Candidates Conclude “The Poor Will Always Be With Us” – Good Luck!

Voting Location Rural Alabama 1966

Voting Location Rural Alabama 1966

New Orleans  Both major candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, seem to have concluded that, “What the heck, the poor don’t really vote, and the poor will always be with us, so later for them.” Speeches about the economy are silent on the issue of the richness of America contrasted with our level of poverty compared to other industrialized countries.

Both have kinda, sorta come out for an increase in the federal minimum wage, but don’t start thinking about a “fight for $15,” because this election season that’s more of a “dream for $15.” Trump sometimes says he is for a $10 per hour minimum wage. Clinton has settled on a $12 per hour minimum wage.

Clinton has proposed expanded benefits for child care and health care and some other existing benefits. Trump has said there might should be a deduction from taxes for the average rate of child care payment, but of course you have to have a job where you benefit from such a deduction. Neither seem to say much about the earned income tax credit, nor surprisingly housing, especially affordable housing, which seems to have fallen off either of their lists. Trump obviously knows a bunch about housing, but it’s more in the unaffordable, luxury area.

Yet, as the New York Times noted:

There is not a single state where a full-time worker earning the minimum wage can rent a market-rate one-bedroom apartment for 30 percent or less of their income, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. And more than 11 million households spend more than half of their income on rent.

After one federal initiative after another by both Democratic and Republican presidents, I have to wonder whether or not in the post-2007 housing collapse the candidates have lost their moorings. They can no longer stand firmly on the argument that everyone can afford to be a homeowner, and they are unwilling and unable to tackle the reality of a permanent renter-class and how that fits into a “new” sense of the American dream, and god knows no candidate wants to admit the dream is dead.

This abandonment of the poor is most striking of course for the Democratic Party, which many observers are now arguing is being upended by Trump’s success with the working class, especially white, which they have usually claimed. One columnist recently argued for example:

If current trends continue, not only will there be a class inversion among the white supporters of the Democratic Party, but the party will become increasingly dependent on a white upper middle class that has isolated itself from the rest of American society. Instead of serving as the political arm of working and middle class voters seeking to move up the ladder, the Democratic Party faces the prospect of becoming the party of the winners, in collaboration with many of those in the top 20 percent who are determined to protect and secure their economic and social status.

So, who is really going to advocate and represent low-and-moderate income families or in other words, the poor and working class? Seems clear neither Clinton nor Trump is really ready to ride for this brand, and low-and-moderate income families are going to be hard pressed to find comfortable or permanent homes in either of the two major parties.

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Please enjoy Y La Bamba by Libre.  Thanks to KABF.

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Trump Military Assault Revives Vietnam and the Draft

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Vietnam War Draft Lottery

Rock Creek, Montana   One nice thing about being mostly off-the-grid for a bit is missing the daily craziness of the emerging political campaign in the United States. Reading the latest news of Donald Trump’s assault and disrespect of the Muslim parents of a fallen soldier in Iraq in 2004 was simply mind-boggling. Is there really a politician from dogcatcher to the White House who doesn’t realize that in America, no matter what our politics or views on war and peace, who doesn’t realize that we give respect to our soldiers who fall in service to our country? Yes, it turns out there is one: Donald Trump!

I can’t believe this, but I thought in 2008 with the victory of Barack Obama over John McCain, we had finally, and thankfully, left Vietnam and the issues of compulsory service at the hands of the draft behind, but now with Trump’s callousness, we are right back in the political quicksand of Southeast Asia again. I feel more like Rip Van Winkle waking up after years of sleep, than simply someone off-the-grid for 48 hours! On this Trump-created political issue, Hillary Clinton, for a change can’t say anything, and from what I can tell, equally thankfully, hasn’t said anything, because she gets a pass, since women were exempt from the draft, so no dissembling or memory lapses on her part are necessary.

Can’t say that for the Donald either. He remembers nothing. Being of Hillary and Donald’s generation, I can categorically assure everyone everywhere that it is absolutely a bald-faced lie. I could say definitively that there is no man of the Vietnam Era who doesn’t vividly recall every detail of his experience with the draft, especially how he might have ended up not serving in Vietnam. George Bush the first was the last of the World War II generation to serve as President, but from that point on we certainly are all familiar with the second George Bush’s time as perhaps a National Guard pilot, and we also heard Bill Clinton’s various stories of how he avoided the draft repeatedly and were wildly familiar with other candidates like John Kerry and John McCain and their experiences in the service.

On this score Donald Trump claims he’s clueless. He pretends he got a high number even though he had already won a series of educational exemptions and then a 1Y deferment based on a willing doctor’s note saying that he was unfit because of bone spurs, all of which occurred and put him in the clear way before the lottery was imposed by a country desperate to make the system seem fairer. Now in the dimness of his memory and perhaps the induced fog-of-war, he knows the bone spurs magically disappeared, but also can’t remember when they arrived or where they went, who the doctor might have been or whether he actually had a physical or simply left the note with the local New York City draft board.

It is way past time for Vietnam and the draft to recede as a political issue at this level, but lying and the truth are always valid concerns when we vote for a president. All of this latest Trump mess from the disrespect of Muslims and our war dead to the make believe stories about his lack of recall on the draft and how he avoided service, though he claims to have always, silently, opposed the war, seems to be vivid proof of another classic example of the breaks easily obtained by someone who was rich when the call came in for yet another US war that was a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”

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The Transactional Democratic Party Revealed

election-image-800x530New Orleans   This has all the makings of one of those shaggy dog stories: 19000 emails hacked from the staff of the Democratic National Committee, dumped on the eve of the convention, maybe by crazy commie Russians and Vladimir Putin for whom Donald Trump is supposedly a current fanboy, all showing a bit of favoritism towards the Demo-establishment’s main candidate, Hillary Clinton, forcing Deborah Wasserman Shultz, Congresswoman and party chair, to dive on the spike of her heels and resign. Finally, this really seems like the kind of chaos and clamor we all associate with a Democratic National Convention! The Republicans were stealing the show with their earlier dramarama, but now the Democrats are catching up. Is anyone really surprised, I mean really?

What interested me much, much more were the crassly cold and calculating emails at the intersection of politics and money and the cashbox transactional demonstration of the inner workings of the party, or as reported in the Times:

the leaked cache also included thousands of emails exchanged by Democratic officials and party fund-raisers, revealing in rarely seen detail the elaborate, ingratiating and often bluntly transactional exchanges necessary to harvest hundreds of millions of dollars from the party’s wealthy donor class.

Ok, none of this was a surprise either, was it? We all knew in our hearts that this was probably the way big time politics worked at the confluence of big, rich donors and party fundraising staff charged with fueling the tank with mega-dollars, but still having it displayed in all of its gory and inescapable details is pretty disgusting.

Reading the emails was a bit like what you imagine life with the “mean girls” is like or any high school popularity contest: who’s in, who’s out, who’s going to be standing closest to the star, and pretty much who’s who and what’s what among the rich and famous in a world usually and thankfully obscured from the view of most of us joe and jane sausage heads out there. More seriously it reminds all of us of the venal nature of money and the rich and Lord Acton’s maxim that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We might ask what these rich donors get from all of this body rubbing. Is it just access, as some would argue? Perhaps, but even if that’s all that is bartered in the exchange, it also seems undeniable that many, many of these donors hope for more, and undeniably some must get enough of it to make the investment worthwhile in some shape or form.

I’m past mourning Sanders’ loss, but I still rue the fact that he was not able to pivot his amazing grassroots, small donor fundraising machinery in such a way that it would create a new paradigm to replace the seamy, transactional system now put on full display. What a tragic loss that could have re-established the Democratic Party – or at least some party – with an apparatus that guaranteed that the rich and insiders are not calling the shots but regular folks with their hard earned dollars are driving the train.

Even worse, and this is perhaps a confession too jaded by too many years in the vineyard, if any other party might be built in the alternative universe that defines all levels of politics, if it depends on big donors, how many would resist the impulse to respond in the same transactional manner to the beck and call of purchased entitlement no matter the rest of the politics and program? We have to create a new and better way to make sure we are certain of how that question would be answered.

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Fair Housing Assessment Should be an Organizing Handle – Is it?

fhNew Orleans   The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is trying to do something about the continuing polarization of our communities by race, class, and ethnicity, so let’s give them some credit for that. In a new rule last year they tried to put some teeth in the Fair Housing Act of 1968, by requiring all cities that get federal housing money to submit detailed plans on how they are actually going about reducing neighborhood segregation and increasing “access to opportunities” for everyone. No Congressional action was required or I wouldn’t even be writing this. HUD as part of the Obama Administration was simply promulgating rules to try to add some teeth to the original act.

The requirement coming into full force now is the 2016 Assessment of Fair Housing. All cities in the United States receiving federal housing funds are mandated to do the assessment. This includes not only cities with public housing authorities, but also cities getting HOME monies for housing development and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds among others. “Access to opportunities” is not just rhetoric either, because this language includes jobs, transportation, and even access to quality schools. Frankly, this is anti-apartheid language.

Reading old local newspapers from a stack accumulated during my two weeks of meetings in Europe, while jet-lagged at 3 AM in the morning, an item had caught my eye from the rough draft of the New Orleans report comparing a working / middle income neighborhood in New Orleans called Gentilly, that is majority African-American with an upper-middle class, largely white neighborhood called Lakeview. In the majority-black neighborhood, the life expectancy found by the assessment was a little more than 54 years old, while in the overwhelmingly white area the life expectancy was 80, a quarter of a century more. Is that an eye opener or what?

Almost everyone this side of Donald Trump buttressed by scores of research studies understands that if we had full residential integration the gap in education and job networks would be drastically reduced. When we talk about equality and narrowing the every widening gap in America today, forcing cities to have real 5-year plans with annual updates on how they are actually going achieving real diversity across the board would seem to be a huge organizing handle. Real plans that force city and housing authority to justify any reduction of affordable and low income housing should be huge win. And, wow, a real plan that stopped CDBG funds that are supposed to be spent only in ways that upgrade lower income families and their communities rather than being used as a slush fund for local developers and mayoral cronies would be almost a revolutionary reform.

Public hearings are now being held on such assessments in cities all over the country. This would have been ACORN’s moment for local groups in all 600 organized communities to make their demands in more than 100 cities about what really needed to be done. These assessments should be a big handle for a major campaign wherever there is the capacity to launch one.

Yet, talking to some organizers here and there, they were skeptical. The early experience in recent years with this planning process before the new rule has been disappointing. How sharp are the teeth being implanted in the Fair Housing Act? Is a Democratic administration really going to withhold CDBG funds from urban mayors who are overwhelmingly Democratic as well to prod them to do better at achieving diversity in their cities or is this just window dressing?

A real campaign to make this tool a hammer rather than a paintbrush would let us see what might be possible.

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Republicans Dilemma: Can Fear and Hate Alone Win an Election?

Immigrant rights activists hold up a fabric wall to protest against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Wednesday, July 20, 2016, in Cleveland, during the third day of the Republican convention.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Fabric wall to protest against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Wednesday, July 20, 2016, in Cleveland, during the third day of the Republican convention.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

New Orleans   Having just returned from euro-world, I have to admit that I was surprised I wasn’t asked more questions about Donald Trump. During George W’s time, the questions were endless and strident. War does that to people. Folks brought up Trump for sure, but mostly with a smile on their face, not taking him seriously, though that would be a mistake, and in some ways not so much frightened by him as they were by Bush, but more amused at what they saw as America’s embarrassment at the hands of the crazy uncle coming out of the closet after the dignity, regardless of any disappointments, of Obama.

Now that I’m back and parsing the recent Republican National Convention, I have to ask myself, “can fear and hate alone win an election?” The answer is of course, yes, but we’ve never seen ourselves as pre-war Germany or Bosnia or Rwanda or modern Poland or Turkey after the recent coup, so it’s a stretch. Even jaded observers like myself, keep repeating a mantra to ourselves that “it can’t happen here.” But, in some ways that’s channeling our inner-Pollyanna, because it is happening here at the state level in places like Arizona, Kansas, and way too much of Texas. There’s also something that has been in the water in Wisconsin in recent years that makes you wonder what happened to that bastion of liberalism and labor strength?

Hillary Clinton to her credit is still holding the line against hate trying to position her candidacy and the Democratic Party as a more inclusive alternative for a wider demographic in the United States. There is certainly polarity. I can’t remember reading a poll like the recent one by the Wall Street Journal where a presidential candidate – in this case, Trump – literally polled zero among African-Americans. Needless to say all of his talk about building an even bigger wall between the US and Mexico has not helped his numbers get higher among Latinos either.

Talking to Randy Cunningham, a veteran community and tenant organizer and longtime activist in Cleveland, on Wade’s World was inspiring to hear about the success of peoples’ nonviolent attempts to have their voices heard by the Republicans in Cleveland over the last week. The “Wall Off Trump” action put together by unions and progressive organizations from the Working Families’ Party to Chicago’s La Gente and our old friends at the Ruckus Society, he described as very effective and lots of fun. The opening action on Monday that he and a large coalition put together pulled more between 1500 and 2000 and despite the fear mongering by the Trump team that there would be “blood in the streets.” He described the event as the largest action in Cleveland since the late 1970s and early 1980s. More positively, he believed that there may be an unexpected legacy of the RNC hate and fear mongering in Cleveland this week, and that is a resurgence of organizing and action in Cleveland.

Let’s hope that might be the result nationally of this fear-and-hate campaign. Trump thus far has no program other than “vote for me.” Clinton is matching the fear factor reportedly with a vice-presidential partner who will have some credibility there. She is still lacking a bit in what Sarah Palin famously called the “hope-y” thing that for all of the derision actually has been winning recent presidential elections.

The one thing that is certain: this is going to be a frightening several months until November!

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Please enjoy Regina Spector’s Bleeding Heart. Thank you KABF!

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Thank You White People for Electing Obama in 2012!

 President Obama at a campaign event in Concord, N.H., shortly before the 2012 election. He performed better among white Northern voters than is generally assumed. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama at a campaign event in Concord, N.H., shortly before the 2012 election. He performed better among white Northern voters than is generally assumed. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

New Orleans   In the age of big data, one of the clear lessons, is that we need to be very, very careful about what we think we know, at least until we have asked all the right questions rather than just swallowing the headlines whole without examining the bottom lines. What am I talking about, you might ask? Well, how in the heck with all of the megadomes out there in the political world can we have undercounted white people? White people of all people! What were they? Were they translucent or something, like white walkers, and the quants and bean counters looked right past them because they looked like themselves in the mirror or what?

The New York Times statisticians dropped the bombshell on us that Trump wasn’t looking quite as bad while running a racist campaign, because there are more white people out there in the electorate than any of these folks had been reporting for years. Not only that but the all-important narrative about the Obama victory in 2012 was, well, how can we say this, wrong! Turns out Obama was rocking the white vote better than previously understood.

Here’s the new story, and maybe the true story,

“…new data from the census, voter registration files, polls and the finalized results tells a subtly different story of the 2012 election with potential consequences for the 2016 election. The data implies that Mr. Obama was not as weak among white voters as typically believed. He fared better than his predecessors among white voters outside the South. Demographic shifts weren’t so important: He would have been re-elected even with an electorate as old and white as it was in 2004. Latino voters did not put Mr. Obama over the top, as many argued in the days after Mr. Obama’s re-election. He would have won even if he had done as poorly among Latino voters as John Kerry.”

Of course Latino-based organizations and all of us who support them and work with them had a stake in the story that it was Hispanic votes that propelled Obama to victory in 2012, so spin or substance be damned, someone did a very good job on this for the last four years, and it mattered, true or not. What leverage would we have had talking about doing a big, fat thank you to all of the old, white people stepping up for Obama? Not that we won immigration reform, and not that the story won’t change in the future as demographic trends continue to move towards more, not less, diversity and dilute the white vote, but it wasn’t there in 2012, and it might not be in 2016.

Why did we get the news so late? What’s up, is this the same as Andrew Jackson, Jean Lafitte, and the gang fighting and winning the Battle of New Orleans after peace had already been signed in Paris? Hasn’t communication changed? Well, it seems that most of this incomplete narrative was based on exit polls, and the other data is stronger and better, but it’s not available the night of the election and the day after. We’re so committed to speed and “premature certainty,” that we would rather believe we know it all immediately and go from there, than wait until all of the information is sliced and diced.

What’s the lesson we need to take away for today? Talk to every white person you know! Tell them thanks for 2012, but we need them to do it again in 2016 as well, because if they couldn’t handle Romney then, they sure as heck don’t want to live through four years with King Trump trying to rule the country.

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