On Friday, President Donald Trump will travel to Miami to announce a major shift in U.S. policy. The President will end Obama-era policies that have allowed Americans to liberally travel to the island of Cuba. In an attempt to correct a policy the Obama administration deemed a 55 year failure, President Obama began communicating with the leadership of Cuba through Pope Francis. The result of the back channel has been a rebirth in Cuban commerce as Americans have flocked to the island, filling it’s once empty hotels. Many of those hotels however, are operated under the direction of the Cuban Military which is also benefiting from the boost in tourism. While the primary beneficiaries of new commerce have been the Cuban people, the Trump administration wants to end any commerce that might benefit the military. In Miami, President Trump will announce that the Cuban administration under President Raul Castro has failed to make pivotal reforms in human rights. He will declare that the Obama policy has been a catastrophic failure and he will reinstate travel restrictions that will halt much of the recent tourism to the island-nation. Americans and American businesses will be forbidden from supporting entities affiliated with the military which will effectively end the new tourism. The change in policy is opposed by business leaders and human rights groups. Embassies in both nations will remain open in the hopes that future communications will lead to reform on the island and improve the relationship between both current administrations.
Today, the House of Representatives will vote on the American Healthcare Act. Despite, holding both Houses of Congress and the White House, the Republicans are expected to vote down their own bill. The reform will cost 24 million Americans their healthcare. It slashes Medicaid and will raise premiums on all but the young and healthy. After 7 years of opposing Obamacare, the Republicans have managed to write a bill that fails to satisfy any of the ideological metrics that Republicans have used to assault Obamacare. Most prognosticators are certain that the AHCA will fail in a fantastic display of legislative pyrotechnics. TrumpCare, if you ask Paul Ryan or RyanCare, if you ask the Whitehouse, is so unpopular that the Whitehouse and Speaker of the House have publicly jousted regarding which Nom De Plume will go on the bill, with neither side desirous of having the dishonor. As the Republicans tempt fate and court decimation in the midterm elections, where are the Democrats? An article in The Politico offers an answer. “The Democrats New Obamacare Strategy: Get Out of The Way”. As a legislative strategy, this is largely the right approach. Democrats should not try to stall republican attempts to vote on a bill that reveals how their party has abdicated its core principles and were perhaps never sincere in their criticism of Obamacare. However, “Get Out of The Way” also seems to be the ethos of the national party. In an epic failure to capitalize, Democrats nationally have not used the disastrous AHCA as a mobilizing tool. Together, with the equally reviled Trump-Budget, the Democrats could easily assemble the ultimate Megazord to fight the GOP in the midterms. And yet, the Democrats have not begun to lay the foundation for an effective mid-term effort. The Democrats should have already hired new organizers and deployed them in the backyards of rural Republican districts. Organizing wins’ elections but Organizing isn’t about phone-calls or door to door. The foundation of Organizing is about building relationships and as Republicans turn their backs on the voters that elected them by offering policies that gut the programs those voters depend on, Democrats have an unprecedented opportunity to build new relationships with rural voters. As these rural Republican voters are forced to confront the reality that they need government programs just as much as the inner cities Republicans often lampoon, the Democrats have a chance to expose the core Republican obsession with the gutting of government programs as fundamentally flawed. Never before have Democrats had such an obvious opportunity to bring about a fundamental collapse of Republican orthodoxy by laying siege to the foundations and overly simplistic principles of the GOP. As rural Republican voters suddenly realize that they are just as dependent on government funding as liberal bastions and minority communities, Democrats have a real chance to batter the intellectual pillars that have buttressed conservative thought since the era of William F. Buckley. And what are Democrats doing instead: They are Getting Out of The Way. Democrats should have been using this time to reconstitute their army of Organizers and begin deploying them to the rural communities that roundly rejected their message in the last election. They can now show those voters the true cost of Republican cuts and argue forcefully for the power of government to improve their lives. The Dems should be giving Organizers the time it takes to build bonds with these new prospective voters who often hail from regions where being a Democrat is socially synonymous with being a communist. Democrats cannot afford to implement the “tried and failed” strategy of waiting until shortly before the mid-term or the Presidential election to deploy Organizers in the hope of making gains in communities that have believed for generations that being a Democrat is akin to being a traitor. The achilles heel of the Democratic Party is a lack of a sustained presence in these communities that nurtures and builds relationships with these votes. For the first time in a long time, these voters have eyes and ears to hear the message of the Democratic Party. The Democrats cannot afford to miss this opportunity.
President Donald J. Trump’s first budget slashes funding to programs like Meals on Wheels and After School Programs that feed children in America’s public schools. After acknowledging that these programs are designed to feed kids that “can’t get a meal at home”, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney claimed that “there is no demonstrable evidence” programs that feed children “help kids do better in school”. Mick Mulvaney and his budget live in contradiction with the real world.
The finest example of increasing productivity by providing healthy lunches can be found in Silicon Valley where technology hubs have become famous for their comfortable cafeterias filled with delectable dishes like Ceviche, Quinoa Salads, Gourmet Pizzas, Espresso Bars (w/ Energy Drinks) and even Deserts. The costly extravagances reflect the well-established, and quantitatively verifiable link between feeding workers and increasing their productivity. The World Health Organization’s studies have proven a 20% increase in brain power and productivity as a result of a healthy lunch. Entrepreneur Magazine sighted a study showing a 150% return on productivity for companies that invested in providing high quality lunches. Harvard Business Review, a school which ironically counts Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as an alumni, published that “food has a direct impact on our cognitive performance, which is why a poor decision at lunch can derail an entire afternoon. Just about everything we eat is converted by our body into glucose, which provides the energy our brains need to stay alert. When we’re running low on glucose, we have a tough time staying focused and our attention drifts. This explains why it’s hard to concentrate on an empty stomach”. It seems reasonable to conclude that although these studies were conducted on adults, they apply to children who obviously don’t have a greater capacity to contend with hunger than their parents. Until now, no one has ever been craven enough to deny children food so that we can measure the decline in their performance. If feeding workers in Silicon Valley, where workers make substantial salaries makes sense, then feeding children who have no control over their economic situations is even more reasonable.
The budget put forth by President Trump and Director Mulvaney is cruel and short sighted. It induces a decline in performance and courts the academic failure of our children which creates ripples in the pool of workers from which our businesses draw.
A recent incident involving Chris Christie, the NFL Draft and a bong mask seem to exemplify everything that has been wrong with the drug war. Chris Christie has been among several notable Republicans that seem to have changed their party’s stance on the drug war, emphasizing treatment and rehabilitation instead of the party’s traditional law and order stance that promoted incarceration. Christie said at a recent New Hampshire GOP Debate, hosted by ABC News that drug addiction was not a “moral failing” which was a direct rebuke of the party’s most popular rhetoric that viewed drug use as a failure of personal responsibility. “It is a disease” Christie barked as he voiced his support for programs designed to help rather then lockup those engaged in hardcore drug use like heroine addicts. Christie is hardly alone in his sudden shift. As the demographics around drug use have shifted, the feelings regarding how we treat users have also shifted, seemingly due to the rise of Methamphetamine use in poor white communities and the growth of heroine use that now ravages white communities of every class standing. The GOP no longer wishes to “throw away the key” with drug users. GOP Governors all over the country are now even becoming more amenable to restoring voting rights for some felons. And it is hard to ignore that this shift seems to coincide with the rising drug use of the GOP’s traditional voting base. GOP Presidential Contender Ted Cruz sadly lost his sister to an overdose and long battle with drug use. The shift would be hypocritical but forgivable as the GOP finally sees the humanity in addicts that are within their own families now but Chris Christie recently demonstrated that the bias that has incarcerated a full generation of black sons and fathers persists in his heart.
NFL Draftee Laremy Tunsil recently suffered a catastrophic decline in his draft standing when a hacker posted a picture of the young man smoking marijuana from bong and mask. The picture proved to be costly for Tunsil but Chris Christie wants it to be even more devastating. He has called for Tunsil to be arrested. “When I was a prosecutor, I would’ve gone in and cuffed this guy” said Christie, further exemplifying the judicial bias that has stalked black men and resulted in an obscene rate of incarceration. The comment is noted for the zeal and enthusiasm to pursue prosecution against an African American male but it is punctuated by Christie’s own recent comments calling for leniency for hardcore heroine users. The interest of a former U.S. Attorney in prosecuting a young man taking bong hits in his dorm room is emblematic of the obsessive pursuit of African Americans by law enforcement in policies like Stop and Frisk which in defiance of statistical reality focused almost entirely on scrutinizing black men. It also answers the often asked and insincere question regarding the high rate of black male incarceration. Blacks comprise so much of our prison population because men like Chris Christie have enforced existing law with extreme prejudice against minority communities. Christie is a Trump supporter and potential Vice Presidential pick. Hopefully he can recognize his bias before America entrusts him with another position of authority and more power over minority communities.
During last night’s MSNBC Townhall, Presidential “struggle” candidate, John Kasich was asked by an African American republican: “what would you do to build trust and reform social and economic injustice in the African American community”. Kasich’s reply was noteworthy as it hearkened back to the GOP posture of yester-year. Instead of offering strategies for attracting businesses and jobs to black communities or addressing inequity in school resource funding or offering initiatives to build thriving charter academies in black communities, Kasich seemed to view the question purely as a Criminal Justice inquiry and only when pressed by moderator Chuck Todd did Kasich discuss jobs or the economy in black communities. Hearing “social and economic justice” Kasich seemed to pigeon hole the question as a stereotype of black interests in police reform. While reforming the criminal justice system generally has profound economic consequences, the tepid police related reforms offered by Kasich missed the mark in a significant policy sense.
Kasich’s reply was to recall his creation of a committee that worked to express to the black community the good will of law enforcement and that officers simply don’t want to be “killed” or “taken out”. While the safety of law enforcement is a primary interest to all, it’s inclusion in his answer serves to curiously reinforce the notion that cops are under-siege and the black “super-predator” narrative damaging Hillary Clinton. It is worth pausing to consider that Kasich was asked how to improve social and economic injustices and his first statement was to emphasize officer safety from the violent impulses presumably in the black community? He went on to note that he revamped the use of deadly force policy and moved to create a police force that looked like the community it was serving. In the field of criminal justice reform, Kasich was offering very low hanging fruit. The primary cause of black incarceration is non-violent drug offense but as numerous studies have concluded blacks are no more likely than whites to use drugs. The outrageously high rates of incarceration are a result of targeting and unequal enforcement of drug laws against black communities. As John Ehrlichmen-former Domestic Policy Chief for Richard Nixon confessed, the drug war was created to target black people. Numerous exposes have uncovered how law enforcement routinely enforces drug laws through greater scrutiny of black and poor communities. Creating diverse police forces seems like a minor reform, given the totality of the issue and it’s profound implications for black families, black businesses and the black economy. He ended his statement by highlighting his attempt to let non-violent felons wipe their records clean, in order to gain employment which does address the economic incentive that generally drives recidivism but he felt the odd compulsion to book-end his statement with “IF YOU’RE A GANGBANGER, YOU WILL NEVER GET OUT”. The response in totality was peculiar. Kasich offered a winding reply that offered the African American questioner a more diverse police force and a potential cleansing of records for non-violent offenders as a paltry sandwich between assurances to the general GOP voting base that he was still tough on crime.
Kasich was asked about social and economic injustice which could broadly be seen as a question relating to the economy in black communities. Only when pressed by moderator Chuck Todd, did Kasich discuss creating minority set-asides for the construction of a road in his state. Kasich could have seen the question as a prompt to opine on entrepreneurship and improving prospects for funding minority start-ups. It could have be seen as a question prompting a discussion of systemic impediments to creating wealth and opportunity. Offering clean records to obtain jobs in jobless communities for individuals that have lost years of potential training and education as a result of being incarcerated for recreational drug use, is a half measure and only a band-aid after the state has already inflicted a severe wound to the family of black communities. For a candidate that has built it’s success on the Tone of it’s candidate this was quite possibly Kasich’s most tone def answer of the political season.
The most common quip, used to discredit the proposals of Bernie Sanders as pie-in-the sky fantasies is that he is offering FREE STUFF. The refrain is designed to caricature his ideas as impractical, poorly conceived and insincere. His primary opponent alleges that the admitted socialist is simply making empty promises to misguided youths that are naive in their belief that anything in life could ever be free. While we should take issue with the lack of a detailed financial manifesto from the rising Presidential powerhouse, we should also lay waste to the notion that Bernie Sanders is offering Americans FREE STUFF.
In reality, Bernie Sanders is uncommonly honest in the level of sacrifice he calls upon from every American. It is common practice for Republicans to propose cuts to the federal budget without paying due deference to the pain that will result as a consequence of those cuts. During the last government shut down, Republicans even suggested that closing the government and it’s associated agencies would be without any inconvenience to Americans. Democrats too are often fond of proposing new government programs without reconciling the costs of those programs and yet these are the voices that are most critical of Sanders and his proposed FREE STUFF.
Senator Sanders has proposed tuition free community colleges and fully paid for Public Universities but he has never suggested that this would be free. Instead he has suggested that this perk of citizenship be covered by the taxes that we all currently pay. We may quibble with the precise cost of the proposal but we cannot say that Bernie Sanders is offering FREE STUFF. He is simply suggesting that instead of borrowing thousands of dollars per semester and carrying with each loan significant interest, students should be permitted to pay for their educations over the course of their entire life-times, in small regularly paid installments also known as TAXES! Far from offering FREE STUFF Mr. Sanders is uncharacteristically honest in confessing that he will raise the taxes of middle class and wealthy citizens. We may as individuals assess if the benefits of collectively purchased amenities to our culture outweigh the proposed increase in taxes but again, He hasn’t offered anything for free!
Despite Mr. Sanders marketing himself as an avowed socialist, I question sincerely why his proposal is derided with such intense cold war heat. In the minds of most Americans we are a Democratic Republic despite offering fully paid for K-12 educations for all. This begs the question of why critics assert that we would suddenly morph into a soviet commune for simply extending our publicly paid for offering from K-12 to K-16? Mr. Sanders is simply suggesting that the term Public have meaning for Public Universities. He is suggesting that Community Colleges should be affordable for those in the community. And he is making provision for each individual to pay for his or her education by obligating them to pay into an admittedly collectivized pool for the entirety of their lives. In some sense Sanders is propheting the conservative notion that every individual has the personal responsibility to pay for an education.
Those that are puzzled by the attraction Americans have to Sander’s proposal should consider that many Americans pay significant portions of their incomes in taxes and feel very little benefit. They drive along roads that are unsightly, transit in Airports that are unworthy of a great nation and protest the expenditure of their tax dollars on wars with which they disagree. The success of Sanders can be seen as the triumph of the notion that Americans want to see a tangible value for the taxes they are currently paying in ways that directly benefit them.
The Sanders proposal for Universal Healthcare is socialized medicine but the notion that socialized or collectively bargained and paid for services are free is a gross misnomer. When citizens pay taxes for services, they have paid for them. They have not been “given” anything. Public Schools are not free. When the government contracts with a private company to pave roads near your home, this service was not free. The term handout cannot be used to characterize services for which an individual has paid her/his fair share of taxes. To do so would be like characterizing a paid buffet as a free meal. They have in fact, paid for their portion. If we are going to criticize the proposals of Presidential hopefuls we should do so with accuracy and an appreciation for nuance.
In 2016, will it be Elizabeth Warren vs. Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden vs. Hillary? Who will attempt to take on the unstoppable juggernaut of Clinton Inc? Who would take on this fools errand? A simple sampling of the political landscape reveals that there is still one candidate, largely missed thus far by pundits. There is only one candidate, on the democratic side that has both a well known longing to be President and a compelling set of credentials to be President. That person is John Kerry! The current Secretary of State has run for President before and lost. While the typical cliche in politics declares that no one likes and looser, another popular political refrain notes that once someone gets the bug to be President, it NEVER goes away! And if this week goes well for the Secretary of State, John Kerry may have the only cogent argument a candidate can make against Hillary Clinton. If this week goes well, John Kerry might be able to say that he was a better Secretary of State then Hillary. The legendary Mrs. Clinton has developed a popularity and respect apart from her husband’s efforts, based on her mythical work ethic and often heralded competency. But if John Kerry is able to forge a strong agreement with Iran that curbs their nuclear ambitions he can claim to have done what Hillary could not. The truth of the matter is of-course more complex but in politics, truth isn’t just relative, it is malleable. This argument, in combination with the admittedly absurd Benghazi accusations undermines the mythology of Clinton’s competency. Pundits are in great error to exclude John Kerry in their endless prognostications of the next election cycle. He is qualified. He is capable. And most importantly, he really wants to be President!