Month: March 2017

Senator Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Stephanie Kelton Shreds Trumponomics

Though Barack Obama presided over a recovery from the 2008 economic recession, the economic benefits disproportionately went to the wealthiest top 10 percent of Americans.

Though Democrats point to the job creation and low unemployment rate Obama passed onto Trump as an indication that Obama’s economic policies, the status quo, needed no revisions, that “America is already great,” in reality the benefits of this economy and the experiences under it weren’t felt by large demographics of Americans in the working, middle and low income classes. These persistent economic anxieties, coupled with an anti-political climate incited by the establishment corrupting American politics through massive corporate lobbying and campaign donations, enabled the rise of Donald Trump.

All early signs of Trump’s Administration have made it clear, through filling his cabinet with billionaires and Wall Street bankers, that he has no intention to representing or improving the lives of working, middle class, or low income Americans. Promises to “drain the swamp” have been broken with filling of the swamp with even more wealthy and establishment elites. Even without enacting any policy or legislation to help those in economic need, the continued economic recovery may help Trump feign the appearance of helping these demographics, but as Bernie Sanders Former Chief Economic Advisor Stephanie Kelton, a Professor of Economics at University of Missouri-Kansas City, notes in a recent paper, there may be no more room for economic recovery given the economy has reached its true employment potential, or as Kelton puts it, ” output is near its full employment ceiling not because the economy rose to its potential but because we lowered the definition of what we believe our nation’s productive capacity to be. It’s a bit like giving up on the idea that your child is capable of achieving straight As, relaxing the goal to a 2.0 GPA, and then celebrating when he presents you with across-the-board Cs.”

Kelton compared the current output gap with the 2007 estimate of potential GDP, which indicates based on previous definitions of America’s productive capacity that the current GDP gap would be close to 14 percent and not closer to zero. She cites several economist who have noted that the U.S. labor market is still far from full employment, though its unclear if Trumponomics will squeeze out more growth from the economy because, “less than three months into the Trump presidency, there is no formal budget and no precise blueprint that describes the full range of policies and programs that the administration intends to pursue.” Despite this, an economic agenda is beginning to take shape, one that is likely to center around massive spending cuts to compensate for increases in defense spending.

Like Reagan, massive spending cuts and an economic agenda predicated on increasing the wealth and income of the top 1 percent resulted in economic growth, and helped Reagan get re-elected in a landslide. Trump’s Administration is shaping to be similar in its pro-business model that will provide gains to wealthy who have aligned with the Trump Administration and filled his cabinet. Already Trump has promised massive tax cuts for the rich, and the Obamacare repeal effort will provide even more tax cuts to the wealthy. Kelton added, “taken together, Trumponomics includes a hefty serving of Reagan-inspired trickledown economics along with a side of protectionism, a dash of military Keynesianism and a social agenda that is anti-worker and anti-immigrant.”

Trump’s promises to “Make America Great Again” come up far short in every simulation conducted by Goldman Sachs and Moody’s, Though an economic doomsday scenario may not result immediately from Trumponomics, with some initial growth possible, Trump’s economic policies will be a disaster for the sick, working, middle class, and low income Americans.

Citizens Must Hold Government Accountable On Climate

A few things that happened this week: one set of researchers announced that February was the planet’s fourth-warmest month on record, which is especially bad news since the El Nino that produced last year’s record-breaking heat is over and we’re supposed to be cooling a little.

Another group of scientists published data showing that, for the third year in a row, Arctic ice has set a new record winter low. Still other statisticians showed that, to date, this has been by far the worst wildfire season on record in the United States – two million acres burned against an average of 200,000. In Peru, last fall’s record drought has given way to record flooding, with dozens dead and 100,000 homes damaged. In Namibia, the worst flooding in history… I could go on.

Someone should do something. But that someone clearly isn’t going to be the federal government. Instead, President Trump’s appointees spent the week dismantling 40 years’ worth of environmental laws and regulations. In the past few days, we’ve learned that they plan to ditch Obama-era laws that would increase gas mileage for cars and shut down old coal-fired power plants. A new analysis shows that if such plans are carried out, it will be impossible for the United States to meet the targets it pledged to hit in the Paris climate accords – we’d break our promise by a billion tons of carbon.

One way of dealing with those unpleasant truths is to stop paying attention. A spokesman for the White House said last week that the federal government was no longer going to “waste money” on climate research. Money to maintain even existing climate satellites is disappearing. NASA has been told to stop worrying about our home planet and focus on Mars.

So who’s going to stand up? The answer, for the moment, is states and cities. On Wednesday, the governors of the West Coast states and the mayors of most of its big cities put out a stirring joint message: “We speak as a region of over 50 million people with a combined GDP of $2.8 trillion. There is no question that to act on climate is to act in our best economic interests. Through expanded climate policies, we have grown jobs and expanded our economies while cleaning our air.” They would, the officials promised, keep at it. They added that they hoped other local and regional leaders would “join us in leading and re-affirming our commitment to cut carbon emissions and reverse the damaging impacts to our communities of unfettered pollution.”

This is not just a national effort – California Governor Jerry Brown has been helping spearhead the Under2 coalition, joining together “subnational units” from around the planet working to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. (Massachusetts is a signatory.) And state officials are doing their best to keep the fossil fuel industry honest, even as Washington effectively ends any real oversight. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, for instance, has bravely joined her New York counterpart, Eric Schneiderman, to investigate Exxon’s outsize role in fostering the climate denial now in power in Washington. States and cities may be able to keep some of the clean energy momentum rolling. But they can’t do it by themselves, at least, not for long. Reuters recently reported on the growing number of national governments trying to rein in mayors and governors who push “too fast” on climate pollution – from Norway to Australia, conservative governments are now trying to rein in progressive big-city mayors.

Which means that the rest of us need to add our weight to the political balance. Upset by EPA chief Scott Pruitt and his assertion that carbon dioxide isn’t driving global warming? Scared by Trump’s insistence that climate change is a Chinese hoax? Inspired by the plucky local officials determined to try and keep the fight alive? Then show up in Washington on April 29, for the next great mobilization of the cresting resistance. More than 100,000 people have already RSVP’d for the People’s Climate March – it’s our chance to say we won’t stand silently by as the planet melts.

Facts About The Death Penalty

From the Death Penalty Information Center, we present to you facts about the Death Penalty including the number of executions, race of victims, recent studies, innocence, executions by state, financial statistics, as well as much more.











How Progressive Cities Can Reshape The World And Democracy

“We’re living in extraordinary times that demand brave and creative solutions. If we’re able to imagine a different city, we’ll have the power to transform it.” – Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona.

On 24 May 2015, the citizen platform Barcelona en Comú was elected as the minority government of the city of Barcelona. Along with a number of other cities across Spain, this election was the result of a wave of progressive municipal politics across the country, offering an alternative to neoliberalism and corruption.

With Ada Colau — a housing rights activist — catapulted into the position of mayor, and with a wave of citizens with no previous experience of formal politics finding themselves in charge of their city, BComú is an experiment in progressive change that we can’t afford to ignore.

After 20 months in charge of the city, we try to draw some of the main lessons that can help inspire and inform a radical new municipal politics that moves us beyond borders and nations — and towards a post-capitalist world based on dignity, respect, and justice.

1) The best way to oppose nationalist anti-immigrant sentiment is to confront the real reasons life is shit.

There is no question that life is getting harder, more precarious, more stressful, and less certain for the majority of people.

In the U.S. and across Europe, racist reactionaries and nationalist politicians are blaming this on two things — immigrants and “outside forces” that challenge national sovereignty. While Trump and Brexit are the most obvious cases, we can see the same phenomenon across Europe, in the rise of far-right parties like Alternative für Deutschland in Germany and the Front National in France.

In Barcelona, there is a relative absence of public discourse that blames the social crisis on immigrants, and most attempts to do so have fallen flat. On the contrary, on February 18 of this year, over 160,000 people flooded the streets of Barcelona to demand that Spain take in more refugees. While this demonstration was also caught up with complexities of Catalan nationalism and controversy over police repression of migrant street vendors, it highlighted the support for a politics that cares for migrants and refugees.

The main reason for this is simple: There is a widespread and successful politics that provides real explanations of why people are suffering, and that fights for real solutions.

The reason you can’t afford your rent is because of predatory tourism, unscrupulous landlords, a lack of social housing, and property being purchased as overseas investments. The reason social services are being cut is because the central government transferred huge amounts of public funds into the private banks, propping up a financial elite, and because of a political system riddled with corruption.

While Barcelona played a leading role in initiating a network of “cities of refuge,” simply condemning anti-immigrant nationalism isn’t enough. In a climate where popular municipal movements are providing a strong narrative as to what they see as the problem — and identifying what they’re going to do about it — it’s incredibly difficult for racist and nationalist narratives based on lies and hatred to take root.

2) Politics doesn’t have to be the preserve of rich old white men.

Ada Colau is the first female mayor of Barcelona. She is a co-founder of BComú, and was formerly the spokesperson of the Mortgage Victims Platform, a grassroots campaign challenging evictions and Spain’s unjust property laws. Colau leads a group of 11 district council members, seven of whom are women, whose average age is 40.

BComú’s vision of a “feminized politics” represents a significant break with the existing political order. “You can be in politics without being a strong, arrogant male, who’s ultra-confident, who knows the answer to everything,” Colau explains. Instead, she offers a political style that openly expresses doubts and contradictions. This is backed by a values-based politics that emphasizes the role of community and the common good — as well as policies designed to build on that vision.

The Barcelona City Council’s new Department of Life Cycles, Feminisms, and LGBTI is the institutional expression of these values. It has significantly increased the budget for campaigns against sexist violence, as well as leading a council working group that looks to identify and tackle the feminization of poverty.

The changing face of the city council is reinforced by BComú’s strict ethics policy, Governing by Obeying, which includes a €2,200 monthly limit on payments to its elected officials. Colau takes home less than a quarter of the amount claimed by her predecessor Xavier Trias. By February 2017, €216,000 in unclaimed salaries had been paid into a new fund that will support social projects in the city.

3) A politics that works begins by listening.

BComú started life with an extensive process of listening, responding to ordinary peoples’ concerns, and crowd-sourcing ideas — as summarized in its guide to building a citizen municipal platform.

Drawing on proposals gathered at meetings in public squares across the city, BComú created a program reflecting immediate issues in local neighborhoods, city-wide problems, and broader discontent with the political system. Local meetings were complemented by technical and policy committees, and an extensive process of online consultation.

This process resulted in a political platform that stressed the need to tackle the “social emergency” — problems such as home evictions on a huge scale, or the effect of uncontrolled mass tourism. These priorities came from listening to citizens across the city rather than an echo chamber of business and political elites. BComú’s election results reflected this broader appeal: It won its highest share of the vote in Barcelona’s poorest neighborhoods, in part through increasing turnout in those areas.

On entering government, BComú then began to implement an Emergency Plan that included measures to halt evictions, hand out fines to banks leaving multiple properties empty, and subsidize energy and transport costs for the unemployed and those earning under the minimum wage.

4) A politics that works never stops listening.

Politics doesn’t happen every four years — it is the everyday process of shaping the conditions in which we live our lives. This means that one of the central tasks of a politics that works is to forge a new relationship between citizens and the institutions that we use to govern our societies.

For BComú, the everyday basis of politics means citizens and civil society organizations directly shaping the strategic plan of their city. It means not just consultation, but active empowerment in helping move citizens from being “recipients” of a politics that is done to them, to active political agents that shape the everyday life of their city.

In the first months of occupying the institutions, BComú introduced an open-source platform, Decidim Barcelona, for citizens to co-create the municipal action plan for the city. Over 10,000 proposals were registered by the site’s 25,000 registered users. While that’s a small share of the city’s population, the online process was complemented by over 400 in-person meetings.

The Decidim platform is now being adapted to run participatory budgetary pilot-schemes in two districts, as well as being used in the ongoing development of new infrastructure, pedestrian-friendly spaces, and transport schemes. Meanwhile, the municipal Department of Participation is undertaking a systematic rethinking of the meaning of participation, looking to move away from meaningless “consultations” and towards methods for active empowerment.

This is an imperfect process, and BComú have gotten things wrong at times — such as the failure to properly engage when introducing a SuperBlock in the Poblenou district — but the principle is simple. To govern well, you must create new processes for obeying citizens’ demands.

At the same time, the structures that built BComú remain in place, with 15 neighborhood groups and 15 thematic working groups providing an ongoing link between activists and institutions. No structure is perfect, and it remains unclear if these working groups can help BComú avoid institutionalization and remain connected to social movements, but the hope is that this model provides a basis for remaining in touch with grassroots concerns.

5)Politics doesn’t begin with the party.

BComú isn’t a local arm of a bigger political party, nor does it exist merely as a branch of a broader strategy to control the central political institutions of the nation-state. Rather, BComú is one in a series of independent citizen platforms that have looked to occupy municipal institutions in an effort to bring about progressive social change.

From A Coruña to Valencia, Madrid and Zaragoza, these municipal movements are the direct efforts of citizens rejecting the old mode of doing politics, and starting to effect change where they live. Instead of a national party structure, they coordinate through a network of rebel cities across Spain. Most immediately, this means coordinating press releases and actively learning from how one another engage with urban problems.

That doesn’t mean that BComú can reject political parties entirely. While the initiative arose from social movements, it ended up incorporating several existing political parties in its platform. These include Podemos — another child of Spain’s Occupy-style indignados movement — and the Catalan Greens-United Left party, which had consistently been a junior coalition partner in city councils headed by the center-left Socialist Party of Catalonia from 1979 until 2011.

These parties continue alongside BComú, with their own completely separate organizational and funding structures. But entering BComú has forced existing parties to significantly change how they operate. Coalition negotiations encouraged the selection of new council members (only two of the elected candidates have previously held office), and they are subject to a tough ethics code that considerably increases their accountability.

The fluid relationship between the new coalitions and political parties allows for multiple levels of coordination, without having to pass through a rigid central leadership. It may also be replicated in regional government, where the recently formed Un Pais En Comú seeks to replicate the city government coalition across Catalonia.

On a terrain that contains a different set of politics — not least a strong national-separatist sentiment — it remains to be seen whether this latest initiative will be successful.

6) Power is the capacity to act.

BComú doesn’t subscribe to traditional notions of power, whereby if you hold public office, you somehow “have” power. On the contrary, power is the capacity to bring about change, and the “occupation of the institutions” is only one part of what makes change possible.

BComú emerged after almost a decade of major street-protests, anti-eviction campaigns, squatting movements, anti-corruption campaigns, and youth movements — the most visible form being the indignados protests that began in 2011. After years of being at a high level of mobilization, many within these movements made a strategic wager: We’ve learned how to occupy the squares, but what happens if we try to occupy the institutions?

Frustrated by the limits of what could be achieved by being mobilized only outside of institutions, the decision to form BComú was to try to occupy the institutions as part of the same movement that occupied the squares. In practice, this isn’t so simple.

Politics is a messy game, full of compromises forced by working in a world of contradictions.

In the most practical sense, BComú may be leading the council, but it holds only 11 of the 41 available seats. Six other political parties are also represented on the council, mostly seeking to block, slow down, or weaken its initiatives. Frustrated by these moves — and overwhelmed by the demands of the institutions — BComú formed a governing coalition with the PSC, a move supported by around two-thirds of its registered supporters.

But it remains a minority government, and two left parties that refused a similar pact responded by stepping up their block on almost all legislative initiatives. The resulting political crisis delayed the passing of the city’s 2017 budget, which was eventually forced through on a confidence motion when BComú challenged the opposition to unite around another plan — which it failed to do.

While this experience has shown the resilience of BComú in the confrontational confines of the council chamber, the key lesson here is that occupying the institutions isn’t enough. An electoral strategy is not sufficient alone to create change.

The power to act comes from a combination of occupying both the institutions and the squares, of social movements organizing and exercising leverage, providing social force that can be coupled with the potential of the occupied institutions. The power to change comes when these work in tandem.

It’s been a bumpy ride, but BComú has been able to justify its budget on the grounds that it prioritizes social measures (such as building new nurseries, combatting energy poverty, and focusing resources on the poorest neighborhoods) with reference to the extensive and ongoing process of participation that it has encouraged.

One of the biggest dangers in looking to build radical municipalist movements in other cities is to mistake electoral victory with real victory — to sit back and think that now we’ve got “our guys” in the institutions, so we can sit back and let change occur.

7) Transnational politics begins in your city.

In a time where reactionary political movements are building walls and retreating to national boundaries, BComú is illustrating that a new transnational political movement begins in our cities.

To this end, BComú has established an international committee tasked with promoting and sharing its experiences abroad, while learning from other rebel cities such as Naples and Messina. Barcelona has been active in international forums, promoting the “right to the city” at the recent UN Habitat III conference, and taking a leadership role in the Global Network of Cities, Local, and Regional Governments.

These moves look to bypass the national scale where possible, prefiguring post-national networks of urban solidarity and cooperation. Recent visits of the first deputy mayor to the Colombian cities of Medellin and Bogotá also suggest that links are being made on a supranational scale.

One of the most tangible outcomes of this level of supranational urban organizing was the strong role played by cities in the rejection of the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, or TTIP — a massive proposed trade pact between the U.S. and Europe. As hosts of a meeting entitled “Local Authorities and the New Generation of Free Trade Agreements” in April 2016, BComú led on the agreement of the Barcelona Declaration, with more than 40 cities committing to the rejection of TTIP. As of the time of writing, TTIP now looks dead in the water.

At this early stage, it remains unclear how this supranational network of radical municipalism may develop. Perhaps the most important step for BComú is to share their experience and support those in other cities that are looking to reclaim politics, helping to build citizens platforms across Europe and beyond.

But the idea of a post-national network of citizens also allows us to dare to dream — of shared resources, shared politics, and shared infrastructure — where it’s not where you were born but where you live that determines your right to live.

8) Essential services can be run in our common interest.

The clue to BComú’s strategy for essential services is hidden in its name: The plan is to run them in common.

At the end of 2016, and faced with a crisis in the funeral sector in which only two companies controlled the sector and charged prices almost twice the national average, the Barcelona council intervened to establish a municipal funeral company that is forecasted to reduce costs by 30 percent. Around the same time, the council voted in favor of the re-municipalization of water, paving the way for water to be taken out of the private sector at some point this year.

In February 2017, Barcelona amended the terms and conditions for electricity supply, preventing energy firms from cutting off supply to vulnerable people. The two major energy firms — Endesa and Gas Natural — protested this by not bidding for the €65-million municipal energy contracts, hoping this would force the council to overturn the policy.

Instead, a raft of small and medium size energy companies were happy to comply with the new directive to tackle energy poverty, and stand to be awarded the contracts if a court challenge from the large firms proves unsuccessful. BComú is also actively planning to introduce a municipal energy company within the next two years.

However, it’s important to recognize the major difference between the public and the common. As Michael Hardt argues, our choices are not limited to businesses controlled privately (private property) or by the state (public property). The third option is to hold things in common — where resources and services are controlled, produced, and distributed democratically and equitably according to peoples need.

A simple example of what this could look like was the proposal — which narrowly failed only due to voter turnout — for Berlin to establish an energy company that would put citizens on the board of the company.

This difference underpins the Barcelona experience. This isn’t a traditional socialist government that thinks it can run things better on behalf of the people. This is a movement that believes the people can run things better on their own behalf, combining citizen wisdom with expert knowledge to solve the everyday problems that people face.

Immigration And Public Safety

Starting from his first day as a candidate, President Donald Trump has made demonstrably false claims associating immigrants with criminality. As president, he has sought to justify restrictive immigration policies, such as increasing detentions and deportations and building a southern border wall, as public safety measures. 

He has also linked immigrants with crime through an Executive Order directing the Attorney General to establish a task force to assist in “developing strategies to reduce crime, including, in particular, illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime,” and by directing the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to assist and publicize victims of crimes committed by immigrants.

By surveying key research on immigration and crime, this report seeks to enable the public and policymakers to engage in a more meaningful policy debate rooted in facts. Immigrants’ impact on public safety is a well-examined field of study.

A rigorous body of research supports the following conclusions about the recent impact of immigrants in the United States:

  • Immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens.
  • Higher levels of immigration in recent decades may have contributed to the historic drop in crime rates
  • Police chiefs believe that intensifying immigration law enforcement undermines public safety.
  • Immigrants are under-represented in U.S. prisons.

Immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens

“Research dating back more than a century documents a pattern whereby the foreign-born are involved in crime at significantly lower rates than their peers,” note Bianca Bersani and Alex Piquero, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and a criminologist at the University of Texas, respectively.5) These scholars contribute to a vast body of research demonstrating that popular fears about immigration and crime have been unfounded.

Foreign-born individuals (“first-generation immigrants”) report lower rates of criminal offending than native-born citizens and they have less contact with the criminal justice system, as measured by arrest records. Indeed, two notable studies, highlighted in a report by the American Immigration Council, find:

  • Foreign-born individuals are less likely than native-born individuals to have engaged in violent or non-violent antisocial behaviors in their lifetimes, including harassment, assault, and acquiring multiple traffic violations, “despite being more likely to have lower levels of income, less education, and reside in urban areas.” The study’s authors add that these findings hold for immigrants from major world regions including Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Their analysis drew on survey data from a nationally representative sample of over 40,000 U.S. residents aged 18 years and older.
  • Foreign-born youth enrolled in U.S. middle and high schools in the mid-1990s had among the lowest delinquency rates when compared to their peers. These researchers focused on non-violent delinquent acts such as stealing, damaging property, or selling drugs. Their study drew on repeated surveys of over 20,000 adolescents conducted between 1994 through 2002.

When studies like these measure crime and related behavior based on self-reported accounts of behavior, they avoid biases caused by criminal justice enforcement decisions and policies. Importantly, Bersani and Piquero have shown that self-reported behavior can be reliably used to measure disparities in criminal behavior. Their comparison of self-reported crime data with official arrest records for 1,300 adolescents across seven years concluded that foreign-born individuals reported their arrests as accurately as their native-born counterparts. Therefore, “The finding that the foreign-born commit less crime than their U.S.-born peers is not a product of differences in reporting practices across these groups.”

In fact, the prevalence of foreign-born individuals among the Latino population helps to explain differences in violent crime rates between whites and Latinos. Harvard University sociologist Robert Sampson and colleagues have found that “the lower rate of violence among Mexican Americans compared with Whites was explained by a combination of married parents, living in a neighborhood with a high concentration of immigrants, and individual immigrant status.” Thus all else equal, ethnic/racial groups with a higher proportion of immigrants exhibit lower rates of crime.

Notably, integration into American society brings immigrants’ crime rates closer to the higher levels of native-born Americans, as shown in Figure 1. This occurs because the children of immigrants lose the cultural and social attributes that buffered their parents from criminal offending (as described in Part 2) and because some immigrant groups are constrained in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.


Figure 1 immigration

Source: Bersani B. E. (2014). An Examination of First and Second Generation Immigrant Offending Trajectories. Justice Quarterly (31)2, 315–343.

To what extent does the lower crime rate of foreign-born individuals hold for those who are undocumented immigrants? Major national datasets lack information on respondents’ immigration legal status, and this information has not been systematically collected by law enforcement agencies or state departments of corrections. But a few studies using other data sources to differentiate by legal status have supported the conclusion that immigrants—regardless of legal status—do not have higher crime rates than native-born citizens. For example:

  • A study comparing recidivism rates of individuals released from the Los Angeles County Jail in 2002 found no difference in the re-arrest rate of deportable and non-deportable immigrants.
  • A study of recently booked adult arrestees in Maricopa County, Arizona in 2007 and 2008, found that: “In general, illegal immigrants and legal immigrants reported about one-half the [drug] use when compared to U.S. citizens.”
  • An examination of 2010 Census data revealed that the groups who make up the bulk of the undocumented population—young, less-educated men born in Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala—have significantly lower incarceration rates than similarly situated native-born men.

In addition, as described in Part 2, the growth of the foreign-born population, including those who are undocumented, has coincided with a historic crime drop. Parts 2 and 3 show that communities that have implemented restrictive immigration policies have experienced little or no public safety benefit, while those which have embraced undocumented immigrants have sometimes outperformed the nationwide crime drop. Finally, as described in Part 4, data from federal courts—which reveal the legal status of sentenced immigrants—do not support a link between undocumented status and criminality.

Higher levels of immigration may have contributed to the historic drop in crime rates

The influx of immigrants in recent decades has coincided with a significant decline in reported crime rates, which may have been influenced by the growing immigrant population. Research has demonstrated that communities with larger immigrant populations have outpaced the public safety gains of their peers.

As shown in Figure 2, in 1990 the reported violent crime rate was 730 offenses per 100,000 residents. That same year the number of foreign-born individuals living in the United States was roughly 19.8 million (3.5 million of whom were undocumented). The violent crime rate began to fall in the mid-1990s and by 2014 it was half of its 1990 level, at 362 offenses per 100,000 residents. By that year, the foreign-born population had more than doubled, reaching 42.2 million people (including 11.1 million undocumented people).


Figure 2 immigration

Source: Brown, A. & Stepler, R. (2016). Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States. Pew Research Center, Hispanic Trends; FBI’s Crime in the United States series.


Figure 3 immigration

Source: Brown, A. & Stepler, R. (April, 2016). Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States. Pew Research Center, Hispanic Trends. Retrieved from statistical-portrait-of-the-foreign-born-population-in-the-united-states; U.S. Unauthorized Immigration Population Estimates. (November, 2016). Estimated Unauthorized Immigrant Population, by State, 2014. Pew Research Center, Hispanic Trends; United States Census Bureau. American Fact Finder.

Although not definitive in proving causation, these trends establish a critical fact about immigrants and public safety: crime rates have fallen to historic lows amidst the growth of the foreign-born population. As described next, studies examining the impact of immigrants on their adopted communities reveal that these communities have shared in and sometimes outpaced the nationwide crime drop.

Robert Adelman, a sociologist at the University at Buffalo, and his colleagues compared crime rates in 200 metropolitan areas with varying immigrant population sizes from 1970 to 2010. They found that cities with both large and small immigrant populations generally saw a decline in violent crime rates after 1990. Furthermore, the rate at which homicide declined was much greater in cities with larger immigrant populations than in cities with smaller immigrant populations. Property crimes also decreased faster in cities with larger immigrant populations than in cities with smaller immigrant populations. This result was echoed by Graham Ousey and Charis Kubrin, of the College of William and Mary and University of California-Irvine, respectively, in their review of homicide rates between 1980 and 2010 in 156 large cities. Similar findings led University of Alabama criminologist Lesley Williams Reid and colleagues to conclude “immigration does not increase crime rates, and some aspects of immigration lessen crime in metropolitan areas.”

Research has shown that crime rates have also decreased in “gateway” cities, which are the entry point cities to the United States and often the most densely immigrant-populated places. In addition, southwestern border states and cities were found to be safer than similarly sized non-border areas in 2010.

Even at the neighborhood level, communities with larger immigrant populations have lower crime rates. One study found that people living in Chicago neighborhoods in 2005 with at least 40% immigrants were 80% less likely to experience violence than people living in neighborhoods with no immigrants. In addition, immigration was generally found to not affect homicide rates of Latinos and to have mixed effects on the rate among African Americans, according to a study that looked at the relationship between immigration and homicide from 1985 to 1995 in Miami and San Diego, and from 1985 to 1994 in El Paso.

Researchers have suggested that immigrants help lower the crime rate in their communities because of their strong familial ties, their political participation, their orientation to the justice system, and their economic impact. Because foreign-born individuals disproportionately live in two-parent households, their families contribute to their community’s level of social cohesion and organization. By providing greater oversight in their communities, immigrant families and neighbors can improve public safety. Violent crime rates also decrease when immigrants see favorable political opportunities. As they gain political representation, immigrants become further encouraged to contribute to the civic life and collective organization in their neighborhoods. Furthermore, immigrant youth tend to be less cynical about the law and perceive greater social costs resulting from involvement in the justice system compared to the native-born population. Since criminal-justice contact may also jeopardize their immigration status, immigrants who willingly came to the United States for safety and better opportunities are more likely to be law-abiding than their U.S.-born counterparts.

Finally, the economic revitalization spurred by high immigration settlement in cities has also helped to reduce crime rates. As immigrants move into American communities, they increase economic activity and thus create jobs. This economic boost makes all residents less likely to engage in criminal activities.

Police Chiefs believe intensifying immigration law enforcement undermines public safety

Sanctuary cities—colloquially—are those jurisdictions that do not ask people about their citizenship status or do not detain undocumented individuals for federal immigration authorities beyond their release date. It is important to note there are multiple definitions of sanctuary cities because none are codified under federal law. Jurisdictions cannot impede Immigration and Customs Enforcement from gathering information on citizenship status on those that they have arrested, but some cities and local police have chosen to not fully enforce immigration laws. Some jurisdictions also choose not to detain those suspected of being undocumented following a 2014 federal court ruling that held immigration detainers were not sufficient reason to keep a person in local jail absent any other offense. According to President Trump, sanctuary cities “breed crime.” However, evidence refutes this claim, and major law enforcement groups and leaders have argued that intensifying immigration enforcement interferes with public safety goals.

Research on the impact of sanctuary city policies has shown that they do not have a negative impact on crime rates. Loren Collingwood, a political scientist at the University of California-Riverside, reviewed crime data for 55 jurisdictions before and after implementing such policies, and found no meaningful effect. Research published by the Center for American Progress found lower rates of crime in comparable jurisdictions that differ only on their sanctuary status.

Jurisdictions adopt sanctuary status in part to encourage undocumented immigrants to assist law enforcement investigations. Fear of the police (due to fear of deportation) would hamper such investigations. A poll of Latinos in Southwestern California, conducted by Lake Research Partners, supports that belief: 44% of Latinos surveyed said they would be less likely to report being a victim of a crime for fear the police would ask about their documented status. Oxford University sociologist David Kirk and his colleagues found that immigrants in New York City were much less likely to assist the police if they perceived the criminal justice system as being unfair to people like themselves.

Police groups and leaders defend sanctuary city practices for reasons that echo these research findings. To reduce crime, police in cities as different as Tulsa and Los Angeles have said they would rather work with immigrants instead of taking steps to deport them, including asking about citizenship status. That position has been endorsed by the Major Cities Chiefs Association and is also supported by a briefing memo from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Law enforcement leaders have explained that engaging police in immigration enforcement work would deter crime reporting and cooperation. Rejecting President Trump’s criticism of sanctuary cities, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans has stated, “We need to build trust with the immigrant community.” He added: “The last thing we want is for people to be afraid of us … They won’t report crimes, or help us in their communities if they [are] afraid of us.”

Research revealing that aggressive immigration enforcement produces limited public safety benefit further supports the resistance of law enforcement leaders to intensified immigration law enforcement. Deportations and other tactics like the 287(g) policy (which allow local jurisdictions to enforce federal immigration statutes) have been used on immigrant communities to combat crime, but research shows that for the most part these methods were not effective in controlling crime. Northeastern University sociologist Jacob Stowell and colleagues’ analysis found that immigrant deportations did not reduce overall violent crime rates in metropolitan areas between 1994-2004, when controlling for other factors. The authors did find important regional variation: deportations lowered aggravated assault rates in border areas while increasing them in non-border areas. This suggested, they noted, that “the forced removal of individuals in non-border areas fractures the more delicate (i.e., less well established) information and resource networks, thereby undermining informal mechanisms of social control.”

Likewise, a study measuring the impact of the aggressive and well publicized 287(g) policy in Virginia’s Prince William County—which required police to check the immigration status of detainees whom they suspected to be undocumented in addition to screening jail inmates—revealed that the policy’s announcement led to a drop in aggravated assault rates, but not other types of crimes. As the authors note, it is unclear how much this outcome was attributable to changes in reporting.

Immigrants are Under-Represented in U.S. Prisons

Non-citizens currently make up six percent of the U.S. prison population while comprising seven percent of the total U.S. population. Non-citizens are therefore slightly underrepresented in U.S. prisons. Some immigration opponents have presented a partial picture of the federal prison system to suggest the opposite. As this section illustrates, non-citizens are increasingly over-represented in federal sentencing and incarceration due to a rise in prison sentences for immigration offenses.

Among the 1.5 million people imprisoned in state and federal prisons, 87% are held in state institutions. Within state prisons, four percent are non-citizens. Within federal prisons, however, 22% are non-citizens. According to the Bureau of Prisons, immigration law violations were the most serious offense for one-third of non-citizens serving federal prison sentences. As explained next through an examination of federal sentences, the increased use of imprisonment for immigration law violations is a major driver of the over-representation of non-citizens receiving federal sentences.


Figure 4 immigration

Note: State numbers are from December 2015 and federal numbers are from December 2016. States that did not not report citizenship data (Alaska, California, Nevada, and Oregon) are omitted.
Source: Carson, E. A. & Anderson, E. (2016). Prisoners in 2015. United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics; Federal Bureau of Prisons. (2017). Inmate Citizenship.

In the most recent years for which data are available, state courts imposed 1,132,290 felony sentences (in 2005) and federal courts imposed 71,003 sentences (in 2015). In 2015, 29% of federal sentences were for immigration offenses. It is important to note that the total number of federal immigration sentences has doubled between 2000 and 2015, increasing from 11,403 to 20,757, during a period in which sentences for other crimes increased by just seven percent. In its analysis of federal criminal cases in 2015, the Unites States Sentencing Commission noted that 82% of immigration cases involved “unlawful reentry into the United States or unlawfully remaining in the United States without authority” and another 12% involved transporting undocumented people across the border.

While non-U.S. citizens received a substantial share (42%) of all federal sentences in 2015, most of these sentences (66%) were for immigration law violations. Congressional proposals endorsed by the Trump administration would further increase penalties and create mandatory minimum sentences for illegal re-entry into the United States. If passed, the new sentences would significantly increase the number of non-citizens serving prison sentences for immigration offenses.


Figure 5 Immigration

Note: Violent offenses were defined based on the United States Sentencing Commission’s Supplement to the 2015 Manual Guide: murder, manslaughter, assault, kidnapping/hostage taking, sex offense, robbery, arson, racketeering/extortion, and firearm offenses. Source: United States Sentencing Commission. 2015 Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics. Table 9: Citizenship of Offenders in Each Primary Offense Category.

After immigration law violations, drug convictions were the next largest category of federal offenses of which non-citizens were sentenced (24%). In contrast, drug offenses accounted for 38% of federal sentences for U.S. citizens.

Undocumented immigrants who receive federal criminal sentences are even more likely to be convicted of an immigration law violation as their most serious offense. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of the 25,670 undocumented immigrants sentenced in federal criminal courts in 2015 were convicted of an immigration offense. In addition, in that year:

  • Twenty percent of undocumented immigrants who received federal sentences were convicted of drug offenses (5,218 sentences). As noted above, drug offenses accounted for 38% of federal sentences for U.S. citizens.
  • Six undocumented immigrants received federal sentences for murder and manslaughter. This comprised .02% of federal sentences for this group (in contrast to .3% for U.S. citizens). Seen another way, undocumented individuals accounted for 4% of the 143 federal sentences for these offenses. U.S. citizens, in contrast, received 88% of these sentences (126 sentences).

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster has reflected on these outcomes based on his first-hand experience serving as a visiting judge in New Mexico. He noted that of the 200 undocumented immigrants he sentenced, none were convicted of murder, rape, or terrorism. He added: “These are just people who want to be with their family or support their family.”


Before and after his election, Donald Trump has raised concerns about increasing crime and immigration in the United States. Indeed, he has signed an executive order and made regular statements alleging that curbs to unauthorized immigration and dismantling sanctuary cities would reduce U.S. crime rates. The evidence presented here concludes otherwise.

A century of research has shown immigrants do not threaten public safety and, in fact, are less likely to commit crime than native-born citizens. False statements about immigrant criminality contribute to unfounded public fears that threaten the safety of immigrants and U.S. citizens. Improving public safety is a complicated question that cannot be addressed by scapegoating foreign-born residents but rather by investing in effective community-based solutions that address the true causes of crime.

The full report with citations can be found here.

Truth Seeking, Democracy, And Freedom Of Thought And Expression

The pursuit of knowledge and the maintenance of a free and democratic society require the cultivation and practice of the virtues of intellectual humility, openness of mind, and, above all, love of truth. These virtues will manifest themselves and be strengthened by one’s willingness to listen attentively and respectfully to intelligent people who challenge one’s beliefs and who represent causes one disagrees with and points of view one does not share.

That’s why all of us should seek respectfully to engage with people who challenge our views. And we should oppose efforts to silence those with whom we disagree—especially on college and university campuses. As John Stuart Mill taught, a recognition of the possibility that we may be in error is a good reason to listen to and honestly consider—and not merely to tolerate grudgingly—points of view that we do not share, and even perspectives that we find shocking or scandalous. What’s more, as Mill noted, even if one happens to be right about this or that disputed matter, seriously and respectfully engaging people who disagree will deepen one’s understanding of the truth and sharpen one’s ability to defend it.

None of us is infallible. Whether you are a person of the left, the right, or the center, there are reasonable people of goodwill who do not share your fundamental convictions. This does not mean that all opinions are equally valid or that all speakers are equally worth listening to. It certainly does not mean that there is no truth to be discovered. Nor does it mean that you are necessarily wrong. But they are not necessarily wrong either. So someone who has not fallen into the idolatry of worshiping his or her own opinions and loving them above truth itself will want to listen to people who see things differently in order to learn what considerations—evidence, reasons, arguments—led them to a place different from where one happens, at least for now, to find oneself.

All of us should be willing—even eager—to engage with anyone who is prepared to do business in the currency of truth-seeking discourse by offering reasons, marshaling evidence, and making arguments. The more important the subject under discussion, the more willing we should be to listen and engage—especially if the person with whom we are in conversation will challenge our deeply held—even our most cherished and identity-forming—beliefs.

It is all-too-common these days for people to try to immunize from criticism opinions that happen to be dominant in their particular communities. Sometimes this is done by questioning the motives and thus stigmatizing those who dissent from prevailing opinions; or by disrupting their presentations; or by demanding that they be excluded from campus or, if they have already been invited, disinvited. Sometimes students and faculty members turn their backs on speakers whose opinions they don’t like or simply walk out and refuse to listen to those whose convictions offend their values. Of course, the right to peacefully protest, including on campuses, is sacrosanct. But before exercising that right, each of us should ask: Might it not be better to listen respectfully and try to learn from a speaker with whom I disagree? Might it better serve the cause of truth-seeking to engage the speaker in frank civil discussion?

Our willingness to listen to and respectfully engage those with whom we disagree (especially about matters of profound importance) contributes vitally to the maintenance of a milieu in which people feel free to speak their minds, consider unpopular positions, and explore lines of argument that may undercut established ways of thinking. Such an ethos protects us against dogmatism and groupthink, both of which are toxic to the health of academic communities and to the functioning of democracies.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.

Cornel West is Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy in the Divinity School and the Department of African and African- American Studies at Harvard University.

The Ethics And Practicalities Of Foreign Aid

Recently, the Trump administration proposed a budget for the upcoming year. That budget included “plans of the Trump administration to slash US foreign aid.” Sanders Institute Fellow Prof. Jeffery Sachs objects to this part of the budget and wrote a compelling argument for the need for foreign aid. Below are excerpts from his argument: 

“Instead of cutting aid to fund a $54 billion increase in military spending, we should be slashing $54 billion (or more) in defense to increase aid for health, education, renewable energy, and infrastructure, as well as urgently needed spending at home.”

“My own support for foreign assistance is based on morality. “Justice, justice shall you pursue,” we are told in the book of Deuteronomy. Those who fail to help the poor cast themselves outside of the moral community. “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me,” warns Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.

Charity (zakat) is a bedrock of Islam. Compassion is the very core of Buddhism. Indeed, for all systems of morals, both religious and secular, treating others as we would be treated is the very essence of morality. If my own children were hungry, without medicine, or without schooling, I would desperately want them to be helped. Our responsibility is equally clear. Moreover, I believe, along with the teachings of the ancient prophets, that a nation built on iniquity cannot long survive. It will come apart at the seams, as America may be doing today.

I also know, as a development practitioner now for 32 years, that foreign aid works — when we put in the honest effort and thinking to make it work. I am not talking about the kind of US aid that is handed over to warlords, as in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’d cut out that aid in a moment. I’m not talking about aid that is handed out by the US military. I do not believe in the Pentagon and the CIA’s campaigns for “hearts and minds,” designed by people whose real training lies not in providing public health, but in killing. And I’m not talking about the aid delivered largely by American expatriates in somebody else’s country. Almost all local service delivery should be carried out by locals except in exceptional circumstances (e.g., in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters when all hands are needed).

Aid works when its main purpose is to finance supplies such as medicines and solar panels, and the staffing by local workers in public health, agronomy, hydrology, ecology, energy, and transport. US government aid should be pooled with finances from other governments to support critical investments in health, education, agriculture, and infrastructure, based on professional best practices. That’s how the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria works, as one important example. It’s a model of success.

This kind of aid is not “the White Man’s Burden,” as has been alleged. The responsibility to help the poor is carried by no race for any other race. This is not about whites helping blacks, or about greens helping blues for that matter. It is about the rich doing what they should for the poor. “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required,” says Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. Or as John F. Kennedy put it, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

Nor is good aid about “the poor in the rich countries helping the rich in the poor countries,” as foes of aid have quipped. When aid funds are directed towards the basics — safe childbirth; immunizations; control of diarrheal diseases, malaria, and HIV/AIDS; irrigation for smallholder farmers; information and communications technologies for e-governance, e-finance, e-education, and e-health; ensuring access to schooling; protecting biodiversity; and restoring degraded lands, the beneficiaries will be the poor. And as long as America maintains fairness in the US tax system, the rich will be bearing their fair share. It is true that a politically viable aid program goes hand in hand with a fair tax system.

There is a lot of negative propaganda about foreign aid since foreign aid is an easy target. There are very few knowledgeable people around to defend it, and the recipients kept alive by it don’t vote in US elections. We certainly hear an earful: Aid is wasted; aid is a huge budgetary burden; aid demeans the recipients; aid is no longer needed in the 21st century. Aid, in short, does not work.

The simple fact is that some aid is wasted and other aid is used brilliantly. The main issue is whether the aid directly supports the work of local professionals saving lives, growing food, installing rural electricity, and teaching children, or whether the aid goes instead to foreign warlords or overpriced American companies. Our responsibility is to fund the aid that works, and when aid has been demonstrated to work, as in public health and education, to expand the assistance as it’s needed by the poorest of the poor.

Aid is a tiny part of our budget, around 1 percent of the Federal Budget, and less than one-fifth of one percent of national income. It is 25 times smaller than the outlays on the military (adding together the Pentagon, intelligence agencies, nuclear weapons programs, veterans’ outlays, and other military-linked spending). And as Trump himself has acknowledged, military spending has squandered many trillions of dollars in Middle East wars that have only exacerbated global threats and US insecurity.

Aid is not demeaning. Aid enables HIV-infected mothers to stay alive and raise their children. Demeaning? Aid enables a child in an impoverished country to escape death or permanent brain damage from malaria, a 100 percent treatable disease. Demeaning? Aid enables a poor child to go to a school fitted with computers, solar power, and wireless connectivity.

Aid is definitely needed still, albeit by a smaller and smaller share of the world. In the 1940s, aid was vital for Europe; hence the Marshall Plan. By the 1950s, Europe had “graduated” from aid; the focus was on Latin America and parts of Asia. Most of those countries too have long since graduated. Aid today should focus on the countries that are still poor — roughly the 1 billion or so people in the low-income countries and the poorest of the middle-income countries. By 2030, with open-world markets, improved technologies, and a boost from adequate aid flows for health, education, agriculture, and infrastructure, these remaining countries too could graduate from aid by around 2030.

Another myth is that the United States carries the aid burden while other governments shirk their responsibility. This is plain wrong. The United States spends less as a share of our income than other countries spend as a share of their income. US aid is now just 0.17 percent of US Gross National Income (GNI), roughly $32 billion in aid out of a GNI of $18 trillion. The average aid spending by other donor governments is more than twice the US share, around 0.38 percent.

The best aid giver among our last three presidents was George W. Bush, who created successful US-led efforts to fight AIDS and malaria and thereby saved millions of lives. By contrast, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama did very little during their presidencies. Obama’s main contribution was to continue Bush’s programs but without funding the rising needs.

The moral justification of aid, as powerful and adequate as it is, is matched by an equally important case of self-interest. Aid is a matter of US national security and economic interest.

Regarding the links of aid and national security, there is no need to listen to a moralizing economist. Listen directly to the generals. More than 120 retired generals and admirals recently wrote to the congressional leaders of both parties to defend aid as a critical bulwark of national security:

“The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps, and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way. As Secretary James Mattis said while commander of US Central Command, ‘If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.’ The military will lead the fight against terrorism on the battlefield, but it needs strong civilian partners in the battle against the drivers of extremism — lack of opportunity, insecurity, injustice, and hopelessness.”

“[Under this proposal] the United States would be slashing its own aid precisely when China is ramping up its aid. China is signing and financing major development projects across Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, Western Asia, and Africa. China may already be the world’s largest aid giver. Trump’s plans would accelerate the transition to China’s preeminence. Who will find diplomatic support in the next global crisis, China or the United States? And whose companies will win the next round of major infrastructure projects? Both the United States and China can and should do their part.

We must ultimately acknowledge another more radical, and more accurate, perspective: that this is not aid at all, but justice. There are two senses in which “aid” is absolutely the wrong word when it comes to helping the world’s poor.

The first returns us to morality. In his wonderful encyclical “Populorum Progressio” (1967), Pope Paul VI noted this of giving to the poor: “As St. Ambrose put it: ‘You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.’”

Yet this question of “appropriating things . . . for the common use” is appropriate in a dramatically literal sense as well. The rich countries, including our own, have long robbed and despoiled the planet for our narrow economic gain. Britain, the United States, and other powers have made a career of stealing the oil, gas, and minerals out from under the sands of other nations. Our countries transported millions of African slaves to work the plantations stolen from indigenous populations. Our multinational companies have routinely bribed foreign leaders for land and oil reserves. Our government has launched dozens of coups and wars to secure oil, gas, copper, banana and sugar plantations, and other valuable resources. Our fishing fleets have illegally and recklessly scoured the seas, including the protected economic zones of the poorest countries. And our reckless emissions of greenhouse gases are directly responsible for droughts, floods, and extreme storms around the world, with a president and oil industry too evil even to acknowledge the basic scientific truths.

There is a real question: Who has aided whom over the past centuries? And can we live in morality and peace?”

The Truth About American Wages

My grandmother used to say, “You can put truth in the river five days after a lie; truth is gone catch up.”

Well, here’s the truth: The working men and women of this country are working more jobs and more hours, and they’re still barely hanging on. Beneath those fingertips, they can feel that middle-class dream – the American dream – slipping right away from them. It’s time for President Trump to do something about it.

I come from Ohio. It’s where I was born, and it’s where my roots run deep. We are humble, proud and hard-working people who’ve been battered by the twin storms of globalization and greed.

This past weekend, I was in another state full of humble, proud, and hard-working people; I marched with workers from the Nissan plant in Canton, Miss.For decades, manufacturing provided millions of Ohioans and Mississippians a solid roadway to the middle class. A family breadwinner could work full time and earn enough money to buy a home, put the kids through college, and enjoy a secure retirement.

But today, 600,000 American manufacturing workers make less than $9.60 per hour – barely more than they could earn at a fast food joint. And their real wages dropped nearly 4.5 percent from 2003 to 2013. They are barely hanging on.

We marched in Canton because Nissan isn’t giving its workers the dignity and respect they earn every single day along that assembly line. They are furloughed for the equivalent of months throughout the year, killing plans for homeownership. They don’t have a predictable schedule, putting college tuition for their kids out of reach. They’ve even had their pensions frozen, making dreams of retirement seem more like a cruel joke than an attainable goal.

And that’s just the full-time workers. Nissan uses a temp company, Kelly Services, to fill almost half the jobs at the plant. Temp workers there receive $12 an hour plus the promise that after a certain time, they’ll become full Nissan employees. But many of them languish for years.

To make matters worse, this poverty-wage business model is paid for by our tax dollars. In fact, Nissan and Kelly Services have scooped up more than $3 billion in federal contracts and loans. That means our government is helping keep American factory workers in poverty jobs while corporate executives get to pocket billions in profits.

This isn’t just happening in Canton. Right now, the U.S. government is America’s No. 1 low-wage job creator, funding more than 2 million poverty jobs across the country through contracts, loans and grants with private corporations. That’s more than McDonald’s and Wal-Mart combined. And when federal contractors like Nissan and Kelly Services illegally violate the rights of their workers to organize, they’re passing poverty from generation to generation.

So you can understand why Ohioans and Mississippians sat up and listened when Donald Trump promised that he would bring manufacturing back; that he would create more jobs and better wages. Everyday Americans took him at his word. And now it’s time to hold him accountable.

It’s time for President Trump to guarantee that the only companies doing business with the federal government are the ones that pay living wages, provide safe work environments and benefits, and don’t fight their workers when they want to form a union.

We know that he can do this, because he’s done it before. Workers at the Trump International Hotel – a federally owned property – were allowed to form a union shortly after President Trump was elected. It’s time to demand that other federal contractors do the same thing.

Grandma was right. The truth always does catch up. And the truth of the matter is this: President Trump made us a promise.

It’s a promise that we all need to ensure that he keeps – for our workers, for our families and for the future we all share.

Persistence Puts Nina Turner On Path To Education And Politics

After graduating from John F. Kennedy High School in Cleveland, Ohio, Nina Turner took a number of minimum-wage jobs, as did many young people in her neighborhood. The oldest of seven children, Turner was more interested in helping her single mother pay the bills than in advancing her education.

But, it was one nudge from her mother that changed everything: “You’re so smart. You need to go to college,” she recalls her mother’s words in a recent interview with Diverse.

Turner enrolled in Cuyahoga Community College, although she initially felt overwhelmed and dropped out. Later, remembering her mother’s encouragement, Turner re-enrolled with guidance from one of the school’s counselors.

From that point on, she soared, making the dean’s list, editing the school paper, getting involved in student issues, and, within a few years, Turner had earned her associate degree plus bachelor’s and master’s degrees from nearby Cleveland State University.

The challenges that Turner faced along the way would have halted a less-determined person. Her mother died unexpectedly at age 42, leaving Turner, who was then a 22-year-old sophomore at Cuyahoga Community College, and her police officer husband Jeffery, the task of caring for her six siblings and their own child, Jeffery Jr.

“It was really tough, a huge obstacle for my family,” she recalls, “because my mother wasn’t sick; she died of an aneurism without a life insurance policy and with no money in the bank.”

She credits Tri-C — as Cuyahoga is known — as well as her husband’s strength and support with keeping her on track. “If it were not for that community college, I would not have a degree,” Turner says. “There were so many professors there [who] took me under their wing. That’s the real mission of community colleges.”

She singles out Dr. Dorothy Salem as a key figure in her life and the lives of numerous Tri-C students. “I remember walking into her classroom and stopping to look at my schedule. Then I looked at her and kept looking down at my schedule,” Turner remarks, noting that her African-American history professor was White.

As it turned out, Salem would have a significant impact on her career. “She actually changed my life and the lives of other students by teaching us how valuable the contributions of African-Americans were to the making of this country,” says Turner, whose personal hero is the late Black New York congresswoman and presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm, whose famous motto, Unbought and Unbossed, was the title of her autobiography.

So, too, Turner has stood up to party bosses and critics within the Democratic establishment for her unwavering dedication to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders after initially supporting Hillary Clinton for the nomination.

“What I have continued to admire about Nina is that she does what her conscience dictates,” Salem tells Diverse. “I didn’t know she would become a national figure, but I saw someone who had a great deal of potential and someone who would follow through on opportunities that were available.”

Turner says those opportunities — internships and fellowships made available through the college — combined with academics, led to her career in public service. Today Turner, a tenured assistant professor of history at Tri-C, became widely known as a fiery representative for Sanders’ presidential campaign and a board member of his progressive movement, Our Revolution. She is a frequent pundit on political news shows and a highly sought-after speaker at high schools and colleges throughout the nation.

Turner honed her political acumen with mentors from the top echelons of state and local government. Before serving as a state senator and minority whip, Turner worked as an aide to former Cleveland Mayor Michael White, and later as a member of his cabinet. She was later elected to the Cleveland City Council, undeterred after an unsuccessful first bid for the seat. Most recently, she ran as the Democratic candidate for Ohio Secretary of State in 2014.

As she rose to positions of influence in government, Turner was drawn to academia as a way to relate directly to young people, many of whom came from backgrounds similar to hers. Again, it was Salem who gave her a push. “It was in the late ’90s when I was working in the mayor’s office, and I received a phone call from her. She said, ‘You were born to teach and I cannot retire until you come here and teach.’”

Her courses at Cuyahoga include African-American history, African-American women’s history, American history, and urban studies. She now shares the history of freedom fighters such as Fannie Lou Hamer, Frederick Douglass and Rosa Parks and so many others, with students who may be having some of the same struggles she experienced as a young adult.

“When she went into politics, Nina promised me (she) would never forget where she came from, and she never has,” Salem recalls. “I’m very proud of her.”

After her grueling schedule of appearances in the 2016 presidential campaign, Turner says teaching and speaking to high school and college students is equally satisfying. However, media outlets in her state have her high on a list of future candidates. In December, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Sanders supporters had launched a group called “Turn Ohio Around” to draft Turner as a candidate for governor in 2018.

How Affordable Care Act Repeal And Replace Plans Might Shift Health Insurance Tax Credits

An important part of the repeal and replacement discussions around the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will involve the type and amount of subsidies that people get to help them afford health insurance.  This is particularly important for lower and moderate income individuals who do not have access to coverage at work and must purchase coverage directly.

The ACA provides three types of financial assistance to help people afford health coverage: Medicaid expansion for those with incomes below 138% of poverty (the Supreme Court later ruled this to be at state option); refundable premium tax credits for people with incomes from 100% to 400% of the poverty level who purchase coverage through federal or state marketplaces; cost-sharing subsidies for people with incomes from 100% to 250% of poverty to provide lower deductibles and copays when purchasing silver plans in a marketplace.

This analysis focuses on alternative ways to provide premium assistance for people purchasing individual market coverage, explaining how they work, providing examples of how they’re calculated, and presenting estimates of how assistance overall would change for current ACA marketplace enrollees.  Issues relating to changing Medicaid or methods of subsidizing cost-sharing will be addressed in other analyses.

Premium Tax Credits Under the ACA and Current Replacement Proposals

The ACA and leading replacement proposals rely on refundable tax credits to help individual market enrollees pay for premiums, although the credit amounts are set quite differently.  The House Leadership proposal released on March 6, the American Health Care Act, proposes refundable tax credits which vary with age (with a phase-out for high-income enrollees) and grow annually with inflation.  The tax credits under the ACA vary with family income and the cost of insurance where people live, as well as age, and grow annually if premiums increase.

These various tax credit approaches can have quite different implications for different groups of individual market purchasers.  For example, the tax credits under the ACA are higher for people with lower incomes than for people with higher incomes, and no credit is provided for individuals with incomes over 400% of poverty.  The current replacement proposal, in contrast, is flat for incomes up to $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a married couple, and so would provide relatively more assistance to people with upper-middle incomes.  Similarly, the ACA tax credits are relatively higher in areas with higher premiums (like many rural areas), while the replacement proposal credits do not vary by location.  If premiums grow more rapidly than inflation over time (which they generally have), the replacement proposal tax credits will grow more slowly than those provided under the ACA.

The next section describes the differing tax credit approaches in more detail and draws out some of the implications for different types of purchasers.

How the Different Tax Credits Are Calculated

The ACA provides tax credits for individuals with family incomes from 100% to 400% of poverty ($11,880 to $47,520 for a single individual in 2017) if they are not eligible for employer-provided or public coverage and if they purchase individual market coverage in the federal or a state marketplace.  The tax credit amounts are calculated based on the family income of eligible individuals and the cost of coverage in the area where the live. More specifically, the ACA tax credit for an eligible individual is the difference between a specified percentage of his or her income (Table 1) and the premium of the second-lowest-cost silver plan (referred to as the benchmark premium) available in the area in which they live.  There is no tax credit available if the benchmark premium is less than the specified percentage of premium (which can occur for younger purchasers with relatively higher incomes) or if family income falls outside of the 100% to 400% of poverty range.  For families, the premiums for family members are added together (including up to 3 children) and compared to specified income percentages. ACA tax credits are made available in advance, based on income information provided to the marketplace, and reconciled based on actual income when a person files income taxes the following.



Take, for example, a person age 40 with income of $30,000, which is 253% of poverty.  At this income, the person’s specified percentage of income is 8.28% in 2017, which means that the person receives a tax credit if he or she has to pay more than 8.28% of income (or $2,485 annually) for the second-lowest-cost silver premium where he or she lives.  If we assume a premium of $4,328 (the national average benchmark premium for a person age 40 in 2017), the person’s tax credit would be the difference between the benchmark premium and the specified percentage of income, or $4,328 – $2,485 = $1,843 (or $154 per month).


The American Health Care Act takes a simpler approach and specifies the actual dollar amounts for a new refundable tax credit that could be used to purchase individual market coverage.  The amounts vary only with age up until an income of $75,000 for a single individual, at which point they begin to phase out. Tax credits range from $2,000 for people under age 30, to $2,500 for people ages 30 to 39, $3,000 for people age 40 to 49, $3,500 for people age 50 to 59, and $4,000 for people age 60 and over starting in 2020. Eligibility for the tax credit phases out starting at income above $75,000 for single individuals (the credit is reduced, but not below zero, by 10 cents for every dollar of income above this threshold, reaching zero at an income of $95,000 for single individuals up to age 29 or $115,000 for individuals age 60 and older). For joint filers, credits begin to phase out at an income of $150,000 (the tax credit is reduced to zero at an income of $190,000 for couples up to age 29; it is reduced to zero at income $230,000 for couples age 60 or older; and it is reduced to zero at income of $290,000 for couples claiming the maximum family credit amount). People who sign up for public programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, public employee health benefit programs, would not be eligible for a tax credit. The proposal further limits eligibility for tax credits to people who do not have an offer available for employer-provided health benefits.

Table 2 shows how projected ACA tax credits in 2020 compare to what would be provided under the American Health Care Act for people at various incomes, ages, and geographic areas. To show the ACA amounts in 2020, we inflated all 2017 premiums based on projections for direct purchase spending per enrollee from the National Health Expenditure Accounts. This method applies the same premium growth across all ages and geographic locations.  Note that the table does not include cost-sharing assistance under the ACA that lowers deductibles and copayments for low-income marketplace enrollees. For example, in 2016, people making between 100 – 150% of poverty enrolled in a silver plan on received cost-sharing assistance worth $1,440; those with incomes between 150 – 200% of poverty received $1,068 on average; and those with incomes between 200 – 250% of poverty received $144 on average.



Under the ACA in 2020, we project that a typical 40-year-old making $20,000 per year would be eligible for $4,143 in premium tax credits (not including the additional cost-sharing subsidies to lower his or her deductibles and copayments), while under the American Health Care Act, this person would be eligible $3,000. For context, we project that the average ACA premium for a 40-year-old in 2020 would be $5,101 annually (meaning the tax credit in the ACA would cover 81% of the total premium) for a benchmark silver plan with comprehensive benefits and reduced cost-sharing. A $3,000 tax credit for this same individual under the American Health Care Act would represent 59% of the average 40-year-old benchmark silver premium under the ACA

Generally, the ACA has higher tax credit amounts than the replacement plan for lower-income people – especially for those who are older and live in higher-cost areas – and lower credits for those with higher incomes. Unlike the ACA, the replacement plan provides tax credits to people over 400% percent of the poverty level (phasing out around 900% of poverty for a single person), as well as to people current buying individual market coverage outside of the marketplaces (not included in this analysis).

While replacement plan tax credits vary by age – by a factor of 2 to 1 for older adults relative to younger ones – the variation is substantially less than under the ACA. The big differences in ACA tax credits at different ages is due to the fact that premiums for older adults can be three times the level of premiums for younger adults under the ACA, but all people at a given income level are expected to pay the same percentage of their income towards a benchmark plan. The tax credit fills in the difference, and this amount is much higher for older adults. These differences by age would be even further magnified under the American Health Care Act (which permits premiums to vary by a factor of 5 to 1 due to age). Before the ACA, premiums for older adults were typically four or five times the premiums charged to younger adults.



The tax credits in the ACA vary significantly with premium costs in an area (see Table 2 and Figure 2). At a given income level and age, people receive bigger tax credits in a higher premium area like Mobile, Alabama and smaller tax credits in a lower premium area like Reno, Nevada. Under the ACA in 2017, premiums in Mobile, Alabama and Reno, Nevada approximately represent the 75th and 25th percentile, respectively.

The disparities between the ACA tax credits and those in the American Health Care Act will therefore vary noticeably across the country.



The same general pattern can be seen for families as individuals, with lower-income families – and particularly lower-income families in higher-cost areas – receiving larger tax credits under the ACA, while middle-income families in lower-cost areas would receive larger tax credits under the American Health Care Act (Figure 3).



Figure 4 below shows how tax credits under the ACA differ from those in the American Health Care Act for a couple in their 60’s with no children. In this scenario, because premiums for older adults are higher and the ACA ties tax credits to the cost of premiums, a 60-year-old couple would receive larger tax credits under the ACA than the American Health Care Act at lower and middle incomes, but would receive a larger tax credit under the American Health Care Act at higher incomes.



Estimates of Tax Credits Under the ACA and the American Health Care Act Over Time

We estimated the average tax credits that current ACA marketplace enrollees are receiving under the ACA and what they would qualify for if the American Health Care Act were in place.



The average estimated tax credit received by ACA marketplace enrollees in 2017 is $3,617 on an annual basis, and that this amount will rise to $4,615 by 2020 based on projected growth rates from the Congressional Budget Office. This includes the 81% who receive premium subsidies as well as the 19% who do not.

We estimate – based on the age distribution of marketplace enrollees – that current enrollees would receive an average tax credit under the American Health Care Act of $2,957 in 2020, or 36% less than under the ACA (see Table 3 and Figure 3). While many people would receive lower tax credits under the Affordable Health Care Act, some would receive more assistance, notably the 19% of current marketplace enrollees who do not qualify for ACA subsidies.



While ACA tax credits grow as premiums increase over time, the tax credits in the American Health Care Act are indexed to inflation plus 1 percentage point. Based on CBO’s projections of ACA tax credit increases and inflation, the disparity between the average credits under the ACA and the two replacement plans would widen over time. The average tax credit current marketplace enrollees would receive under the American Health Care Act would be 41% lower than under the ACA in 2022 and 44% lower in 2027.


Like the ACA itself, the American Health Care Act includes refundable tax credits to help make premiums more affordable for people buying their own insurance. This might seem like an area where a replacement plan could preserve a key element of the ACA. However, the tax credits are, in fact, structured quite differently, with important implications for affordability and which groups may be winners or losers if the ACA is repealed and replaced.

For current marketplace enrollees, the American Health Care Act would provide substantially lower tax credits overall than the ACA on average. People who are lower income, older, or live in high premium areas would be particularly disadvantaged under the American Health Care Act. People with incomes over 400% of the poverty level – including those buying individual market insurance outside of the marketplaces – do not get any financial assistance under the ACA but many would receive tax credits under the replacement proposal.

The underlying details of health reform proposals, such as the size and structure of health insurance tax credits, matter crucially in determining who benefits and who is disadvantaged.