Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist to Vice President Biden, is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and author of the new book 'The Reconnection Agenda: Reuniting...
Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist to Vice President Biden, is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and author of the new book 'The Reconnection Agenda: Reuniting Growth and Prosperity.'
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gestures during a speech at a Chicago Freedom Movement rally at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 10, 1966. (Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, he was in Memphis, supporting striking sanitation workers. By that time in his crusade for racial justice, he had elevated full employment to a key plank in his platform. The full name of the March on Washington was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. A common placard held up that day read, “Civil Rights Plus Full Employment Equals Freedom,” a powerful economic equation indeed.
In my experience, too few people remember this aspect of King’s movement, instead emphasizing his stirring spiritual commitment to racial inclusion. But King was of course thoroughly versed in the reality of the institutional barriers blocking blacks and his unique genius was to combine deep spiritual awareness with an equally deep understanding of the role of power in economic outcomes. That’s one reason he was in Memphis, supporting the union.
In 1967, King called for “a radical redistribution of economic and political power.” He particularly understood the power, for better or worse, of American institutions, most notably of course, the institution of racism, which so successfully blocked African Americans from decent homes, jobs, schools and opportunities.
But countervailing institutions existed within his vision as well, including the church and the union, and, if it could be forced to live up to its promise, the government. Even the institutions of the consumer economy and the job market could, with the right force and strategy, including boycotts that flexed black consumer muscle and equal opportunity laws, be nudged in the direction of racial justice.
To some readers, this “institutional” framework may be confusing. What do I mean by referencing the consumer or job markets or racism or unions, as “institutions”? This certainly doesn’t square with the classic economic explanation of how the economy works: profit-maximizing individuals achieving optimal social welfare by each individual pursuing their goals.
The institutional framework, with its emphasis on historical, legal and cultural practices (norms) embedded in economic systems, stands in stark contrast to the market forces framework. Surely no one could question whether the legal system or the housing market black people faced in King’s time, not to mention our own, promoted objective, blind justice. Discrimination in schools, the economy, and almost every other walk of life could not and cannot possibly be viewed as a fair or merit-based system.
Honoring King’s vision and legacy thus requires not simply remembering his most well-known dream: a racially inclusive society very different from the one that existed in his, or sadly, our own time. It requires recognizing the need to redistribute the power from the oppressive, exclusionary institutions, many of the same ones — housing, schools, criminal justice, the economy — he fought for until the day he was taken from us.
What does honoring that vision mean today?
Although I certainly don’t advocate giving up on President-elect Donald Trump’s administration before it has started, all signs suggest that it and the Republican-led Congress will hurt, not help, the economically less advantaged. Republican budgets threaten to undermine the safety net, Trump’s proposed tax policy squanders fiscal resources on tax cuts for the rich, undermining opportunities for those stuck in places without adequate educational or employment opportunities. There’s talk among Republicans of trying to get more states to pass “right to work” laws that undermine unions and cut workers’ pay. Listening to Ben Carson’s hearing for secretary of housing and urban development quickly disabuses one of hope that he’ll tackle the legacy of segregated housing that remains a serious problem. As far as reforming the institutionalized racism the remains embedded in our criminal justice and policing systems, again, it’s awfully hard to be hopeful.
There are, however, many levels of institutional norms, laws and practices. The Fight for Fifteen has been immensely successful in raising minimum wages at the state and sub-state levels. I can’t prove this, but I’d bet that without Black Lives Matter, there would be no “blistering report” from the Justice Department on the racial practices of the Chicago Police Department. The activist group “Fed Up” has had great success elevating the issue of economic justice as regards Federal Reserve policy, a policy area that even liberal presidents have avoided getting into.
As I recently wrote regarding “ban the box,” a policy designed to give job-seekers with criminal records a fairer shot at employment:
Nineteen states and over 100 cities and counties have already taken similar action for government employees, and seven states (Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island) plus Washington, DC and 26 cities and counties have extended ban the box policies to cover private employers. Some private businesses, including Walmart, Koch Industries, Target, Starbucks, Home Depot, and Bed, Bath & Beyond, have also adopted these policies on their own.
This last part about the private businesses is instructive. The Selma bus boycott was, of course, in no small part an economic action: Black people would not pay for discrimination. Regarding full employment, King realized that at high levels of unemployment, it’s costless to discriminate against a significant swath of potential workers. But when the job market tightens up, discriminating against a needed worker means leaving profit on the table.
Especially in the age of Trump, when so many Americans feel as if representative democracy is seriously on the ropes, it seems a no-brainer to channel King and once again tap the power of boycotts and leaning on businesses to do the right thing. It makes no sense at all to cede this field to Trump as he nonsensically claims (and gets) credit for job creation that already was happening.
My intuition is that many businesses, as in the ban-the-box example, would be willing to help push back on the institutional injustices that persist. Higher and more equal pay scales, implementation of the updated, higher overtime threshold that was wrongly blocked by a Texas judge (in fact, many businesses, to their credit, have gone ahead with this change), not blocking collective bargaining if their workers want to exercise that right, flexible scheduling policies that help parents balance work and family — there’s no reason for progressives not to fight for these ideas at the sub-national level and the private sector.
Although these sub-national fights are more likely where the action is for the next few years, meaningful action is developing at the national level as well. King would have easily recognized the Trump phenomenon as the work of exclusive institutions once again grabbing the power and would have organized accordingly and effectively. As we speak, many of us are trying to block the repeal of health-care reform in this spirit. The Indivisible Movement and the Women’s March would also have been highly familiar to Dr. King.
But on whatever level or in whatever sector the fight takes place, as we celebrate King’s indelible contributions, let us recall his understanding of power, the institutions that power supported and his admonitions to us not to rest until much more of that power lies in the hands of those who still command far too little of it.
By Jared Bernstein
5 Reasons Billionaire GOP Donor and Public School Privatizer Betsy DeVos Should Not Be Secretary of Education
5 Reasons Billionaire GOP Donor and Public School Privatizer Betsy DeVos Should Not Be Secretary of Education
Billionaire Betsy DeVos, a major GOP funder and party activist from Michigan, has been tapped by Donald Trump to become the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and faces a Senate...
Billionaire Betsy DeVos, a major GOP funder and party activist from Michigan, has been tapped by Donald Trump to become the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and faces a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
Many have decried the choice as a looming disaster for public schools in America, with NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia observing that DeVos' "efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers--which take away funding and local control from our public schools--to fund private schools at taxpayers' expense."
Randi Weingarten, the president of AFT, stated that "Betsy DeVos is everything Donald Trump said is wrong in America--an ultra-wealthy heiress who uses her money to game the system and push a special-interest agenda that is opposed by the majority of voters. Installing her in the Department of Education is the opposite of Trump's promise to drain the swamp."
The choice signals the President-elect's intention to put the expansion of taxpayer-funded charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools at the center of his national agenda on education.
Through her riches, Betsy DeVos has had a disproportionate influence on national and state policies affecting millions of Americans, helping to force through changes to the law that gut the rights of workers and redirect American tax dollars to fund risky charter school experiments that have repeatedly failed for America's children.
She has also applauded efforts to gut election laws that are designed to prevent corruption, recasting the issue of money in politics as free speech and her right to speak "as loudly as we please." (Her remarks about this and her praise for Tom DeLay's "honesty" begin at the 52-minute mark here.)
Here are five facts to get smart about who Betsy DeVos is and what her nomination could mean for America.
1. Betsy DeVos Refused to Send Her Children to Public Schools in Grand Rapids, Michigan.Betsy and her husband Dick DeVos, Jr., have four children they raised in the prosperous town of Ada, Michigan, which is the headquarters of AmWay, the multi-level marketing company that made the DeVos family billionaires. She is also an heir to the Prince Corporation fortune from sun visors and other car parts.
The public elementary, middle, and high school in Ada, a suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan, are highly ranked, but she did not send her children to public schools. She has said that her two daughters were home-schooled for a number of years.
Instead of sending their children to public schools, for nearly three decades, Betsy and Dick have focused on pushing vouchers for private schools and bankrolling politicians to advance their agenda to redirect American tax dollars away from truly public schools.
2. She Retained a Convicted Felon to Lobby for Her Wish List of Education Reforms (and There Are Other Scandals).In 2004, Betsy DeVos hired Scott Jensen to aid the legislative agenda of her group "American Federation for Children" (AFC), a 501(c)(4) arm of Alliance for School Choice, her 501(c)3), which push so-called education reform measures.
The problem is that in 2002, Jensen had been charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor for misconduct in office--for illegally using his office as the Republican Assembly Speaker to direct that state employees to perform campaign work at public expense. He and the others who were charged challenged the reach of state statutes in court through various appeals from 2002 through 2004, but they lost their efforts to prevent criminal trials.
But, the fact that Jensen was charged with felonies for misusing public tax dollars for partisan political purposes did not deter Betsy DeVos from hiring him in 2004 to advance her personal agenda to change American schools on behalf of AFC.
In 2005, he was tried in state court and convicted on all counts. The presiding judge told Jensen "what you did was a great wrong to the citizens of this state" because "You used your power and your influence to run an illegal campaign funding operation." The judge sentenced Jensen to five years, including 15 months of confinement along with supervised release.
That conviction and public condemnation did not end Jensen's job for Betsy DeVos. Jensen appealed his conviction, and he also lost his office in the legislature, but he had a job with DeVos.
For the next five years, Jensen was a convicted felon and DeVos' point person in pushing her school choice agenda in the states.
In 2010, after changes in the judiciary, Jensen won an appeal of his conviction and agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor crime to settle the case.
His conviction for that crime also had no impact on DeVos' decision to keep him on to push school choice.
Accordingly, perhaps it should come as no surprise that while all that was going on, another DeVos family school choice PAC was fined for $5.2 million by the Ohio Elections Board in 2008 for circumventing Ohio campaign finance laws. It was the largest fine for violating election laws in state history.
Do the ends justify the means for Betsy DeVos?
3. DeVos Has Pushed Policies Cloaked as "Choice" that Undermine Public Schools in Michigan and Nationwide.Her particular area of interest is the deregulation and privatization of the education system, initially through the introduction of education "vouchers."
The primary organizations that DeVos has bankrolled to carry out these policy goals are the dark money group, American Federation for Children (AFC), which is a 501(c)(4), and its affiliated 501(c)(3) nonprofit group, Alliance for School Choice. These groups have become major contributors to the right-wing corporate education reform echo chamber.
AFC describes itself as "creating an education revolution" through what is described as "school choice," via vouchers (tax dollars spent on private schools including religious schools), tax credits, and non-taxable "Education Savings Accounts."
AFC has gone through several evolutions since its 1998 founding including name changes. Some of these changes occurred after political controversies such as violations of campaign finance laws in Ohio and Wisconsin, as noted above.
AFC is and always has been a very important player in local state and national politics, helping to strongly support Republican candidates who move her education privatization agenda forward.
For example, AFC invested heavily in Wisconsin's recall elections to protect its political allies, including Republican Governor Scott Walker. Since 2010, AFC has spent at least $4.5 million on independent expenditures and issue ads in Wisconsin. This amount doesn't include the individual donations given by members of the DeVos family, or any spending on dark money groups trying to influence the elections without disclosing their donors.
AFC also aggressively promotes the school privatization agenda via the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where Jensen has represented AFC's lobbying agenda.
ALEC, describes itself as a voluntary association of state legislators but it operates as a corporate bill mill where the corporations that fund most of ALEC's operations and where corporate lobbyists and special interest representatives get an "equal voice and vote" with elected officials to approve "model" bills without the press or public present. AFC has been a "trustee" level sponsor of ALEC and is a member of ALEC's Education Task Force.
AFC works alongside ALEC to push so-called "model bills" promoting "school choice" and tax changes to subsidize private schools. Essentially, both ALEC and AFC want that national priority to be expanded funding for charter schools, which defunds truly public schools.
The nomination of Betsy DeVos to be the head of the Department of Education is a clear sign that the nation is about to embark on a dangerously extreme national experiment in the privatization of our education system that could deal a death blow to our public schools as we have known them.
There's little doubt that DeVos would use her power to undermine one of America's greatest innovations that helped make our country and economy so strong in the 20th century--quality public schools--and instead, use the idea of 'reform' to further subsidize private schools along with for-profit companies and non-profits operating charter schools.
The expansion of charters has marched forward despite the fact that fly-by-night charter operators that have committed more than $200 million dollars in fraud and waste in recent years, as documented by the Center for Popular Democracy.
Some of that expansion has occurred through for-profit companies, like K12 Inc., getting tax dollars for so-called "virtual schools," to operate as charters or as part of the public school system.
Dick DeVos, in a joint interview with Betsy DeVos, noted that he "commended to homeschoolers to consider is check out K12... Bill Bennett reviews the K12 personally, ... it's very consistent with our Christian world view..."
Like Betsy DeVos' AFC, K12 has had a seat and vote on ALEC's Education Task Force, and K12 has a seat on ALEC's corporate board. K12 has paid its CEO millions in stock in the company, whose revenues come overwhelmingly from public school budgets. CMD has called one of the leaders of K12 the highest paid "teacher" in America.
As the Center for Media and Democracy has detailed, the federal government has spent nearly $4 billion in tax dollars on the charter school experiment advanced by DeVos and other billionaires, like the Kochs and the Walton family.
CMD has also documented how charter schools in the DeVos backyard of Michigan have been embroiled in fraud and scandal, and how the state has even received federal tax dollars for charters that never even opened. That does not include the nearly $1 billion state spending that the Detroit Free Press has documented have gone to charters in that state.
4. Theocracy: She Has Pushed for Vouchers and More to Get Tax Money to Support Christian Schools.DeVos has approached the issue of education as a religious issue for her personally and as an area which she wants to change the law to reflect her personal views. A long-time partisan activist, she got involved in education "reform" in the early 1990s, around the time that her husband ran for a seat on the Michigan state Board of Education.
After he stepped down from that post, in 1993 she and her husband took on the "Education Freedom Fund," which, she has said, "I would define as ultimately Christian in its nature because in excess of 90% of the parents who receive these scholarships choose Christian schools to go to." EFF provides private funding for private school tuition, and is supported with significant donations from the DeVos family.
Why did she and here husband choose to get involved in the political battles over public education even though they did not send their kids to public schools and they financially support private Christian schools?
In a joint interview for "The Gathering," a group focused on advancing Christian ideology through philanthropy, she and her husband said they decided to focus on reforming public education and funding for private education because the "Lord led us there" and "God led us."
At that meeting, they were asked if it would not have been simpler to fund Christian schools directly rather than fund political efforts like vouchers to get more tax dollars to fund Christian schools, and she replied: "There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education versus what is spent every year on education in this country... So, our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God's Kingdom," adding that they want "to impact our culture [in ways] that may have great Kingdom gain in the long-run by changing the way we approach things."
Her husband added: "We are working .... to allow for our Christian worldview, which for us comes from a Calvinist tradition, and to provide for a more expanded opportunity someday for all parents to be able to educate their children in a school that reflects their world view and not each day sending their child to a school that may be reflecting a world view that may be quite antithetical to the worldview they hold in their families."
When asked if they are "against public education," they have denied that charge while trying to reframe the conversation.
Betsy DeVos responded: "No, we are for good education and for having every child have an opportunity for a good education. And having grown up in families that are in the business world, we both believe that competition and choices make everyone better, and that ultimately if the system that prevails in the United States today had more competition, if there were other choices for people to make freely that all of the schools would become better as a result and that excellence would be sought in every setting. So we are very strong proponents of fundamentally changing the way we approach education ... because there are hundreds of thousands and millions of children that are forced to go every day to a school that is not meeting their needs and it's not right."
Her husband added that they are for "public education" but that's not the same as "public schools." He said public funding for education of all kinds is a "laudable concept" that should not be forced to operate through "government-run schools."
He also stated: "In my opinion, the Church has sadly retrenched from its central role in our community, to where now as we look at many communities in our country the church which ought to be in our view far more central to the life in our community has been displaced by the public school as the center for activity the center for what goes on the community...."
He added, "it is certainly our hope that churches would continue no matter what the environment whether there is government funding someday through vouchers or tax credits or some other mechanism...that more and more churches will get more and more active and engaged in education. We just can think of no better way to rebuild our families and our communities than to have that circle of church, school, and family much more tightly focused and being built on a consistent world view."
Betsy DeVos did not disagree with this statement of their shared goals and responded: "If I can just add to that very quickly, I think for many years the church in general has felt that it is important for the children of the congregation to be in the schools to make a difference but in fact I think what has happened in many cases for the last couple of decades is that the schools have impacted the kids more than the kids have impacted the schools. The young children need to have a pretty solid foundation to be able to combat the kind of influences that they are presented with on a daily basis."
(All quotes above are transcribed from their hour-long interview for "The Gathering," available here.)
5. She Bragged that Her Family Was the Biggest GOP Funder of "Soft Money," Plus They Have Funneled Millions in Dark Money.Betsy DeVos has used her family fortune to distort public policy to suit her personal agenda through direct donations and dark money because, in her own words, she wants a "return on our investment."
The DeVos family is a major funder of the Republican party. In a 1997 op-ed that DeVos wrote for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, she pointedly admitted, "my family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party." She also said that she decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that they were buying influence and simply concede the point, admitting "we expect a return on our investment," to make America reflect their vision for it.
DeVos has served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and was the finance chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
In addition to the disclosed and undisclosed political spending for controversial politicians like Tom DeLay--whom Betsy DeVos has called one of the most honest men in politics--the DeVos family through the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation has been a major funder of many extreme socially conservative organizations such as the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family and Coral Ridge Ministries.
The DeVos family fortune funds pro-education privatization, anti-union and pro-school voucher groups.
In 2011 alone, the DeVos foundation gave $3 million to David Koch's Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group created and funded by the Koch Brothers. The DeVos Foundation gave another $2.5 million to the Koch conduit DonorsTrust from 2009 to 2010.
The DeVos foundation has also contributed millions of dollars to other right wing organizations such as the State Policy Network, Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks, Federalist Society, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and others.
Betsy and Dick DeVos were featured at a meeting of the ALEC sibling group, the State Policy Network, which gave its highest award in 2014 to the Mackinac Center for pushing the misnamed "right to work" bill into law in Michigan, even though that think tank has claimed to the IRS that it engages in no lobbying.
Their fortune has helped to underwrite Mackinac's operations and agenda, which has included expanding powers for emergency managers to replace elected officials, which helped create the conditions for the Flint, Michigan, tragedy of kids being poisoned by lead in their water, as CMD has detailed in a history of those provision.
In 2015, DeVos money also helped fund the push for adoption of a statewide religious freedom restoration act, or RFRA law, that awards adoption agencies in Michigan the right to claim a religious exemption from having to serve LGBTQ couples. Both the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation and the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation gave money to Bethany Christian Services, which lobbied hard for passage of the controversial RFRA.
Recently, the DeVos family also helped fund two pieces of extreme state legislation in Michigan. The state preemption bill, dubbed the "death star," HB 4052, passed by the legislature in 2015 bans cities from enacting their own laws governing wages and benefits. In one fell swoop, the law preempted local regulation of nine wage and benefit policies ranging from minimum wage to worker training and organizing.
By Lisa Graves
Two San Diego elected officials have joined colleagues across the country calling for President Barack Obama to issue a blanket pardon of immigrants with green cards who have committed minor...
Two San Diego elected officials have joined colleagues across the country calling for President Barack Obama to issue a blanket pardon of immigrants with green cards who have committed minor crimes.
San Diego Councilman David Alvarez and San Diego Unified School District Board President Richard Barrera, along with 57 others, signed a letter organized by Local Progress, a network of progressive municipal elected officials, that was sent to Obama this week.
The group wants to undercut President-elect Donald Trump’s ability to deport individuals who, without their minor criminal histories, would not be deportable. Between 100,000 and 200,000 families could be affected by such a pardon, according to the letter.
“From literally the day after the election, we started hearing concerns from teachers that students were worried and were afraid that they were going to be deported, that their parents were going to be deported, just based on the rhetoric from the campaign,” Barrera said by telephone. “What we’re trying to do is look for every avenue that’s available to us as elected officials to protect our young people and their families.”
The letter suggests that it would be within Obama’s power to make such a blanket pardon because of former President Jimmy Carter’s pardon of draft evaders in 1977 on his first day in office.
“We must protect the legal permanent residents of our city,” Alvarez said via email. “President-elect Trump proposed a deportation plan modeled after Operation Wetback from the 1950s. Dividing families by recklessly deporting hundreds of thousands of legal permanent residents would be morally wrong and economically destructive.”
Since 2014, the Obama administration has not prioritized minor convictions for immigration enforcement, as a matter of policy not any change in law. By law, green card holders can be deported for committing offenses that would not incur jail time in today’s criminal court system, like low-level drug offenses.
Trump campaigned on the idea of deporting millions of unauthorized immigrants, particularly criminals. His transition team has yet to set forth details about which immigrants and which criminals.
By Kate Morrissey
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and City Council member Karl Nurse on Wednesday joined a national letter from local elected officials to President Barack Obama calling on him to protect...
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and City Council member Karl Nurse on Wednesday joined a national letter from local elected officials to President Barack Obama calling on him to protect hundreds of thousands of immigrant families by issuing a pardon for lawfully present immigrants with years-old or low-level criminal offenses.
The letter is signed by 60 local elected officials. It kicks off a week in which the president’s legacy on immigration will be at stake, with confirmation hearings and a national day of action that will highlight his record of both deportation and protection, and potentially show just how much could be dismantled by the incoming administration.
The White House has rejected previous calls for pardons for undocumented immigrants, asserting that a pardon cannot be used to grant people lawful immigration status. However, for legally present immigrants who already have status, but who face the risk of deportation based on minor and old convictions, a presidential pardon could provide durable protection against deportation that could not be undone by any future president.
Many of those who would be affected by the pardon were convicted of minor offenses, such as jumping a turnstile. In many cases, the offenses occurred decades ago. The letter joins Local Progress members with over 100 immigrant rights groups who made the same request to the president late last month. Forgiving all immigration consequences of convictions would guarantee that individuals can stay with their families and in their communities. Local Progress is a network of progressive local elected officials from around the country united by our shared commitment to equal justice under law, shared prosperity, sustainable and livable cities, and good government that serves the public interest. Local Progress is staffed by the Center for Popular Democracy.
As local elected officials, the signers of the letter see the impacts of a broken immigration system up close and in their communities, every day. Indeed, localities are often forced to deal with the consequences of deportation, be it in a family, business, child or broader neighborhood.
“As an immigrant who legally came to this country as a child, I have a brother and a sister who could be deported if they had committed a misdemeanor anytime in the last 58 years. So this is personal,” Nurse said.
Kriseman added: “I applaud Councilman Karl Nurse for joining this effort and offer my enthusiastic support. I trust President Obama will do the right thing for our immigrant families in his remaining days in office.”
There is a significant historical precedent for this type of presidential pardon.
Categorical pardons have been used to grant clemency to broad classes of people in the past by presidents ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Jimmy Carter, the latter of whom issued a pardon to approximately half a million men who had broken draft laws to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.
dons to keep immigrant families together
By ANNE LINDBERG
Advocates who opposed a policy of keeping documents submitted by IDNYC applicants believe the doubts they raised in 2014 have been validated by the legal fight over destroying those papers before...
Advocates who opposed a policy of keeping documents submitted by IDNYC applicants believe the doubts they raised in 2014 have been validated by the legal fight over destroying those papers before Donald Trump becomes president.
“Now they’re saying, ‘If they come for the data, we’re going to burn it,'” says Abraham Paulos, executive director of Families for Freedom. “Well, then why did you keep in in the first place?”
The policy of keeping documents was not part of the original version of the IDNYC law but was added during intense negotiations involving City Hall, the NYPD and advocacy groups.
Some of those advocacy groups—like Families for Freedom and the New York Civil Liberties Union—ended their support for the IDNYC program over the retention policies because they feared the information could be used by federal authorities hunting for undocumented immigrants. Other organizations expressed concerns but continue to support the bill and promoted the ID program.
The fears about the documents have grown more widespread since Trump, who has pledged to deport millions of people, won election. A lawsuit by two Staten Island lawmakers has at least temporarily halted the city from a planned purge of the documents in its possession.
Mayor de Blasio recently said that IDNYC, one of his signature achievements, would no longer retain copies of passports, utility bills and other documents submitted by people applying for the card, which is held by more than 860,000 New Yorkers.
For advocates, that move—while welcome—casts a harsh light on the decision to collect the documents in the first place. Still, many immigration advocates think the ID was a positive step.
Obstacles to an idea
New Haven, Conn., was the first city to issue a municipal ID in 2007, and some local advocates had been pushing for New York City to follow suit in order to give a widely usable ID card to the undocumented as well as others who lacked official identification. De Blasio embraced the ID as a candidate and called for it in his first State of the City speech.
From the outset, the idea faced an obstacle: How do you create a tool that will be especially useful for undocumented people without making it a scarlet letter? Attaching museum discounts and other benefits to the card aimed to broaden its appeal so that even citizens would obtain it.
But while that broader usage meant the card itself didn’t necessarily indicate a holder’s immigration status, the documents associated with each application still could. To obtain an IDNYC, a person has to present documents that establish identity and residency. Among the accepted proofs of identity are foreign passports, consular ID, foreign military identification—all of which could indicate a lack of legal presence in the U.S.
The question that triggered tension during the negotiations over IDNYC was whether that material needed to be saved once IDNYC staff reviewed the documents and approved the card.
The first version of the City Council measure that created the program included the language, “The city shall not retain originals or copies of records provided by an applicant to prove identity or residency for a New York City identity card.”
But the language that became law described a very different approach. It permitted the city to, once a quarter, destroying any application documents that had been held for two years. It also created an opportunity to destroy all the documents in the program’s possession “on or before December 31, 2016” and end document retention then—an effort to ensure that the papers could be shredded before an anti-immigrant president took office.
The lawsuit by Assemblymembers Ron Castorina and Nicole Malliotakis, both Staten Island Republicans, argues the state’s freedom of information laws should prevent that destruction of documents. Malliotakis made her opposition to the destruction clause known as early as February 2015.
When IDNYC was being shaped in 2014, “retention to us was something that we absolutely did not want,” Betsy Plum, director of special projects at the New York Immigration Coalition, recalls.
However, “It was critical that the NYPD accept the ID,” she says, because one goal for the ID was for it to be a resource when someone is stopped by police. “For us and the community we work with the NYPD was a really critical partner for us to keep at the table for the ultimate success of IDNYC.”
And the NYPD said it needed the documents to investigate fraud, she says. Plum describes a back and forth between advocates and City Hall over the retention issue. “They came back saying to us: ‘This is the only way it’s going to happen.'”
A mayoral spokesperson says the retention clause was inserted “after consideration from many stakeholders, including NYPD.” In addition to the language permitting destruction after two years or at the end of 2016, the final bill did require a court order or warrant for the documents to be handed over to any third party.
Some advocates believed those safeguards were enough to justify going ahead with the ID. “Once we were able to see a clear path for the data to be protected, we saw the benefits far outweigh the risks,” Plum says.
Another advocate involved in the discussions recalls that the coalition of advocacy groups involved in the negotiations took a vote on whether to maintain or drop support for the measure; a clear majority favored pressing ahead with the ID.
But Families for Freedom did not. Paulos (who was a City Limits intern eight years ago) already harbored concerns about whether the cards themselves could be used to identify undocumented people. “The retention and the data was the deal breaker,” he recalls. “Once we heard that the NYPD was also in the discussion, we pulled out.”
The New York Civil Liberties Union also parted ways with other advocates. “In this bill, the city has not done enough to protect those documents from being used by law enforcement,” NYCLU advocacy director Johanna Miller testified as the bill was about to be signed in July 2014. “While the NYC ID will bring benefits to many people, we are disappointed that the city is inviting New Yorkers to gamble with the stakes as high as prosecution or even deportation.”
A July 2015 report by the Center for Popular Democracy (which supported the New York law) noted that “the vast majority of municipal ID card programs around the country have prohibited the copying or retention of documents presented to prove identity or residency. In New Haven, San Francisco, and Mercer County, NJ, municipal ID card programs have run smoothly for years without copying or retaining personal documents of applicants.”
“The only city-run municipal ID card program that stores applicants’ personal documents is IDNYC,” the report continued.”
No regrets from supporters
In the months after the law’s passage but before it took effect, the commissioner of the city’s Human Resources Administration—which oversees the ID program—issued executive orders clarifying the protections for IDNYC data and the handling of requests for program information by law enforcement.
But concerns persisted. When the first oversight hearing about the law was held in mid-2015, The Fortune Society testified that it was concerned that, despite the safeguards in the bill, “federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies may not have to meet a probable cause standard to obtain documents.”
Fortune Society director JoAnne Page now tells City Limits: “The more vulnerable people are, the most risk that damage will be done,” if personal information falls into the wrong hands. “I don’t think there is a more vulnerable group than undocumented immigrants who have criminal records.”
Plum says despite the Trump election and the lawsuit, NYIC has no regrets about its decision to support the bill despite the retention policy. “If we were all to live in a reality where we only acted as it if the worst possible things could happen and we allows ourselves to educate and serve communities from a lens of total paranoia, I think we’d have a far worse outcome for the communities we serve and protect,” she says. “I think still with the ID the benefits have and still do outweigh the risks. The alternative here would be to have had no IDNYC – to have parent who can’t get into their kids schools, to have families unable to open bank accounts, to have survivors of domestic violence afraid to call the police because they have no way to identify themselves. I don’t think anyone would want to sacrifice any of those benefits.”
The Castorina-Malliotakis lawsuit is next in court on January 18. NYCLU staff attorney Jordan Wells says he believes the city will ultimately be able to follow through on their plans to destroy the documents. “The lawsuit pending in Staten Island is without merit,” he says. “Eventually the city will be able to follow the procedure.”
But Paulos believes damage has already been done. The fact that the city will now destroy the documents, and will no longer keep those generated for new applications, makes it hard to credit the assertions that keeping that paperwork was necessary in the first place. “There’s a lot of mistrust.”
By Jarrett Murphy
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker plans to retire Oct. 1, marking the exit of one of the U.S. central bank’s most steadfast inflation fighters at a time when the Fed is...
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker plans to retire Oct. 1, marking the exit of one of the U.S. central bank’s most steadfast inflation fighters at a time when the Fed is weighing how quickly to raise interest rates.
The Richmond Fed said Tuesday that a committee had been formed to find a successor for Lacker, who has led the regional Fed bank since 2004, and has engaged professional services firm Heidrick & Struggles to conduct the search. The head of the Richmond Fed will be a voting member of the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee in 2018.
Lacker, 61, was a voice of restraint in the use of monetary policy and the central bank’s balance sheet as the Fed deployed extraordinary powers to combat the financial crisis, the worst recession since the Great Depression as well as a sluggish recovery.
“He was consistent in terms of wanting a narrow Fed that stuck to the business of ensuring price stability because that would be the Fed’s best contribution to society,” said Vincent Reinhart, chief economist at Standish Mellon Asset Management Co. LLC in Boston. “Jeff Lacker kept the faith.”
Lacker dissented frequently in favor of tighter policy when he was a voter on the FOMC, including at every meeting in 2012. During the financial crisis he warned about channeling credit to specific sectors of the economy, inflation risks and government rescues of troubled banks.
One of Lacker’s core doctrines was that an expansion of Fed credit to other sectors of the economy would create expectations of further support and thus further destabilize markets in the future as investors tested the perceived safety net.
“The striking feature of central bank lending during the recent turmoil is the extent to which it has extended well beyond the boundaries that previously were understood to constrain such lending,” Lacker said in a speech in November 2008.
Lacker wasn’t alone in those views. Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker said the bailouts had taken the central bank to “the very edge of its lawful and implied powers, transcending in the process certain long-embedded central banking principles and practices.”
Arguing for constraint when the entire financial system was at risk seemed overly cautious to some of his colleagues. Former Chairman Ben S. Bernanke noted that Lacker opposed a crisis-era innovation called the Term Securities Lending Facility, where the Fed loaned out its Treasury portfolio to primary dealers in exchange for mortgage-backed securities as collateral.
“Jeff Lacker spoke against the TSLF,” Bernanke wrote in his book, “The Courage to Act.”
Lacker will depart three years ahead of his mandatory retirement age of 65. He hasn’t lined up another job, according to Richmond Fed spokeswoman Laura Fortunato. “He does want to get back to writing and research,” she said.
The search for his successor, which gets under way as the Atlanta Fed is undertaking its own campaign to replace its president Dennis Lockhart, who retires Feb. 28, will be conducted nationally to “identify a broad, diverse and highly qualified candidate pool for this leadership role,” the Richmond Fed said in a statement on its website.
The Fed is under pressure to increase diversity among its leaders after criticism that it is dominated by white men. Janet Yellen, the first woman to chair the central bank, has said she’d like to see more diversity, though the Richmond Fed’s own board of directors will make the ultimate selection.
Jordan Haedtler, campaign manager for the Fed Up coalition, which has called for a more diverse leadership that includes more minorities and women, said the group will push for “a publicly inclusive and transparent process with the consideration of diverse candidates who will consider labor market conditions for all workers in weighing their decisions.”
Haedtler said Lacker was “always gracious” and toured low-income communities in Charlotte, North Carolina, with one of their member groups.
Given the Richmond Fed’s tradition of standing firm on price stability, “my guess is that the Richmond Fed will find a hawk,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte. “Part of this reflects the sentiment of businesses, residents and bankers located in this part of the country, who tend to take a more cautious view on what monetary policy can and cannot do,” he said.
Lacker admitted in speeches that his forecasts for the recovery were at times too optimistic. His warnings about inflation were defused as shocks hit the economy. When the Fed decided to go forward with a second round of quantitative easing in November 2010, Lacker raised concerns that it could make it hard to restrain inflation.
“This poses unacceptable risks to price stability and to our credibility,” he said, according to the meeting transcript. “I fear today’s decision and the expectations it encourages will come back to haunt us.”
The Fed’s preferred inflation measure, the personal consumption expenditures price index, did rise above its 2 percent target in 2011 and for part of 2012. It then fell below 2 percent in May that year and has never risen above that level since, partly due to a tumble in oil prices that began in 2014.
By Craig Torres
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker, one of the Fed system’s most outspoken advocates for higher short-term interest rates in recent years, will retire Oct. 1 after 28 years...
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker, one of the Fed system’s most outspoken advocates for higher short-term interest rates in recent years, will retire Oct. 1 after 28 years at the bank, the regional Fed bank said Tuesday.
The Richmond Fed’s board of directors has formed a search committee led by Chairwoman Margaret Lewis to find a new president, and has hired the firm of Heidrick & Struggles to assist in the search, the bank said. The bank intends to conduct “a nationwide search to identify a broad, diverse and highly qualified candidate pool for this leadership role,” it said.
Mr. Lacker became the second Fed official to announce his plans to retire in 2017. Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart will step down at the end of February.
“Jeff has been an outstanding leader for the Richmond Fed and has made many contributions to the Federal Reserve System,” Ms. Lewis said in a statement announcing his departure.
A Richmond Fed spokesman said Mr. Lacker wants to return to teaching, writing and academic research, though he had no details on where Mr. Lacker may go after he leaves the bank later this year.
Mr. Lacker joined the Richmond Fed in 1989 and served in various leadership positions before becoming president in August 2004. For the past decade he has anchored the Fed’s hawkish wing, warning of the risks of rising inflation and dissenting often in favor of a higher benchmark federal-funds rate, which officials held near zero for six years following the financial crisis.
He was a voting member of the Fed’s policy committee in 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2015, and dissented a total of 15 times out of 32 meetings.
Mr. Lacker also argued against the Fed’s interventions in financial markets throughout the financial crisis, and has said financial instability was worsened by expectations that the Fed would always provide a backstop for financial firms in trouble.
Over the past year, he has also argued against efforts to overhaul the Fed system, including measures that would subject the Fed’s interest-rate decisions to greater congressional scrutiny or tie its policy to a mathematical formula.
“I’m hoping that our leaders in Congress and the administration understand that our independence is of value and is important to the credibility of the country’s commitment to price stability and I hope they’re willing to proceed accordingly,” he said after the November presidential election.
Mr. Lacker said in a statement Tuesday he felt fortunate “to have participated in some of the most extraordinary policy deliberations in our nation’s history. It’s been my deepest privilege to lead the Richmond Fed and the dedicated people who work here.”
The search to replace Mr. Lacker is likely to face scrutiny from activists and congressional Democrats who have called for more diversity among the Fed’s upper ranks, as well as more openness about how it selects its regional bank leaders.
Following Mr. Lockhart’s announcement last year, the left-leaning Center for Popular Democracy’s Fed Up campaign said it hoped the next Atlanta Fed president would be black or Hispanic, which would be a first for a regional Fed bank.
In an unusual move, a group of African-American House members wrote to Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen and the chairman of the Atlanta Fed’s board urging them to consider candidates of diverse racial, ethnic, gender and professional backgrounds. The lawmakers also noted that most of the presidents worked at major financial firms before their appointments.
“We hope that candidates from distinctive sectors like academia, labor, and nonprofit organizations are given due consideration,” they wrote.
Before joining the Richmond Fed, Mr. Lacker was an assistant professor of economics at the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University and previously worked at Wharton Econometrics in Philadelphia, the bank said.
The bank posted information about its search process on its website Tuesday.
By Kate Davidson
FORMER CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY General Kamala Harris on Wednesday vaguely acknowledged The Intercept’s report about her declining to prosecute Steven Mnuchin’s OneWest Bank for foreclosure violations...
FORMER CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY General Kamala Harris on Wednesday vaguely acknowledged The Intercept’s report about her declining to prosecute Steven Mnuchin’s OneWest Bank for foreclosure violations in 2013, but offered no explanation.
“It’s a decision my office made,” she said, in response to questions from The Hill shortly after being sworn in as California’s newest U.S. senator.
“We went and we followed the facts and the evidence, and it’s a decision my office made,” Harris said. “We pursued it just like any other case. We go and we take a case wherever the facts lead us.”
Mnuchin is Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Treasury Department, and served as CEO of OneWest from 2009 to 2015. In an internal memo published on Tuesday by The Intercept, prosecutors at the California attorney general’s office said they had found over a thousand violations of foreclosure laws by his bank during that time, and predicted that further investigation would uncover many thousands more.
But the investigation into what the memo called “widespread misconduct” was closed after Harris’s office declined to file a civil enforcement action against the bank.
Harris’s statement on Tuesday doesn’t explain how involved she was with the decision to not prosecute, or why the decision was made. She also would not say whether the revelations would disqualify Mnuchin for the position of treasury secretary. “The hearings will reveal if it’s disqualifying or not, but certainly he has a history that should be critically examined, as do all of the nominees,” Harris told The Hill. She added that she would review the background and history of all Trump cabinet nominees.
Senate Democrats have vowed to put up a fight over Mnuchin — even creating a website inviting homeowners to list their complaints against OneWest. And yet not one senator has commented publicly on the leaked memo, which received media coverage in Politico, Bloomberg, the New York Post, CBS News, Vanity Fair, CNN, CNBC, and other outlets.
The Intercept has reached out to half a dozen Senate Democratic offices, including those of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and leading Mnuchin critics Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, receiving no response.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., retweeted the story, as did the Twitter account of the Democratic National Committee. But another DNC tweet just hours later hinted at the bind Democrats are in when it comes to using the information against Mnuchin. That tweet praised Harris’s swearing-in. Her decision not to prosecute may make her new colleagues wary of pursuing it.
Progressive groups have not been so reluctant. Three groups — the Rootstrikers project at Demand Progress, the Center for Popular Democracy’s Fed Up Campaign, and the California Reinvestment Coalition – have called for a delay of Mnuchin’s confirmation hearing until he publicly discloses all settlements and lawsuits OneWest has faced from its foreclosure-related activities, responds fully to all questions submitted by members of the Senate Finance Committee, and publicly discloses his role in obstructing the California attorney general investigation, or any others.
The California Reinvestment Coalition followed that up on Thursday by asking OneWest to release the obstructed evidence, which involved loan files held by a third party then known as Lender Processing Services (it’s now called Black Knight Financial Services). “That’s something the Senate Finance Committee should ask him for, prior to scheduling their hearing with him,” said Paulina Gonzalez, executive director of the California Reinvestment Coalition.
Mnuchin has already declined to answer a detailed list of questions from Finance Committee member Sherrod Brown, which Brown sent before the release of the leaked memo.
After The Intercept story was published, Mnuchin spokesperson Barney Keller called it “meritless,” and highlighted OneWest’s completion of a foreclosure review with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (which involved completely separate issues from the California inquiry) and what he claimed was OneWest’s issuance of over 100,000 loan modifications to borrowers.
“Memos like this belong in the garbage, not the news,” Keller said.
Meanwhile, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, an organizing group that made headlines in 2010 by protesting on Mnuchin’s front lawn over OneWest’s foreclosure practices, expressed disbelief that he could now become treasury secretary. “My family lived first hand the fraud and unethical behavior under his leadership when I was told to default before they could help me, and (was) instead pushed into foreclosure,” said Peggy Mears, a OneWest victim.
ACCE plans to ask incoming California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to take up the prosecution of OneWest based on the newly released evidence. And the group vowed to fight the Mnuchin nomination. “No one who oversaw the defrauding of thousands of homeowners should be allowed to serve watch over our country’s money,” Mears said.
By David Dayen
Brooklyn City Councilman Brad Lander is advertising for a communications director who, in addition to fulfilling the standard checklist of duties, can also help the Democrat “resist the injustice...
Brooklyn City Councilman Brad Lander is advertising for a communications director who, in addition to fulfilling the standard checklist of duties, can also help the Democrat “resist the injustice, hatred, and corruption posed by the Trump regime.”
In an unusual listing that has been posted to several job boards, including Idealist, Lander is looking for a staffer to see beyond New York City, and to keep an eye on the actions of President-elect Donald Trump.
The ideal candidate should be able to implement Lander's communications and media program while also defending against what the councilman calls the threat "to American democratic values and vulnerable constituencies." The goal, according to the ad, is to help "build a more just, inclusive, and sustainable NYC.”
A minimum of three to four years of communications experience — ideally in New York City — is required for the job, as is a sense of humor, according to the listing. The job includes a “competitive salary,” which was not specified but reported to be in the range of $61,000 to $67,000 a year, according to the New York Daily News.
Lander, an outspoken councilmember who was once arrested for blocking traffic to support striking car washers in Park Slope, is co-founder of the Council’s progressive caucus. He is also incoming board chairman of Local Progress, a nationwide network of self-described progressive local officials.
By Alexi Friedman
As the new year begins, any honest progressive knows the political outlook is bleak. But if we're going to limit the damage that President-elect Donald Trump inflicts on the country, then despair...
As the new year begins, any honest progressive knows the political outlook is bleak. But if we're going to limit the damage that President-elect Donald Trump inflicts on the country, then despair is not an option. The real question, as Democracy Alliance President Gara LaMarche recently said, "is how you fight intelligently and strategically when every house is burning down."
Indeed, with Trump and Republicans in Congress aggressively pushing a right-wing agenda, progressives will need to invest their resources and attention where they can do the most good — both now and over the next four years. With that in mind, here are three steps to take to resist and rebuild as the Trump administration gets underway.
First, while strong national leadership is certainly important, progressives must recognize that the most significant resistance to Trump won't take place in Washington. It's going to happen in the streets led by grass-roots activists, and in communities, city halls and statehouses nationwide.
There is real potential for cities and states to act as a bulwark against Trump's agenda. On immigration, for example, a coalition of mayors from across the country — including New York and Los Angeles but also cities throughout the Rust Belt and the South — are already coordinating to fight Trump's deportation plans. Local Progress, a national network of city and county officials, is working to protect civil rights and advance economic and social justice. And while the Trump administration may ravage the environment, cities and states can also continue the fight against global warming; in particular, California has the potential to become a global leader on the issue, and Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has defiantly pledged to move forward with plans to slash carbon emissions in the state regardless of Trump's policies.
Cities and states also give progressives an opportunity to play offense by advancing policies that truly improve people's lives, while providing a concrete and actionable blueprint for the rest of the country. Take the Fight for $15. Last year, 25 states, cities and counties approved minimum-wage increases that will result in raises for millions of workers nationwide. And despite Trump's hostility to workers, there are campaigns to increase the minimum wage planned in at least 13 states and other localities over the next two years, representing a real chance to build on that progress.
Second, as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman writes, "We need a broad commitment from activists and donors to take back state governments." Even if Democrats do well in the midterm elections, they are unlikely to regain control of Congress until after the next round of redistricting, in 2020. Yet there will be 87 state legislative chambers and 36 gubernatorial seats up for grabs in 2018. Progressives would be wise to adopt a laserlike focus on winning these races.
A strong performance at the state level in 2018 would do more than improve progressives' ability to combat Trump's policies. It would also help create a stronger pipeline of leaders who could eventually run for higher office, following in the steps of incoming House members Jamie B. Raskin, D-Md., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. Crucially, it would also give progressive Democrats more influence over congressional redistricting in 2020, boosting the party's prospects at the national level. For that reason, it's noteworthy that President Obama is planning to get involved in state legislative elections and redistricting after he leaves office, though grass-roots efforts will remain paramount.
And third, it will be critical for progressive leaders in Washington to amplify local progress to drive a national message. In the absence of a single party leader — especially one whose success depends on compromising with congressional Republicans — there is more room for strong, populist progressive voices to emerge in opposition to Trump.
Already, Sens. Bernie Sanders, Vt., Elizabeth Warren, Mass., Sherrod Brown, Ohio, and Jeff Merkley, Ore., are stepping up, and they will be joined in the House by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose members will play a key role in recruiting and running progressive candidates, connecting with grass-roots movements and driving local issues into the national sphere. Working alongside activist groups, progressive Democrats can present a clear alternative vision for the nation.
To that end, the race for Democratic National Committee chair presents a significant opportunity to shift the party's direction. Regardless of who prevails, progressives would be wise to insist on a return to the 50-state strategy that former chairman Howard Dean championed and that all of the current candidates say they support. Ultimately, the party's fortunes will depend on recruiting a new generation of progressive leaders, especially women and people of color, who can harness the power of social movements and drive it into electoral politics — everywhere in the country, at every level of government.
By: Katrina Vanden Heuvel