A $ 15/HOUR MINIMUM WAGE — MAYBE EVEN HIGHER THAN $ 15 — IS SMART ECONOMICS

JOE

The Biden administration’s COVID-19 relief bill includes a provision that raises the Federal minimum wage to $ 15/hour, to be increased in phases. We support the measure. It isn’t just a fairness matter. It is smart economics.

Here in Massachusetts we enacted a $ 15/hour minimum a few years ago. The final; phase, up to $ 15, will kick in on January 1, 2023. I argued at the time that this increase would lift hundreds of thousands of workers out of a tax credit level and into taxpayer status. The same would be true at the Federal level.

A worker earning the current Federal minimum, $ 7.25/hour, or anything close to it, can’t possibly get by without substantial, public assistance. She’s also well below the IRS tax minimum. She’s a very costly economic unit, costs borne by those who do pay taxes. Understandably, taxpayers ask, “why do I have to subsidize full time workers ?” We ask the same question.

Pay that worker $ 15/hour — or more — and she becomes a taxpayer herself, as well as no longer requiring taxpayer assistance for her basic living expenses. As a $ 15/hour earner, she pays taxes that contribute to Federal revenue, decreasing annual budget deficits. Nor is that all she now gives us.

Her increased earnings allows her to spend into the discretionary economy. Someone who earns more has more money to spend, right ? And people who earn at the $ 15/hour level do spend their money. They have to. Even at $ 15/hour, a wage earner hasn’t much left over for frippery. Yet she does have money, now, to buy things and services beyond the bare minimum : child care, a car, an occasional meal out, summer camp for the kids, new furniture and some clothes. Every dollar of that extra spending bulks up the businesses that offer these goods and services, spending that helps businesses pay the increased wages.

That’s the real thing here : substantially increased wages pay for themselves because those who earn more, spend more.

Yes, that increased spending probably doesn’t get spent equally into every kind of business. Being in business, however, means supply meeting demand. A businessman facing required wage increases has time to adjust his business to the goods and services likely to be in greater demand by workers earning more. Change Is difficult, yes, and a businessman trying to predict which sorts of goods and services will see increased demand from better paid wage earners has some market research to do, not to mention what his own experience tells him. Yet business is always a risky adventure. Its up to the business person to manage risk and keep up with economic changes.

My own opinion is that $ 15/hour is, in many States, far from enough — even higher than that in certain cities. I would hope that once a Federal $ 15/hour is in place, high-cost States would lift their minimum to $ 21/hour and even $ 24/hour. We as a society simply HAVE to value full time work, much more than we do now. It isn’t only a matter of numbers. People who work have to feel that their work is valued — that it counts and that They count, as members of our society. We should never allow full time workers to hate their job or to feel that they are chewing gum on the sole of society’s shoe. Why should a service worker be looked down on, or seen as a faceless crowd of helots, compared to professionals or financiers ? Work is work no matter what work you do. As I see it, the only reason that we look down on service workers is that they are paid very little and most of the time look it, because they haven’t time or money or self-esteem to look great or cheerful. To sum up ; there’s no social benefit at all from paying workers so little that they can’t live discretionary economic lives.

This also makes economic sense. Well-paid workers are less likely to leave that job for another, and believe me, staff turnover is hugely costly, all of it wasted, because if staff stays on the job you don ‘t have to train a new employee or to spend time and effort looking for and hiring new employees.

I am not suggesting that full time workers will likely ever earn the same as Doctors, bankers, or college administrators (though why college executive earn $ 275,000 and up is beyond me). Pay in a market economy will always range from lower to higher. I am advocating, however, that ALL actual work be resopectd and paid an amount that delivers that respect economically to the entire entire economy and honorably to ther worker earning it.

When the Biden Covid relief bill is enacted, or something like it after negotiations, I darn well hope it includes the $ 15/hour minimum wage. Let’s insist on it.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

OPINION : ANNISSA ESSAIBI GEORGE IS THE RIGHT MAYOR FOR BOSTON’s NEXT PHASE

ANNISSA

As current Mayor Marty Walsh looks to serving as President Biden’s Secretary of Labor, Boston will be electing a new chief executive. It is fitting that this should be so. Boston in the coming four years will be a very different City from what it has been these past eight.

Myself, I am all in for Councillor Essaiabi-George. I have for some time now been looking for her to seek the Mayor’s office, were Walsh to not run, and my reasons for committing to her election remain the same. Hear me out :

As I see it, the coming phase will be one of major readjustment, as we make working from home a permanent feature and thus tone down the demand by everyone to live close to Downtown, a stampede which has overturned all the housing price expectations of everyone. KEEPING people IN Boston — making the City worth staying in — is very likely to be the major 2022-2026 challenge, as it was during the period 1960-1980. That means, above all, a school system in which Boston parents have full confidence — unlike the situation now; and Annissa Essaibi-George’s core expertise is schools. No Mayor candidate that I know of matches her mastery of this major matter. The moment is uniquely Annissa’s.

Few observers of Boston have yet published any focus on the significant change I have just evoked; I think they ought to start doing so, because working from home is here to stay, with all the changes that it imposes. Car traffic has cut down by over 50 percent — traverse the Ted Williams tunnel at rush hour now and see the difference from 2019 — which means that we no longer need focus on “congestion Pricing” or “dedicated lanes” or any of the other radical restrictions that some sought to impose. Bicycle people can now bike the City in comparative peace without annoying those of us who use cars. Problem solved.

Immigration will continue to demand the City’s constant attention, the more so now that President Biden is in office, directing an expansionist view of newcomers to America the opposite of his predecessor’s persecutions. Most immigrants will not be doing jobs that can be handled from home, which means that transportation within the City will focus even more on newcomers than it already does. As the Covid pandemic has forced the State to cut back public transportation because few riders want to risk the exposure in closed-quarters trains or buses, the next mayor will have to work out rider-van and small-bus alternatives, probably in partnership with Governor Baker and whoever succeeds Stephanie Pollock as Transportation Secretary. (My money is on Steve Poftak, a Roslindale resident, who has rebuilt much of the subway works in record time and below budget.) I should here note that Annissa is the daughter of immigrants, a father from Tunisia, a mother from Poland, who met after World War II in a displaced persons camp. The immigrant experience — and the wonderful diversity of it — is — as we say today — written into her DNA.

Housing will no longer be a matter of building umpteen zillion crapitecture apartment boxes. Already, rents have flattened — house prices too. To cite one example of this change, in 2019, apartments in Winthrop were 20 percent cheaper than those in East Boston. today, apartments in Winthrop run 20 percent MORE EXPENSIVE than similar East Boston offerings. I suspect much the same is true of West Roxbury and Hyde Park versus Dedham and Milton, or of Southie and Dorchester versus Quincy, Braintree and Weymouth. Any easing of development mania means fewer jobs for Building trades workers, many of whom live well outside the City anyway and thus less political pressure from the trades on the next mayor’s priorities.

Yet all of the above said, keeping people living in Boston begins with the City’s schools. Boston’s Schools allocation takes up over one-third of the entire City budget. Managing that budget, 85 to 87 percent of which goes to salaries, requires constant executive attention. These past seven years, since interim superintendent John McDonough was eased out, have been years of budget failure. Audits have not been done, or on time; accounts have been borrowed from to fund other accounts; supplies allocations have fallen far short; the system’s meals don’t always meet nutrition or freshness requirements; many schools have been seen, by staff, as assignments to avoid — and most of these have, unfortunately, been schools serving primarily people of color. Last, but definitely not least, a school committee entirely appointed by the Mayor has shut the school parent public out of the mix. A new school committee, at least in part elected, seems urgent.

I suspect that the above list doesn’t come close to enumerating all the problems that parents and soon to be parents see in their kids’ futures and which make moving out of the City even more attractive than it was during the previous eight years despite the urge among many to live, shop and socialize close to Downtown. I say it again : IF PARENTS AND SOON TOI BE PARENTS LACK COINFIDENCE IN THE CITY’S SCHOOLS, THEY ARE GOING TO MOVE OUT OFG THE CITY.

Annissa Essaibi-George is the right person to tackle these situations because she understands their details; profoundly well. Anyone who reads her seasonal newsletter knows her mastery of City administrative fine points as well as grand policy goals.

Then there’s her character as a leader, her operating style. To me she is a prudent yet bold elected, much in the vein of Governor Charlie Baker, who has shown us, these past six years, just how an executive leader should lead in order to deliver the most feasible good to the most voters. Annissa dismisses the comparison, telling me “I am not a Republican,” but there’s nothing Republican or Democrat about Governor Baker’s administrative diligence, nor should there be. Same for Boston’s Mayor. Our City elections are non-partisan anyway, and leadership styles are not matters of party, they work for anyone who practices them. That Essaibi-George does her job without attention-seeking vicarity or news TV drama is, to me, a major plus. The French essayist Michel de Montaigne, who in the 1570s served a term as Mayor of Bordeaux, liked to boast that during his term there was no news — and, so he wrote, as most news is of disasters, that was, he felt, a good thing. I see Annissa as Mayor following much the same principle, which in today’s lingo we call “do your job.”

I expect to join Annissa’s campaign full time as soon as she calls me to serve. Obviously I am therefore not an objective observer, and the other Mayor candidates have cases to be made as well, cases that I cannot make for them. That said, I honestly do feel, as i have written, that the times have met their applicant. The moment is truly Annissa’s.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

IMMIGRANTS : BASIC TO THE MEANING OF AMERICA

robles

^ celebration, shine, and optimism : Veronica Robles and friends at El Planeta newspaper’s Power Meter 100 party last night

—- —- —- —-

NOTE : This column originally appeared in mid 2016. I am re-blogging it now, as is, with its 2016, Trump references unedited, because it remains crucially relevant as President Biden begins his drive to reopen the welcome doors to immigrants, who have always been the inspiration and prosperity of our nation.

Nothing in today’s cascade of negativity repels me more than the assault on immigrants. So strong is this assault that it has generated an entire Presidential campaign: that of Donald Trump, whose candidacy would not even exist, much less arrive at the GOP nomination, were it not for hatred of immigrants. Like Trump votes, the assault on immigrants rears almost everywhere. I see it even in East Boston, our city’s premier immigrant neighborhood. But it has always lurked, and often erupted, inexplicably in the nation whose very meaning is “immigrants.”

Why assaults upon immigrants and immigration occur, I can not answer. There seem to be dozens of reasons. Which of them — jobs, language, “they don’t look like us,” religion, etc., or the latest outcry, “they’re illegal !” — weighs most heavily, I have scant idea. Yet I hear them all. I always respond to posts of immigration hate. I feel a duty to do it : my own ancestors were immigrants, as were yours. An attack on immigration is an attack on YOU.

I first responded, years ago, by quoting Emma Lazarus’s poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal : the one that talks about “send me your poor, your hungry, your tired, etc., yearning to be free.” Today, every supporter of immigration quotes that poem. We should quote it. Is not the Statue of Liberty an icon of patriotism ? As much so as the flag that people drape their facebook profile photos in ? As much as The Constitution which is so often pictured, especially by people who haven’t the vaguest idea of what the Constitution is about and who, in most of their politics, oppose much of it ? I say the Statue of Liberty is the FIRST of American icons, because for over 120 years it has been the first image that most arriving people have had of the nation they have come to be part of.

True it is, that today, more people come to join us by way of the Rio Grande River valley, and the southwest’s desert, than by the Statue on Ellis Island in New York Harbor. Yet I venture that most of these, too, have the Statue’s image in their minds and hearts even if they do not the actual sculpture as they arrive. And this, they should have, because everyone who arrives in America of good will arrives to seek the better life the Statue of Liberty symbolizes.

Those who come here — who leave everything behind and, often, risk their lives to come to America do so because they believe the future will be better. They are optimists. America always was an optimistic nation; most of it still is. That optimism is the sum total of immigrants’ souls and hearts. It is the immigrant spirit in action. When Ronald Reagan, the greatest optimist of all, spoke of “America’s best days lie ahead” or “It is morning in America,” he spoke what immigrants say and so spoke for almost all of us.

To rail against immigrants, as Donald Trump does, is to rail against the nation itself. The negativity of it turns American optimism inside out : is our nation headed for disaster ? For the dustbin ? That is what opponents of immigration tell us. Some of them say it explicitly; all believe it. I have no idea why they believe it. In immigrant communities I see dynamism, invention, enterprise; I see celebration; I hear music; I feel excitement. How else can a man or woman get up at four in the morning and take a 4:45 AM bus to work, to clean toilets and empty dirty laundry hampers, in office buildings and hospitals ? To work in restaurant kitchens and as busboys; to stand outdoors on a winter day waiting to be hired for day labor ? To clean airplanes at Logan Airport ?

The immigrants who I see and hear go to these dirty, messy, sloppy jobs, or stand in the cold for hours on end, seemingly without complaint. Yet I hear anti-immigrant people say that immigration was all right 100 years ago, because there was no welfare state, but now immigration is not OK because … welfare. Where does that notion come from ? I hear it despite the unavailability of any form of welfare to people without papers or a state-issued ID. As for immigrants who have documents, if they work for $ 10/hour in a city where apartment rents run at least $ 1,600 per month, why shouldn’t they receive public assistance in order to survive ?

Those who decry welfare assistance for low-wage earning immigrants miss the point. Today’s struggling immigrant is tomorrow’s successful skilled worker and is the parent of an entrepreneur. (Immigrants start more — many more — businesses than native-borns.) We should invest some of our dollars in them !

Immigrants renew our communities and, with their languages and cultures, broaden the national menu of choices for how to live. Innovation is peculiarly an American practice ? If it is, it is so because we are immigrants.

Too many of us who were born in America, to American-born parents, have lost our way or become tired, or disillusioned, because the struggle to get ahead is to difficult in an unforgiving economy. This is real, and it exists, and we exist in it. But to give up — to turn on one another, as the Trump voters have, is no answer. You can’t give up. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going:” is a cliche, perhaps, but cliches are usually true. You can’t give up, and you can’t view your neighbor as an enemy. He or she is much more likely a friend. Especially so if he or she is an immigrant, documented or not.

We who were born here, of ancestors born here, should learn to be more like our immigrant neighbors than they should become like us. Our community, city, state and nation would be much the better for it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

THE MOST EXCEPTIONAL THING ABOUT AMERICA IS ITS STABILITY

Hawley

^^ Senator Hawley clenches his fist : the latest in a long line of political American charlatans

The type does not change. Loud voices, rebellion played at, quack medicine salesmen, faux Declarations, victim fixation, cosplay Minute Men: only the stability of America allows these crinky carnivalians to clown a petty anarchy without generating actual apocalypse. But they are careless too, and on January 6th, apocalypse, usually a mere breath stink, came close to actual disaster…

Today I shall opine about the almost mythic stability of American life, its resistance to betterment, its insistence on flim flam, its political stasis. Hear me out “:

Politicians love to extol what they call “American exceptionalism.” We are the only nation, they declare, founded on an ideal and open to all, the only nation not built upon one tribe, one language, one home ground, the only nation built all by immigrants. (Black Americans are mostly the descendants of captives kidnapped to here, but of course they too originate from elsewhere and thus fit the immgration situation.)

These declarations are true, as far as they go, yet they surely do not tell us the whole story. The most exceptional thing about America is its social and political stability.

Take as an example the current insurgency by the national Republican party (most of it) against the Constitution, in favor of a libertine, Declaration of Independence idea of freedom — a rebellion with no end game — freedom free of civic duty, freedom for its own irresponsible sake. When these freedom addicts and religion fetishists aren’t smoking conspiracy hash, they talk of “defending the Constitution” — when in fact they despise it — the actual Constitution expressly forbids religious tests for holding office – and want it gone, replaced by what some call a “Christian Constitution,” whatever that may be, whereas others of them want no part of the Constitution’s guarantees of rights to all; rights which, in these Republicans’ minds come at the price of Federal control of most of public life.

So saying, these republicans mirror the arguments made by those who OPPOSED ratification of the Constitution at the 1787 ratification conventions. What is more, these anti-Federalists represent the same sort of constituencies — rural, self-reliant, gun-toting, what the late Albert Murray called “the backwoodsman archtype” — that voiced anti-Constitution views at that time.

Only an almost unshakable stability could assure that in 2021, arguments made in 1787 would still import an outdated urgency, or that they would be made by the same sorts of interests. I can’t think of any European nation whose 1787 issues have not long since disappeared. The Stuarts no longer trouble England, the Bourbons have long since faded from France’s politics, and both the Holy Roman Empire and Bismarckian Germany have shrunk to the history books ( as has Naziism). Italy is no longer rent by twenty rivalling city states; Spain has long since buried the Spanish Inquisition. No European nation has engaged in wars of religion since the late 1600s. Yet here in America, the politics of religious fascism retains — or, more accurately, has returned to — a metastisized lump of its full 17th Century force.

The rejection that now dominates the Republican party isn’t new. Colonial America was governed by authoritarians who ruled by, or claimed, divine right as agents of the King. Many were corrupt. All were patronage appointees, loyal to the Crown, indifferent to their colonial subjects. Mr. Trump would have been right at home amonmg thnem.

We may recall the famous case of John Peter Zenger, a printer/newsman in New York City who, in the 1730s, was arrested for printing true stories of the lawless methods of New York’s Governor. That Governor forced the disbarment of Zenger’s attorneys and was only come-upped when colonial America’ s most prominent lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, took up his case. Zenger’s case was far from unique, and it could easily be happening now, as fearless journalists are harrasssed, fired, threatened with death, assaulted by mobs right and left, for reporting what is actually happening.

Yet one need not harken to colonial America to see the persistence of political religion. The William Jennings Bryan coalition of 1896 was aggressively evangelical, anti-Catholic, rural (and racially segregationist as well.) Geographically, Jennings’s following duplicated almost exactly the Southern and Midwest coalition that Stephen Douglas had led before the Civil War; and almost the same State grouping is now the Republican-voting strongholds. I know of no nation in Europe whose 1896 vote patterns recur today, much less those of the 1850s.

This is a remarkable stability. It has survived Civil War, ratification, immigration by millions, wars, depression, and the Civil Rights revolution, all of which did away with slavery and legal separation but seems not to have even dinged the body of American politics. In this we are indeed exceptional, but we should not take pride in a stability which seems unable to resolve the negatives that attend upon a Constitution which was narrowly approved and continues to be a bane to so many who shamefully claim to act in its name but cannot — will not — embrace the deal that it makes between centrally governed prosperity and locally treasured opt-outs; between immigration as a fundamental and fear of immigrants equally fundamental; between equality for all and a dislike of the equity remedies that ensure it; between voting rights and the partisan divides which full voting rights recruit.

Their antecedents were enemies of the Constitution in 1787, and they themselves are enemies of it now.

We live with the unchanging even as we think we are changing. Changing, we are NOT. I am thinking that we CANNOT.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

PRESIDENT BIDEN’S INAUGURAL ADDRESS : FULL TEXT

US-POLITICS-INAUGURATION

Joe Biden delivers a speech after being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 20, 2021. (Photo by Patrick Semansky / POOL / AFP)

Chief Justice Roberts, Vice-President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice-President Pence. My distinguished guests, my fellow Americans.

This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve. Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge. Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate but of a cause, a cause of democracy. The people – the will of the people – has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded.

We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile and, at this hour my friends, democracy has prevailed. So now on this hallowed ground where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundations, we come together as one nation under God – indivisible – to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.

As we look ahead in our uniquely American way, restless, bold, optimistic, and set our sights on a nation we know we can be and must be, I thank my predecessors of both parties. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. And I know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation, as does President Carter, who I spoke with last night who cannot be with us today, but who we salute for his lifetime of service.

I’ve just taken a sacred oath each of those patriots have taken. The oath first sworn by George Washington. But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us. On we the people who seek a more perfect union. This is a great nation, we are good people. And over the centuries through storm and strife in peace and in war we’ve come so far. But we still have far to go.

We’ll press forward with speed and urgency for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibility. Much to do, much to heal, much to restore, much to build and much to gain. Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now. A once in a century virus that silently stalks the country has taken as many lives in one year as in all of World War Two.

Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice, some 400 years in the making, moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer. A cry for survival comes from the planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now. The rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism, that we must confront and we will defeat.

To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy – unity. Unity. In another January on New Year’s Day in 1863 Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper the president said, and I quote, ‘if my name ever goes down in history, it’ll be for this act, and my whole soul is in it’.

My whole soul is in it today, on this January day. My whole soul is in this. Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the foes we face – anger, resentment and hatred. Extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, and hopelessness.

With unity we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs, we can put people to work in good jobs, we can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus, we can rebuild work, we can rebuild the middle class and make work secure, we can secure racial justice and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.

I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal, that we are all created equal, and the harsh ugly reality that racism, nativism and fear have torn us apart. The battle is perennial and victory is never secure.

Through civil war, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setback, our better angels have always prevailed. In each of our moments enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward and we can do that now. History, faith and reason show the way. The way of unity.

We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbours. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury, no progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America.

If we do that, I guarantee we will not failed. We have never, ever, ever, ever failed in America when we’ve acted together. And so today at this time in this place, let’s start afresh, all of us. Let’s begin to listen to one another again, hear one another, see one another. Show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war and we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.

My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this. We have to be better than this and I believe America is so much better than this. Just look around. Here we stand in the shadow of the Capitol dome. As mentioned earlier, completed in the shadow of the Civil War. When the union itself was literally hanging in the balance. We endure, we prevail. Here we stand, looking out on the great Mall, where Dr. King spoke of his dream.

Here we stand, where 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote. And today we mark the swearing in of the first woman elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change. Here we stand where heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion rest in eternal peace.

And here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen, it will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever. To all those who supported our campaign, I’m humbled by the faith you placed in us. To all those who did not support us, let me say this. Hear us out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart.

If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peacefully. And the guardrail of our democracy is perhaps our nation’s greatest strength. If you hear me clearly, disagreement must not lead to disunion. And I pledge this to you. I will be a President for all Americans, all Americans. And I promise you I will fight for those who did not support me as for those who did.

Many centuries ago, St Augustine – the saint of my church – wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love. Defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we as Americans love, that define us as Americans? I think we know. Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor, and yes, the truth.

Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens as Americans and especially as leaders. Leaders who are pledged to honour our Constitution to protect our nation. To defend the truth and defeat the lies.

Look, I understand that many of my fellow Americans view the future with fear and trepidation. I understand they worry about their jobs. I understand like their dad they lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling thinking: ‘Can I keep my healthcare? Can I pay my mortgage?’ Thinking about their families, about what comes next. I promise you, I get it. But the answer’s not to turn inward. To retreat into competing factions. Distrusting those who don’t look like you, or worship the way you do, who don’t get their news from the same source as you do.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes, as my mom would say. Just for a moment, stand in their shoes.

Because here’s the thing about life. There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days you need a hand. There are other days when we’re called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be, that’s what we do for one another. And if we are that way our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future. And we can still disagree.

My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us we’re going to need each other. We need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter. We’re entering what may be the darkest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation, one nation. And I promise this, as the Bible says, ‘Weeping may endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning’. We will get through this together. Together.

Look folks, all my colleagues I serve with in the House and the Senate up here, we all understand the world is watching. Watching all of us today. So here’s my message to those beyond our borders. America has been tested and we’ve come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances, and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. And we’ll lead not merely by the example of our power but the power of our example.

Fellow Americans, moms, dads, sons, daughters, friends, neighbours and co-workers. We will honour them by becoming the people and the nation we can and should be. So I ask you let’s say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives, those left behind and for our country. Amen.

Folks, it’s a time of testing. We face an attack on our democracy, and on truth, a raging virus, a stinging inequity, systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America’s role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the greatest responsibilities we’ve had. Now we’re going to be tested. Are we going to step up?

It’s time for boldness for there is so much to do. And this is certain, I promise you. We will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era. We will rise to the occasion. Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world to our children? I believe we must and I’m sure you do as well. I believe we will, and when we do, we’ll write the next great chapter in the history of the United States of America. The American story.

A story that might sound like a song that means a lot to me, it’s called American Anthem. And there’s one verse that stands out at least for me and it goes like this:

‘The work and prayers of centuries have brought us to this day, which shall be our legacy, what will our children say?

Let me know in my heart when my days are through, America, America, I gave my best to you.’

Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our great nation. If we do this, then when our days are through, our children and our children’s children will say of us: ‘They gave their best, they did their duty, they healed a broken land.’

My fellow Americans I close the day where I began, with a sacred oath. Before God and all of you, I give you my word. I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution, I’ll defend our democracy.

I’ll defend America and I will give all – all of you – keep everything I do in your service. Thinking not of power but of possibilities. Not of personal interest but of public good.

And together we will write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity not division, of light not darkness. A story of decency and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness. May this be the story that guides us. The story that inspires us. And the story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history, we met the moment. Democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrive.

That America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world. That is what we owe our forbearers, one another, and generations to follow.

So with purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time. Sustained by faith, driven by conviction and devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and God protect our troops.

— 30 —

IMPEACHMENT OF A PRESIDENT DOESN’T WORK AS THE FRAMERS INTENDED. HERE’s WHY

Framers

^^ the Framers misjudged the exportability of English impeachment method

Impeachment by the House of Representatives rests upon very few words : “…and shall have the sole power of impeachment.”

The duties given the Senate are much more spelled out :

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present. Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

The punishments are dire. The Framers intended they be dire. Yet as we have seen, when a President is to be impeached nd then tried in the Senate, the impeachment powers fall short. Few of the President’s political party will vote to impeach, and almost none will vote to convict.

Why so ? Why can a President who has committed impeachable offenses not readily be impeached and, if impeached, not convicted ? Three factors impede the process : importation, election, and religion

The Framers adopted impeachment from English parliamentary practice. In 1787, it was parliament’s way of ousting public officials who committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” a phrase which our Framers defined as “breaches of public trust.” Unhappily, America’s Congress lacked the political substructure that underpinned Parliament. Parliament was elected, the king and his officials not. Parliamwent was the voice of religious localism; the king, of religion centralized.

The parliamentary party had, from about the 1590s to 1649, been powered by a Puritan, congregational religious movement strong in the English middle class, which had gradually come to dominate elections to both parliament and local parish ministries. Meanwhile, the unelected Sovereign had committed itself to a highly centralized church led by appointed bishops, and demanding its version of the Christain catechism.

In effect, England of the 1590-1649 period had two separate goverments, operating upon two entirely separate theories of power supported by two entirely distinct establishments.

Parliament during that era did not have an impeachment mechanism (although impeachments had occurred in parliaments before that period. All they had were attainder — loss of property — and bills of treason. Thus the parliament of 1640-1649 used, to King Charles’s discomfiture. Our Framers wanted, for good and just reasons, to not make conflict between Congress and President a matter of life and death. After all, both Congress and the President were to be elected, and neither Congress nor President represented a religion in a religious war. Thus the Constitution saw impeachment as the voice of the entire electorate — as Alexander Hamilton put it, “a national inquest.” It might well have worked .

Because there is no war of religion afoot, wedded to either Congress or President, Congress has no need for institutional solidarity, and no sense that it as an institution is a necessary, primary opposition to the President. Indeed, our Congress is elected by all the voters of a District, who may include a large number of Presidential adherents, or even a majority thereof, whereas — to reiterate — the English parliaments of 1590-1649 were elected almost entirely by the squire class of property holder who were the chief supporters of congregational religion and thus chief opponents of the Sovereign and his religious enforcers.

The framers were well aware of party faction and of its danger to the working of their republican system. I do not think, however, that the framers realized that their impeachment power was an historical anachronism lacking, here, the conflict conditions that gave it force in English practice. If we have learned anything from the two impeachments of President Trump, it is that the impeachment power in our Constitution does not conform to the imperatives of American politics.

England in the 1590-1649 period was beset by the war between Catholics and various Protestant sects, and of wars among Protestant sects, going on all over Europe at that time. By 1787, men had decided that religious war and a politics arising from it were well discarded. Unhappily, when granting the impeachment power, they did not see that politics without religion would have to rest on some other power foundation, oaths of office and personal principle not being sufficient. Hamilton’s “national inquest” can’t be assembled when the inquesters are divided by parties, to one of which the President belongs. We would all like oaths of office to be the only support that Congress members need when being asked to impeach a President. Yet it is not the case. The President and members of Congress are elected on the same ballot on the same day, and they are thus bound together.

In today’s America, the only foundational power upon which politics of impeachment can rest is the law. Which means legal punishments which, in our nation, are imposed by legal systems — the Courts. Add to this the power of public opinion, an unwritten movement and thus beyond the restrictions in a written Constitution.

It will have to be the Courts that decide the political fate of President Trump, and public opinion, which will decide not only his political fate and is doing so already: a power more drastic than what is written and which is more drastic and less civil than the framers intended a “national inquest” to be. It will be public opinion that ousts Mr. Trump from the respect and honor due honorable public men. It will not be pretty, and the ouster is more than richly deserved. Mr. Trump called for, organized, marshalled, planned, and led an insurrection against our democracy built upon lies and more likes. The nation, if not the Congress, will have its say unchecked by writings. And this is where we are.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

THERE MUST BE PUNISHMENT FOR THOSE WHO DID THIS

TRUMP

As I write, the House is debating an article of impeachment whereby the current President of the United States is charged with orchestrating and instigating an insurrection, a coup to overthrow our democracy and Constitution.

Impeachment will be voted, and conviction in the Senate looks likely as well as disqualification from holding future offices of our Federal republic.

Why the individual I write of instigated this coup, is for historians to speculate about. I really don’t care what his motives were. The deed was done. Now come the consequences f or those involved, all who assisted him in launching this insurrection.

That said, there are degrees of culpability. The punishment must be fitting and just, not driven by revenge, though the passion for revenge runs deep and not without good reason. The following are my recommendations:

For those members of Congress who, AFTER the insurrection ended, still objected to acceptance of the electoral votes duly certified by the States : censure by the House or Senate.

For all the insurrectionists themselves, including their organizations, criminal prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

For the members of Congress — there appear to have been three — who, from inside the Capitol, aided and abetted the insurrectionists by tweet, text or other communication : expulsion from Congress and criminal prosecution where proven.

For Senators Cruz and Hawley and Congressmen Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, who spoke at the pre-insurrection rally and whipped up the crowd to do its worst, expulsion from Congress

For immediate aides of the President, who helped organize the rally — and there were several — and/or who spoke at the rally and encouraged the mob to “kick ass” or the like, knowing full well that the mob included known militias including Proud Boys, criminal prosecution for abetting and aiding incitement to riot.

Do I include Donald Trump Jr in that category ? Possibly so. If so, then the same punishment as I ask for the others applies to him as well. You don’t get a pass from insurrection because you love your insurrectionist Dad. That said, it does not appear that Trump Jr specifically incited mob violence. In addition, during the Georgia Senate runoffs, while his Dad was trying to extort State officials, Trump Jr stuck to normal campaigning. Mercy may well be shown him, and justly: but punishment first, before moving to temper it with mercy.

And what of Mr. Trump himself ? Impeachment, conviction, and disqualification, of course. But also prosecution at law and severance of business ties between any of his companies and entities they have a business relationship with. Mr., Trump must be cut off from the normal course of things. He is damn lucky to be living in 21st Century America. What he has done is no less than Charles the First attempted in 1640-1649 England, and for wreaking insurrection and dictatorship upon his kingdom, King Charles was convicted of treason and sentenced to an ultimate punishment. In America today, we do not do that, cannot do that, shouldn’t do that. Mr. Trump’s punishment, other than those rendered b y the Senate’s conviction, should be social. Impose upon him pariah status wherever feasible.

The insurrection is NOT over. Far from it. A substantial number of Americans support a coup, support Trump, consider him a god. As I have written, religious fascism abounds in parts of our nation, a fascism that wants to abolish our democracy and our Constitution and impose its religion on all of us. The fanatics of this fascism will stop at nothing, as we have seen, and I doubt that many will disavow the obsession merely because the coup failed.

As for the insurrection’s bigots — fascist gangs like the Proud Boys, various militias, lone-wolf anti-Semites, and disgruntled veterans — they too are unlikely to dial it down. Many of them have criminal records, some of it ongoing; they are outlaws, and by connection with one another appear to revel in outlaw status. Curiously, many Proud Boys are Latino. Their bigotry is not as universally “white supremacy” as some on the left want to tag them. Nonetheless, the Boys stand shoulder to shoulder in insurrection with anti-Semites, neo-nazis, and haters of Black Americans, and I give them, no pass at all for being “inclusive fascists.” We will have to fight all of these folks by all means legal and social, and maybe worse, for quite a while before the stench of Trumpism is cleaned from our national wardrobe.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

“WHY DOES AMERICA NOT LOVE US BACK ?”

warnock

One wants not to allow that the color of a person’s skin ranks one in American society. Yet as Curtis Mayfield, America’s greatest poet of the past 60 years, wrote, “if you had a choice of colors, which one would you choose, my brothers ?”

Mayfield was not wrong to write that line, or to sing it in that plaintive voice of moral force. He was an American; and here, in America, the federal republic framed upon the equality of all, the color of a person’s skin has more often than not been an exception to foundational principles. I do not talk of slavery, an obvious derogation — one which occupies the minds of far too many reformers who prefer basking in past wrongs to a hard-fought future — because slavery was abolished for good 155 years ago. I speak of the situation since that time. The equality of all is written into the Fourteenth Amendment, a covenant affirmed by the Civil War deaths of hundreds of thousands of us. Either we keep our solemn promises, or we fail ourselves and those to whom these promises were made. That the Fourteenth’s promises were made 153 years ago, by our great-great-great grandfathers who we never knew, is no excuse for evasion now. The Constitution continues to exist, and all who seek office under it, or to be licensed as a lawyer, swear an oath to uphold those promises. I get that honoring Constitutional promises is constant work, every minute of every day, because the Constitution provides no time-outs. Its promises can’t take a bye week. Understandably some of us slack, just as the Jews of Biblical times, so we read in the Bible, constantly backslid on their covenants with God. Covenants of any kind are hard to keep.

And so I come to the question asked in my headline. It is one that Black friends of mine often pose in online discussions. “Black Americans have so often done the grunt work of lifting America up. We love this country. We prove it every day. Why doesn’t it love us back ?”

Why, indeed. My own view is that the honor roll, of heroes who have dark skin is long, very long, very honorable, very inspiring; just last week we saw a Black Capitol policeman, Eugene Goodman, face down a mob — a vulgar racist mob — all by himself and thereby saved our democracy. I would place him high on that honor roll, alongside tens of thousands of Black veterans and political leaders, thousands of pillars of society despite every obstacle, indeed just about every Black American, including those who toil for inadequate wages or who risk their lives as health care workers; because every Black American either has been disrespected — often — or knows that he or she, even if never yet disrespected, can be disrespected at any time, in any place. We see it happen, and brutally, now that online brings daily wrongs against Black Americans virally into every news feed. Were these sorts of loveless encounter to happen to the rest of us, we would rise up in anger, and justifiably. Crap is crap, and if you lay crap on another, do not be surprised if you get a face full of spit in return. And if you nod agreement with what I wrote, why is a Black American not fully entitled to the same degree of anger at being dissed ?

That said, of course we cannot go around, not any of us, wreaking anger upon one another. That does no one any good. We have to tough it out; to bear the unbearable, using the vote to oust from power those who abet or tolerate violations of Constitutional promises.

All of the above is easy to write. The actual situation is far from easy. In an America harshly polarized by political party, 85 to 90 percent of Black voters choose one party, a majority of white Americans the other. And so partisan politics segregates despite the written promises we have made to each other. Observers accused Trump supporters of trying to void the votes of Black voters, but what they were seeking to void was the votes of Democratic voters. Trump people were, I am sure, quite happy to have Black voters vote for Trump, and some in fact did so. Party polarization is the new segregation.

Can we surmount this last bar to the equality we have promised to one another ? I think we can. I think we are doing it. The election of Ralph Warnock as a Georgia Senator, with the votes of at least 38 percent of white voters is one such kept promise. so has been the election and re-election of Tim Scott as a South Carolina Senator — in his case, winning majority of white voters. Here, too, we see that the actual division is not skin color but political party. (The same was true of Barack Obama’s wins as President.) I do not expect angry political division to weaken any time soon; yet as ever more Black public persons win major elections, perhaps more and more Americans will become accustomed to respecting, even loving, more and more Black Americans, regardless of partisan axes to grind.

We are very close now to fulfilling our equality promises. I see no reason why with tons of conclusive effort we cannot win the final battle over skin color disrespects.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO DO THE RIGHT THING WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT TO DO IT

Congress Electoral College

In this image from video, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says “Count Me Out !”  as the Senate reconvened to debate the objection to confirm the Electoral College Vote from Arizona, after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. 

All during yesterday’s mob attack upon the nation’s Capitol, I read comments on social media about those Republicans — and it was Republicans they were judging — who finally turned against Mr. Trump[ and refused his overturn-the-election gambits. “too little, too late” said many. “Oh but you had the chance last year to impeach him,” said others, “so no points,”: Yet others wrote “you’re no hero” about the many Senators and a fair number of House Republicans who rejected Mr. Trump’s coup shots.

It is oh so easy to be judgmental when you’re ass is not in line to become grass.

Think of Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, who from 2018 to just a few weeks ago became the bete noire of Trump haters. Having to face re-election in a Trump State, with Trump; enjoying 85 to 90 percent support among his State’s Republicans, what realistic choice did Graham, have but either to not seek re-election or to use Trump for all it was worth ? Avoiding being “primaried” and thus being easily re-elected and therefore on hand, as he was yesterday, to shut the door upon Trump-supporting dead-enders in a Senate that had decided to isolate them, as it did, with Graham’s merciless support. More about Graham later.

Perhaps no Republican in Congress was more often spat upon than Senator McConnell: yet McConnell’s announcement, on December 14th, that the votes had all been State-certified and Joe Biden was the winner, that drew the line between what is right and what was seditious; drew the line and drew it irrevocably. After McConnell made that declaration, on the floor of the Senate, and carried with him almost all Senators, the game was up for Mr. Trump. No longer could he with impunity cow or bully the Republican legislators. Now there was an equally powerful option, perhaps a more powerful one. And Mr. Trump knew what had happened. He immediately spat upon McConnell — and on McConnell’s second in command, John Thune of South Dakota — but his spit had no force : McConnell had just been re-elected for six years, well beyond the reach of any threat to “primary him,” while Trump himself was a month from gone.

McConnell made it very clear that day, and every day thereafter, that he was going to follow the Constitution to the letter and that nothing Trump might say or do could move him.It worked, because McConnell knew that almost all Republican Senators supported his stance; and as the President has no Constitutional power over a Senator, or all of them,. McConnell knew that he had — finally — broken with Mr. Trump at the right time: the time when he could break and keep his caucus support. Almost everything that was done yesterday by the Congress was successfully done because McConnell now held the power, just as our Constitution devised: the Congress is our primary branch of government. It is established by Article One, after all, the Presidency only in Article 2. Nor was there a Congressional escape route for Trump, as the House is controlled by the opposing party.

McConnell had waited until he had an unshakable case to make : the Constitution and the will of the people. Some have asked, “why didn’t he vote to convict Trump at the impeachment trial back in January ? Certainly he knew — they all knew — what Trump was, just as Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manger, passionately spoke. So why did conviction not happen then ? I think we know the answer : back in January, Mr. Trump’s utter disregard had not been shown in full cry; it was known to political people — who understood the import of Trump’s infamous phone call to Ukraine’s President, in which Trump extorted him to “do us a favor though” in exchange for badly needed weapons to fight Russian aggression — but not to ordinary people, who don’t breathe or drink politics every minute; and that Trump received some 74,000,000 votes on November 3rd emphasizes the point. But if most voters did not grasp the impeachability of that phone call, every voter knows what an election is and what it means, because everyone values his own vote and will NOT have it denied. And when Trump made it clear that would move heaven and earth to overturn the election results, no matter what or how, this the average voter fully understood. Many Republic an voters believed Trump’s lies about election fraud, but some did not; and upon that opt-out group of Republicans, about 40 percent in number, McConnell took his stand. And his gambit succeeded. Elections were over, nobody could be “primaried.” Thus his move did NOT come too late. It came at exactly the right time.

As McConnell, so the many other Republicans who took his cue, or even preceded it, as did Mitt Romney and Senator Ben Sasse (Nebraska). In the House, Adam Kinzinger stepped up — full tilt and every day. His twitter posts drew tons of comments “where were you back in January ? you voted against impeachment.” Yet why vote for impeachment if you know that the impeached cannot be convicted because the votes are not there ? When the political and Constitutional grounds shifted, however, Kinzinger stepped up. And several Hose Republicans joined him. too late ? i say no. I say they stepped up at the right time, when their objections to trump COULD WIN; could have an effect rather than merely making a point and losing.

I do not mean to suggest that I applaud such artistry and calculation; much about politics is craft, very little of it is heroic. Yet I am grateful for craft exercised in the service of our Constitution’s ideals, and I am always mindful that in politics, when the chips are really, really down, you HSVER to win, there are no second chances at such junctures, and if a Congressman or a Senator waited until the moment when his or her craft could nail it — as masterfully as Tom Cotton of Arkansas nailed it three days ago, mortally after Senator Hawley of Missouri made his fatal mistake, and as Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina nailed it yesterday — then I am glad, very glad, for crafty nailings.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE’S POLICY TO NOT PROSECUTE A SITTING PRESIDENT SHOULD BE RESCINDED. HERE’s WHY.

Mueller

As we all know from Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016, he could not bring any charges against President Trump because the Department of Justice has in place a long-standing policy of not prosecuting sitting Presidents.

We now ask that the Department rescind its policy as to Presidents. Our reasons follow :

Most importantly, we now see, by Mr. Trump’s conduct, that the policy allows a President pretty much to break the law wherever he likes, his only worry being that after he leaves office he loses any immunity from criminal responsibility and might be charged ,

A significant motive for his current lawless, unConstitutional conduct and his hurricane of lies, purposing his being able to remain in office, arises from his knowing that is immunity will end once he leaves office. Here he is no doubt correct. Little wonder that he is violating every oath and contemplating mad stuff. as long as he remains President, he is safe. Leave office, and all hell breaks lose.

Such a prospect might make far less guilty Presidents than Trump think twice about conceding election defeat.

Were the immunity policy rescinded, every President taking office would know that there was zero to be gained from his fighting against conceding election defeat, he would be chargeable every day in office already. Not immune under the law, a President might even temper his desire to “do what I want,’ as Trump once famously said a President could do. Not immune, she might seek advice of counsel before acting, rather than asking her lawyer after the fact to explain it away. Yes, the spectacle of a President in criminal court seated at the defense table with his lawyers, would demoralize many; and yes, undergoing a criminal trial would occupy may of his work hours. Yet is the difficulty here that much more burdensome than the job of President already is ? I think not.

Prosecutor Mueller clearly would have charged Mr. Trump with several crimes of collusion and subornation, also conspiracy, had the Department of Justice policy NOT been in place. But maybe, had no such policy existed., Mr. Trump would have been restrained from his impeachable conduct by the immanency of prosecution ?

Granted, that no Federal policy maker anticipated such a lawless figure as Mr. Trump ever coming close to winning the Presidency. Perhaps we were naive about human nature, even when politicking under a marvelously crafted Federal Constitution. Perhaps we just didn’t think things negatively enough. But now we know. Now we can see that the non-prosecution policy almost guarantees a bad Presidential end. Time top rescind it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere