politicians get nasty. We will likely see some of the most Draconian legislation in history.

5) What makes this crisis such a concern is that even before the meltdown, the economy was already quite fragile. With soaring gas and food prices, the economy was the #1 issue on the minds of most Americans. The decline of many financial services firms was, for the most part, a logical continuation of the fact that many homeowners were defaulting at the start of the year. This crisis is most certainly going to shift the political landscape and might give us our first Black president.

6) Yes, this market drop was the largest in history, 770 points in one day is nothing to sneeze at. But keep in mind that this drop doesn’t even make the top 10 in terms of percentage declines.

7) The American consumer is not off the hook. The “Wall Street Greed” angle of this story completely denies the fact that many American consumers tend to overspend and over borrow. Many Americans were buying homes they could not afford and borrowing against their home equity in order to go on vacation. It takes two to tango and banks rarely forced anyone to take the loans being offered to them. If Obama can tell Black Men to take more responsibility for our economic challenges, then he should be willing to say that to the rest of America.

Your Black World: Marian Wright Edelman Advocates For The Children

Iconic activist and child advocate, Marian Wright Edelman, speaks to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! In this discussion, Edelman expresses deep concern over the level of indifference directed at the plight of young children of every color. Eldeman worries that the dream Dr. King had, has never been granted a chance at fruition; and the “triple evils” of racism, economic exploitation and militarism, which he warned of, have become part and parcel of our humanity. She also admonishes, in a prophetic tone, that its time to "begin to get our heads screwed on straight and to begin to invest in the future and in our young people today." If not, Marian Edelman, who is founder and president of Children’s Defense Fund, is certain that such inaction would "topple America’s leadership in the world in the future." Marian Wright Edelman furthermore urges the world to pay more close attention to tomorrow's inhabitants:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Boyce Watkins, Tom Joyner Talk Financial Crisis

Dr. Boyce Watkins
Hey peeps,
Tom Joyner and I are going to talk Personal Finance and Money on 10/13 at 6:30 AM EST. I was also invited to discuss the liquidity crisis on Rev. Jackson's show. I've been doing most of my commentary on NPR and non-black media, so I was very happy to have the chance to discuss the Black perspective on this important issue. In fact, the article below addresses something that I feel has been missed: How this crisis impacts Black America.
If you want to join our money group to receive regular commentary on money and finance, please click here.
Valencia Roner, a very talented radio show host, did a thought-provoking show with me on the liquidity crisis. You can listen to the interview by clicking here.
The Liquidity Crisis of 2008: What Black People Should Do Now

By Dr. Boyce Watkins


Most of you have been watching politicians shuck and jive in predictable ways to try and manage the even more predictable liquidity crisis that has terrorized our financial markets. As a supporter of Senator Barack Obama, I am hopeful that this will serve as the final signal to America that a Harvard graduate with extensive Economics training might be a better choice than a mediocre student who claims to know nothing about the economy. I won’t even mention Sarah Palin, who now makes George Bush the runner-up in the “Unfit to Manage a Burger King” contest. I am not big on Obama-mania, but I tend to be big on common sense. It is also telling that many Americans would sacrifice our nation’s future in order to avoid the discomfort of seeing a Black man in the White House. OK, let me shut up before I say what I REALLY think.

This is not about the pale one called Palin or John McCain’s Black Extermination Plan for criminal justice. It is about USOBA. USOBA doesn’t stand for the “United States of Obama”, rather, it stands for the “United States of Black America”. This is about finding ways to manage, contextualize and internalize this crisis so we can figure out what to do right now. Neither McCain nor Obama is going to take care of you and your family, since politicians tend to take care of themselves (note Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s prior affiliation with Goldman Sachs will likely drive his desire to save his Wall Street buddies). The truth is that we are all Presidents of our own households, and as President, your job is to shield your household from the impact of FICA - The Financial Ignorance Crisis of America. Here are some quick thoughts:

1) The government bail-out doesn’t necessarily mean you should bail-out of the Stock Market: If you are invested in the Stock Market, I would strongly consider staying there, especially if you are under the age of 50. In fact, you might want to buy more stocks. Warren Buffett (a man who is sometimes wrong) had it absolutely right when he said that you should “be greedy when everyone else is cautious and cautious when everyone else is greedy.” Drops in the Stock Market can be the best times to invest because the historical data clearly shows that when the US Stock Market declines, it eventually comes back up. Personally, I plan to use this market decline as an opportunity to expand my portfolio. But I am not going to try and pick individual companies: I am going to buy into a diversified mutual fund that spreads my money around the entire global economy.

2) Paying off credit card debt is one of the best investments you can make: Which would you prefer? To possibly earn 10% interest in an investment in the Stock Market or to DEFINITELY save 18% per year on that high interest credit card in your purse? Remember that money SAVED is money EARNED. Get rid of the bulk of your high interest debt before you even consider investing in the Stock Market or anywhere else.

3) Change the game: With all of Barack Obama’s speeches about how Black men need to learn personal responsibility, he may have wanted to save that speech for the rest of America. The typical American consumer has been incredibly irresponsible with spending, saving, borrowing and investing habits over the past 20 years. I grow sick of seeing one article after another attempting to argue that African Americans have a monopoly on irresponsible financial behavior. Don’t believe the hype – ALL OF AMERICA has a problem with financial choices. The goal is not for you to emulate the behavior of the rest of America….it is to set a new standard. Black people can be quite good at saving money. Many of our grandmothers could support a household with two nickels and a hot dog bun. Perhaps we can tap into our natural survival instincts to get us through this mess.

4) This crisis might be the tip of the iceberg: I agree with my respected colleague Paul Krugman at Princeton, who is the only other commentator I’ve heard mention that recent financial problems may be nothing more than a symptom of more serious fundamental issues in the US economy. All I could say when I heard that was “Amen”. Without going into much detail, I can say that it is time to remember that old saying “Learn to save your money, so your money can save you.”

5) Don’t be “scuuuurred” (translation for the uppity among us: “Don’t be afraid”): This is NOT the end of the world. The financial systems are not going to melt down. This is not likely going to be the start of any kind of Great Depression. Truth be told, the Black community has been in a Great Depression for about 400 years! We have survived worse, and just because the economy struggles, that doesn’t mean you have to struggle along with it. Remember that our greatest challenges are usually our greatest opportunities for growth. Learn from this experience, grow from it, and we will continue to move forward.

Your financial liberation is part of your social and spiritual liberation. Let’s use the shake-up as an opportunity to shake ourselves off the plantation. I’m tired of someone else owning me.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of the forthcoming book “Black American Money”. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Black American Money Part 1

I should begin by saying that I am not a Finance Professor who happens to be Black. Rather, I am a Black man who happens to be a finance Professor. The goal of this work was not to create yet another book analyzing money to the nth degree, discussing stocks, bonds, charts and portfolios. I see money as a tool for the enhancement of life and the liberation of a people. I also see money as part of a nexus of critical issues that drive the world in which we live.

So, this book is not going to be about money throughout. It does not contain a long list of nuts and bolts financial advice. It is a discussion, by a Black social commentator who cares about his people, who also happens to be an educator and a Financial expert. So, imagine a person who is an expert at cooking steak, chicken and carrots, but insists upon making sure the plate has a little bit of each. I have never been one dimensional in my analysis, because linear, limited thinking is how one consistently misses the big picture.

In this book, you are going to get first hand analysis of how money plays a role in critical Black issues and leadership, from The State of the Black Union to Civil Rights. I will openly and honestly share my behind-the-scenes experiences with CNN, FOX, ESPN and other networks. You will hear about academia, as I take you for a quick trip into the ivory tower for a discussion of how economic incentives impact the value systems of today’s “Blackademics”. The trip will be long and broad, and won’t just focus on money. Rather, the focus is on capital of all types, not just financial capital.

Money, like any other powerful object, can either be incredibly constructive or horrifically destructive. It can ruin families or make people strong. It can liberate, enslave and do everything in between. You can improve the lives of those you love or ruin your relationships with loved ones. Money can do many amazing things in a capitalist society. Therefore, understanding money, embracing the power of money and controlling the power of money is clearly, without question, an undeniably meaningful part of the movement toward equal rights.

This was an introduction to the forthcoming book "Black American Money", written by Dr. Boyce Watkins. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Your Black Sports: Dr. Boyce Watkins On NCAA & Student Athletes

FYI: We have a coalition of activists, scholars, athletes, students, coaches, attorneys and parents who are working to address the NCAA and what some perceive to be an exploitation of the Black community due to the fact that the families of college athletes are not being compensated. Revenues for college sports are in the billions, many coaches sign contracts worth $2 - $4M dollars per year, and the NCAA is in direct competition with the NFL, NBA and other professional sports leagues. All the while, half of all Black basketball and football players come from families in dire poverty, and the NCAA has been allowed to implement Draconian legislation to control the options of these players to keep their families from having access to the revenue pool. I've seen players earn $20 million for their school by carrying the team to the Final Four, while simultaneously watching their mother get evicted, or a sibling get murdered in a housing project.

As educators, many of you are aware of the fact that these students do not always receive the education they deserve. Many academic institutions make the educational mission secondary to the primary objective of getting players on the court/field so they can make money for the campus. Myles Brand, the NCAA President, understands this hypocrisy, which is why he has never responded when CNN and other media have asked him to publicly debate myself or anyone else on this issue. Instead, he has only been willing to issue statements or appear in private interviews in response to the voices of thousands of critics across the country. Even the former Executive Director of the NCAA, Walter Byers, has stated that it's time that the NCAA realize that the families of athletes have as much right to this revenue as the coaches, athletic directors, campus presidents, and sports commentators, all getting rich from the labor of young kids. A scholarship is nice, but that is far from fair compensation..... I say this as a Finance Professor who has carefully analyzed their numbers.

I hope you will consider joining our coalition to address this issue by going to this link: https://greatblackspeakers.wufoo.com/forms/please-join-our-coalition/

To become more educated on this issue, please click some of the links below. These are some of the interviews I've done on this topic in the past, and help explain why I, as a Finance Scholar, a Black man and an educator, feel that this issue should eventually be brought to the steps of Congress for reconsideration of the NCAA's anti-trust exemption. At the College Sports Research Institute at UNC Chapel Hill, we are also conducting scholarly research on this issue, to find fair paths to reform for the NCAA.

This is not just an academic exercise: this has a real impact on the real lives of real families. I hope you'll join us.


Dr. Boyce Watkins


P.S: The links are below:

Part 1


Part 2







Saturday, September 20, 2008

You Can't Blame Bush for The Money Crisis

By Dr. Boyce Watkins


I am no fan of President Bush. I made fun of the silly man long before it was popular to do so. However, in this case, I have to be one of the first to stand up and say that you can’t put all the blame for this financial crisis on his back. The War in Iraq? Yes. Hurricane Katrina? Absolutely. Damn near everything else? Sure, why not? But this financial mess should not, as our leading presidential candidates want you to believe, be slapped on the political tomb of Mr. Bush. That doesn’t mean he didn’t play a role, but Bush was more of a supporting actor in this horror story, not the star.

The horror story to which I am referring is that little news event surrounding a $700 Billion dollar bailout being sponsored by the Office Underwriting Corporate Hedonism (OUCH), also known as the Federal Reserve. Now, this is a different brand of corporate welfare, as taxpayer dollars are not being given away. At worst, taxpayer resources are being put at risk, as the Federal Reserve is making huge capital allocations to some of the nation’s most troubled financial institutions. As a lender of last resort, the Fed is responsible for investing money where the rest of us certainly would not.

To put it in layman’s terms, this is like using your savings account to loan money to an uncle who was fired for drinking on the job. Sure, he has been responsible in the past, and will likely be re-employed, but his recent behavior leaves you a little concerned. In the same light, taxpayer dollars in a financial crisis are like little soldiers being deployed to provide stability to the deadliest parts of the world. Many soldiers will come back home, while quite a few are going to be killed. Depletion of our government capital is quite likely in this scenario, for solving a global liquidity crisis with available reserves can be like using a kitchen sponge to soak up the ocean.

With that said, let’s discuss what this crisis is really all about. We must first understand the nature of our financial institutions. Banks and other entities providing credit to the consumer are a lot like drug dealers (both legal and illegal drug dealers are included in this example). Drug dealers give you something that you definitely want and even think you need. The drug (cash) is powerful, makes your problems go away and has a long-term consequence if you abuse it. That’s where the government steps in. The role of government is to regulate our financial drug dealers to ensure that they are not encouraging substance abuse from the users (American consumers), and to also ensure that consumers are relatively well-educated about the consequences of using the drugs (that’s where terms like “predatory lending” come from).

In order to make the economy appear strong, our financial drug dealers were allowed to run wild. Loans were being made to people who could not afford to pay them, causing the prices of homes to be bid out of control (it’s easier to bid a higher price on a home when your banker loans you all the money you need). Ultimately, consequences were felt when millions of Americans suddenly realized that they could not repay the amounts listed on the dotted line. This situation is not much different from what we are now seeing in the pharmaceutical industry, in which drug companies are using ads to encourage patients to walk into the doctor’s office and ask for whatever drug they saw on TV the night before (you hear that Rush Limbaugh?).

Now, before you go and burn down the nearest bank in your neighborhood, realize that it takes two to Tango. As Bill Cosby (perhaps naively) believes, “making good decisions makes everything ok.” We must remember that if all people made good decisions, drug dealers would have no customers. The truth of the matter is that in spite of the fact that our institutions and governmental authorities have failed us, one of the greatest culprits in this mess is the financial greed and myopia of the American consumer. We as Americans are among the most gluttonous and short-sighted consumers in the world. We borrow money to go on vacation without thinking twice, we don’t save for retirement, and we tend to do P Diddy/Paris Hilton imitations on every shopping trip. Money is our drug and we all rejoiced when there were more drug dealers in our neighborhoods.

So while Barack Obama and John McCain want to attack the clearly unqualified man in the White House over this mess, the truth is that we mostly have ourselves to blame. This crisis affects us all, and the corporate problems are nothing more than an aggregated manifestation of very bad individual decisions. Simultaneously, our legislators must be held accountable when ensuring that corporations are given incentives to engage in responsible lending. Perhaps a hybrid of the Cosby model is appropriate here: let’s get the drug dealers out of our neighborhoods, but let’s also make our neighborhoods a bad place to sell drugs.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of the forthcoming book “Black American Money”. He does regular commentary on CNN, CBS and NBC. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.