Category Archives: Racism

Whose World Is It Anyway?

This morning I read an interesting article on OZY titled “Don’t Let Old People Vote!” I won’t go into great detail, but it did raise an interesting question for me: Whose world is it anyway?

One of my independent opponents, Rick Tyler, longs for a return to the way the U.S. was in the 1950s and 1960s, when white Christian Conservatives were in control. Tyler is extreme, certainly, but parts of his attitude are reflected in many older Americans. Opposition to gay marriage and equality, environmental protection, improved funding for education are all much greater among older Americans than younger, while older Americans are more likely to vote than younger Americans.

This is due at least in part due to the fact that voter registration isn’t automatic. The seventy-five-year-old who has lived in the same house for forty years hasn’t had to re-register, while the twenty-five-year-old recent college graduate likely had to re-register when moving from home to college, then when switching apartments, then when moving from college to the new job–possibly six or seven moves since turning eighteen. If the twenty-five-year-old is in Tennessee, that requires mailing in a new registration form for each move at least thirty days before an election, since there is no electronic voter registration. Thus, part of the reason for lower voter turnout among young Americans is systemic, rather than simply being voter apathy.

This is problematic, because older Americans are, effectively, voting to force younger Americans to live in the world they want, rather than in the world older Americans would like to return. Unfortunately, the world they want cannot return, because America is unlikely to return to a manufacturing economy, not due to moving jobs out of the country but due to increased automation–and that automation is only going to continue to allow workers to improve productivity, which will continue to decrease the number of workers needed. We need trade laws that protect intellectual property rights (although not to the extreme duration that the Trans-Pacific Partnership mandates), because these are areas where the U.S. still excels. Protecting the environment is also less important to older Americans, because they are unlikely to suffer the consequences. Their college wasn’t free, so why should it be for younger Americans–ignoring the fact that a college student in their day could pay for school, room, and board with a part-time job plus a full-time job in the summer? And, of course, many older Americans don’t think that racism and homophobia was really that bad–because LGBT people stayed closeted and minorities “knew their place.”

As anyone who has read more than one post on this blog knows, I’m not a normal politician. I don’t look forward to tomorrow, next week, or next year: I look ten, twenty, and fifty years into the future. I think we need to be planning an online voting infrastructure now, and it should be trivial for someone to change their address in the system. I think we need to continue to improve our environmental standards–but we need to make sure that while improving standards we don’t also increase the regulatory burden on American businesses. If we add a new reporting requirement, we need to remove an existing one. Civil rights protections need to cover any group subject to discrimination on any basis besides their ability to do a job–with appropriate accommodations, where needed–or to pay for the goods and services provided. I have said before that we need to move toward a single-payer health care system, both to allow U.S. manufacturers to compete on a level playing field internationally and to make part-time employment affordable for Americans and small businesses.

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(from Pinterest. Original artist unknown.)

I have argued before that we need to consider raising the age for Social Security, but given current population trends, this may not be the best route. The world population growth rate is currently about half that of the 1960s–1.13% compared to 2.2%–and falling. Depending on the rate of improvement in automation, we may have to tweak the workforce by manipulating the retirement age upward or downward. If we find that we have too many workers, it may be useful to drop the retirement age to free up those slots. We may even get to the point where a universal basic income becomes viable and desirable, in the case of automation greatly reducing the need for labor. It isn’t something that we can afford today, and much more research needs to be done, but it is something that we should consider as an option later.

I don’t fear the future. I don’t think you should either–and you shouldn’t vote for anyone who does. We need to manage the world so that we don’t irreparably damage it while we are getting there, but the world can be an incredible place. We just need politicians who won’t sabotage us on our way there.

The election is in four days. Do your research, then get out and vote. Thanks for reading!

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Filed under Education, Environment, Gay Marriage and Gender Issues, Health Care, Listening, Racism, Social Security, Technology

Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 2 of 6)

DNC Logo

Part 1

Bring Americans Together and Remove Barriers to Create Ladders of Opportunity

Wow. That’s a mouthful. On principle, I hate it. “We will work to break down barriers standing in the way of Americans and replace them with ladders of opportunity.” Please point me to the mission statement committee so I can berate them appropriately.

Don’t misunderstand me: I like the overall objective.

Racial Wealth Gap

Two paragraphs stating the case, one sentence of

“Democrats believe it is long past time to close this racial wealth gap by eliminating systemic barriers to wealth accumulation for different racial groups and improving opportunities for people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds to build wealth”

There are no policy recommendations here. I can only conclude that the Democratic Party is paying lip service to the problem. Democratic policy recommendations on other issues will help all poor people, and minorities are disproportionately poor, but if you aren’t specifically targeting remedies for past discrimination, you’re only addressing part of the problem. (I do have policy ideas–but this is not the time.)

Criminal Justice

There’s a lot of good stuff here. Closing private prisons is a great idea, although one that will take time. I’ve always hated mandatory minimum sentencing, but we need to make sure that judicial supervisors have data to make certain that all defendants are tried and sentenced fairly. We don’t need judges who sentence minority offenders three times longer than white offenders.

Ending profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity, and national origin is also important. Body cameras probably need to become standard issue, now that they are light enough and cheap enough. I am disturbed that the platform only calls for reforms of civil asset forfeiture, when the abuses of the system indicate that it probably needs to be scrapped completely. I could support a system where assets are seized, held until criminal charges are concluded, then either released–if the defendant is found not guilty–or confiscated as part of the sentence.

Reforming the prison system to put a greater emphasis on rehabilitation and education instead of punishment also makes sense. I have been against the death penalty for years, so I am glad the platform is unequivocal in its opposition.

I wish the platform was more supportive of decriminalization–nay, legalization–of marijuana. Instead, it chooses to leave the issue to the states, while mentioning unfair arrest rates for African-Americans and problems facing marijuana businesses.

Immigration

I like the tone of this section. I especially like the mistake, where they refer to E Pluribus Unum as the national motto. (It was replaced, mistakenly, in my opinion, in 1956 by “In God We Trust.”)

I do think, however, that the policy recommendations are bandages and not cures. Reuniting families, providing paths to citizenship, focusing enforcement efforts on lawbreakers, and making sure unaccompanied children have legal representation are all worthy goals, but they don’t address the underlying problem. And it is a problem, despite the platform stating “Immigration is not a problem to be solved, it is a defining aspect of the American character and history.”

My question to people who want to build a wall on the Mexican border is a simple one: How long does it take for a Mexican citizen without family already living in the U.S. going through legal channels to immigrate to the U.S.?

The answer, which shocks most people, is “Forever.”

This section does mention needing to help Central American countries solve the problems that cause people to want to leave, and that’s important. (Too many people who are anti-immigrant are also anti-foreign aid, which I find foolish.) Finally, the platform condemns Trump’s religious litmus test for refugees, as it should. Not that such a test would be remotely constitutional….

Civil Rights and LGBT Rights

The platform implies that Democrats support adding gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity as protected civil rights classes, and I agree with that position. The rest of the section focuses on condemning hate speech, with a jab at Trump thrown in for good measure.

Disability Rights

I got called out on Twitter on the 4th, asking if I would support Sen. Schumer’s Disability Integration Act. I was skeptical, as Schumer tends to be a good distance to the left of me, but the DIA makes a lot of sense. Simply put, I look at it as replicating the shift from orphanages to foster care, but instead, it moves Americans with disabilities from community homes by providing families with the means and support to care for them at home. The expectation is that this will either result in a cost savings–the cost of home visits by professional caregivers is outweighed by the savings of a group home–or little additional cost. The benefit, of course, is increased freedom for Americans with disabilities. Yeah, I got behind that one.

The platform doesn’t mention DIA explicitly, but it does recommend policy changes, like tax breaks for families caring for the disabled, that would mesh well with it.

Poverty / Communities Left Behind

This section consists mostly of throwing money at the problem and promoting current popular programs. I would like to see a bit more creativity here. How about a program where companies get tax credits for opening facilities in impoverished neighborhoods–if they hire a certain percentage of the new employees from those neighborhoods? You get the double whammy of providing jobs and short commutes that will help the environment.

So, no, I’m not a big fan of this section.

Honoring Indigenous Tribal Nations

This is a page and a half section with a laundry list of things to do for American Indians. I’d be happier if it included the phrase “We will honor our treaty obligations.”

I am guessing that the Democratic proposals will be significantly better than whatever the Republicans propose–if anything–and if any of this passes it would be very helpful. I’ve seen the poverty on the Pine Ridge Reservation with my own eyes. Most of what the Democrats propose are ways to spend money, with only a token mention of investment. Improving the economies of American Indian lands is critical to pulling these areas out of poverty. Without plans to help tribal leaders do this, the rest is almost pointless.

I’m not comfortable on this issue, and I’m doing more research.

People of the Territories

We support full self-government and self-determination for the people of the territories of Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and their right to decide their future status.

Pretty simple–and right on the money. If I recall correctly, American Samoa has the highest level of military service anywhere. The fact that they can’t vote for president is just stupid.

Puerto Rico

Self-determination and debt restructuring. Pretty straightforward stuff, but, as with the section on American Indians, little about how to help Puerto Rico’s economy.

Protect Voting Rights, Fix Our Campaign Finance System, and Restore Our Democracy

Voting Rights

We must restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. We will bring our democracy into the 21st century by expanding early voting and vote-by-mail, implementing universal automatic voter registration, same day voting, ending partisan and racial gerrymandering, and making Election Day a national holiday. We will restore voting rights for those who have served their sentences. And we will continue to fight against discriminatory voter identification laws, which disproportionately burden young voters, diverse communities, people of color, low-income families, people with disabilities, the elderly, and women.

I would add to this that we should look into online voting for people who cannot make it to polling places. I don’t have a problem with requiring voters to have a photo ID, but I do think states need to make these IDs free–so that they aren’t a poll tax–and they need to provide free transportation and assistance to anyone who needs help in getting one.

Campaign Finance

We need to correct the influx of political money from corporations and the wealthy caused by Citizens United. The platform says this, but I don’t see any specific means of addressing the problem. They suggest “executive order or legislation,” but I’m not sure these would stand up in court. I don’t know if an amendment is needed, but it might be. Again, the platform identifies the problem, but is weak on specifics.

Judges

We will appoint judges who defend the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all, protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion, curb billionaires’ influence over elections because they understand that Citizens United has fundamentally damaged our democracy, and see the Constitution as a blueprint for progress.

I hate litmus tests on either side. I would prefer a more general statement about appointing judges with a certain perspective on the Constitution, but it is what it is. The Republican platform will be just as inadequate from the opposite perspective.

Management of Federal Government

We will also ensure that new spending and tax cuts are offset so that they do not add to the nation’s debt over time.

Boring.

Tell me what you’ll actually do to attack the debt. Have some courage and say tax increases might be necessary. They do talk about “progressive investments” to create middle-class jobs.

I’d like to see something innovative here, but they are too dependent on the system.


Tomorrow, if I have time, I’ll get to the sections on the environment and education.

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An Intelligent Conversation About Race

Rick Tyler has a section on his campaign website called “An Intelligent Conversation About Race” where he has collected his combined one-minute radio ads discussing race issues. He is obviously looking to be accommodating on these views, as shown by his graphic:

(from ricktylerforcongress.com)

(from ricktylerforcongress.com)

I am obviously weird, because, while I am offended by his views on race, I am annoyed by his use of the word “conversation” here. A conversation requires listening. A good conversation requires a possibility that one side can persuade the other that their ideas may be incorrect. Since a radio advertisement is a one-way message, there is no conversation. His views on race are obsolete, so I don’t think we can call his ads “intelligent” either. He should just simplify his title to “About Race” and be done with it.

Having said all this, Tyler is right about one thing: We should have a conversation about race. Avoiding talking about race is to ignore what is still a problem in our society.


Conservative pundit and convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza claimed in his 1995 book The End of Racism that racism “no longer has the power to thwart blacks or any other group in achieving their economic, political, and social aspirations.” (p. 182) He was wrong then, and he’s wrong now.

Since I’m running for Congress, I’m going to look at this from a policy standpoint. What policies should we implement to make sure that people of all ethnicities, religions, and economic backgrounds have access to opportunity.

Education

I have mixed feelings on affirmative action in higher education, because I don’t believe that it is sufficient to solve the problem of minority groups getting a substandard education. Admitting an underprepared student into a cutthroat educational environment is leading lambs to the slaughter. I would like to see an intensive summer or gap year academy-type program where underprivileged students who show potential are trained to thrive in college. Ideally, we would staff this program with instructors who came from similar backgrounds who can pass along their experience and survival skills.

Eventually, though, I would like such a program to become obsolete, because we have fixed the problems of inequality in our primary and secondary education systems. I have written about education before, and I think our system needs systemic change. Our public school system divides students by geography, level of parental involvement, and income level, but each school lumps students together regardless of ability. We cannot continue to drive motivated parents away from public schools by basing their children’s education on luck, and we can’t sacrifice children with less capable parents–usually through no fault of their own–to allow others a better opportunity. It simply isn’t fair.

Politics

There are two things that are keeping minority representation down in politics: Money and gerrymandering. The money problem will have to be solved by overturning Citizens United with legislation–probably an amendment–that takes away unlimited political free speech from corporations.

Republicans have effectively used gerrymandering to solidify their control of the House of Representatives. There is no reason that the district containing Chattanooga should be as solidly Republican as it is.

3rdDistMap

The Third District is in green. Tennessee’s districts are drawn so that Republicans have solid majorities in seven of the nine districts. Only the Fifth (Nashville) and the Ninth (Memphis) are Democratic seats. The last statewide election without an incumbent resulted in almost an even split between Republicans and Democrats (Bob Corker vs. Harold Ford, Jr.). With fairly drawn districts, the Congressional delegation should be closer to 5-4 than 7-2. The reason it is 7-2 is that the sizable minority–and, usually, Democratic voting–populations in Hamilton and Knox Counties are diluted through gerrymandering. There’s no fair reason why Hamilton County’s border should be almost completely the Fourth District. If districts are redrawn to create closer elections, minorities will have a much better chance of reaching office.

As a Congressman, I will introduce legislation calling for redistricting to be done by nonpartisan groups in each state to return fairness to House elections.

Economic Opportunity

The cliché is that you have to have money to make money. Donald Trump is rich because his grandfather was a successful businessman, making his money running Yukon gold rush hotels and brothels. Many candidates in this election are pushing for an increase in the minimum wage, and I agree with that in the abstract–I think we need an increase in the minimum wage combined with a cost-of-living adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index like Social Security.

What I think may be more important is addressing income disparities between executive and worker compensation. In 2014, David Zastav, CEO of Discovery Communications, made 1,951 times as much as the median worker with his organization. Larry Merlo, CEO of CVS, made 1,192 times as much. Of the 441 companies in the S&P 500 for which data was available, 336 of the CEOs made more than 100 times as much as their median employees. Some of the CEOs who didn’t make that much were people like Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Larry Page, men who are already billionaires since the initial IPOs of Facebook, Amazon, and Google.

Obviously, CEO pay is just the tip of the iceberg: No corporation has just one highly-compensated executive. I would have to figure out what the proper ratio is, but I would introduce legislation basing the corporate income tax rate on the ratio of executive compensation to median employee compensation. If you pay your workers fairly, you pay less in taxes. This works, because people who make less money spend a higher percentage of their income, generating more economic activity, and correspondingly, even more tax revenue. This should be done with legislation to remove some of the legal loopholes companies use to hide profits in offshore tax havens. If your company benefits from the infrastructure US taxpayers provide, you should be paying your fair share of those taxes.

My hope would be that by raising the pay of low-income Americans, they would have the resources to start their own small businesses. Instead of being net consumers of government resources, they would become net contributors. They would create jobs in their communities. This would, however, require outreach programs, where other successful minority and formerly economically disadvantaged Americans would teach potential entrepreneurs how to succeed.


The key thing I want to do is to make sure everyone has equality of opportunity in politics, education, and the economy. I will address other factors connected with race, notably law enforcement and prisons, in a future post. If you have other ideas or suggestions, please let me know.

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Filed under Racism