I’ve had the great fortune to be a professional “watcher” of sorts during careers in two surprisingly similar industries — newspaper publishing and business development.
Before I get too deep into my “OBSERVATIONS” blog, I must thank Leo Barron Hicks for the opportunity to contribute to Blackacre Public Policy Forum. Every barbershop and corner bar in Black America generates at least one conversation about the need for a think tank dedicated to solving societal challenges. Leo has done it… with a twist!
Blackacre aspires to be a forum for influencing public policy and, sadly – in my experience – special interests outweigh individuals in crafting the policies that shape the ways governments perform, ostensibly in the interests of citizens. I appreciate the opportunity and count it a privilege to add to any effort that results in positive change.
Now, I hope you scratched your head for a moment trying to figure out how publishing and business development could possibly be “surprisingly similar.” I’m glad you asked, and I’ll gladly answer you this way:
I published a weekly newspaper that worked each week to interpret for its targeted audience the ways that public policy impacted their lives, in education, healthcare, justice, economics… even in athletics and entertainment. In my work as an advocate for increased business opportunities I face a constant diet of interpreting, re-interpreting, untangling, defining and re-defining statutes governing doing business with government. The similarity? Again, glad you asked! The similarity is that Black folk have far too little understanding of the policies that shape, constrain or impede access to opportunities of all kinds.
Though louder voices control the conversation, don’t be deluded into believing that Black folks don’t pay our fair share of taxes. That others pay more proves only that they earn more, or own more. Here’s a quick glimpse of how it works: We ALL pay taxes; governments decide how that tax revenue will be spent; government awards contract to execute its decision; repeat.
Black Texans represent from 12-14% of the population of our state, depending on who’s counting. As such, taxes levied from Black folks represent our pro-rata share of state revenue. In its 2012 budget, our state government spent $14.4 BILLION and African American owned businesses earned ONE POINT SIX THREE PERCENT (1.63%) of the dollars expended to execute OUR government’s mission.
Not so surprisingly, conversations with elected officials and agency officials elicit “Is that all? That’s terrible!” in response to this revelation. Surprisingly, though some responded with “How’d you manage to get that much?”!! The real surprise, I guess, is that this inequity passes on as business as usual with no real plan for improvement.
My hope is that Blackacre Public Policy Forum ignites a passion for learning and understanding the way government impacts our daily lives, with a particular focus on how government spending is the practical expression of the “will of the people.”I hope further that our increased understanding of government spending will help us create empires in construction, road building and provision of services to government that are championed as examples of free market capitalism at work, just as it has for hundreds of years for others.