Opinion: Can A Two-Legged Stool Stand?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011 09:27 Wilhelmina A. Leigh
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It’s not your parents’ retirement—especially if your parents retired with a pension and a gold watch after 25 years on the job! For today’s working adults, it’s more likely to be a retirement based on the safety-net-level of benefits from Social Security, supplemented with personal savings and investment.  The catch is, however, that too many African Americans are saving too little for retirement.  The fact that 70 percent of African-American workers had saved less than $25,000 for retirement (according to a 2007 survey by the Employment Benefit Research Institute) suggests there will be little “gold” in our golden years.

Traditionally, retirement income has come from three sources (Social Security, employer pensions, and personal savings and investment) and, thus, has been characterized as a three-legged stool.  The ongoing, gradual disappearance of employer-sponsored defined benefit pensions (that provide a monthly payout based on years worked and salary level) and their replacement by employer-sponsored defined contribution retirement plans (that provide retirement income based on the amount of employee contributions while working) suggests, however, that the retirement income stool will soon have only two legs.  One leg will be Social Security, and the other will be personal savings and investment (both through an employer and independent of employment).

Nearly two of every five African Americans (37 percent) in a 2009 Joint Center poll indicated that they expected Social Security to be a major source of income during their retirement. This expected major source of retirement income, however, provided average monthly retirement benefits at the end of 2009 of only $1,120 for African-American males and $960.50 for African-American females. These monthly average benefits generate an annual income only slightly greater than the federal poverty threshold for persons 65 years and older ($10,458). Over the next 75 years, if no modifications are made to the Social Security program, its pay-as-you-go financing system will be challenged by national demographics, and payments will fall below their already modest levels. Because FICA taxes paid into the Social Security system by workers in a given year are expended that same year to fulfill obligations to current beneficiaries, all of the following will threaten the solvency of the Social Security system: retiring of the large Baby Boom cohort born between 1946 and 1964, increasing of the life expectancy of the “older” old, and declining birth rates.

The landscape of employer pensions and retirement plans does not look especially promising for African Americans either.  African Americans are more likely to be unemployed and underemployed than other racial/ethnic groups, a fact that has been unchanged for many decades.  When employed, African Americans are hit hard by the shrinking availability of employer-sponsored retirement plans. Though more than half (56 percent) of black workers ages 25-59 were offered retirement plans or pensions by their employers in 2009, less than half (45 percent) of those offered plans or pensions enrolled in them.  In addition, low-income earners (38 percent)—among whom African Americans are overrepresented—are less likely than high-income earners (73 percent) to be offered employer retirement plans. African-American workers constitute 20 percent of the low-income labor force (individuals whose earnings are less than the federal poverty level even though they are employed for 27 or more weeks per year), in contrast to the 11 percent they make up of the workforce at all income levels.

Personal saving and investment independent of employment (for example, Individual Retirement Accounts, or IRAs), thus, becomes the major source of income to supplement Social Security retirement benefits.  A key issue for African Americans is having the disposable income to save.  A 2009 Joint Center poll found that 53 percent of African Americans at all income levels—and 65 percent with income of $35,000 or less—“wanted to save but did not have enough money to.”  This same poll found that African Americans are less likely than whites to have invested in IRAs (28 percent of African Americans vs. 47 percent of whites), in stocks or mutual funds (27 percent of African Americans vs. 49 percent of whites), or in bonds (17 percent of African Americans vs. 27 percent of whites).

Raising our current retirement income status from only 30 percent who have saved $25,000 or more for their retirement should become a priority for African Americans.  Otherwise, our definition of retirement may become confined to working (either full-time or part-time) until the day we die, or eking out an existence on Social Security benefits alone.

Wilhelmina A. Leigh, PhD, is a Senior Research Associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, DC.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 09:35

Commentary - Does the Death Penalty Serve as a Deterrent to Crime?

Friday, 23 September 2011 10:52 Phelicia Francis
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There has been nationwide uproar over the recent execution of Troy Davis in the state of Georgia. People have claimed that the justice system is flawed while others are claiming racial discrimination. It is now the cry of the people to do away with the death penalty. While some may argue that it serves as a deterrent to crime others claim it is not.

But this was not the only execution carried out this week. There was also one in Texas where James Brewer was executed for a hate crime. The difference between the two is that there was no doubt surrounding Brewer’s conviction and he was awfully casual about it.

However, in the case of Troy Davis, supporters strongly believe that an innocent man was killed. Now the question is being asked, on an average how many innocent people are being convicted here in the United States, and in states where the death penalty exists; what are the possibilities of these “innocent” people been executed?

The following statistics should be considered. In the states where the death penalty exists is the crime rate significantly lower than any other state? And if so is it justifiable to say that the death penalty is the reason?

Well, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, states without the death penalty have had significantly lower crime rates. In 2009 states without the death penalty had a murder rate of 3.90 percent while states with the death penalty had a rate of 5.26 percent. This showed a 35percentage difference between these states.

Have you ever stopped to think that the threat of death penalty does not enter the mind of someone who is acting under the influence of drugs, alcohol, fear or even those suffering from mental illness? These people are not able to think logically and therefore do not have a full understanding of the gravity of the crime they have committed or are about to commit.

In light of what was said here one has no alternative but to conclude that the death penalty cannot be justified on the merit of being a deterrent.

And if it does not serve as a deterrent then the question must be asked, “what is its true purpose?”



What is your view on the Death Penalty?

Please view our poll on Mount Vernon Today's homepage and let us know what you think.


Last Updated on Friday, 23 September 2011 13:15

A Native View - Ask Not What Mount Vernon Can Do For You

Thursday, 21 April 2011 13:20 Russell Merritt
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Russell MerritIn lieu of telling the entire tri-state area I told you so! regarding Carmelo Anthony, I want to ask my fellow Mt. Vernon-ians, past and present, short and tall, black and white, skinny and ummm… not-so-skinny, “What have you done for your city lately?”

No, I’m not on a soap box (that’ll be next issue). My question is very literal, for instance:

Have you thrown your garbage in a trash bin…or did you just throw it on the ground adding it to the trash being pushed around by cold winds?

Did you call a city official and complain about something that’s been bothering you for months…or have you tucked it back into the deepest, darkest recesses of your mind…again?

Did you curse out the taxi company’s dispatcher for hiring such a rude driver…or did you discuss with all parties involved about how they might better treat their customers?

Have you spiritually congratulated Ray Williams on his return home…or have you yet again shrugged your shoulders at a feel good story that should be shared when we need feel good stories the most?

Have you shared my Native View URL’s from mountvernontoday.com with your friends and family outside of the Mount Vernon area…or have you mistakenly assumed my lessons were only intended for those who inhabit four square miles of God’s green Earth?

Did you call your children’s school teacher or principal for academic updates…or have you assumed it is all okay?

Have you patronized any of Mt. Vernon’s local restaurants…or have you even thought about your local restaurants?

I could ask you a million questions. What’s most important is how you choose to answer.  Stop…think…choose wisely.

Last Updated on Friday, 22 April 2011 14:46

Letter to the Editor: Saving New York on the Backs of the Working Class

Thursday, 21 April 2011 13:15 administrator
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Governor Cuomo and our elected officials in Albany have the Herculean task of cutting the budget by $10 billion. This is the fiscal reality of the times. However, their solution is as follows – tax middle and lower income earners – cut the police and fire fighters, social workers, childcare institutions, nurses and teachers. What? Yes, instead of continuing a modest income tax on people earning $200,000+, the governor appears determined to let the “millionaire’s tax” expire in December. Imagine transferring $4.5 billion from essential public investments to the pockets of the richest New Yorkers. This modest surcharge represents a mere one percent on a single tax filer’s net earnings between $200,000 and $500,000. If the truth be told, the wealthiest still pay proportionately less in state and local taxes than families earning between $33,000 and $56,000. Of course, everyone should pay a fair share of taxes to fund schools, libraries, road repairs and other vital services. The problem is that the system raises revenue from the wrong places.

Today when more families are struggling to pay for energy, mortgage, rent, tuitions, and groceries and over 25 million Americans workers are dealing with partial employment or unemployment, top earners are doing quite well. CEO’s earning $400,000 in 2000 paid the same income tax rate as a secretary making $40,000. The richest ten percent already claims half the nation’s income. This inequality is the result of policy choices: dismantling worker protections, deregulating financial institutions, and giving tax breaks to the rich at the expense of the vast majority of working class Americans.

You can make a difference. Write to Governor Cuomo and your elected officials and demand that they:

• Extend the higher income tax surcharge (the millionaire’s tax) on New York’s wealthiest 3 percent.

• Ease low and middle income New Yorker’s burden by implementing an income-sensitive property tax circuit breaker that helps renters and homeowners.

• Move the tax burden off the backs of moderate and low income earners. Reduce state reliance on sales and excise taxes and increase rates on the higher incomes. Close tax loopholes on corporations.

• Vigorously enforce protections against wealth theft, forced overtime and other employer abuses. New York, get those letters in the mail! Submitted by Patricia Monahan Mount Vernon, New York 

Respectfully submitted:
Patricia Monahan

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 April 2011 13:15


Monday, 04 April 2011 20:26 administrator
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Should almost 20-year-career city hall politician Maureen Walker run for mayor again?

Maureen Walker an 18-year fixture in Mount Vernon politics and city hall has announced that she will be making another run for mayor. In our first of a series of Point / Counterpoint features, we have included Comptroller Walker’s unedited press release detailing her reasons for running and an opposing commentary.


By Maureen Walker

Press Release

I have decided to seek the democratic nomination for Mayor of Mount Vernon at the upcoming primary elections to be held on September 13, 2011.  As the City Comptroller, I have made the resources of the Comptroller’s Office readily accessible to all residents and businesses. I have also brought efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness to my office resulting in an extended and unprecedented period of financial stability to the City of Mount Vernon.  However, this financial stability has, unfortunately, not transcribed into the advancement of our city and its residents from a quality of life perspective.  It appears that our city is the victim of partisan politics which has resulted in a leadership vacuum and a decline in our quality of life.

The City of Mount Vernon is now standing at the crossroads between crisis and hope, between economic decline and advancement opportunities, between past failures and future prosperity.  We must make wise choices if we are to steer our city out of the dangerous riptide it has been led into.  Restoring pride in our city, providing our residents with the services they deserve and continuing to place people above politics will be my primary objectives.

Mount Vernon needs bold, innovative and capable leadership.  Leaders who are not influenced by special interest groups; leaders who are not afraid to make the tough decisions needed; leaders who will place the best interest of the city above politics.  I represent that leadership.  I am duly qualified and experienced and possess the independence, strength and know-how to chart our city into a brighter tomorrow.  I am asking our residents to join me and together we can make our city government more professional, more efficient, more responsive and more accessible to our residents and businesses.

Sincerely yours,
Maureen Walker, CPA, MBA, BSc (Hons.)




In her announcement last month that she was seeking the Democratic nomination in this year’s mayoral race, Comptroller Maureen Walker mentioned leadership, financial stability, effectiveness and efficiency among the virtues that qualify her for the elected position as this city’s Chief Executive Officer.

While these qualities may look good on paper, a simple examination of her performance as city Comptroller proves these claims to ring as hollow as her self-proclaimed status as Mount Vernon’s “financial watchdog”. Perhaps the most damning case against Walker is her inability to safeguard the taxpayers’ finances in the embarrassing cases of fraud and corruption that occurred during the previous mayoral administration.

It was Walker’s signature as Treasurer of the Urban Renewal Agency that appeared on the checks made payable to Micros Only in the Gerrie Post/Wayne Charles scandal that resulted in federal convictions of the former Planning Commissioner and her alleged boyfriend. Her signature also appeared on city checks made payable to A&D Carting, who bilked the city out of $1.25 million. This case resulted in the conviction of Albert “Allie Boy” Tranquillo III, a reputed Genovese crime family associate whose family owned A&D Carting, and James Castaldo, a former city DPW supervisor. Walker, who frequently refers to herself as the city’s Chief Financial Officer, had no controls in place to root out this corruption which had been years in the making.

The above cases, along with the HUD Section 8 fiasco that resulted in the city being stripped of its administration of the housing program, represent three embarrassing high-profile cases of fraud and corruption that happened under the watch of Walker and the previous mayoral administration. Yet, Walker through her allies on the City Council, continues her relentless attack on the Office of the Inspector General which, staffed and funded beginning in 2008, is the one city agency responsible for deterring fraud, waste and corruption. It was Inspector General Harry Stokes who worked with federal authorities during the prosecution and sentencing phases of these cases to recoup monies lost and reduce, the federal fine resulting from the HUD Section 8 debacle. Why does Walker fear the Inspector General so much?

While the Comptroller is paid a handsome $128,000 per year salary, she regularly takes time off from her work day to travel to New Rochelle to teach accounting courses at Iona College. Most semesters, she teaches two courses which require her to spend half days, three times a week, away from her taxpayer funded Comptroller position. That’s right, at the same time she is being paid to work as Comptroller, she is also earning another salary working for Iona College.

Homeowners may have noticed that the 2010 school tax bills were mailed out three weeks late. This was wholly due to the fact that the Comptroller’s staff - two Chief Accountant’s earning $132,000 and $128,000 respectively, two Senior Accountants earning $88,000 each and a First Deputy earning $91,000 – were all incapable of calculating the school taxes. They finally were forced to turn to the Assessor’s Office for the necessary expertise in order to get the tax bills out.

So let’s take a look at what we have. We have candidate for Mayor who is essentially a part-time Comptroller who works a second job during the workday while the taxpayers pay her city salary. We have a “Chief Financial Officer” who did nothing but sign the checks as millions of taxpayer dollars flew out the door and we have the head of a Finance Department that is unable to calculate school tax bills. Sadly, this “watchdog” has been caught sleeping far too often. If Walker is not capable of doing the job as Comptroller, what could Mount Vernon expect from her as Mayor?

Last Updated on Monday, 04 April 2011 23:47

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