We haven’t been mad enough

A couple of days ago I received a message that the Small Business Innovative Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, targeted efforts to insure that start-up companies can compete for federal research and development contracts and benefit from discoveries created with federal grants, would expire on Sept. 30 unless Congress reauthorized them.
It went out to a constituency of entrepreneurs, service providers and other stakeholders who clearly saw their interests at risk.
This morning I got another e-mail that Congress had passed the reauthorization, in part because of a blizzard of calls in the previous day.
Couldn’t help but note the contrast in the next e-mail–another lost opportunity for the same Congress to pass the appropriation of $1.2 billion for unpaid claims to black farmers from the Pigford settlement. Not only had Republicans held up the legislation, but they had now gotten so bold as to allege fraud among black farmers and call for an investigation.
This legislation has been waiting passage for months and was blocked at least eight times by parliamentary maneuvers since Aug. 2 when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, promised it would pass that day.
I’m not taking a substantial risk for surmising that the demonstration on a tractor named Justice by National Black Farmers Association leader John Boyd –to call attention to the delays in passage — was not accompanied by a similar blizzard of calls.
This civics lesson points out why African-Americans have no business sitting on the sidelines during the mid-term election season or any election to follow.
For anyone who thinks there should be more stimulus, there’s $1.2 billion just waiting to go into our most hard-hit rural communities, to mostly senior citizen farmers.
And there’s an SBA loan program called Community Express, which provides mini-loans specifically to minority and women borrowers and will expire at the end of 2010 unless it is re-authorized.
A poll this week captured the anger among the American electorate, but noted that the angriest voters were the well-to-do. Communities like African-Americans and Latinos were most content and complacent.
Getting engaged in the political process works. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA, told us at the National Black Business Month fundraiser we held for her that often the black legislators feel alone because they don’t get the sustained pressure which right wingers can whip up.
There’s no reason not to be active, particularly in the presence of some many executive and legislative leaders who are willing to listen. Five cabinet secretaries gathered to discuss environmental justice last week, but unless there is a groundswell about these issues, they’ll have to back off.
It is hard to imagine a black family that does not have a grandparent or great-grandparent who is a struggling farmer. We’d go into a frenzy if someone disrespected our relatives on the street. We should do the same when they’re disrespected on The Hill.