Category Archives: Politics

Op-Ed: “How US authors worried over white poverty in 2017 – and forgot about everyone else”

Op-Ed: Rafia Zakaria, How US authors worried over white poverty in 2017 – and forgot about everyone else, The Guardian, Dec. 28, 2017.

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Op-ed: “A New Year’s resolution for the media: Do not let Republicans get away with saying ‘reforms’ when they mean ‘cuts’”

Op-ed: Jared Bernstein, A New Year’s resolution for the media: Do not let Republicans get away with saying ‘reforms’ when they mean ‘cuts’, Wash. Post, Dec. 29, 2017.

New Op-Ed: “Sessions Says to Courts: Go Ahead, Jail People Because They’re Poor”

New Op-Ed: Chiraag Bains, Sessions Says to Courts: Go Ahead, Jail People Because They’re Poor, N.Y. Times, Dec. 28, 2017.

New Article: “The Next American Revolution”

New Article: Timothy K. Kuhner, The Next American Revolution, 39 Western New England L. Rev. 477 (2017). Abstract below:

On the whole, the scholarly literature does not go far enough in its understanding of money in politics and corporate political power — ultimately, the role of concentrated capital in democracy. The rising economic and political inequalities affecting the United States are not properly diagnosed as the excesses of a generally legitimate capitalist democracy in need, merely, of legal reforms. Rather, they are the symptoms of an overarching flaw in our political system that requires a revolution — a revolution of the non-violent, constitutional kind.

Action follows understanding. If the understanding of a problem is weak and superficial, the reform agenda will also be weak and superficial. It is true, as the call for papers states, that Supreme Court cases on money in politics “shift power to a new economic royalty.” Rather than an embellishment or exaggeration, however, this is actually the essential starting point for putting today’s plutocracy into its proper historical context, that of despotism, tyranny, and oppression.

Highlighting the thoughts of key historical figures, this essay has two purposes: first, to explore how revolutionary understandings can bring modern-day problems of economic and political inequality into sharper focus; and, second, to reveal the essential thrust of an enduring solution, a constitutional amendment to separate business and state.

Op-Ed co-authored by Cory Booker on Landlord-Tenant Issues: “Bills would help end ‘renter hell’”

Op-Ed by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and state Sen. Ron Rice, Bills would help end ‘renter hell’, USA Today, Nov. 18, 2017.

Op-Ed: “Ending Medical Tax Break Could Be a ‘Gut Punch’ to Middle Class”

Kate Zernike, Abby Goodnough, Ending Medical Tax Break Could Be a ‘Gut Punch’ to Middle Class, New York Times, November 8, 2017. [“…eliminating the medical-expense deduction would hit the middle class squarely…”]

Aside on Trump / Pocahontas / Elizabeth Warren / Andrew Jackson

By now most people have already seen the news about Trump’s continued insensitivity towards Indians and really human decency. Coverage below:

It was of course a reprehensible comment, similar to his views on Indians at a Congressional hearing from before he ran for President. While it is not surprising in other words, it still is reprehensible. But for me the most problematic part was not his statement on Elizabeth Warren, it was instead that the whole event took place in the shadow of a portrait of Andrew Jackson, Trump’s favorite former President and someone who deserves to be seen as immoral and not deserving of praise.

But, and this is the hard part but something that Trevor Noah’s video above does as well, it is worth noting that Warren’s claim to be Native American was and is also problematic (though it does not excuse Trump’s behavior in any way). Rachel Dolezal was called out and shamed in ways that Warren has been spared by the left and my own view is that this is because many of us like Warren’s politics and because Indian issues continue to be marginalized. I’ll end by just copying below what I wrote about Warren’s claim in 2012 on this blog:

I have resisted posting anything about the Elizabeth Warren controversy regarding her having claimed to have been Native American for a while.  In part, I did so because the connection to poverty law is somewhat limited, but it is a topic that I think deserves attention and is relevant to law professors, regardless of their particular specialty.  Another reason for my being unable to resist saying something about it is that in addition to poverty law, I teach Indian law.  But, let me add so that there is no question, I am non-Indian, though I did grow up in part on the Navajo Nation.

Preliminaries aside, I am troubled both by Warren’s claim/explanation and by the way fellow progressives have rushed to defend her or pretend such a claim shouldn’t matter.  As Kevin Noble Maillard noted in the N.Y. Times:

Looked at from the inside, however, the Warren controversy is all new. When the Brown campaign accused Elizabeth Warren of touting herself as American Indian to advance her career, this was news to Native law professors. We have a good eye for welcoming faculty to the community and identifying promising scholars. We know where people teach, what they have published and we honor them when they die. Harvard Law School named its first Native American tenured professor? Really? In our small indigenous faculty town, we would have heard about it already.

There are of course many who give good reasons for questioning the attention the right has given to this topic and Brian Leiter in particular has engaged in a rigorous defense of Warren (see herehere, and here).  But my view is best captured by two op-eds published by Indian Country Today:

To claim you are Indian without having a tie that goes beyond “family lore” – ie no proof of tribal membership or other ready proof – is questionable.  Of course for some people, particularly members of tribes that were terminated, their identity could well remain Indian and appropriately so, even if they do not have ready proof such as a census card.  But that doesn’t appear to be the case here.  So even though I largely agree with her politics, I am troubled by her self-identification based on what appears to be a very limited connection to Indian communities.  (It goes without saying that being phenotypically white does not mean you cannot be Indian.)  Vine Deloria Jr. had a great discussion of this topic in Custer Died for Your Sins and considering the limited number of Native Americans who are law professors and the continued marginalization of Indian law in most law schools, I think it is fair to look into this aspect of her career.  And so far her answers do little to support what sounds like either (a) best case scenario: careless indifference to the significance of tribal identity or (b) worst case scenario: box checking for career gain.  Even if the best case scenario is what happened (who doesn’t want to have people to go to lunch with — one of her explanations, along with high cheekbones, believe it or not, for saying she was Indian), I do think progressives have been quick to rush to her defense because of her politics in ways that would not have been the same had she been a conservative politician.  (Finally, I do not think saying she earned her promotions and lateral offers on the merits, independent of her having self-identified as Indian, is responsive nor something worth debating.)

Op-Ed: “Why the White House’s ‘welfare reform’ focus matters”

Op-Ed: Steve Benen, Why the White House’s ‘welfare reform’ focus matters, The MaddowBlog, Nov. 17, 2017.

New Article: “Heading off a Cliff?”

Graetz, Michael J., Heading off a Cliff? (October 25, 2017). The American Interest, Forthcoming; Yale Law & Economics Research Paper No. 585. [Abstract below]

The major tax policy challenge of the 21st century is the need to address the nation’s fiscal condition fairly and in a manner conducive to economic growth. But since California adopted Proposition 13 nearly forty years ago, antipathy to taxes has served as the glue that has held the Republican coalition together. Even though our taxes as a percentage of our economy are low by OECD standards and low by our own historical experience, anti-tax attitudes have become even more important for Republicans politically, since they now find it hard to agree on almost anything else. So revenue-positive, or even revenue-neutral, forms of tax reform — at least as long as the GOP maintains its legislative majority — are politically impossible. The sad truth, of course, is that the coming tax cuts cannot possibly be the great and simplifying tax reform that the President and Sixers claim and that our nation so badly needs.

Op-Ed: “The Paul Ryan Guide to Pretending You Care About the Poor”

Op-Ed: Ben Spielberg, The Paul Ryan Guide to Pretending You Care About the Poor, TalkPoverty, Nov. 20, 2017.