- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2003

Religious left

You’ve heard about the religious right, so why not the religious left?

The African American Ministers Leadership Council, which considers itself “nonpartisan,” is to launch a national voter registration, education and mobilization campaign in preparation for the 2004 presidential election.

Dubbed “Sanctified Seven — Victory Through Voting,” the campaign will be active in the key electoral states of Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The goal is to encourage black participants to register every few weeks at least seven members of their community to vote in the 2004 election.

“For years now, the religious right has co-opted the language of the church and the language of the Bible and used it as a tool to motivate people in ways that conflict with our core beliefs and that are harmful to our communities,” says the Rev. Arnold Howard, chairman of the AAMLC. “For this reason, we are asking our clergy and our congregations to dedicate themselves to countering the rhetoric of the religious right by mobilizing voters within their communities.”

Shunned ladies

The largest bipartisan women’s business group isn’t pleased that the House has “brushed off” until next year a vote on small business and female-owned business programs.

What’s the big deal?

Amazingly, roughly half — 46 percent — of privately held U.S. companies are now owned by women, and yet female-owned businesses receive just 2.9 percent of all federal contracts.

“Women and small-business owners will be working through the holidays, and Congress should finish their work, too,” says Women Impacting Public Policy President Terry Neese. (The Senate passed its bill for the programs in September).

The legislation, titled the Small Business Administration Reauthorization Act, safeguards federal contracts for small and female-owned businesses and ensures fair treatment of small-business subcontractors. The bill was delayed after talks between the House Government Reform and Small Business Committees collapsed late last month.

“The holidays won’t be so bright for women and small-business owners,” says Ms. Neese, who says small businesses lose as much as $26 billion annually in federal contracts to big business.

Female-owned businesses, she says, currently lose $5.5 billion annually in federal contracts.

Plugging America

Touting a different America than one described by “thugs and assassins,” Assistant Secretary of State Patricia S. Harrison welcomes thousands of foreign exchange students, teachers and leaders to this country as head of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

“We are very proud of our accomplishments,” she told Inside the Beltway after her recent speech to Fulbright foreign-language fellows at the Washington Marriott.

“When … you return home … you will be able to share your firsthand knowledge of the United States with your students, friends and families,” Ms. Harrison told the fellows. “You will be able to tell them about an America that exists beyond the headlines, beyond television news in your countries and ours.”

She specifically asked the fellows to convey to their countrymen that “even after the events of September 11, we are open and welcoming and want even more students from other countries to come here to study.”

As this column noted last week, during a trip to Baghdad in September, Ms. Harrison helped set up arrangements for tomorrow evening’s special Kennedy Center concert of the Iraq National Symphony Orchestra.

Credit Card 101

It wasn’t long ago that a good education consisted of reading, writing and arithmetic.

“Unfortunately, we left one vital skill out of the mix,” says Sen. Michael B. Enzi, Wyoming Republican. “As an accountant, I have become increasingly concerned about the lack of knowledge we have as a society, and especially the lack of insight we share with our children, about money and how to properly handle it, budget it, and use it to plan for their retirement.”

The senator calls “quite startling” the number of young people leaving college today with mountains of personal credit card debt. Besides parents and students, he blames “eager banks” and “easily available credit.”

So, the accountant-turned-senator has introduced the Financial Literacy in Higher Education Act, to help make young people “wiser” users of consumer credit.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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