Category: Your Voice Written by Phil Power
After the presidential election, the national news these days is totally dominated by the specter of the coming fiscal cliff.
So here is a Michigan Citizens’ Survival Guide to Navigating the cliff, understanding it, and hopefully surviving.
What the Fiscal Cliff Means to Michigan: Perhaps the biggest event of the decade will start to unfold at the end of this year, when the nation hits the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
The ticking time bomb started last year, with the Budget Control Act of 2011, and was designed to set in place a balance of terror facing both political parties. Unless something changes beforehand, the cliff, which we reach at midnight on Dec. 31, combines draconian spending cuts for both domestic and military programs with the end of the tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration.
According to a Bridge Magazine interview with Mitch Bean, the highly respected longtime head of the House Fiscal Agency, cuts to defense and non-defense spending in Michigan alone would total $807.1 million in 2013. Repeal of the Bush tax cuts and increased payroll tax rates would reduce total state disposable income by as much as $14 billion and cut state consumption tax collections as well.
Can Ordinary Citizens Do Anything? From our perspective out here in Michigan, it’s easy to think that ordinary citizens won’t be able to affect one whit all the tugging and hauling that will go on in Washington. But that’s not so.
The Campaign to Fix the Debt — a national nonpartisan coalition of business leaders, elected officials, community leaders, academics and individual citizens — recently announced a Michigan state chapter. The idea is to bring together concerned citizens of all stripes to call on lawmakers to address the ballooning national debt.
The Campaign to Fix the Debt is designed to focus citizen pressure on elected leaders to put our economy on a sustainable course by reforming the tax code and increasing revenues, while at the same time making smart spending cuts to programs that aren’t working or aren’t necessary. More than 300,000 Americans have already signed a Citizen’s Petition calling on our leaders to do the right thing.
For more information, and to sign up:www.fixthedebt.org.
How to Navigate the Fiscal Cliff: It won’t be easy, as the problem of what to do about our nation’s out of control spending, grotesque tax code and spiraling debt has been around for years. A recently published book, “The Price of Politics” by Bob Woodward, the author of “All The President’s Men,” describes in depressing detail how President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner spent months last year trying to agree to a “grand bargain.”
I recommend it to anybody interested in our financial future. What the book makes clear is how very complicated these matters are and how complicated it will be to get to agreement, with all the snapping and snarling from both political partisans and the special interests who infest Washington.
Last Updated on Thursday, 29 November 2012 11:44
Category: Your Voice Written by Bill Johnson
I covered the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) as a reporter for WWJ radio in the mid-1970s. In the ensuing years I watched as the district was decentralized, recentralized and managed by various boards and appointed managers, some wielding extraordinary powers.
I have yet to see significant academic improvement, increased community involvement or abatement in the slide in student population. And no one is likely to witness positive change in these areas if the reigns of the education delivery system are returned to the Board of Education.
Back then I could have never imagined the chaos and uncertainty that has become the order of the day. The courts are involved in determining whether school czar Roy Roberts legally holds office under the old Public Act 72 following repeal by Michigan voters of Public Act 4, the state’s emergency manager law. It’s still not clear whether the school board still has control over the district’s education apparatus -- if not financial operations.
Shock waves would reverberate throughout the district if Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette were successful in removing seven of Detroit’s 11 board members. A lawsuit filed by the AG contends that only a first-class school district with 100,000 students may elect members by districts. Detroit’s student population is about half that number. In the 70s, enrollment topped 200,000.
After a cursory look at the history of DPS, it should surprise no one that the district is on a doomsday watch. Neither efficient management nor the successful education of children has been top priorities under duly elected school boards or state appointed managers.
Expectations for school reform were high when Roberts was named to the post. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot to be desired from his leadership.
Roberts has not defined or executed workable solutions to the district’s organizational, financial, administration and support systems. His good intentions notwithstanding, modifications he engineered are either bogged down in a laborious implementation process or highlighted by misdirection. Consolidating failing schools under an Education Achievement Authority, for example, is about the same as building another bureaucratic castle in the sky.
As Roberts and the school board grapple with control issues, parents are voicing their displeasure by disinvesting from the system. Neither, for example, has demonstrated much of a willingness to embrace the kind of transformation that would benefit students most.
Public opinion polls show parents want expanded school choice. That’s reflected in the fact that when a new charter school opens in the city, it’s almost immediately filled with defecting DPS students.
School boards by culture, temperament and habit are prone to incremental rather than radical change, which makes school operations under board leadership indefensible and perilous. So unless the status-quo board can demonstrate it has a plan that meets what the public demands and students’ need today, Roy Roberts, if only by default, should remain in place.
Those playing the power game should understand they have more than a parochial interest in improving schools. Detroit’s recovery depends in large part on a well-educated workforce. Parents who place a value on learning consider the quality of education in making relocation decisions. Unfortunately, DPS deficiencies rank with high-crime rates as a prime reason the city is not attractive for married couples with children.
But if Detroiters want to see a total collapse of an already academically bankrupt system, support the return of the board to power.
It may be folly to think that a broad political consensus to reconstruct Detroit’s faltering system can be found in time to prevent the inexorable implosion. Even if a school partnership with Roy Roberts and the governor is deemed unacceptable, there is no upside to a debate skewed toward the narrow goals and objectives of the board and away from what is best for educationally deprived kids.
The mission of the school district, after all, is supposed to be about educating the city’s children. Remember them?
Last Updated on Thursday, 29 November 2012 11:43
Category: Your Voice Written by George Curry
President Obama’s campaign strategists are receiving a lot of richly deserved praise in the wake of the president’s victory over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Nov. 6.
Obama, who lost the majority of the White vote for the second time, won the election by assembling a progressive Democratic coalition pioneered by Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988.
I covered Jackson’s 1984 campaign for the Chicago Tribune and witnessed Jackson laying the groundwork for what would become two Obama victories.
“America is not like a blanket – one piece of unbroken cloth, the same color, the same texture, the same size,” I heard Jesse Jackson say more times than I care to remember.
“America is more like a quilt — many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread. The White, the Hispanic, the Black, the Arab, the Jew, the woman, the Native American, the small farmer, the businessperson, the environmentalist, the peace activist, the young, the old, the lesbian, the gay, and the disabled make up the American quilt.”
The concept was more frequently expressed in terms of a rainbow.
The organization Jackson heads is known as Rainbow PUSH, the result of a merger between Operation PUSH, the organization Jackson created in 1971, and the Rainbow Coalition, an apparatus he developed following his 1984 presidential run.
In his stirring speech at the 1984 National Democratic Convention in San Francisco, Jackson spoke at length about the Rainbow Coalition.
“…We cannot be satisfied by just restoring the old coalition,” he said. “Old wine skins must make room for new wine. We must heal and expand. The Rainbow Coalition is making room for Arab Americans…
The Rainbow Coalition is making room for Hispanic Americans…The Rainbow Coalition is making room for the Native American…The Rainbow Coalition includes Asian Americans…The Rainbow Coalition is making room for the young Americans…The Rainbow Coalition includes disabled veterans…The Rainbow Coalition is making room for small farmers…The Rainbow includes lesbians and gays.”
According to exit polls, Romney won the White vote 59 percent to 39 percent for Obama, which was 3 percent lower than the president’s 2008 outing. Like Clinton before him, Obama demonstrated that a candidate for national office does not need a majority of the White vote in order to win.
Blacks, who made up 13 percent of the electorate in 2012, favored Obama over Romney 93 percent to 6 percent. Latinos, who made up 10 percent of the electorate, preferred Obama by a margin of 71 percent to 27 percent. Asians, 3 percent of the electorate, supported Obama over Romney 73 percent to 26 percent. The remaining non-White groups, with 2 percent of the electorate, backed Obama by a margin of 58 percent to 38 percent.
Obama won the 18-24 category – 11 percent of the electorate – 60 percent to 36 percent for Romney. He also won the 25-29 age-group, which is 8 percent of voters, 60 percent to 38 percent.
Those describing themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual – 5 percent of voters – favored Obama over Romney 76 percent to 22 percent, compared with straight voters – 95 percent of the electorate – who were evenly divided, with Obama and Romney each receiving 49 percent.
Fifty-eight percent of union households – 18 percent of the electorate – supported Obama this year, down just one percentage point from four years ago. They supported Obama at even higher rates in the swing states of Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada.
Despite Jackson’s early coalition-building efforts, it’s no secret that relations between Obama and Jackson are as chilly as the temperature was on the day Obama was first inaugurated as president.
The friction was exacerbated in July 2008 after Jackson had been interviewed on Fox News. When the television interview was over, Jackson, apparently unaware that his microphone was still live, told a fellow guest, “See, Barack’s been talking down to Black people…I want to cut his nuts off.”
Not surprisingly, the relationship between the two immediately went south, so to speak. An understandably miffed Barack Obama has since kept his distance from Jackson.
But as Obama reaches out to Republicans whose stated goal was to make sure he didn’t get re-elected, perhaps it’s time for Obama to have détente with Jackson.
The legendary civil rights leader has done his penitence. Because of what Jackson later described as his “crude and hurtful” comment — made at a time African Americans were hoping to elect their first Black president — many Blacks mentally shipped Jackson off to a political Siberia, a never-never land where they didn’t care if he was never heard from again.
As Obama extends the olive branch to his ardent political foes, he should invite Jackson to visit him in the White House.
If nothing else, President Obama can thank Jesse Jackson for paving the way for his two memorable victories.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 11:57
Category: Your Voice Written by Buy Teixeira & John Haplin
With President Barack Obama’s decisive victory in the 2012 election, he becomes the first Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt — and the only president since Ronald Reagan — to win two consecutive elections with more than 50 percent of the popular vote.
Although the election was closely contested, President Obama successfully solidified his historic progressive coalition from 2008 and held on to all of the states he won that year with the exception of conservative-leaning Indiana and North Carolina (as of posting, the results in Florida were still too close to call). And after the electoral disaster of that Democrats suffered in 2010 at the congressional level, the party expanded its majority in the Senate with significant wins in Massachusetts, Virginia, Missouri, Wisconsin, and even Indiana.
Why did this happen? A potent mix of demographics, a steadily improving economy, a clear rejection of the GOP’s extreme conservatism, and an embrace of pragmatic progressive policies on social and economic issues propelled the president and his party to victory.
The president’s central message that “everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same rules” was more convincing to Americans dealing with rising inequality and diminished economic opportunities than the conservative alternative of supply-side tax cuts, deregulation, and limited government. His policy choices — from the stimulus bill and auto and financial sector bailouts to the health care law and support for expanded rights for women, Latinos, and gay and lesbian families — clearly paid off politically as the nation decided to give the president more time to lay a new foundation for our economy, society and government.
With his clear Electoral College and national popular vote majorities, President Obama has arguably created a genuine realignment at the national level that could continue to shape American politics for years to come. Obama’s strong progressive majority — built on a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, cross-class coalition in support of an activist government that promotes freedom, opportunity, and security for all — is real and growing and it reflects the face and beliefs of the United States in the early part of the 21st century.
The GOP must face the stark reality that its voter base is declining and its ideology is too rigid to represent the changing face of today’s country.
The remainder of this memo will provide a concise overview of the demographic breakdown of the election based on exit poll and election data available today. Updates will be made as more data are finalized.
What happened in 2012?
Basic election results
President Obama achieved re-election with at least 303 electoral votes. Moreover, he seems likely to carry Florida as well, where he has a slight lead with few votes remaining to be counted, the majority of which are from Democratic-leaning areas. That would bring him to 332 electorate votes, only 33 below his 2008 election victory total.
Obama also carried the popular vote. As we write, he is leading the nationwide vote count by around 2,800,000 votes, a 2.4 percentage point margin (50.4-48). Just as they did in 2008, These margins are likely to grow as the vote is fully counted from the West Coast. The president’s final popular vote margin should be closer to 3 points.
The Democrats had a very strong showing in Senate races. They entered the night with 23 seats to defend, compared to just 10 for the Republicans, an imbalance that led many observers to believe that Republicans could recapture control of the Senate. But that did not happen as Democrats instead expanded their 5- seat majority to 55 (including two independents who will caucus with the Democrats).
Republicans did manage to hold onto their control of the House of Representatives, by about a 237-197 majority, plus or minus four seats. And they retained their domination of the nation’s governorships, adding a 30th seat, the governor’s mansion in North Carolina.
Despite these setbacks, it was clearly an excellent night for the Democrats overall. Below we discuss what underlies this impressive performance, starting with who voted in this election—the composition of the electorate—followed by how different groups voted in the election and concluding with the significance of this election for our future.
The voters who showed up in 2012 were far different from those who showed up in 2010, when the Republicans made historic gains in the House of Representatives. Voters in 2012 were much less white, much younger, and less conservative. In these respects, 2012’s electorate marked the return of the Obama coalition of 2008 and, more broadly, an electorate that looks like the America of today, not yesterday.
Race. Voters in 2012 were 72 percent White and 28 percent people of color. The minority figure is an increase of 2 percentage points from the 2008 level of 26 percent, and 5 points from the 2010 level of 23 percent. The increase since 2008, which we predicted in our “Path to 270” paper, is consistent with historical trends and observed increases in the minority share of eligible voters over the last four years. Prior to the election, however, many prominent national surveys were drawing likely voter samples that projected the minority share of voters to remain static or even decline relative to 2008. Gallup estimated minority voters around 22 percent, Washington Post/ABC around 23 percent, and the Pew Research Center around 24 percent. Virtually no pollsters had the minority share reaching the actual 28 percent. This suggests an ongoing problem for the industry in keeping up with a rapidly changing America.
The share of African American voters remained at its 13 percent level from 2008, despite the predictions of many observers that Black voter enthusiasm would flag and these voters would not turn out in the same huge numbers for the president. And Hispanics, in line with their growing share of the electorate, increased their share of voters to 10 percent, up from 8.5 percent in 2008, despite similar skepticism about their level of voter enthusiasm. The “sleeping giant” has evidently woken up, aided of course by massive voter registration and GOTV efforts.
Age. Young voters also defied skepticism about their likely levels of voter turnout. They comprised 19 percent of voters this year, up from 18 percent in Obama’s historic campaign of 2008, and way up from 12 percent in 2010. Most of the turnout increase relative to 2008 appeared to be concentrated among the youngest members (18-24 year olds) of the Millennial generation, who increased their share of voters from 10 percent to 11 percent. On the other end of the age distribution, seniors’ turnout was the same as in 2008: 16 percent of voters.
Ideology. Liberals were 25 percent of voters in 2012, up from 22 percent in 2008. Since 1992 the percent of liberals among presidential voters has varied in a narrow band between 20 percent and 22 percent, so the figure for this year is quite unusual. Conservatives, at 35 percent, were up one point from the 2008 level, but down a massive 7 points since 2010.
How did they vote?
The return of the Obama coalition — indeed, its expansion in terms of numbers — explains a good deal of what happened in 2012. But the other part of the story is how various groups within the Obama coalition actually voted in 2012. If Obama had not been able to hold most of his support within these groups, he would not have prevailed, despite the growth in size of these groups.
Race. President Obama lost the White vote in 2012 by a wider margin than he did in 2008 — 20 points (59 percent-39 percent), compared to 12 points (55 percent-43 percent), respectively. This is very similar to the performance of Michael Dukakis against George H.W. Bush in 1988. But while the first President Bush was able to build a comfortable 7-point victory from such a large advantage among White voters, Gov. Mitt Romney lost this year’s election with basically the same advantage. That is a mark of how much the country has changed in the intervening 24 years, as the minority population has surged.
Last Updated on Thursday, 29 November 2012 11:41
Category: Your Voice Written by Keith Harriston
Dear President Obama
Congratulations on your election to a second term. You no doubt know how much we black people appreciate the historical significance.
President Obama pauses as he speaks at his election night rally in Chicago. (Carolyn Kaster - AP)of both of your successful presidential campaigns. If you don’t, all you have to do is Google the numbers.
In 2008, according to several exit polls, you captured 95 to 98 percent of the black vote. On Tuesday, the estimates are between 94 and 96 percent.
We understand a broad coalition elected you president both terms, not just us. But we have had your back at a rate much higher than other slices of your coalition, and you know it.
Now, Mr. President, how about some payback?
This is not an unreasonable request. Just ask women, gays and immigrants.
For women, your first day in office you signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Later came your birth control mandate that guarantees women access to free contraceptives.
For gays, you announced on ABC your support for same-sex marriage.
For immigrants, you stopped deporting younger undocumented immigrants — most of them Latino — and began granting work permits for some of them.
Noticeably missing from the list is any demonstrable policy change — or change of mind — aimed squarely at the black members of your coalition. Some of your black supporters raised that issue even as they celebrated your victory on Election Night and the morning after.
“Now, he’s got to do something for us,” Reginald Miles, a professor at Howard University, said minutes after networks began declaring Obama’s win. “We should get our reward.”
Wednesday morning at a school bus stop in suburban Maryland, parents dropping off their children exchanged greetings and “relief,” as one woman put it, that you were reelected. “Let’s see what he’s going to do,” said the woman, who did not want to be named because she is a supervisor in a federal government agency. “He has no excuse not to do something for us.”
A friend who worked in the Clinton White House heard about this line of thinking and dismissed it. “Which one of those groups does not include black people?” she asked. “There are black women. There are black gays and black immigrants. And what about his health-care bill? Don’t blacks benefit from that?”
I understand her point, Mr. President, but she did not hear what I did from different people in different places in less than 12 hours after your victory: Something for us.
Many blacks who supported you in 2008 adopted a stay-quiet-and-wait posture. They wanted a second term for you. We understood that meant you had to camouflage your blackness.
A few blacks did challenge you, Mr. President, and urged you to reach out more to blacks and to the poor. You know, people like Cornel West and Tavis Smiley. But your unofficial wingmen, radio hosts Tom Joyner and Steve Harvey, shot West and Smiley down with nasty verbal assaults.
It was safer to stay quiet and wait. In the meantime, you served up trinkets to your black supporters.
You granted interviews and allowed yourself to be videotaped playing basketball, that black game.
You said Cambridge, Mass. police acted “stupidly” when they arrested your buddy Henry Louis Gates in front of his own home and reminded the country of its ugly history of racial profiling by law enforcement.
You sympathized with anger generated by the slaying of the black Florida teen Trayvon Martin, saying, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”
But no policy changes. Nothing for us.
Mr. President, many of us got the wait-until-a-second-term message earlier this year. In March, media reported you were “caught” on an open microphone telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to pass some words on to Vladimir Putin. “It’s important for him to give me space,” you said. “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”
You could have been speaking to your black supporters, Mr. President. Now, you earned the second term, and the flexibility that comes with it.
Your legacy is secure. The first African American elected president of the United States. One of only three Democratic presidents to be elected to a second term in the past century. Now, sir, you can work on the third, fourth and fifth paragraphs of your story. Something for us.
“We need to decide what we want,” Miles said. “Make calls. Write letters. Send e-mails. And just like F.D.R. told A. Philip Randolph, we need to make Obama do it.”
Keith Harriston teaches journalism at Howard University, where he edits Howard University News Service.
Last Updated on Friday, 09 November 2012 10:44
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