The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer has galvanized the nation and the world. His murder was only one of a long, long list of murders and lynchings over decades. But this was a perfect storm that made its heinousness obvious to all: this was not the instant firing of a gun in a moment of fear, but a tortuously long, drawn out 8 minutes, 46 seconds, during which three other police stood around, onlookers pleaded for mercy, and the whole thing captured on video shared over social media. So while there were other unprovoked killings – Breonna Taylor, shot in her own apartment in the dead of night after police invaded with a no-knock warrant – this one was undeniable in demonstrating the ingrained culture that dehumanizes in order for such violence to occur, and the smug security of police, given unparalleled power of a gun and a badge, that they would not be held accountable.
Enough is enough, protesters by the tens of thousands in hundreds of cities throughout the country and the world, chant, even putting their own lives at risk, not just from the baton-wielding, tear-gas throwing, flashbang grenade hurling, rubber-bullet firing police dressed as an invading army, but from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The protests have come to suburbia and our home town as well – most affectingly, one this weekend organized by Great Neck high school students which drew well over 500 people to Firefighters Park in Great Neck Plaza. (They withstood accusations on Facebook they were terrorists who had collected stones to throw at police. Meanwhile, county police closed off the main street to traffic so they could march a mile to the Village Green, and walked along side.)
They decried the structural racism at the heart of a police culture that has its origins in catching slaves, then, morphed into an enforcement mechanism for White Supremacy, along with so many other structural inequities that, by design, have kept African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities unequal in society.
While the elements of police brutality and criminal injustice are well known, they are kept in force year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation by supremely politically powerful police unions.
Indeed, the most dramatic “reform” is to completely rebuild police departments – there are 16,000 of them. Some police departments have actually done this – Camden, NJ, for example – and it may be the only way to really root out the structural inequities, bias. Now Minneapolis’ city council has voted to disband its $193 million police department. What that actually means is that, like Camden, it intends to rebuild it, in order to make it functional and appropriate in a country that supposedly is based on principles of “equal justice for all.”
They will likely scrutinize how police officers are recruited, hired, know if there is a record of police brutality (like Timothy Loehmann who murdered 12-year old Tamir Rice). How are officers trained and what they understand their “mission” to be? One trendy training program (as John Oliver disclosed on “Last Week Tonight”) is in the “art” of “Killology” where officers are instructed that if they are not predators prepared to kill, they have no business being police.
Not only are the problems well known, but the solutions have been methodically investigated, analyzed, quantified and put in the form of recommendations – by the Obama Administration after the Ferguson, Missouri, riots that followed Michael Brown’s unprovoked murder by police. The task force developed a template for 21st Century Policing, including ending militarizing police. His Department of Justice under Eric Holder obtained consent decrees from the most vile police forces. But, like the template to address a global pandemic handed to the Trump Administration, it was immediately discarded, and the consent decrees withdrawn.
But George Floyd has created the rarest opportunity for reform. With breathtaking speed for New York or any state government, major measures for a “Say Their Name” police reform agenda have already passed the Legislature: Allow for transparency of prior disciplinary records by reforming 50-a; ban chokeholds; prosecute for making a false race-based 911 report; and designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor in cases involving death of unarmed civilian by law enforcement.
Cuomo wants to go further to “seize the momentum,” correctly seeing this time as transformational to “reinvent” policing..
“This is a long time coming,” Cuomo said. “It is time to reimagine and reinvent policing for 2020…Police are public servants for that community – if the community doesn’t trust, doesn’t respect police, police can’t do their job.”
Democrats in Congress have also seized on this transformational moment as well, introducing “Justice in Policing Act” which at the federal level would ban chokeholds; challenge “qualified immunity”; prohibit no-knock warrants; counter the trend toward militarization of police; require body and dashboard cameras; require independent prosecutors in cases of police brutality; establish a national database to track police misconduct; and (finally) make lynching a federal hate crime.
Others want more. There are calls to “defund police” – which like “They’re coming for your guns” and “Open Borders!” is a catchy slogan that fits on a sign that has been deliberately distorted by Trump and the Republicans and used to incite fear among (white suburban) voters who are being told their neighborhoods will be overrun by criminals, gangs and rapists.
What “defund police” means is reassessing what functions the police do. Do we want protectors or warriors? Are police the best ones to address situations involving mental health, drug overdoses, domestic violence or school discipline? More accurately, people are calling for “divest-reinvest”: take that money and invest in social workers, mental health professionals, and guidance counselors that police, themselves, have said they are not equipped to deal with.
And it means investing in community programs that in themselves reduce crime. That’s what Cuomo is proposing in a Justice Agenda to root out the causes of criminal injustice, all on view in conjunction with the coronavirus epidemic and its disproportionate impact on communities of color: it goes to addressing the disparities in education, housing, health care, poverty.
“This is not just a moment for political protest,” Governor Cuomo said. “It’s not just a moment to express outrage. It’s a moment to do something about it, and to make real reform and real change. That’s the goal of the moment. I understand the emotion. I want people to know how upset I am. Good. Second step, what do we do about it? And let’s get it done here in the State of New York.
“When we talk about a Justice Agenda, we want to fight the systemic racism, inequality and injustice in our society. That is what the protesters are saying and I stand with the protesters in saying that because it’s very true. But in this moment of change, let’s make it real change and let’s get to the root of the issue. You want to talk about injustice and inequality in America. Well then it has to start with our education system. We do not educate all children the same. ‘Opportunity for all.’ No, opportunity for some, opportunity for people who grow up in a rich school district and a rich family with high property taxes and they go to great schools, but not for the children who grow up in poorer communities, who go to inferior schools. That is the reality today. That is the truth. I’m saying that as Governor of New York not as a protester on a street corner. It is a fact. Even in this state, we spent $36,000 per year, per student, in a wealthy school district, $13,000 per year in a poorer school district. How do you rationalize that? You can’t and say this is a system that provides equal opportunity for all.
“How do you still have children living in poverty? With all this wealth, with all this abundance, how do you tolerate a situation where some children to no fault of their own, you can’t blame them, they were born into one circumstance and they are living in poverty? You can’t justify it. The number of homeless, lack of affordable housing, you have a federal government that just went out of the housing business. I was the former housing secretary, worked in housing all my life. Housing was a federal responsibility, not state, not local. 1949 Housing Act, “for this nation, safe, clean, decent housing for all Americans.” 1949, it’s 2020, what are we doing? There’s no section eight, no section eight project base, no more public housing, and then we wonder why there is an affordable housing shortage.
“And yes, criminal justice reform, why do we lock up more people than any industrialized nation on the globe? That is a sign of success? …Why do we have racial disparity in the criminal justice system? How do you rationalize it? Unless it goes back to the other systemic injustices and inequality, if a person grows up in poverty, if a person doesn’t have education, if a person doesn’t have access to opportunity, then you see the result in the criminal justice system. This is how you get at injustice and inequality, and you can’t do it piecemeal, either attack it fully or you will never defeat it. That is the justice agenda. And this has to be done on the federal level and it should be done on the federal level because this is not a New York or California or Florida issue. It is an American issue. And you are in the middle of election season, stand up and say, ‘Here is my election reform agenda. You want my support and my vote? Here is my agenda. You are running for Congress, you’re running for Senate, or whatever you’re running for, you want my support? Here is my agenda.’ That is my opinion,” Cuomo said.
But none of this will happen as long as Trump and the Republicans are in power.
The vigorous contest of Democrats
seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy
proposals to address major issues. One of the major issues is how to
restructure the economy for sustainability and protect jobs. Senator Amy
Klobuchar just released a comprehensive plan to address the future of work
in a changing economy This is from the Klobuchar campaign:
DES MOINES – Today, ahead of a panel discussion
at Machinists Lodge 254 in Des Moines, Senator Amy Klobuchar released her plan
for the future of work and a changing economy. Senator Klobuchar’s proposal is
a comprehensive plan to address digital disruption and renew the social
contract in the gig economy, respect the dignity of work, invest in America’s
future and focus on economic justice and shared prosperity.
Senator Klobuchar’s plan includes updating consumer and worker
protections, strengthening collective bargaining and labor rights, establishing
national paid family leave, creating portable personal retirement accounts,
boosting entrepreneurship and investing in cybersecurity.
Senator Klobuchar’s Plan for the Future of Work and a
In America, no matter where you come from, who you know, or where you
live, if you work hard, you should be able to make it in this country. But
that’s not the case for too many people in today’s economy. Senator Klobuchar
is committed to championing economic policies that give all Ameicans an
opportunity to succeed. That means connecting our students and affordable
education to the jobs of today and tomorrow, increasing wages and respecting
the dignity of work, making health care more affordable, ensuring a secure
retirement, investing in our infrastructure and creating jobs, focusing on
economic justice and shared prosperity, and budgeting responsibly for our
future. And it means a Competitive Agenda for America to ensure that America
continues to be a country that thinks, that invents, that makes stuff, and that
exports to the world.
Address Digital Disruption
Senator Klobuchar believes we need to start tackling the challenges
presented by digital disruption and a changing economy. The future of work is
changing, which is putting stress on the social contract we’ve had in this
country when it comes to job training, employment, and retirement. Senator
Klobuchar’s plan is a plan for the future: offering stronger worker
protections, reasserting protections for consumers in a digital world,
investing in cybersecurity across the economy to prevent crippling attacks on
infrastructure and commerce, and taking on consolidation which is threatening
to take us into a new Gilded Age.
Renew the Social Contract for the Gig Economy. Senator
Klobuchar believes we must update our laws to reflect the evolving nature of
Invest in education and job training, including for
workers at risk of losing their jobs to automation. Senator Klobuchar
is committed to creating new opportunities and ensuring a just transition for
workers who have been displaced by the changing economy. She believes the
federal government has an important role to play during economic transitions.
As President she will take action to ensure that workers can pursue additional
education and can do so without a financial burden at any age. She will also
create a new tax credit for employers that invest in training for workers at
risk of being laid off through on-site training programs or provide paid time
off for off-site retraining.
Make it easier to save for retirement. The
retirement system we have today wasn’t designed for today’s economy where
workers stay in a job for an average of four years and more than 57 million
Americans are working in the gig economy. As President, Senator Klobuchar will
work to create innovative, portable personal retirement accounts called
UP-Savings Accounts. Under her plan, employers will set aside at least 50 cents
per hour worked, helping a worker build more than $600,000 in wealth over the
course of a career.
Invest in quality, affordable child care and create a
national paid family and medical leave program. As President, Senator
Klobuchar will create a national paid family leave program to provide workers
with 12 weeks of paid leave per year to care for a new child, a family member
with a serious health condition, or their own serious health condition. She
will also create a new federal-state partnership to make child care more
affordable by capping spending on child care at seven percent of income for
families making up to 150 percent of their state’s median income, invest in
expanding the availability of child care, and work to raise wages for
caregivers and early childhood teachers. Read more about Senator Klobuchar’s
child care and paid family leave policies here.
Give workers access to a non-profit public option for
health insurance. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work to pass
legislation to create a non-profit public option that expands Medicare or
Medicaid. She will also build on the Affordable Care Act to help bring down
costs to consumers, including expanding premium subsidies, providing
cost-sharing reductions, making it easier for states to put reinsurance in
place, and continuing to implement delivery system reform. And she will take on
the other health care challenges we face including the price of prescription
drugs, mental health care, addiction and long-term care. Read more about Senator Klobuchar’s
health care policies here.
Allow gig workers to organize and prevent employees from
being misclassified as independent contractors. As President, Senator
Klobuchar will work to pass Senator Patty Murray’s Protecting the Right to
Organize Act — a bill Senator Klobuchar co-sponsors in the Senate — that
protects gig workers by preventing employers from misclassifying their
employees as independent contractors.
Update the tax code to work for gig workers. Gig
workers face additional challenges in properly tracking earnings and expenses
and calculating and paying taxes. As President, Senator Klobuchar will simplify
withholding for self-employed workers. Giving workers the option of having
their self-employment taxes withheld directly from their 1099s would reduce the
burden of quarterly tax filing and help smooth irregular incomes. She will also
lower the 1099-K threshold for gig economy platforms, so workers have more
information about their earnings, and consider creating a gig worker standard
business deduction to simplify the calculation of business expenses for gig
Update Consumer Protections for the 21st Century
Economy. Advances in technology have opened new opportunities for
consumers, entrepreneurs and businesses, but they have also created new threats
to privacy. Consumer protection laws have not kept pace with these
technological advances. As President, Senator Klobuchar will update consumer
protections so they work in the 21st century economy.
Strengthen consumer privacy protections. As
President, Senator Klobuchar will work to pass legislation similar to the
Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act, which she leads with Senator Maria
Cantwell. The bill would establish strong privacy rights for consumers
including the right to access their data and greater transparency, the right to
prevent data from being distributed to unknown third parties, the right to
delete or correct their data and the right to take their data to a competitor.
It would also establish a “duty of loyalty,” which would prohibit
companies from engaging in deceptive and harmful data practices. In addition,
the legislation would require companies to implement strong data security
policies, receive affirmative consent from consumers for collecting sensitive
information, and give consumers, states, and the Federal Trade Commission new
enforcement authorities. Senator Klobuchar will also work to pass legislation
based on her bipartisan Protecting Personal Health Data Act to create
protections for new health technologies not covered by existing privacy laws.
Increase rights for consumers after data breaches. As
more personal information is collected and stored online, consumers are
increasingly vulnerable to having their data exposed in a data breach. As
President, Senator Klobuchar will push for legislation similar to her
bipartisan Social Media Privacy and Consumer Rights Act to require companies to
notify users within 72 hours when their data has been breached and offer
meaningful remedies for people whose data has been compromised.
Empower consumer protection agencies. Without
effective enforcement, fraud and scams — like robocalls, senior fraud,
identity theft, and predatory student loans — have become problems for too
many Americans. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make sure that the federal
agencies charged with protecting consumers have the tools they need to be
effective cops on the beat, including personnel, technological expertise, and
strong enforcement authorities.
Tackle new forms of discrimination. As
President, Senator Klobuchar will update our laws to counter new forms of
discrimination, like digital redlining and racial bias built into algorithms
that are playing a larger role in everything from hiring decisions to medical
Provide access to a free and open internet. Consumers
and businesses deserve a level playing field on the internet. As President,
Senator Klobuchar will work to codify strong net neutrality principles and make
immediate progress in her first 100 days by using federal contracting
requirements to encourage broadband providers to honor net neutrality
principles and promote a free and open internet.
Invest in Cybersecurity That Protects Our Economy and Our
Democracy. Our economy increasingly relies on internet-connected
devices and infrastructure and this trend will only accelerate in the coming
years. This creates opportunities for terrorists, foreign governments, and
competing firms that could severely damage our economy. And we already know
that our election infrastructure is vulnerable to cyber attack and foreign
governments are working to interfere in our elections. Read more about Senator
Klobuchar’s plans to protect our democracy here.
Build the cybersecurity workforce our economy
needs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the United States will
add over 550,000 new information technology jobs to our economy over the next
10 years, including in big data and information security. As President, Senator
Klobuchar will expand STEM programs, including for women and traditionally
underrepresented minorities, and invest in apprenticeships so students and
workers can get on-the-job training in the technology jobs of the future, and
she will expand access to credentials through tution-free one- and two-year
degrees, technical certifications, and tuition-free community college.
Protect critical infrastructure against cyberattacks. Cyberattacks
on our electric grid, transportation infrastructure, or water management
systems could be devastating to our economy. As President, Senator Klobuchar
will work to build federal partnerships with the private sector to implement
NIST’s cybersecurity framework. She will make sure the federal government is
assisting companies in addressing global supply chain risks and increasing the
security of emerging technologies. Senator Klobuchar will also improve federal
preparedness for responding to cyber incidents.
Increase cybersecurity expertise in the federal
government. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make cybersecurity an
immediate priority. She will issue an Executive Order launching government-wide
cybersecurity initiatives, fast-tracking and streamlining procurement of modern
information technology across agencies. She will also work to pass legislation
similar to her bipartisan Cyber Security Exchange Act to provide a path for
cyber experts at private firms or academia to work for federal agencies for up
to two years. Federal workers will also be given the opportunity to work in the
private sector to develop their skills in the latest cybersecurity
Strengthen Antitrust Enforcement. U.S. firms
have engaged in $10 trillion worth of acquisitions during the past
decade. Senator Klobuchar believes we need to do more when it comes to
taking on monopoly power and promoting competition not just for our consumers
but for our businesses. Competition does more than just lower prices. It
improves quality, spurs innovation, makes it easier for entrepreneurs to start
new businesses, and creates better jobs. As the top Democrat on the Senate
Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, Senator Klobuchar has been a leader in taking
on this new Gilded Age. She leads the Consolidation Prevention and Competition
Promotion Act to make sure our antitrust laws adequately promote competition
and protect consumers, the Merger Enforcement Improvement Act to give antitrust
enforcement agencies the tools they need to be effective, and the Merger Filing
Fee Modernization Act to update merger filing fees.
Investigate monopolization claims and review mergers that
have already taken place. As President, Senator Klobuchar will harness
the power of investigations to look at acquisitions that have already occured
and investigate monopolization claims, including whether the integration of
services insulate tech companies from competition.
Strengthen merger enforcement. As President,
Senator Klobuchar will make sure that our antitrust agencies have the resources
they need to be aggressive and effective, updating the outdated merger filing
fees so that the merging parties of the largest deals start paying their fair
share. She will also give the agencies tools to analyze the effectiveness of
merger conditions so they can make better and stronger enforcement decisions.
Give antitrust agencies and courts the legal tools
necessary to promote competition. As President, Senator Klobuchar will
work to pass legislation creating a more stringent legal standard to protect
competition, shifting the burden of proof for mega-mergers from the government
to the parties to demonstrate that their mergers do not reduce competition, and
clarifying that existing antitrust laws should take into account more than
price and that they should also consider vertical integration, harm to
innovation, as well as monopsony — a market condition where there is only one
Create a new competition advocate. As President,
Senator Klobuchar will create a new position to oversee the effectiveness of
merger enforcement. The Office of the Competition Advocate would help consumers
raise complaints about anti-competitive activity, encourage antitrust
investigations, and analyze and publish reports on merger activity.
Respect the Dignity of Work
Senator Klobuchar believes that everyone who works hard should be able
earn enough to care for and support their family. Respecting the dignity of
work means raising the minimum wage, providing paid family leave and child care
and making sure people have a secure retirement.
Raise the Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour and Enforce
It. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push for legislation to raise
the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and eliminate the tipped minimum wage.
To make immediate progress toward this goal, she will increase the minimum wage
for federal contractors to that threshold. She will also immediately strengthen
enforcement and expand investigations to make sure that our wage laws are
properly enforced and that workers are able to recover back pay when the
government rules in their favor.
Create a National Paid Family and Medical Leave Program. The
United States is the only industrialized nation without a national paid leave
program, and only 19 percent of American workers have access to paid family
leave through their employer. As President, Senator Klobuchar will create a
national paid family leave program to provide workers with 12 weeks of paid
leave per year to care for a new child, a family member with a serious health
condition, or their own serious health condition. Read more about Senator Klobuchar’s
plan for paid family and medical leave here.
Invest in Quality, Affordable Child Care. Senator
Klobuchar believes that early, quality child care and education is one of the
most important public investments we can make as a country. As President,
Senator Klobuchar will work to create a new federal-state partnership to make
child care more affordable by capping spending on child care at seven percent
of income for families making up to 150 percent of their state’s median income
and invest in expanding the availability of child care and raising wages for caregivers
and early childhood teachers. Read more about Senator Klobuchar’s
plan for child care here.
Make It Easier to Retire. As President, Senator
Klobuchar will work to create innovative, portable personal retirement accounts
called UP-Savings Accounts. Under her plan, employers will set aside at least
50 cents per hour worked, helping a worker build more than $600,000 in wealth
over the course of a career. She will continue to push for legislation to
protect retiree pensions. Senator Klobuchar will also work to strengthen Social
Security, and she believes that this program must remain solvent for
generations to come and she will fight against risky schemes to privatize it.
As President, Senator Klobuchar will work to lift the Social Security payroll
cap. Currently the payroll tax only applies to wages up to $133,000. Senator
Klobuchar supports subjecting income above $250,000 to the payroll tax and
extending the long-term solvency of Social Security. And Senator Klobuchar will
make sure people are treated fairly by the current Social Security system. As
President, she will work to strengthen and improve Social Security benefits for
widows and people who took significant time out of the paid workforce to care
for their children, aging parents, or sick family members. Senator Klobuchar
also opposes cuts and risky schemes to privatize Medicare and will take action
to strengthen Medicare and find solutions so it remains solvent. She will
improve Medicare for current beneficiaries by reforming payment policies
through measures like site neutral payments and providing incentives for
getting the best quality health care at the best price, including bundled
payments and telehealth. Read more about Senator Klobuchar’s
policies for seniors here.
Stand up for Our Unions. As the granddaughter of
an iron ore miner and the daughter of a union teacher and a union newspaperman,
Senator Klobuchar knows firsthand how unions give Americans and their families
the opportunities they need to succeed. As President, she will support real
labor law reform, ensure free and fair union elections, protect collective
bargaining rights, roll back Right to Work laws, and make it easier — and not
harder — for workers to join unions. Read more about Senator Klobuchar’s
labor policies here.
Invest in America’s Future
Right now, our economy is stable thanks to the efforts of our workers
and our businesses. Senator Klobuchar believes that real leaders use times of
stability to take on the challenges before them and invest for the future. As
President, Senator Klobuchar will strengthen our economy by empowering small
businesses and entrepreneurs and expanding exports, get our fiscal house in
order and tackle the big challenges we face as a country.
Empower Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs and Expand
Exports. Senator Klobuchar knows that small businesses and
entrepreneurs help power our economy and create jobs. Supporting small
businesses is one of the best ways to maintain a dynamic economy. And in an
increasingly global economy, she is committed to giving more businesses the
opportunity to export and reach customers across the world.
Expand access to capital for small businesses. Lack
of access to capital is one of the biggest obstacles to starting a small
business. As President, Senator Klobuchar will expand Small Business
Administration (SBA) lending programs and make it easier for small businesses
to get the loans and technical assistance they need to grow. She will also work
to increase small dollar lending by the SBA, which can be particularly
important for women and people of color seeking to start a small
Promote entrepreneurship and reverse the “startup slump.” New
businesses drive economic growth, but fewer startups are launched every year.
Startup rates have fallen to near 30-year lows. Senator Klobuchar recently
launched the bipartisan Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus with Senator Tim Scott
to address the most pressing issues facing entrepreneurs. As President, she
will build on her work through the America COMPETES Act to close the gap
between innovation and commercialization, help colleges and universities
partner with entrepreneurs, accelerate the commercialization of federally
funded research and update regional innovation programs at the Economic
Development Administration. To reverse the startup slump she will also tackle
unprecedented corporate consolidation, make it easier to export, simplify small
business rules, expand access to capital, as well as promote incubators,
mentoring and training.
Make it easier to export, especially for small businesses. Ninety-five
percent of the world’s potential customers live outside of the U.S., but less
than one percent of American businesses export. As President, Senator Klobuchar
will restart the President’s Export Council, which brings together business,
labor, and agricultural leaders with Members of Congress and key Administration
officials to help promote a comprehensive export and trade strategy. She will
also work to pass legislation based on her bipartisan Promoting Rural Exports
Act to establish a Rural Export Center to help rural businesses export their
products to new international markets. And since international tourism is one
of our top exports, she will work to reauthorize Brand USA so the United States
can compete to attract foreign visitors.
Support small manufacturers. As President,
Senator Klobuchar will support and expand the Manufacturing Extension
Partnership program, which the Trump Administration has tried to eliminate. The
program helps small manufacturers innovate, upgrade their technology and
improve production. She will work to create a manufacturing tax incentive to
encourage investment in rural communities or communities that have faced or are
about to face manufacturing job losses. She will also support our small
manufacturers by expanding guaranteed loan programs that make it easier for
rural manufacturers to access capital, pushing for a new tax credit for
manufacturers to hire registered apprentices, providing financing and grants
for equipment and technology upgrades, and working with states, localities,
research universities and community colleges to promote workforce development,
apprenticeships, and innovation in manufacturing.
Govern with Fiscal Responsibility. In less than
three years, President Trump has added $4 trillion to the national debt. The
nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2029, the national
debt will be higher than it has been at any time since 1946, right after World
War II. And each year over the next decade the federal government will spend an
average of about $1.2 trillion more than it collects in revenue. As President,
Senator Klobuchar will reverse this trend with the goal of lowering the debt to
GDP ratio by the end of her first term and putting our country on a sustainable
Move to a biennial budget process. Senator
Klobuchar will push to overhaul the way Congress budgets federal dollars to
strengthen oversight of government spending and move the country forward when
it comes to tackling the nation’s debt. She is a co-sponsor of Senators Johnny
Isakson and Jeanne Shaheen’s Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act, which
would create a two-year budget and appropriations cycle with the first year
dedicated to appropriating federal dollars and the next year dedicated to
conducting oversight of how those federal dollars are being used. Senator
Klobuchar also supports moving from a 10-year forecasting window to a 25-year
forecasting window for Congressional Budget Office and Joint Tax Committee
scores, as the expanded window will better capture the long-term fiscal impact
of federal policies.
Establish a dedicated fund to tackle the U.S. debt and
support our economy. Senator Klobuchar will establish a dedicated fund
to make a down payment to tackle the U.S. debt and protect our economy. She
will initially seed the fund with $300 billion by raising the corporate tax
rate and dedicating savings from the government-wide budget review. When the
economy is doing well, the fund will finance deficit reduction. When specific
economic indicators show our economy is in a recession, the funding will
automatically be diverted to increase spending on programs that are effective
at stimulating the economy like infrastructure spending, increased unemployment
and nutrition assistance, and an increased federal share of Medicaid and CHIP
spending. As tax changes are implemented and as departments complete Senator
Klobuchar’s government-wide review, she will invest additional government-wide
savings towards expanding the fund to decrease the deficit and support our
Eliminate duplicative government spending. Senator
Klobuchar will immediately order all cabinet secretaries to undertake a
comprehensive review of their department’s budget and identify a list of
duplicative and unnecessary programs as well as potential gaps in spending.
When it comes to our nation’s defense, Senator Klobuchar is committed to
maintaining and extending our military superiority over any adversary that
would challenge us. She will ensure that our troops are the best-trained and
best-equipped in the world, while also providing for their families at home.
Yet virtually every analysis of the Pentagon’s budget has found duplicative and
unnecessary programs – so she will ask her Secretary of Defense and other
cabinet secretaries to take a close look at how money is being spent with an
eye towards eliminating duplicative and unnecessary spending.
Tackle Today’s Challenges for a Stronger Future. Senator
Klobuchar believes we need to govern from opportunity, not chaos. And governing
from opportunity means meeting the challenges we face head on.
Build a 21st century workforce. Senator
Klobuchar believes we should align our education system with the needs of our
economy. As President, she will champion tuition-free one- and two-year
community college degrees and technical certifications, expand apprenticeships,
and make it easier for Americans who need help to afford four-year degrees. She
will work to reduce the burden of student loans, support our Historically Black
Colleges and Universities, and expand Pell Grants. Read more about Senator Klobuchar’s
post-secondary education policies here.
Pass comprehensive immigration reform. Senator
Klobuchar believes that comprehensive immigration reform is crucial to moving
our economy and our country forward. As President, she will push for a
comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes the DREAM Act, targeted
border security and an accountable pathway to earned citizenship.
Invest in our infrastructure. Senator Klobuchar
has proposed a bold plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure, invest in our
future, and create millions of good-paying American jobs. Her plan includes
repairing and replacing our roads, highways and bridges as well as building
smart climate infrastructure, ensuring clean water, modernizing our airports,
seaports and inland waterways, expanding reliable public transit options,
rebuilding our schools, overhauling our country’s housing policy, and
connecting every household to the internet by 2022. Read more about Senator Klobuchar’s
policies to build America’s infrastructure here.
Make housing more affordable. Senator Klobuchar believes everyone deserves a safe and affordable home. As President, Senator Klobuchar will expand the Housing Choice Voucher program to make vouchers available to all qualifying households with children, increase access to homeownership while investing in neglected neighborhoods, tackle homelessness, and increase affordable rental housing in rural communities. She will also fight housing discrimination and invest in providing access to counsel in civil cases involving basic human needs. Read more about Senator Klobuchar’s housing policies here.
Focus on Economic Justice and Shared Prosperity
Senator Klobuchar believes that right now the Trump economy works for President Trump and his wealthy friends, not for everyone else. As President, she will take on structural racism and remove barriers to success and support communities at risk from being left behind in the new economy.
Address Structural Racism and Barriers to Success. Senator
Klobuchar is committed to addressing the structural racism in our society and
making sure that everyone has the opportunity to succeed. She believes that no
matter where you live, who you know, where you come from, or what you look
like, you should be able to make it in this country.
Work to end child poverty. As President, within
her first 100 days, Senator Klobuchar will put forward a plan to cut childhood
poverty in half in ten years and end child poverty in a generation. The plan
will be based on a National Academies of Science report and include expanding
the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Care Tax Credit, SNAP benefits and
overhauling our country’s housing policy.
Eliminate the wage gap. Today, women working
full-time earn 80 cents for every dollar paid to a man, and the gaps are even
larger for women of color. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work to pass
Senator Patty Murray’s Paycheck Fairness Act to ensure that employers pay
employees equally for equal work — including by prohibiting employers from
asking about the salary history of prospective employees.
Eliminate the wealth gap. Today, Black and
Latino households have only about a tenth of the median net worth of white
households. Senator Klobuchar’s proposal to establish portable, employer-funded
UP-Savings Accounts for retirement savings will help address this disparity.
She is also co-chair of the Diversifying Technology Caucus and the
Entrepreneurship Caucus with Senator Tim Scott. As President she will work to
get more women and people of color in STEM jobs and she will fully empower
agencies to aggressively fight modern-day redlining that prevents businesses
owned by people of color from getting loans and take on predatory lending that
results in higher interest rates in low-income communities of color.
Make education the great equalizer. Senator
Klobuchar believes a good education is one of the very best investments we can
make in our country’s future. As President, Senator Klobuchar will help make
education the great equalizer by increasing teacher salaries, investing in math
and science to prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow, and rebuilding
our school infrastructure. She has proposed “Progress Partnerships” to help
states take bold action to fund our public schools — including making sure
infrastructure funding goes to high need areas and reviewing state funding
formulas to improve equity. She will also put back in place guidance from
President Obama directing schools to reduce racial disparities in how they
Support Communities at Risk From Being Left Behind in the
Changing Economy. As President, Senator Klobuchar is committed to
providing additional support to at-risk communities so that no one is left
Expand loans for and investments in local communities in
need. For the past 40 years, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) has
encouraged financial institutions to make loans and investment in local
communities, especially low-income and minority communities. Senator Klobuchar
will protect the CRA and instruct financial regulators to conduct greater outreach
to assess the true credit needs of their communities.
Support and strengthen the Economic Development
Administration. The Economic Development Administration (EDA) works
directly with communities and regions to promote competitiveness and innovation.
It has a proven track record of success and on average every $1 of EDA
infrastructure funding generates $15 in private investment. Still, the Trump
Administration has repeatedly proposed eliminating the agency. Senator
Klobuchar will ensure the agency has the resources to carry out its mission.
Bridge the rural-urban divide. Senator Klobuchar
has proposed a plan for America’s Heartland that will strengthen our
agricultural and rural communities, bridge the rural-urban divide, and make
sure that kids who grow up in rural America can stay in rural America. This
includes connecting every household to high speed internet by 2022. She knows
that America’s prosperity depends on the success of our farmers and rural
businesses and as a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, she’s been a
champion for farmers and rural communities in the Senate. Read more about Senator Klobuchar’s
agriculture and rural policies here.
Fulfill our responsibility to our communities and workers who have helped power this country. As the granddaughter of a miner who worked 1,500 feet underground, Senator Klobuchar understands the hard work and sacrifice of those who built and powered our country. She is committed to supporting and creating new opportunities for workers and communities that have depended on the fossil fuel industry as our country transitions away from fossil fuels. Senator Klobuchar will work with the public and private sectors to attract new employers and maintain public services, while investing in infrastructure and educational opportunities in areas that experience job loss. As part of any carbon pricing system, she will create a significant manufacturing tax incentive to encourage investment in communities that have faced or are about to face job losses. To make it easier for workers to find new jobs, Senator Klobuchar will also create a new tax credit for companies that hire workers who have previously depended on the fossil fuel industry for employment.
Senator Klobuchar describes how she will pay for these plans and more here, here, here, here, here and here. To pay for her deficit reduction fund, Senator Klobuchar will increase the corporate rate by two additional points to 27 percent and initiate a government-wide budget review. To pay for her child poverty plan, Senator Klobuchar will repeal the regressive portions of the 2017 Republican tax bill.
On the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration and the first Women’s March that was the largest single day of protest in history, women came out in force again in New York City and more than 250 locations around the country.
They marched for womens rights, reproductive freedom, for health care; for #MeToo and #TimesUp to take a stand against sexual assault, harassment, rape and extortion. They marched for gun control and against domestic violence. They marched for families, for immigrants, for Dreamers, for the LGBTQ+ community. They marched for Mother Earth and the environment, for science and facts. They marched for voting rights, for a free press and for truth. They marched to assert basic American values- its better angels – of tolerance, diversity, and for economic, environmental, political and social justice.
200,000 was the official count in New York City – marchers were lined up from 63rd Street to 86th Street, but all along the side streets as well, where it took as much as 2 hours just to get onto the Central Park West march route.
And unlike last year’s march which brought out millions, reflecting the despair of the aftermath of the 2016 election and was supposed to send a message to Trump and the Republicans who controlled Congress and the Courts (they didn’t get it), this day of marches – some 250 around the country bringing out some 2 million – was about action: it kicked off a voter registration drive to add 1 million to the rolls, the candidacies of a record number of women running for office (16,000 women have reached out to Emily’s List for support in 2017), and a Get out the Vote drive for the 2018 midterms.
“My vote is my Super Power,” several announced in their signs. “My Button is Bigger than Yours,” echoed another.
The vulgarity, misogyny, bigotry and racism that Donald Trump brought to the Oval Office came down to the streets, with bursts of profanity in words (“shithole” was a popular one that Trump just introduced to the vernacular only a week ago) and gestures, with marchers giving the finger as they passed Trump International Hotel, the closest incarnation they would ever have. The tone was decidedly more angry, more outraged than a year ago.
“Over the past year, basic rights for women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color and even Mother Earth have struggled to survive under the weight of the current administration. America’s First Amendment has been challenged and healthcare for millions has been threatened. We must stand together to demand and defend our rights. We will not be silent. We must remind everyone that red, white, and blue are the colors of tolerance,” stated Womens March Alliance.
And they marched with a purpose: to get people to register to vote, to run for office, and to cast their ballot.
“My vote is my Super Power,” several announced in their signs. “My Button is Bigger than Yours,” echoed others.
Hillary Clinton tweeted, “In 2017, the Women’s March was a beacon of hope and defiance. In 2018, it is a testament to the power and resilience of women everywhere. Let’s show that same power in the voting booth this year. #PowerToThePolls”
I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. As we start the New Year. let me tell you about the “hate” part.
I hate that Christmas becomes the one day of the year that is supposed to make up for all the actions that have resulted in the greatest inequality and lowest upward mobility since the Gilded Age and the greatest of all advanced countries. The American Dream has been exported, outsourced, and rendered to myth rather than reality here at home.
This year, Republicans – even as they cling more ardently than ever to Guns and God – don’t even pretend to care about the less fortunate, and promise to perpetuate and make worse the very policies that have resulted in 22 out of every 100 school-age children living in poverty (16 million), while 45% of children live in low income families; and 14.3 percent of households (17.5 million, or one in seven households) were living with food insecurity. Rather than doing anything to correct the societal conditions that promulgate these travesties, they prey on people’s insecurities, foment their fears and anxieties (Ebola! ISIS!), but do everything possible to thwart progress to alleviate the real source of daily desperation.
I particularly hate the obsession with Toys for Tots – as if handing out a gift at Christmas will make up for all the misery and anxiety that children live through the rest of the year.
Many of the same people who make a show of handing out a turkey for Christmas also withdrew Food Stamps and attacked the school nutrition program, two of the mightiest tools in a limited tool chest to keep people out of poverty, while helping children succeed in school (hunger is a viscously powerful impediment to learning) – and not incidentally, stimulating local economies to break the vicious cycle.
“There are neighborhoods in Baltimore in which the life expectancy is 19 years less than other neighborhoods in the same city,” Susan Grisby reported in “The Most Racist Areas in the United States” (Daily Kos, May 3, 2015). “Residents of the Downtown/Seaton Hill neighborhood have a life expectancy lower than 229 other nations, exceeded only by Yemen. According to the Washington Post, 15 neighborhoods in Baltimore have a lower life expectancy than North Korea…And while those figures represent some of the most dramatic disparities in the life expectancy of black Americans as opposed to whites, a recent study of the health impacts of racism in America reveals that racist attitudes may cause up to 30,000 early deaths every year.”
We are living Charles Dickens “Christmas Carol” but while the classic story sets out the problems, I have always been troubled by the “moral”: that the rich guy who got so rich by exploiting the desperation of others can simply buy presents and give money away to redeem his soul. That’s not the solution.
But the “billionaire class” as Bernie Sanders likes to call them (George W. Bush called them “the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base.”) has no real interest in correcting the institutional causes of systemic poverty – public education system, tax policy, criminal justice system, health care, environmental policy and rigged election system – all of which also bolster the “haves” and “have-mores”. That’s because the demise of the middle class as more and more sink into poverty suits their greater purpose, and what the hey, if you can just throw around some bucks here and there to redeem your soul and your reputation, while lording over everybody else, so much the better.
And because “cash” is increasingly linked with “political power” (the Right Wing Majority on the Supreme Court equated cash with speech and corporations with people for the purpose of buying politicians), the more cash the more power. The converse is the less cash, the more politically silent and invisible you are. People who are juggling multiple jobs and living pay check to pay check tend not to have the same political influence.
The Republicans are working feverishly to increase the invisibility of the underclass, mounting a Supreme Court challenge that will effectively erase unregistered voters from the census altogether, meaning less representation, less funding (which is also apportioned based on that head count).
“Wages are too high,” self-proclaimed billionaire Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, bellowed in response to a call to raise the federal minimum wage, doing a perfect but unintended imitation of Ebenezer Scrooge.
The United States of America is not supposed to have an aristocracy or a class system of privileges, but these policies have done exactly that. And in the nation with the highest percentage of incarcerated prisoners in the world (5% of population but 25% of the world’s incarcerated), you even have a new criminal classification, “Affluenza” – the “affliction” that resulted in a 16 year old getting off scot free after murdering four people with a car he was driving unlicensed and drunk (he has since fled after violating the terms of his probation). It’s a justice system which sees the very bankers who bankrupted millions of Americans and clawed back pensions and health benefits of bankrupt cities (Detroit), collecting millions of dollars on their parachutes.
It’s “free money” (actually, not really free, it comes out of others’ pockets) that they turn around and “invest” in political campaigns and, yes, in philanthropy.
Some of the most notorious “banksters”, like Madoff and Great Neck’s own Steven Cohen, whose investment company SAC racked up $9.4 billion, are also some of the most generous. Cohen is a $1 billion patron of the Robin Hood Foundation among other philanthropic contributions (museums, hospitals, schools).
Another Great Necker, Leonard Litwin, who made a fortune with his Glenwood Real Estate company, has been a generous supporter of Temple Beth-el of Great Neck, funding the Litwin Challenge that enabled the synagogue to pay off its multi-million dollar mortgage. Glenwood Real Estate was at the heart of the corruption scandal that has (so far) taken down state leaders, Democrat Sheldon Silver and Republican Dean Skelos. In essence, his company made tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions that helped put these politicians in power, then gave favors in order to secure favorable legislation, like tax abatements.
“The money, according to Mr. Dorego, Glenwood’s senior vice president and general counsel, was used to ensure the developer would continue to benefit from tax breaks, government financing and favorable rent laws. One program alone saved them as much as $100 million, he said,” William K. Rashbaum reported in the New York Times (“Albany Trials Exposed the Power of a Real Estate Firm,” Dec. 18, 2015).
“Glenwood also benefited from another state-administered program, using it to obtain more than $1 billion in low-interest, tax-exempt bond financing since 2000, to buy land and construct eight buildings it has put up since 2001, according to testimony at Mr. Silver’s trial.”
This is far from benign, but has a big ripple effect on working stiffs. It is a big reason why New York City, with the richest property in the world, doesn’t raise enough in property taxes to pay for its public schools, but depends New York State aid for 50 percent of its $25 billion operating budget. That $12.5 billion comes from income taxes from the rest of us, and is a major reason why Long Islanders pay such high property taxes (we don’t get 50% of our public school budgets paid for out of state aid). Who pays for tax abatements? Why working stiffs, of course.
That’s where philanthropy comes in. Charity does not just buy redemption, it also buys respect and resurrects a reputation. Take the Koch Brothers, for example. They are the singularly greatest example of money buying political power (and vow to spend $889 million in the 2016 campaign) in order to direct policy to their own interest and against average people (promoting fossil fuels over renewables, overturning environmental regulations, tax policy that favors the rich especially a repeal of the estate tax, gun rights, anti-reproductive rights, and the latest, criminal justice “reform” so that their companies can pollute and claim ignorance of the law to evade accountability).
They slap their name on everything, from the Smithsonian Institution’s Hall of Human Origins to PBS programming, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so we are to feel grateful for their patronage, like the Medicis. What we should feel is like peons, increasingly dependent on their largesse while public coffers are bankrupted.
It is especially dangerous when the contributions come with strings – like the Kochs funding economics departments at colleges in order to pick and choose the academics and the particular brand of economic philosophy. Or the Waltons (the six Waltons have more wealth than the bottom 30 percent of all Americans, 100 million people) funding charter schools in order to insert their own particular educational agenda (creationism as science, worker bees instead of independent thinkers).
It is in this same vein that we have Ebenezer Scrooge, who by the end of his spiritual awakening, “solves” the problems of horrendous poverty and inequality by throwing toys and money at it. It is like putting a band-aid on a patient with tuberculosis.
“The world may need a reimagined charter of philanthropy — a ‘Gospel of Wealth’ for the 21st century — that serves not just American philanthropists, but the vast array of new donors emerging around the world,” wrote Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, in a New York Times op-ed, “Why Giving Back Isn’t Enough,” (Dec. 16, 2015).
“This new gospel might begin where the previous one fell short: addressing the underlying causes that perpetuate human suffering. In other words, philanthropy can no longer grapple simply with what is happening in the world, but also with how and why.
“Feeding the hungry is among our society’s most fundamental obligations, but we should also question why our neighbors are without nutritious food to eat. Housing the homeless is an imperative, but we should also question why our housing markets are so distorted. As a nation, we need more investment in education, but not without questioning educational disparities based on race, class and geography….
“Whatever our intentions, the truth is that we can inadvertently widen inequality in the course of making money, even though we claim to support equality and justice when giving it away. And while our end-of-year giving might support worthy organizations, we must also ask if these financial donations contribute to larger social change.
“In other words, ‘giving back’ is necessary, but not sufficient. We should seek to bring about lasting, systemic change, even if that change might adversely affect us. We must bend each act of generosity toward justice.”
What would make a difference to break systemic poverty and inequality? Here are key ones:
Tax policy, which is supposedly “progressive” but in toto perpetuating extraordinary advantage to the wealthiest, taxing wages more than wealth. Raising the cap on income taxed to pay for Medicare and Social Security would alleviate the burden which is disproportionately placed on workers (if all income was subject to tax, you could reduce the percentage by a lot, which would mean a big boost in take-home income for everyone). Transaction tax on securities to de-incentivize short-term investing and make capital function more productively, as it is supposed to; making corporations pay their share, and taking away the incentive to offshore profits and jobs. (See, “For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions,” New York Times, Dec. 30, 2015).
Promote a living wage: raise the minimum wage and cease the war on unions.
Reform immigrationand provide a path to legal status for the undocumented residents (deal with the question of citizenship separately). This will eliminate a gigantic underclass which presently depresses the wages of everyone while suppressing the economic stimulus that would come from legal status.
Reform criminal justice that unfairly penalizes and imprisons poor people, disadvantaged people, people of color, and destroys families as well as that individual’s ability to get a decent job.
Continue the progress of Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) to make health care more affordable, accessible. Continue putting more resources into prevention and wellness, which will increase productivity and savings. Expand, don’t shut down, Planned Parenthood and access to contraception and reproductive rights. Treat gun violence as the public health crisis it is – not just in the dead, but in the lifetime of lost productivity due to injury, a cost estimated at $228 billion ($8.6 billion in direct costs, $221 billion in indirect costs, according to SmartGunLaws.org),
College affordability – eliminating a barrier to the best ticket to upward mobility, as well as the chains that result from student debt. Now amounting to $1.2 trillion, student debt is like indentured servitude, preventing graduates from buying a home, taking a loan to start a business or even pursuing careers of choice.
Improve access to home ownership – this not only gives a family an asset, a hedge against ever-rising rents, stability, roots, but a connection to community (and likely greater inclination to vote).
Make quality child care accessible and affordable.
Improve mass transportation and safe streets, so that people can get to work affordably, efficiently and without fear.
Give the underclass a voice and a force: Improve access to voting. Make voter registration more efficient and reliable and clear. Make Election Day a holiday, expand voting to include a weekend, overturn arbitrary limitations to absentee ballot. Have standards for polling places and voting machines so that some districts are not forced to wait hours to vote. Make sure the census counts everyone (not just registered voters). Eliminate gerrymandering. Because, just as money is becoming a greater factor in campaigns, politicians are increasingly beholden to maintaining the policies that only add to inequality and social injustice.
It’s scary how much “A Christmas Carol” and Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” still resonate today.
Consider what George Bailey says to Mr. Potter, speaking about George’s father who founded the Building & Loan: “He didn’t save enough money to send Harry away to college, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what’s wrong with that? Why… here, you’re all businessmen here. Doesn’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers? You… you said… what’d you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken down that they… Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!”
In essence, such systemic improvements to our society would directly benefit, rather than detract from the wealthiest. It is the “rising tides lift all boats” scenario – not just in requiring less of society’s resources to go to “save” the destitute, but in a healthier, more productive society altogether. There will still be rich, middle class and even poor, but the difference is that poverty would not be as severe, as prolonged, or a generational sentence. Society would restore upward mobility – the essence of the American Dream – and benefit from individuals being able to fulfill their full potential.
So let’s turn to New Year’s resolutions, when we make pledges to be better people. And let’s hope this resolution carries through the Presidential Campaign season which already seems to be a test of who can be the cruelest (which to many interpret as “powerful” and “leadership”).