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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Many mistakes in health reform fight, including excluding Black participation

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How does the most powerful nation on Earth, which pioneered so many medical and health care innovations, make its health care system fairer, more accessible and affordable?

That’s the crux of the debate as President Barack Obama attempts to do what other presidents haven’t – reform America’s health care system.

Unless it involved civil rights, African-Americans have usually sat on the sidelines during America’s great civic debates. But the election of the first African-American president has 41 million African-Americans aware and wanting to be involved and engaged in the debate.

It’s no surprise that Obama wants health care reform. He talked about it at every campaign stop; a centerpiece of his agenda.

But, inexplicably, the president failed to really educate the American people on what health care reform would really mean.

There’s no dispute that Barack Obama is one of the most gifted motivational and inspirational speakers ever to occupy the presidency. His ability rivals FDR and Reagan.

So, it’s perplexing to me that President Obama didn’t use one of the modern presidency’s most powerful tools – the prime time “fireside chat” – to speak directly with the American people on health care reform.

Such an address would have allowed him to frame the debate on his terms; educating Americans about health care reform, while debunking opposing arguments and fears.

A frank, friendly, intimate Oval Office speech would’ve been the opening salvo of a full court campaign of Cabinet members, Obama Administration officials and surrogates blanketing the nation in appearances and interviews selling the president’s health plan.

And those surrogates and spokespersons would’ve taken their message to our African-American community through Black media.

That’s what Barack Obama did as a candidate. But it seems our president forgot the tactics that got him elected.

The Obama Administration allowed opponents to frame the debate by doing what the forces against change always do. Scare the hell out of people, especially senior citizens. Instead of playing offense, President Obama’s playing defense against a hateful, spiteful, organized opposition.

Worse, the Obama Administration has failed to educate, excite and engage African-Americans. But they aren’t the only ones who haven’t taken our community seriously in this debate.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on local media nationwide by groups supporting and opposing health care reform. But you don’t see these ads on BET or TV One, you see them in Black newspapers or hear them on Black radio.

Hundreds of millions spent; but pennies to Black media.

AARP, to its credit, has placed ads on the debate in your Indianapolis Recorder, but virtually every other group advertising their views on health care reform has dissed Black media.


The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association of America (PhRMA) is spending $150 million in ads. Just once did they use Black media. Here in Indy, after I called their exclusion of Indy Black media to PhRMA member Eli Lilly’s attention. Lilly complained loudly to PhRMA and Black radio here was included.

Unfortunately, PhRMA’s marketing racism continues to exclude Black newspapers, Black TV networks and radio elsewhere.

The US Chamber of Commerce is spending over $25 million to fight reform. In cities like Indianapolis, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Columbus and Little Rock, the U.S. Chamber pointedly excludes Black media; especially Black radio, even if Black stations are the top stations for adults.

The Indiana and Indianapolis Chambers of Commerce should denounce the U.S. Chambers’ marketing racism.

Health Care for America Now, a coalition of union groups, is another pro-health reform group that doesn’t utilize Black media. Even the National Education Association excluded Black media in a recent ad campaign in Ohio and Kentucky.

National Urban League President/CEO Marc Morial was stunned when I told him about this advertising racism during an exclusive interview on our “Afternoons with Amos” program last week.

“Keep me informed about this,” Morial urged.

I will. And I’ll keep you informed as to the advocacy groups in the health care fight who are deliberately excluding Black newspapers and electronic media.

What I’m Hearing

in the Streets

Is the City-County Council’s Republican majority attempting to redraw Council districts before 2010 Census data is released?

If not, why have Council Republicans increased their 2010 budget by $290,000 to cover “professional services” to redistrict? An August 11 budget hearing revealed that and an additional $290,000 would be spent in 2011 for redistricting.

Then WRTV/Channel 6 commentator Abdul Hakim-Shabazz posted on the station’s Capitol Watch Blog that 2010 Census data would be available in December 2010 and that the Council would redistrict by February 2011.

Shabazz’s pronouncements were flat false.

I called out Shabazz on his falsehoods, but neither he nor Channel 6 has corrected the errors of fact.

And the facts, from Marion County Clerk Beth White and Leslie Barnes at the Indiana Election Division are these.

State law requires the City-County Council to redistrict two years after a decennial Census is taken. That would be in 2012.

State law also prohibits the City-County Council from doing any redistricting between November 2, 2010 and November 8, 2011. The only time next year the Council could redistrict is before November, and the only data available would be from 2000.

So, since the Council cannot redistrict next year why is this money being spent? With city/county finances tight, spending $290,000 in 2010 and spending most of that amount in 2011 is wasted money and effort. The Council can wait until mid-2011 to start spending on redistricting; allocating the funds in the 2011 and 2012 budgets.

The current Council shouldn’t even think of redistricting with 10-year-old data. That would be the height of stupidity and arrogance.

Someone who’s not stupid or arrogant is MC Hammer, who appeared at last week’s Indiana State Fair. In an exclusive “Afternoons with Amos” interview on WTLC-AM1310, Hammer impressed with his devotion to his faith and his family.

His current reality show on the A&E network portrays a loving Black family, an image Hammer deliberately strives for.

Hammer’s business sense and acumen reminded me of the business wisdom Earvin “Magic” Johnson shared at this year’s Black Expo.

If Expo is looking for a speaker, not a performer, for their 40th Anniversary, they should look at MC Hammer whose non-music wisdom and insights are as brilliant as his music and dancing.

See ‘ya next week!

Amos Brown’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. You can contact him at (317) 221-0915.

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