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Liberal Democracy

Liberal Democracy
The Free State

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The New Republic: Opinion: David Fontana: U.S. Justice Sonia Sotomayor's Schuette Dissent: A National Treasure: Race Matters?

The New Republic: Opinion: David Fontana: U.S. Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Shulette Dissent: A National Treasure

U.S. Justice Sonia Sotomayor Dissent on the Shuelette Michigan Affirmative Action Case
"Consider this language from Sotomayor’s dissent, which is so unusually compelling in its simplicity in describing the daily experiences of millions of Americans:

Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grows up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, “No, where are you really from,” regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: “I do not belong here.”
"To see why this language matters, let’s put aside the merits of the case, which Jeffrey Rosen ably discussed, and focus on the audiences that this Sotomayor Style enables her to reach. "
U.S. Justice Sonia Sotomayor
"In my colleagues' view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination. As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society. It is this view that works harm, by perpetuating the facile notion that what makes race matter is acknowledging the simple truth that race does matter."  

The New Democrat 

At some point, supporters of affirmative action are going to have figure out what is it for and why they support it. Is it to make up for the injustices to ethnic and racial minorities and Caucasian women in the past? Is it to make up for the fact that African-Americans and Latin Americans are behind Caucasian-Americans in economic and educational status?

This might be just the third time that I've agreed with and quoted Chief Justice John Roberts on anything. His decisions on the Affordable Care Act and the Defense of Marriage Act in 2012 and 2013  might be the only other times.  He got it perfectly right here when he said "If we are going to have a society where race does not matter, than race cannot matter."  He wasn't singling out any race or ethnicity.  He said "Race," period. 

That means that the United States Government cannot condone racial discrimination, even for good intentions to help communities that have been left behind. If the public or private sector discriminates against or for people because of their race, ethnicity or gender there will be distortions in the space of public transactions. Certain people would benefit from your discrimination, others would not.  In a society where race doesn't matter, not just officially but in actuality, you can't have laws that condone racial, ethnic, or gender discrimination as affirmative action does.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Prison Movement's Weblog: Opinion: Yuram Abdullah Weiler: Profit From Prisons: "How UNICOR Capitalizes on Inmate labor": Paying Inmates For the Work That They do

Prison Movement's Weblog: Opinion: Yuram Abdullah Weiler: Profit From Prisoners: How UNICOR Capitalizes on Inmate Labor

The United States has a high convict recidivism rate, i.e., a large percentage of our prison inmates come back to prison after they finish their sentences.   70 % of ex-convicts return to prison. We also have a relatively large prison population.  About 1 of every 100 Americans is either in prison, on parole, or under some other type of supervised probation.

Because of these factors, we have high prison costs.  Prisons, as they are currently structured do not pay for themselves. There are a few exceptions to that among state prisons that are like family farms.  There are a few prisons in Louisiana where inmates work full-time producing food and other products for the institution but also to sell on the market and to other government agencies.

This post is about how to reduce the recidivism rate, the prison population and the associated  high costs.  The first step is educating the inmates who've decided that they want to improve themselves and end their criminal careers.  Once they have marketable skills, they can  work in prison factories and other prison business's and make a living for themselves and their families.

We should make prison industries real enterprises producing products for the prisons but also for other government agencies and the open market as well.  Local business could manage these industries  using the inmate population as their staff.  Instead of paying the inmates 20 cents or a dollar an hour, as is done now, they could pay them the local going rate for the work that they do. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

American Enterprise Institute: Nicholas Eberstadt- The Government vs. The American Character: The Growth of the Entitlement State

Source: J Lowe-
Source: This piece was originally posted at The New Democrat

I agree with Nicholas Eberstadt on the growth of the entitlement state in America. We use to be a society in which you took care of yourself as much as you could and when you couldn't, your friends, family and private charity helped you get by.  The Great Depression really changed that.  When it once was commonplace for millions of Americans to retire without a pension and be taken care of by their savings and their kids and for nobody to have health insurance, that doesn't work anymore. This so-called Libertarian Utopia pre-Great Depression, (actually never existed for non-Anglo-Saxon-Americans) no longer exists. Private charity is still in business, but for people who fall on hard times and don't have enough savings and friends and family with enough resources to help them get by in the short-term, they have other options. Which is called the public safety net. A public social insurance system that we all pay into and take out from when we need it. 

Our economy has matured.  Healthcare technology is vastly improved, increasing life expectancy, and is much more expensive.  In our capitalist economic system, we have a social insurance for people who hit  rough times. We'll never be a Scandinavian social democracy or any other social democracy, where it's the job of the central government to meet the economic and insurance needs for the people. Instead of those people being able to get those services from the private sector. Things like education, health care, health insurance, day care, pension, etc. And we'll probably never be a Libertarian Society for anyone. Where there is no public safety net and again people are completely dependent on private charity when they fall on hard times. We're in the fact when it comes to the developed world, the third way. A country that has a public safety net for people who need it. But where everyone else is responsible for talking care of themselves. 

In comparison with Canada and Europe, our public social insurance system is very modest. We shouldn't have an insurance system that takes care of everyone because that would incentivize welfare over work and encourage people to not do as much for themselves as they can. All we have is a safety net for people who can't pay their bills and survive any other way. And the way I would reform is, is not by trying to eliminate it or expand it and try to become like Scandinavia or Britain, but instead use it as an empowerment self-inporvment system. Where yes people can get cash assistance and insurance, to meet their short-term needs. But also a system that empowers people to get on their own feet. With things like job training, education, small business loans, and help finding a new job that allows for people to make it on their own. 
J Lowe: The New Deal vs The Great Society

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Washington Times: Opinion: David Keene: A Better Way to Help the Dangerously Mentally Ill

Washington Times: Opinion: David Keene: A Better Way to Help the Dangerously Mentally Ill

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger  

This may be the first post on The New Democrat about an article in the Washington Times.  I'm not sure.  The Times is one of two small right-wing newspapers in Washington, D.C.  They are small compared with the progressive Washington Post, one of the most important big city news papers in the country, if not the most important.  The Washington Times, even with their supposed reporting, sounds, a lot of times, like the FOX News of print, a partisan political operation trying to pass themselves off as a news organization but really just repeating stuff from Republican or Tea Party sources and reporting things that really aren't news.

But today, David Keene writes what could be called a "compassionate conservative" piece about mental health care in America and what is wrong with it.  We lock up people who otherwise would be classified as mental patients who should be institutionalized but, since they were convicted of committing felonies, we put them in prison.  The prison staff isolates them in indefinite solitary confinement so they can't hurt anyone.  This is understandable, from the staff's viewpoint but it  treats the symptoms instead of addressing the underlying problems that cause these people to act out in the first place.

We have an underfunded mental health care system in America that results in a lot of damage to society, including the loss of innocent lives.  We have mental patients who are on the street when they should be institutionalized for their own good and for the good of society, not in prison but in real mental hospitals or, at the very least, in outpatient care with medication and regular appointments with  caregivers.  This is self-inflicted wound.  We've shot ourselves in the feet.

We have the resources in this country to fully-fund mental health care.   We should've done that as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.  Even some Congressional Republicans who, at the time, were in the minority in the House and Senate believed that we should have addressed this problem.  Even with all of the  shootings, post Gabby Gifford in Tucson, we have failed to act and, as a result, our country is still in danger of more shootings by mentally disturbed people who have no business being in possession of firearms.

I'm in favor of background checks to make sure that anyone attempting to buy a firearm does not have a mental health or criminal record but that, alone, won't solve the problem because as long as there are mental patients on the streets with access to firearms, either through the legal or black markets, we will remain at risk of further gun violence in this country.

Along with background checks on gun purchases we need to make mental health care part of health insurance for both private and public insurers.  People in mental hospitals should be eligible for public assistance while they are institutionalized to cover costs that their health insurer doesn't cover.  We need to make sure that, in the future, mental patients are not released because their hospital can no longer afford to treat them.