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Most young people today have studied the stories of the great civil rights struggle in this country and the heroic acts of many from all walks of life that eventually brought about change in America. While older generations may recall segregation or the disturbing days of water hoses and police dogs, young kids today for the most part haven’t experienced open violence at the hands of bigots. Even though racial inequality clearly exists, they have been lucky to grow up in an integrated society that grows increasingly diverse by the day. So when news of the Trayvon Martin shooting first broke, it was no surprise that it sent shockwaves among our youth — and continues to do so today. To add to the troubling climate, over the weekend, three black adults were shot to death and two were wounded at the hands of white gunmen who have since confessed to the horrific act in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Though not officially ruled racially motivated yet, this latest incident has all the underpinnings of a despicable hate crime. It’s no wonder young people have taken to the streets to march, organize and let their voices be heard. We are at a precarious moment. We must stop ourselves from regressing. We cannot allow our future to be hijacked with hate. We need not a moment, but a true movement immediately. When people discuss justice and equality, they often forget that progress didn’t simply take place overnight or occur in a vacuum. Countless individuals organized and strategized actual concrete steps on how to bring about change. They saw unfairness, figured out mechanisms to tackle it and organized a massive effort. Today, when we witness these unfortunate reminders of the historical imprint of racism resurfacing, we cannot act as if the issues can simply be swept under a rug. It’s time all of us engage in a long-term conversation on the elephant in the room — race. And as the Trayvon Martin case tragically proves, the topic cannot be discussed without dedicating an equal amount of time towards a serious look at our justice system. In addition to the criminalization and harassment of young men (and women) of color, the system often unfairly favors those not deemed a ‘threat’. Case in point: we are still waiting for the arrest of George Zimmerman, the accused shooter in the Trayvon incident. But the difference between mere rhetoric and sustainable results is action. Gravely troubled by these recent events and more, major civil rights leaders, clergy, victims, parents, grandparents and concerned folks from all races, backgrounds and communities are assembling in the nation’s capital this week. From Wed., April 11th through Sat. April 14th, National Action Network (NAN) will be conducting its annual convention where we will discuss these issues and more, while we plan and organize a strategy to combat them. In addition to a slew of panel discussions and plenary sessions, we will be holding a ‘Measuring the Movement Forum’ event at Howard University next Saturday with the first-ever dialogue between the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Amadou Diallo. We will organize ways to energize the country on pressing social issues that really do impact each and every one of us. And we will formulate concrete steps for achieving those goals. There are some in positions of power that would like nothing more than to make us believe that racism, classism and other inequities don’t exist. But they do. And the only way to combat them, and stop our nation from reverting back to days when the Trayvon and Tulsa shootings were the norm, is to have an honest dialogue and most importantly, take action. The worst thing we can do is come together and walk away doing nothing. There is far too much at risk. We owe it to the next generation to allow them to live in a better world than we did.
Flying the friendly skies always feels a bit like playing a game of Russian roulette. There are the real life-and-death worries, like hoping and praying that you and your plane arrive at your destination in one piece. Then there are the worries that only feel like life-and-death, like hoping that you and your plane arrive on time and that your luggage does, too. Then there are the worries that make us contemplate the meaning of life, and whether it’s worth living at all. Of course I’m talking about the fear of losing the ultimate game of traveler’s roulette: finding yourself seated next to a screaming child during a long flight. For the first time in a relatively well-traveled life, I recently lost this game of roulette, big time. In what I would have considered a hysterical story had it happened to someone else, I lost not just once, but twice, in a single flight. After an apologetic father sat down next to me with his toddler, who was screaming as they boarded the plane and showed no signs of letting up, Dad graciously apologized in advance for the inconvenience that we both were resigned to me experiencing for the next couple of hours. When his son specifically began screaming for his mother, who was seated with other children in another row, Dad decided the best thing for all of us was for the parents to do a kid swap. Mom would take the toddler screaming for her, while Dad would take a slightly older and “more well-behaved little lady” (his words). Only half way through the flight the little lady must have reached her daily quota for being “well-behaved.” She decided she wanted Mommy, too, and wasn’t taking “no” for an answer. So she did what any diva in the making would do: she stood on her seat and screamed, “I want Mommy!” at the top of her lungs for a few minutes, followed by other indecipherable high-pitched screams for more than 10 minutes. (I gave up counting after 10.) Her screams then woke up another baby, who, you guessed it, began crying, too. Part of me felt bad for the dad. After all, when most of us get a poor job performance review, at least it’s not in front of a room full of strangers. But here’s a guy whose two kids, in less than two hours, let the entire plane know he was simply not up to the standards of Mom. He essentially got a public dressing down, Simon-Cowell-style, from two people who can barely speak complete sentences. That’s got to be tough. Of course, the other part of me (the part that had gotten just four hours of sleep and had planned to catch up on the plane) didn’t feel sympathy for anyone except the people unlucky enough to cross paths with me after I got off that plane. I was in a great mood. Let me tell you. Apparently my experience with my tiny, vocal in-flight neighbors is not exactly what you’d call uncommon. Days ago Malaysian Airlines sent around a final warning notice to travel agents informing them that they will soon be launching child-free cabins to accommodate adult travelers tired of trying to drift off to a symphony of childhood cries while flying the friendly skies. According to the new policy, children under the age of 12 will not be permitted in the upstairs economy section of the airline’s Airbus A380. While countless business travelers cheered the new policy, when it was first proposed months ago, many insulted and beleaguered parents angrily cried discrimination. (I missed this tidbit of history, but apparently at some point, having the right to foist unruly children upon the public became akin to efforts to garner African Americans the right to vote in terms of major civil rights battles. Who doesn’t see the similarities?) One argument made by some parents, which did strike a chord with me, however, is this: What about misbehaving adults? Why single out kids? This is a fair question. After all, while I’ve lost the traveler’s game of roulette once in recent memory when it comes to children, I cannot count the number of times some misbehaving adult has helped disrupt a trip. Just off the top of my head, I can think of four times in the last month when I was comfortably seated in Amtrak’s designated “quiet” car, which, as its title suggests, is for passengers who want to ride in a quiet car, and yet every single trip, some moron who can read English perfectly chooses to chat on his or her cell phone — this despite the fact that the car is plastered with signs reading “Quiet Car: No cellphone use permitted.” Mr. or Ms. Chatty then becomes indignant when anyone (I or another brave soul) politely points out that, “as the sign above you says, we’re not supposed to use cell phones in this car.” The most galling response I have received so far was last week, when a woman looked at the sign, then back at me, and snapped, “I can read!” to which I replied, “Apparently not, since that’s your second call.” Police actually escorted one woman off a train for refusing to refrain from using her phone in the quiet car. (For the record, I didn’t call them!) Yet it’s the stories regarding unruly children that generate the most headlines, including a landmark lawsuit that was recently settled when a passenger experienced hearing loss after being seated next to a screaming child for an extended period of time. (Click here to read about that case and other infamous stories of bad behavior in the air.) So are segregated flights, with child-free cabins, the best solution, and potentially the wave of the future for airlines around the world? One flight attendant I spoke to, who identified difficult children on flights as one of her jobs’ greatest stressors, seems to think so. (She asked that I not use her name or identify her airline, because she is not authorized to speak to the media.) Calling Malaysian Airlines’ plans for kid-free flights “a genius idea,” she added, “I cannot think of a better solution than this one.” But maybe I can. What if airlines or trains just fined people for unruly behavior? Before you dismiss the idea as crazy, consider this: Is it really any crazier than airlines charging us extra for checked bags when the service we are paying them for in the first place is to transport us and our belongings? The flight attendant I spoke with seemed to think it was actually a doable idea, in part because she confirmed the existence of something I had heard about years ago: airline reports on passengers who use a specific airline more than once. These “reports” are not background checks per se, but if a passenger gets drunk and belligerent on a flight, for instance, this will be noted, so that on their next trip flight attendants will be warned to pay extra special attention as they serve that person. If this is true, then why can’t airlines and other industries of travel simply implement a financial penalty system for unruly travelers of all ages? Those who consistently display the most disruptive behavior in the air or on the train could be made to pay up accordingly (or their parents could). The way it could work is thus: As part of the terms and conditions we all agree to when we purchase our tickets, a new condition would be added, one that states that we agree to accept an automatic flat fee charged to our credit card — let’s say $100 to start — if the flight staff deem us (or our minor children) an intentionally disruptive presence on the trip. (Intentional meaning, it’s one thing if a kid gets sick. It’s another if they want to play hide and seek on a flight, and Mom and Dad choose to do nothing to stop it.) If a passenger racks up a certain number of penalties, then their future tickets would simply double, and perhaps eventually triple, in price automatically. (My friend Dylan Ratigan compared this to car insurance pricing.) Maybe if they charged such a penalty to the businessman who got so drunk that he defecated on a food service cart in flight ( true story ), or to the parents of children who significantly delay a flight because they refuse to buckle up ( happens more often than you think ), either A) they could stop charging some of us those ridiculous fees for so-called extras that are actually basic service (like checked bags), or B) they would finally deter some people who lack the basic manners to exhibit appropriate behavior in shared public spaces, or who know that their kids lack the ability or maturity to display such behavior but travel with them anyway without thinking twice about the impact their choices have on others. Maybe if we were to hit people where it really hurts, in their pocketbooks, they would think twice, or three times, until finally they got the message that incivility is not a civil right. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com , where this post originally appeared.
Oprah may not be front and center for Obama’s reelection campaign, but according to Bloomberg, she’s working hard behind the scenes to help Obama raise money for his campaign: PresidentÂ Barack Obama, turning full attention to his re-election campaign, aimed to raise more than $5 million today with fundraisers in his adopted hometown ofÂ ChicagoÂ and then Atlanta, [...]
On Tuesday, MSNBC weekend host Melissa Harris-Perry, who was sitting in for Al Sharpton on his radio show, revealed that she attended Rev. Wright’s post 9/11 sermon and thought he was right. â€œI was in Trinity United Church of Christ on the Sunday after September 11th,â€ said Harris-Perry. â€œI was at the time living in [...]
Hitting the lottery once in a lifetime will never happen to most of us, but Brian Brockington just hit the criminal justice system jackpot, not once, not twice, but three times. DNA evidence has linked him to three sexual assaults, but lucky old Brian will soon be released from prison without ever serving a single day for any of the assaults in question. So is Brian Brockington just one of the “luckiest” men alive? Perhaps. But he had some help. Continuing the lotto metaphor, you could say the powers that be screwed up and now all of us have to pay up, starting with the women DNA evidence links him to assaulting. Or in casino terms one might say the slot machines are severely broken and those in charge of the house haven’t made repairing them a priority. As a result we’ll likely see a lot more Brian Brockingtons winning the criminal lotto in coming years. Allow me to explain. As reported in the New York Daily News : Brockington, 35, was arrested on rape charges in 2007 and his cousin Rodney Howard, 36, was arrested two years later after their DNA matched evidence from a 1993 gun-point attack on a 29-year-old woman. But because of a police backlog, the DNA evidence from the crime wasn’t processed for nearly a decade — and prosecutors filed charges a day after the crime’s 10-year statute of limitations expired, said Steven Reed, spokesman for the Bronx DA. The DA’s office realized their error only after the cousins were arrested — and prosecutors were forced to drop the rape charges. Brockington was subsequently linked to two other sexual assaults. The scary thing about the Brockington case (you know, besides the fact that an alleged serial rapist will likely soon be walking among us) is that the current system virtually insures that Brockington will not be the last alleged rapist set free by what some are calling a “technicality” but increasingly looks like willful legal negligence. Not simply on the part of police and prosecutors, but on the part of legislators. In interviews with representatives from organizations dedicated to aiding survivors of sexual assault and improving the criminal justice system’s prosecution of sex crimes, I learned that as the current system stands the release of the Brian Brockingtons of the world is virtually inevitable, caused by a nearly perfect storm of the following: Ã¢Â€Â¢ Only five states in America have no statute of limitations for any felony, meaning any felony crime can be prosecuted at any point at which prosecutors believe there is sufficient evidence, even if the alleged crime took place decades earlier. Ã¢Â€Â¢ Only 27 states have explicit DNA exceptions on the books rendering statute of limitations non-enforceable or significantly widening the time frame for such limitations should DNA evidence link a suspect to a crime. Ã¢Â€Â¢ The Justice Department estimates there are at least 100,000 rape kits from unsolved sex crime cases waiting to be tested at labs around America. Ã¢Â€Â¢ The actual amount of evidence waiting testing nationwide is much higher than 100,000, because before DNA collection became the norm there was no universal standard for storage of such evidence. This means there is an untold amount of evidence stored in unknown places and unaccounted for, some of it misplaced and misfiled for decades. You do the math. This means that in a plurality of states, regardless of whether or not DNA evidence successfully links a perpetrator to past crimes, there is very little our criminal justice system can do to insure that perpetrator will serve any time. The reason? Because of a woefully antiquated and inept system that at the very least has been slow to adapt to the 21st century, and at the very worst has consciously chosen to treat sex crimes as low on the list of legislative and prosecutorial priorities. Despite advancements in DNA technology a number of states still adhere to arcane statute of limitations provisions, meaning regardless of what evidence is unearthed that crime may not be prosecuted. “The rationale behind statute of limitations is that memories fade. DNA doesn’t fade. It’s good forever,” said Scott Berkowitz, President of RAINN , the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. “As long as you have the evidence, you should be able to use it anytime you finally identify the suspect.” But even those states that have attempted to address the statute of limitations problem have left loopholes in them so big a truck could drive through or more accurately, a criminal can escape through. For instance, while the New York state legislature bowed to pressure in 2006 and finally amended state law to eradicate statute of limitations for class B felonies, covering those deemed the most serious sex crimes such as first degree rape, a host of sex crimes are not covered. “We wouldn’t be able to prosecute a case like Penn State here in New York,” Joe Farrell, a spokesperson for New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault said, referring to child molestation allegations against Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Pennsylvania State University. That means even if DNA evidence was discovered, such as a piece of one of the victim’s clothing linking Sandusky to a crime, there would be nothing anyone could do to prosecute in the state of New York. “Ideally we would like to see the removal of all statute of limitations for such crimes to allow for delayed reporting.” But the legal challenges presented by statute of limitations provisions represent one broken cog in a piece of machinery full of defects. In many jurisdictions the processing of DNA evidence is so backlogged that as the statute of limitations clock ticks, with the ability to prosecute certain cases drawing to a close, the DNA evidence that could be used to prosecute said cases sits unanalyzed. There have even been instances in which a perpetrator was in custody for another crime, but because a rape kit had not been processed in a timely manner he was released before he was eventually linked to an unsolved sexual assault. Some states, New York among them, have been shamed into doing the right thing and clearing the backlog. (Though the rape charges against Brian Brockington were just dropped days ago, the case represents a holdover from the years before the statute of limitations law was changed and the backlog was cleared in New York, illustrating the dangers other states face by not properly addressing those two issues immediately.) But plenty of other states have thousands of rape kits waiting to be tested, with the cities Detroit and Houston being among the worst offenders. (Click here to see an in-depth report on this issue from CBS News in 2009.) According to one expert interviewed, Houston represents a troubling, yet perfect example of just how badly broken the system is. It was originally believed there were a couple of thousand untested kits in the city, until thousands more were discovered in facilities other than labs. If every major city is like Houston — and it is believed that many are — then we have absolutely no way of knowing just how bad the backlog really is. We just know that it is bad. As this expert pointed out, “Part of the problem is that law enforcement is hesitant to invest resources in testing kits related to non-stranger assaults. Of course the problem is there are perpetrators who may assault someone they know as well as victimize strangers, but law enforcement may never make that connection because those kits are not being tested.” (She asked that her name not be used since she is not the designated spokesperson for the organization she works with.) So what, if anything, can we all do to prevent future Brian Brockingtons from winning the criminal lotto? For starters: 1) Contact your member of Congress and urge them to support H.R. 1523, “The S.A.F.E.R. Act.” S.A.F.E.R. stands for Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry. Co-sponsored by Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Ted Poe, The S.A.F.E.R. Act would create a national database of rape kits maintained by the Justice Department and would require local jurisdictions to inventory all kits in their possession. It would also allow law enforcement to track which kits are attached to cases in which the statute of limitations window is drawing to a close. 2) If you live in a state that still has statute of limitations provisions for sex crimes (and chances are you probably do) contact your state legislators and request that they amend the law. (To see which states have the worst statute of limitations provisions for sex crimes, or as I call them “predator friendly states,” please click here .) If you would like to learn about other ways in which you can help, such as signing a petition in support of The S.A.F.E.R. Act, or to access contact information for your elected officials, or review the statute of limitations law in your state please click here Let’s all do our part to make sure that fewer Brian Brockingtons are set free. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com where this post originally appeared.
Earlier this week, die-hard Knicks supporter and filmmaker Spike Lee joined my MSNBC show ‘Politics Nation’ to discuss a little non-political news: basketball is back with a vengeance. Thanks to the impeccable, almost unbelievable skills of 23-year-old Jeremy Lin, the sport and the Knicks themselves have seen a shocking resurrection from fans who grew increasingly exhausted of lock outs and negotiations. The timing couldn’t be better; the story, some say, is ‘Cinderella-like.’ I prefer calling it a tale of perseverance; a narrative about the underdog triumphing after being consistently discounted. Perhaps, most importantly, it’s a lesson for all of us to never look down upon the marginalized. Some people believe life is a lottery, that if you’re born into the correct circumstances, you will excel. I view life as an opportunity, that given an equal shot and a level playing field, anyone can achieve their dreams and reach excellence. Lin’s rags-to-riches story is about more than just basketball. Continuously dismissed by teams — including his own — and literally sleeping on his brother’s couch in Manhattan, the Taiwanese American is living proof that the underdog can and will win. After being benched for so long, Lin is finally given a chance by default and goes on to save the Knicks and bring such renewed craze to the game that it’s virtually impossible to find any available tickets at Madison Square Garden for the season. The Harvard grad who nobody believed had such fantastic sports skills now has the fastest-growing athletic brand according to Forbes — $14 million and rising. Every day we walk past or ignore another Lin — people who may not look like what society deems a ‘winner.’ People who have been silenced or beaten down by injustice. People who are suppressed with unequal access to quality education, employment, fair housing and safe neighborhoods. People who may be working multiple jobs, struggling to feed their children or figuring out how they will pay their rent. But given the right circumstances, all of these folks would shine just like Lin; there’s a Lin in every school, church, job, etc. And just like Lin, you may be ignored, but it’s vital to never lose sight of your own strengths and your own abilities. No matter how many times they try to force you down, rise and stand tall yet again. Keep fighting until the world knows your worth. There’s an old saying that teaches us to be the best at whatever it is we’re doing. So if you’re mopping floors, do it to perfection. If you’re driving a bus, be the best bus driver there ever was. If you’re teaching kids, prove that your knowledge can make a difference in someone’s life. If you’re an artist, practice, practice and practice until they can no longer overlook your talents. Regardless of what you’re doing in life and how many doors have been slammed in your face, stay on track because sooner rather than later, your good work and gifts cannot be hidden. And just like Lin, the right opportunity will create the perfect circumstance for you to showcase your genius to the world. And for those that would like to easily ignore or further disenfranchise people, just remember that the person you think may look like an easy target may very well be the one dunking over your head tomorrow.
This week a $25 billion settlement was announced in which big banks pay up for a portion of their bad deeds in the home foreclosure crisis. Everyone is trying to determine whether this is a good deal or a bad deal. Here is how I score it. This deal represents small progress on a small problem. Now it’s time to make big progress on the big problem. Don’t count on finding many good points in the deal itself, because there aren’t a lot. In fact, the main win can be found in what’s NOT in the deal. A truly horrible deal would have let the banks write a small check and then seal the door on all further investigations and pursuits of accountability. This deal does NOT do that. Because this settlement limits legal immunity for banks, this deal does not automatically let the banks off the hook for all of their wrong-doing. Except for a few issues like robo-signing, state attorneys general can still fight for more compensation and relief for the banks’ victims. Government officials can proceed with investigating and prosecuting banks for their role in crashing the economy and the housing market. In other words, the door is still open to solve the much bigger problems we face. Our fight for justice can, and will, continue. That is small comfort, perhaps, but it was hard won. So we should honor the hard work of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and others, including many grassroots progressive organizations like New Bottom Line. They fought courageously to prevent a total sweetheart deal for the banks. This outcome is the result of determined activism, and without this heroic effort, the deal would have been drastically worse. That said, there is a reason why many progressives and housing advocates are furious, and why many struggling homeowners are left wondering, “How does this help me?” Millions of homeowners and families are still suffering under the tremendous weight of a debt blanket that is smothering the economy. This $25 billion settlement helps only a fraction of those homeowners and addresses only a very limited set of fraudulent behaviors. A number of homeowners will get some cash payments, but the amounts are negligible compared to the pain and injustice they have experienced. The actual total cash paid out by the banks is only $5 billion dollars, to be split among the nation’s largest banks — hardly a stiff penalty considering that the six largest banks in the U.S. paid $144 billion in bonuses last year. And enforcement mechanisms remain murky. We must not forget the more than 14 million homeowners (one in five) whose homes are underwater, beneath a crushing total $700 billion in negative equity. We must not forget the more than 4 million families who have lost their homes. We must not forget the millions of families who are in some form of foreclosure proceedings on this very day. These are the Americans who have suffered and continue to suffer. They are worried today, like yesterday, whether they will still have a home to live in tomorrow. They are the ones who must choose every month whether to pay bills or to feed their children. Here are three things that must happen next: 1) The U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general must investigate and prosecute banks more aggressively than ever, at a much larger scale than anything that has happened to date. 2) We must force banks to make massive principal reduction of hundreds of billions of dollars, to immediately relieve the 14 million homeowners in the country who have underwater mortgages. 3) We must change laws and regulations to prevent this kind of crisis and fraud from ever happening again. Two weeks ago, I called for hundreds of billions in principal reduction for homeowners. This would free up Americans to start new businesses, spend money on worthwhile products and services, and invest in their children’s futures. We still need to address the $700 billion in negative equity, which in turn is only part of the nearly seven trillion dollars in total lost equity created by the banks’ irresponsible, and in some cases, illegal practices. We need a solution at the scale of the problem, so that families can get back on their feet, the economy can get working, and people can reach for their American dreams again instead of watching them drown. That is why I say: $25 billion down, $675 billion to go.
Every presidential race has a few key moments and phrases that define it years after the race has come to an end. The 1980 campaign had the question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago? ” The 1988 campaign had the Willie Horton ad . 1992 had ” It’s the economy stupid” and “I didn’t inhale.” Amidst the temporary distraction of words like “Tiffany’s account” and “open marriage” there will likely be three words that we will all remember after the 2012 presidential campaign is long over: “I didn’t inherit.” At the beginning of the GOP primary former Gov. Mitt Romney was preoccupied with trying to convince voters that he was or was not the various political caricatures his opponents (and his own record) painted him as, the most obvious (and likable in my book) being Mitt the Moderate. So he has spent much of the last few months trying to convince us all (or primary voters at least), that he is reliably pro-life, pro-gun control and anti-gay rights. But as tax-gate threatened to engulf his campaign, particularly after his spectacular implosion in South Carolina, Romney has now moved on to trying to convince us of something even more unbelievable: that he’s earned everything he has. It’s widely accepted by commentators and political analysts, across party lines, that in most debates Romney has conveyed a level of discomfort with discussing his wealth that seriously threatened to derail his campaign. What no one seemed to agree on is exactly why that is. Is he simply from a background in which discussion of money is considered crass? Or is it that he simply felt uneasy with the topic early on because he and his advisers had not yet decided on talking points for addressing some of the more politically challenging elements of his wealth such as those Swiss and Cayman Islands accounts? But since his South Carolina thrashing it seems that they have finally decided on a talking point — a bad one. I, and anyone else who follows politics the same way most follow football, know when something has officially become a political consultant vetted talking point because it pops up over and over again. A reporter asks a candidate how his day is going and he replies, “Great. But not as great as it will be for all Americans once I implement [INSERT TALKING POINT] policy proposal.” So when Mitt Romney made a point to say in his post State of the Union Address interview, as well as in the last two debates, “I didn’t inherit,” followed by some impassioned version of “I earned everything I have” or “I earned all of my money,” — clinging to the messages like a life raft whenever he found himself under wealth related attacks — it was obvious it was his political consultants talking. If they keep talking that way they might just end up talking a candidate into the White House after all, only it won’t be their candidate but the one that already lives there. See here’s the problem with Romney’s “I didn’t inherit” comments, they simply don’t ring true. There’s not a single person on this planet that looks at Mitt Romney and believes he “didn’t inherit” (and the New York Times has validated this suspicion.) The first time I heard him say it I actually laughed. (Actually I laughed and tweeted simultaneously if I remember correctly.) Let me be clear before anyone starts typing up an angry email. I believe Mitt Romney’s a smart man and a hard worker. But I also believe his repeated attempts at trying to convince us, and possibly himself, that he is not a walking, talking beneficiary of the world’s oldest form of affirmative action either proves that he’s A) disingenuous (which conservatives have already accused him of) or B) disconnected (which just about everyone else has accused him of.) (Click here to see a list of the richest presidential candidates.) Within minutes of Romney debuting the “I didn’t inherit” line nationally, the New York Times had already debunked it with his own words. According to an earlier interview, he did inherit money upon his father’s death. Romney claims he and his wife chose to donate the money to charity. That makes sense, considering the younger Romney was nearly 50 when his father passed and was already extremely wealthy by that point, helped along in no small part by his father’s wealth and connections. Besides his entry into Harvard, which has served as a finishing school for the sons and daughters of political leaders of both major American political parties over the years, his father fronted he and his wife the funds for their first home. To the wealthy, this may seem a relatively minor contribution in a world in which a million dollars doesn’t make someone rich enough to endure additional taxes, (or in which more than a quarter of a million in speaking fees isn’t a lot of money ) but to those who have graduated with student loans, and no jobs, in the age of the mortgage crisis and have subsequently given up on their own dream of homeownership, having a papa who can float you in adulthood sounds like a dream come true. As I have said in previous pieces, I don’t begrudge wealth or the wealthy. (And because my wealthy friends seem to have gotten a kick out of this line the first time around I guess it bears repeating: Some of my best friends are wealthy .) But most of them recognize that there are advantages they were born with most of us were not. In most — not all but most — cases they were born to wealthy or powerful or extremely well-educated parents, usually some combination of all three. Sound familiar Gov. Romney? No you may not have “inherited” a blank check from your dad the day you turned 21, but you inherited something arguably more valuable. A name that opened doors for you before you even knocked, and a rolodex filled with connections that saved you the trouble of searching for said door in the first place like most of us. Herman Cain may have a lot of flaws, but he is at least someone who can say with a straight face “I didn’t inherit” and mean it. Mitt Romney may be able to say it with a straight face, but voters — except possibly other members of the 1% born and raised club — are unlikely to buy it. While there may be enough of them to buy political ads, there aren’t enough of them to buy an election, which presents a problem for the former governor. According to a focus group , blue-collar workers in Ohio didn’t hear class warfare in President Obama’s State of the Union Address. They heard a rallying cry for the middle class. So either Mitt Romney better get used to saying, “I realize I was born with a lot of advantages other people were not and I recognize that, but my family raised me to work hard and my family’s success is proof that the American Dream is possible for everyone,” or he better get used to becoming a presidential trivia question years from now, right alongside his Massachusetts predecessor Gov. Michael “Willie Horton” Dukakis. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com where this post originally appeared.
For months, we’ve endured the back-and-forth banter among Republican presidential candidates as they fight for their party’s nomination. Relentlessly tearing each other apart and proving just how contentious and petty they can be, these so-called front-runners exemplify what the GOP stands for at this very moment: obstruction & division. Last night during President Obama’s State of the Union address, we were reminded of just how much we can achieve with a unified government and with leaders who put the nation’s best interest before their own political agendas. At such a pivotal time when some would have us believe that there’s no such thing as income inequality, the president has called for tax reform, a ban on insider trading in Congress and more as he vowed to tackle perhaps the greatest challenge of our time: fairness. Delivering a reassuring voice to the men, women and children still suffering during these tough economic times, the president drove home the notion that it isn’t about jealousy; it’s about equality. “We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by,” stated the president. “Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.” For far too long, Americans have been watching as the wealthiest among us pay lower tax rates (or avoid them all together), while they themselves continue to give exorbitant percentages of their income to taxes. CEOs have shipped jobs overseas, while those struggling to find work are scapegoated as somehow ‘lazy’ or inept. Following predatory lending practices that targeted certain segments of the population, some would like to pass off the blame to the victims of the greatest housing scandal in modern history. At a time when education costs have skyrocketed beyond belief, there are those that look down upon the millions unable to attend college despite academic achievement. When more and more of the work sector requires increased education, those unable to afford it are often times left in the dust of uncertainty. And as the president articulated last night, early education has suffered a setback with tight budgets and teacher layoffs all across this country. While teachers (like Sara Ferguson who sat in the First Lady’s box during the address) continue to make sacrifices and support students, politicians and those with ulterior motives attack and discount all of their selfless efforts. To quote the president — ‘teachers matter’. As Americans watch entire companies fold, and work multiple jobs just to make ends meet, the costs of health care are relentlessly on the rise. With corporations eliminating benefits, many with full-time employment are even finding it impossible to afford health insurance on their own. In addition to the tens of millions without coverage, millions of us are only one illness away from bankruptcy. Instead of welcoming health reform in an industrialized nation with such sobering statistics, some continually attack the measure for the simple fact that it was proposed by this president. Despite the multitude of rising challenges like income inequality, diminishing employment opportunities, lack of affordable education, health care and more, most Americans remain optimistic. They still firmly believe that hard work will yield progress, and that the notion of the American dream is very much alive. And still, some would like nothing more than to blame, castigate and demean hard-working Americans as they revel in the luxury of their unfair advantages. All the American people want is fairness; all they want is the same opportunities given to the rich and powerful. And that is precisely what last night’s State of the Union emphasized: a level playing field for all. As the president stated: “No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs.”
Last night, GOP candidate Willard Mitt Romney delivered what many believed to be a general election speech after winning the New Hampshire primary and setting his sights on South Carolina. But out of all of the grandiose statements made in his teleprompter-assisted speech, Romney’s most outrageous and insulting words came with a reference to the ‘politics of envy’. Once again validating his love for the wealthy, and proving just how out of touch with reality he is, the presidential hopeful failed to realize that the majority in this country aren’t jealous of the rich — they are simply tired of a select few controlling a disproportionate amount of our money. It is beyond arrogant and insensitive to think that people seeking fairness and an even economic playing field are envious. And believe me Mr. Romney, they will remember come this November. There’s a growing movement afoot in this country. As someone who studied the teachings of Dr. King and who works to organize campaigns around various civil rights issues, I know first-hand that movements just don’t emerge out of a vacuum. Even prior to the one galvanizing element which may appear to ignite it, any massive cause is almost always triggered by several events bubbling underneath the surface. For those like Romney who would like to pretend that income inequality and wealth disparity aren’t pivotal issues, they better start paying attention to what the majority — the 99% — have been chanting in cities and towns all across this country. Last November, voters in Ohio defeated oppressive dictatorial legislation when they repealed Senate Bill 5. Essentially blocking public sector strikes, diminishing bargaining rights for some 360,000 public employees and stripping away overall union abilities, SB5 was one of the most regressive measures created in our lifetime. But proving their numbers and their own sheer power, the people delivered a resounding rejection to a bill that infringed on their rights as hard-working Americans. In Wisconsin, we watched a similar battle play out as Republican Gov. Scott Walker imposed a massive setback to public union and collective bargaining rights. After months of pushback, we now await signature totals in a recall effort by citizens tired of politicians not representing their interests. And it was precisely that frustration, that sense of injustice that also drove people from around the country — and eventually around the world — to occupy the streets and demand more opportunities for the majority. Sacrificing their own comfort to camp out in parks, demand that the 1% pay their fair share in taxes and most importantly, change the conversation to highlight the massive economic disparity in existence, the Occupy Wall St. protesters have galvanized into an entity that no presidential candidate can ignore. Time magazine named ‘the protester’ as it’s 2011 person of the year. In the U.S. alone, I saw disenchanted Americans come to my Jobs & Justice rally in Washington, and I went down to Occupy Wall St. in NY to witness mostly young people organizing a platform towards equality for their generation and beyond. Whether it was in Wisconsin, Ohio or any number of smaller fought battles across the nation, there is an undeniable momentum in the air. Emerging out of dissatisfaction with the status quo and the notion that only a tiny minority can control a disproportionate amount of the wealth, this drive for equality has reached the stage of a massive movement. And it’s a movement that will not tolerate being dehumanized, nor will it tolerate people like Willard Mitt Romney turning their legitimate concerns into banter. Romney, the people are not jealous of your mansions or boats. They are simply tired of income inequality, and tired of course of your condescending tone.