Month: March 2018

The Gun Control Debate: What Debate?

Too often, when you raise the issue of guns in this country, it sparks highly divisive rhetoric with both sides drawing lines in the sand and pointing their arrows at each other. Caught in the middle, we see the faces and hear the voices of children who’ve witnessed the slaughter of their friends and teachers and who are crying out for action. The question is, will we hear them? Will we care enough to do something about it?

Horrific tragedies like the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School just over one month ago is something that touches every one of us, regardless of political party or ideology. Sadly, it is something that could happen to any community, family, or school. This is why it’s so important that the humanity and aloha (respect and care) that unites us all must come to the forefront of our dialogue as we try to prevent these tragedies from ever occurring again.

On February 14th, 17 lives were lost in Parkland when a former classmate brought an AR-15 to school and opened fire on the students and teachers. He used a weapon that he had purchased legally – but he shouldn’t have been able to.

There have been more shootings since that day, and there will be more in the coming weeks and years if we don’t come together and find solutions. Survivors and allies across the country have gathered in a show of solidarity, calling for change – to do whatever possible to prevent more of these horrific tragedies from occurring and taking innocent lives. They have organized country-wide protests and walk-outs, and on March 24th thousands will march on Washington and at marches across the country. We are proud to stand with these courageous young people today and every day.

But Congress has yet to act.

The majority of people across this country believe that we need to pass common sense gun safety legislation. A Gallup poll found that two thirds (67%) of Americans feel that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict; A Quinnipiac University poll found that over six in ten Americans (63%) support stricter gun laws in the United States; And a CNN poll found that seven-in-ten Americans (69%) favor stricter gun control laws.

There are a number of legislative actions that have been proposed but have yet to see the light of day on the House floor. Passing this legislation would be a step in the right direction to protecting our kids and innocent people across this country:

Restrict Access to Assault Weapons

Semi-automatic weapons have been, by far, the most used weapon in mass shootings in recent history. They are used for a number of reasons: they are easy to acquire, and they are designed to kill a lot of people in a short amount of time. The shooter who killed 59 people in Las Vegas on October 1st last year used a semi-automatic gun modified with a bump stock, turning it into an automatic rifle. The 19-year-old shooter who killed 17 people at his former school on February 14th of this year used an AR-15, a semi-automatic weapon.

The fact assault weapons are so frequently used to kill enormous numbers of people in this country, and that bump stocks are not illegal, are issues that we must address. A Quinnipiac University poll found that six in ten Americans (61%) support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons, and an NPR-Ipsos poll found that 82% support banning bump stocks.

Restrict Access to High Capacity Ammunition Magazines

High-capacity ammunition magazines are frequently used by mass shooters in the United States. The Giffords Law Center explains that “shooters with such magazines can fire at large numbers of people without taking the time to reload, those in the line of fire do not have a chance to escape, law enforcement does not have the chance to intervene, and the number of lives shattered by senseless acts of gun violence increases dramatically.”

“Despite the public’s lack of trust in Congress, the American public has not given up hope that change can happen.”

A majority of Americans believe that access to these high-capacity ammunition magazines should be banned. A CNN poll found that over six-in-ten (63%) Americans favor a ban on the sale and possession of equipment known as high-capacity or extended ammunition magazines. A Quinnipiac University poll similarly found that over six in ten (63%) of Americans support a nationwide ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Increase Legal Age to Buy A Gun

In America, licensed firearm dealers are allowed to sell a gun to an 18-year old, before a bartender is legally allowed to sell that person an alcoholic drink or before they are able to rent a car. To make matters worse, unlicensed persons are legally allowed to sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer a long gun (rifles and shotguns) to a person of any age. This irony is not lost on Americans, causing a vast majority of respondents to believe that the legal age to buy a gun should be increased to 21. A CNN poll found that seven-in-ten (71%) Americans favor preventing people under the age of 21 from buying any type of gun, while a Quinnipiac University poll found that almost 8-in-10 (78%) of Americans support requiring individuals to be 21 years of age or older in order to purchase a gun.

Universal Background Checks

Currently, there is a gaping loophole in federal firearm laws regarding background checks.   While federal laws require licensed gun dealers to perform background checks, federal law does not require unlicensed sellers (like private sellers, and those who sell online and at gun shows) to run background checks. According to the Giffords Law Center, “A 2017 study estimated that 42% of US gun owners acquired their most recent firearm without a background check.” This allows people who might otherwise have been prevented from accessing a gun, to easily acquire one.

In addition, The Washington Post reported in 2017 that “The FBI’s background-check system is missing millions of records of criminal convictions, mental illness diagnoses and other flags that would keep guns out of potentially dangerous hands.” In addition to requiring universal background checks, we must make sure that the database is complete and those who should be flagged, are. For example, I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation to close a loophole that has allowed those who’ve been convicted of domestic violence charges to purchase firearms.

A Monmouth University poll found that over eight-in-ten (83%) Americans support requiring comprehensive background checks for all gun purchasers. A Quinnipiac University poll found that almost all Americans (97%) support requiring background checks for all gun buyers.

While a majority of Americans want the government to implement many of these common-sense gun safety measures, they don’t have much hope that Congress will take action.  Three quarters of Americans (75%) think that Congress needs to do more to reduce gun violence, while only 17% think Congress is doing enough. This disapproval is not relegated to one party. A majority of Americans disapprove of how both Republicans (70%) and Democrats (70%) are handling the issue of gun violence. Mass shootings including those at Sandy Hook, the Pulse nightclub, and the Las Vegas concert, each a devastating demonstration of inhumanity of gun violence, resulted in no significant legislation.

“This is not and should not be a partisan or divisive issue.”

The American people’s lack of faith in the ability of Congress to pass common-sense gun control measures is, unfortunately, founded in reality. Instead of discussing and passing many of these common-sense and favored ways to mitigate gun violence in America, some politicians are talking about arming teachers and bringing more guns into schools. This defies reason. On March 13th of this year, a teacher accidentally fired a gun in a classroom and injured a student, demonstrating the increased possibility of accidents throughout the country if this were made universal. For this and other reasons, almost six in ten (58%) Americans oppose allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns on school grounds.

Despite the public’s lack of trust in Congress, the American public has not given up hope that change can happen. 77% of Americans think that the students from Parkland, Florida, who are speaking out about the shooting at their high school and the issue of gun violence, will have an impact on gun safety reform in this country.

Here is the bottom line: Congress needs to act now, and pass legislation to help improve our gun safety laws. And law enforcement must enforce those laws. The shooter in Parkland was flagged by numerous people who had concerns about what was clearly a serious mental illness, and even made reports to the FBI.  The FBI failed to act, and no one has been held accountable. Local law enforcement failed to act quickly to take out the shooter when responding to the scene. Passing these laws is imperative, but such action is useless unless these laws are implemented and enforced.

This is not and should not be a partisan or divisive issue. People on all sides of this debate felt pain and sadness as our nation mourned the loss of those 17 lives in Parkland. The only way we can really solve the problems is by recognizing that we are all Americans, and we all want safe communities–a place where we can raise our families, where our children aren’t faced with the fear of a shooting when they go to school every day.  We must stop demonizing each other, and instead respect each other’s humanity, and work together to find common ground. It is up to each and every one of us to choose whether we will act in love and light or darkness and hate. By focusing on the love and care that we have for one another, we can bring about real change.

The Sanders Institute Talks: A National Job Guarantee

Guaranteed Jobs Through A Public Service Employment Program

Amid a recent upsurge in support for a national job guarantee program, L. Randall Wray, Stephanie A. Kelton, Pavlina R. Tcherneva, Scott Fullwiler, and Flavia Dantas outline a new proposal for a federally funded program with decentralized administration.

Their Public Service Employment (PSE) program would offer a job—paying a uniform living wage with a basic benefits package—to all who are ready and willing to work. In advance of an upcoming report detailing the economic impact of the PSE, this policy note presents an overview of the goals and structure of the program in the context of current labor market trends and the prospects of poverty reduction.

Speaking Truth To Power

A discussion on Institutional Provincialism with Dr. Cornel West and the MIT community. Dr. Cornel West is prominent and provocative democratic intellectual – he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton.

 

A Labor-Based Movement For Medicare For All

Healthcare is the crossroads where the assault on workers meets the juggernaut of “crony capitalism.” That’s the term used by the mainstream neo-classical and Nobel prize-winning economist Angus Deaton to describe the coziness between the healthcare industry and its government “regulators.” In fact, Deaton argues, how healthcare is financed and delivered is a driver of inequality. 

Registered Nurses see that inequity everyday in hospitals and clinics, where the standard of care patients receive depends on the quality (and cost) of the health plan they buy. Not only the benefits but access to treatments, prescription drugs, certain facilities, the latest technologies, all depend on what you can pay. And guess who has the money to buy the best: the wealthy. So for the first time, after the Great Recession two unprecedented trends occurred: the 1% increased their share of income spent on healthcare, and the average life expectancy people in the US declined.

“So for the first time, after the Great Recession two unprecedented trends occurred: the 1% increased their share of income spent on healthcare, and the average life expectancy of people living in the US declined.”

Historically, the labor movement has stepped into this breach of injustice and inequality. Yet in 2017, the union membership rate overall in the US was just 10.7%. In the private sector it was 6.5% and in the public sector it was 34.4%. Unions established the system of job-based health benefits after World War II, in part to provide better coverage to encourage new memberships, and now employers run it for the benefit of the insurance industry’s bottom line.

“Controlling” healthcare costs for businesses has meant a huge cost shift to workers. Rather than pay the annual double-digit insurance premium increases out of their profits – soon to go up under the tax bill – companies raise the workers’ share, increase deductibles and co-pays, and promote employee-funded health savings accounts. Though it expanded coverage for low-wage workers, the ACA also lessened the “union advantage” in health benefits, established new taxes on union plans and created incentives via an excise tax to lessen benefits.

“Historically, the labor movement has stepped into this breach of injustice and inequality. Yet today only 7% of all workers belong to a union.”

The decades of incremental erosion of health benefits, escalating costs, deferring wages in favor of funding benefits, and the thousands of strikes over just keeping the health plans workers have fought to win, has taken a huge toll on the quality of those plans and on attitude toward unions. In short, “unions have become the bearers of bad news,” unable to stem the tide of concessions. And the incremental progress – expansions of insurance for kids, limits on the worst abuses by HMO’s, expanded private coverage under Medicare for prescription drugs, the ACA itself – none has slowed the increasing costs or the decreasing numbers of employers providing benefits, or the decline in membership of unions.

A defensive posture and incremental demands have not worked. Let’s play offense instead. In the face of existential threats to unions’ ability to fund their operations, and the continuing assault on health benefits, let’s unite with the growing public demand for Medicare for All. We don’t need insurance, we need healthcare.  This is the strategy that can turn the tide:  building a broad movement of workers to demand economic and health justice. That’s not an alliance with insurers and employers to “fix” the system in order to stabilize the healthcare industry. Rather, based on the economic interests of workers, we need to make healthcare a public good. Only if it is not compromised by high premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, without narrow networks and “gatekeeping” that restrict access, can we guarantee healthcare as a human right. Parsing out healthcare through insurance based on ability to pay simply means we’ll only get the healthcare we can afford.

“A defensive posture and incremental demands have not worked. Let’s play offense instead.”

The labor movement exists to stop money from being the metric of value and power. Healthcare is exhibit A for money as the metric (see Elizabeth Rosenthal’s book, “American Sickness”). Unions derive power from members, engaged in fights to win a better life at work, home and in society. Medicare for All enjoys strong majority support among the general public, and overwhelming support among union members and Democrats (70-80% in recent polls). Medicare works and is popular. A movement led by labor, inspired like the Fight for 15 by a broad, popular demand for fairness and security, can build the solidarity we need. A movement positioned as the 99%, can assert that all workers are part of the labor movement.

Let’s understand this movement moment: the uprising in Wisconsin, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and now #MeToo have created social movements and a political/ideological context  that infused the Sanders campaign for President, and provides the well-spring for a broader health justice demand, linked to and reinforcing the demands for social and economic justice. Medicare for All can be the health wing of the broader justice movements.

“A movement led by labor, inspired like the Fight for 15 by a broad, popular demand for fairness and security, can build the solidarity we need.”

In the most personal area of public policy – whether we will get the healthcare we need – Registered Nurses, who are predominantly women, bring the values of caring, compassion and community to work and to their advocacy. Let that inspire others to join this movement for guaranteed healthcare based on our shared humanity. Promoting these values combined with organizing workers for health and economic security can overcome the deep pockets of the healthcare industry; it is only through mobilizing public opinion that people have overcome politically powerful economic forces.

In demanding guaranteed healthcare through Medicare for All, we are demanding a more just and humane society. Socio-economic status is the major factor in determining health status, and disparities based on race are rampant in healthcare access and outcomes. Here we see the confluence of addressing race-specific barriers to equality in healthcare and in society and the need for economic and health justice.  Addressing the causes of poverty, overcoming structural racism, establishing $15/hour as the minimum wage, building more affordable housing and winning guaranteed healthcare are necessarily linked – we cannot achieve them individually  in isolation.  A fighting labor movement – that encompasses the broadly defined working class – is in the best position to make those connections and organize on a multi-racial basis to win. Medicare for All not only motivates millions to organize for justice, but winning it would help win justice for all.

How I Plan To Address Police Violence In Black Communities

My son is only 5 years old and we’ve already had “the talk.” I can recall being a little older when my grandfather, a probation officer, had the same talk with me. It’s the same talk that has been given time and again in black families following the deaths of Eric Garner, Terence Crutcher and Michael Brown, all unarmed black civilians who lost their lives at the hands of police.

When Baltimore City erupted into riots following the death of Freddie Gray, I found myself in the basement of a local church having a larger version of the talk. In that basement, dozens of young activists had gathered to protest what they viewed as another example of excessive police force taking the life of an unarmed black person. I wanted them to know how to be safe while peacefully making their voices heard.

Following the election of Donald Trump, I was inspired to go back to my activist roots. I had already led the NAACP and, before that, spent decades as a civil rights leader and community organizer. As I thought through how I wanted to contribute in the Trump era, I thought back to my talk with my son, my grandfather’s talk with me and the talk I gave those young activists in Baltimore.

With Trump in the White House and Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, I decided to launch my campaign for governor of Maryland in part because the times require elected leaders who understand these issues and have the courage to act. Only then can we finally have a generation where, perhaps, “the talk” won’t be needed.

We have a long way to go, but we can stop the killings of unarmed civilians at the hands of police and, in doing so, make our communities safer. The overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers are good and decent people, but their reputations and ability to do their jobs effectively are tarnished by a small number of bad officers who don’t deserve to wear a badge.

The actions of these bad officers have resulted in senseless deaths and millions of dollars in police settlements—money that could have been used to help educate our children. For these reasons and so much more, we can’t have the 2018 elections come and go without challenging every candidate for office to put forward his or her plan to address police misconduct and the killings of unarmed civilians.

My plan for Maryland is one that could be adopted in whole or in part in any state. Entitled Building Trust, the plan calls for increased civilian oversight, both in any specific instance when an officer is accused of misconduct and more broadly to provide input into how police departments should be structured and relate to their communities. I also call for a special prosecutor’s office that oversees all allegations of police misconduct and ensures that the often cozy relationship between the police officers who commit crimes and those charged with punishing them is no more.

Should a police settlement occur, my plan would end the practice of nondisclosure agreements so that victims of police brutality are not silenced. My plan would also create a public database that tracked every instance of police use of force so that this information is easily accessible and searchable. This reduces the chances that an officer with a troubled past will be able to move from one jurisdiction to another without scrutiny.

Building Trust is not just the title of this plan; it is essential if we are to stop the killings of unarmed civilians, end police corruption and improve public safety. Trust becomes tattered when officers are insufficiently trained and unaccountable to civilian oversight, and when those who violate the public’s trust are too often protected by a pervasive culture of impunity. In this plan we outline key ways that state and local governments can implement key reforms to create strong bonds of trust between communities and the police departments sworn to protect them.

Building Trust seeks to break the false dichotomy that improving public safety has to come at the price of justice, or that if you are opposed to police misconduct, you are anti-police. My grandfather’s example demonstrates that most officers are hardworking individuals seeking to protect our communities. We owe it to them to give them the proper training they need and to root out those within their ranks who fail to live up to their badges.

We should not allow any official seeking public office to secure our vote without them first listing in detail where they stand on this basic issue of fairness, justice and public safety. We need members of Congress who will stand up to Trump and Sessions, and we need leaders at the state level who will replace those in leadership who have been silent on these issues. I hope to achieve that for Maryland by defeating our current governor, Larry Hogan, who continues to be silent despite the unrest that occurred in our state’s largest city following the death of Freddie Gray, and a recent police corruption trial that showed how broken the Baltimore City Police Department is.

We can end corruption, stop the killings of unarmed civilians and finally create the trust that will provide the safety we need in our neighborhoods. There is no shortage of solutions to these problems, just a shortage of leaders with the courage to address them head-on. In 2018, at the ballot box, we must demand better.

How Climate Activists Failed To Make Clear The Problem With Natural Gas

Last week, the New Orleans City Council — all Democrats — voted 6-1 to approve a big new gas-fired power plant. Sometime in the coming weeks, in Orange County in upstate New York, another vast new gas power plant is expected to go on line — as soon as it’s hooked up to a new pipeline, one of literally dozens planned across the country. Local opponents — environmentalists, community activists — are fighting hard, but somewhere, almost every day, a new piece of natural gas infrastructure goes up.

When I think about my greatest failing as a communicator — and one of the greatest failings of the climate movement — it’s not that global warming still continues. Stopping it cold was always too high an order: The fossil fuel industry is so rich and powerful, and hydrocarbons so central to our economy, that this battle was always going to be uphill. At best we can limit the damage, and in that we’ve made at least some progress.

It’s not even that Donald Trump managed to win the presidency as a climate denier — in fact,  most people regard that stand as stupid, and its not why he took the White House. We’ve more or less managed to persuade Americans that global warming is a real danger. The oil industry’s propaganda effort may have delayed that realization by a generation, but eventually the siege of studies — and of fires, floods, and windstorms — took their inevitable toll.

No, the single most annoying failing is a more technical one, but with huge consequence: Public opinion — and especially elite opinion — still accepts natural gas as a cleaner replacement for other fossil fuels. And this acceptance — nearly as strong among Democrats as Republicans — has meant that we’ve seen huge increases in the use of natural gas. In fact, our essential global warming strategy in America has been to replace coal-fired power plants with ones that run on fracked gas.

With the move to natural gas, it’s as if we proudly announced we kicked our Oxycontin habit by taking up heroin instead.

The idea that natural gas combats climate change is a sleight of hand. But explaining why appears to be just slightly too technical for it ever to get across, in the media or on Capitol Hill, in statehouses or city halls. Still, I’ll try one more time.

It’s true that when you burn natural gas in a power plant, you emit less carbon dioxide than when you burn coal — for simplicity’s sake, let’s say half as much. That sounds good, since carbon is the main contributor to climate change. It’s what allowed President Obama to boast in his 2014 State of the Union address that “Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth.” He added, “One of the reasons why is natural gas — if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.” In fact, his administration was so fond of fracking that the State Department set up an entire agency whose only task was to spread the technology to other countries.

Here’s the trouble: carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas, but it’s not the only one.  Another one — present in smaller amounts, but far more potent — is CH4, otherwise known as methane, the primary component of natural gas. If you burn natural gas, you get less carbon dioxide than with coal. But any methane that escapes unburned into the atmosphere on the way to the power plant warms the planet very effectively — so effectively that if you leak more than 2 or 3 percent it’s worse for climate change than coal.

It turns out that there are lots of places for leaks to happen — when you frack a field, when you connect a pipe, when you send gas thousands of miles through pumping stations — and so most studies show that the leakage rate is at least 3 percent and probably higher. What that means is: America has cut its carbon emissions, but only at the cost of dramatically increasing its methane emissions. It means that what we’ve done is run in place.

Put another way, it’s as if we proudly announced that we kicked our Oxycontin habit by taking up heroin instead.

No one wants to hear this.

Democrats don’t want to hear this — natural gas was their get-out-of-jail-free card. They could get credit for going after climate change without really requiring systemic change — in some cases, you could simply convert the existing coal-fired power plant to run on gas. Electricity prices didn’t go up; in fact, fracked gas was cheap enough that it produced much of the early economic boom that powered the Obama recovery.  Now lots of high-level Obama alumni make lots of money working in the natural gas industry.

Some environmentalists don’t want to hear the facts about natural gas, as many are actively promoting it as a bridge fuel.

The oil industry doesn’t want to hear it. Company after company responds to the climate threat by offering to produce more natural gas to replace coal. As Exxon puts it on its website, “the abundant supplies of natural gas unearthed by the shale revolution in the United States have contributed to a reduction in U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions to levels not seen since the 1990s as electric utilities have switched from coal to natural gas for power generation. … The abundant supplies of natural gas coming from America’s shale fields are positioning the U.S. to be a net exporter of natural gas, which can mean lower emissions worldwide.” We’re not the problem, we’re the solution.

Republicans don’t want to hear it. The Trump Environmental Protection Agency has scrapped even Obama’s modest efforts to plug methane leaks, and as Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the EPA, told reporters in October, “We are leading the nation — excuse me — the world, with respect to our CO2 footprint in reductions.” It’s why the Trump team thinks they can get away with scorning the Paris Agreement: “we’re producing less carbon” takes the pressure off. It certainly works better than telling reporters that climate change isn’t real.

In any event, journalists don’t much want to hear about methane, because it muddies up the simple story line. When the Washington Post fact-checked Pruitt’s statement, for instance, it didn’t even mention the fact that our methane emissions had spiked even as CO2 fell. Instead, it gave him “three Pinocchios,” on the grounds that “Pruitt uses the average per capita decrease instead of the overall decrease, without actually making clear he’s talking about per capita numbers.” As if that was the problem.

Even some environmentalists don’t want to hear it. At first many of them actively promoted natural gas as a bridge fuel. Some would say, “Methane doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere as carbon,” which is true. But sadly, while it’s around, it traps heat far more efficiently, molecule for molecule — and right now happens to be the short window where we’re breaking the climate.

Though most of the big green groups eventually came around to understanding the facts about methane, politicians who paint themselves as environmental champions have never shifted their positions. Andrew Cuomo banned fracking in New York, but only because of its effects on local communities where the drilling took place; he’s been happy to approve new power plants that run on gas from elsewhere. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, at last year’s Bonn climate talks, said, “You’re reducing carbon emissions by using natural gas. That’s the answer, plain and simple. We are shutting down coal plants and replacing them with natural gas. That’s a move in the right direction.”

If we hadn’t discovered fracked natural gas, the effort to deal with climate change would have moved us far more quickly into renewables.

But it’s not. It’s not a move in any direction at all. It’s standing still. We’re still pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at pretty much the same rate as before.

In fact, the conversion to natural gas is making things markedly worse because the money that gets spent on this useless transition locks us into burning fossil fuel when, with each passing month, the actual alternatives of sun and wind get cheaper and more available. If we hadn’t discovered fracked natural gas, the effort to deal with climate change would have moved us far more quickly into renewables; instead, we’ve wasted a decade and likely far more, since all those new pipelines and power plants are designed (and financed) to last for 40 or 50 years.

We picked the worst possible strategy we could have used to combat climate change. We didn’t know it at first, but as the chemistry became clear no one wanted to change course.  Most of them doubled down. I have no confidence that we will ever manage to get this message across, though it is magnificent to see the continuing efforts of local activists across the country. (Check out this new video from Josh Fox, of Gasland fame, in New Orleans)  But it’s not in the interest of anyone in power to concede the facts about natural gas. It’s possible — likely even — that this essay, and everything else I or anyone else writes and says on the topic, is so much shouting into the (increasingly hot and gusty) wind. On this we’ve so far failed, and the failure has had huge consequences.

The 6 Ways Millennials Are Changing America

Baby Boomers – my generation, born between 1946 and 1964 – dominated politics and the economy for years. There were just more Boomers than people of any other generation.  But that’s no longer the case. Now, the biggest generation is the Millennials, born between 1983 and 2000. 

Millennials are different from boomers in 6 important ways that will shape the future.

1. Millennials are more diverse than boomers – so as Millennials gain clout, expect America to become more open.  More than 44 percent of Millennials identify as a race other than white. And they’re more accepting of immigrants:  69 percent of millennials think that newcomers strengthen American society, compared to 44 percent of Boomers.

2. Millennials are more distrustful of the political system than Boomers – so as Millennials gain power, expect more anti-establishment politics A strong majority of Millennials think the country is on the wrong track. Most disapprove of both the Republican Party and the Democratic party. Virtually no Millennials – only 6 percent – strongly approve of Donald Trump, compared to 63 percent who disapprove. A strong majority – 71 percent – want a third major party to compete with Democrats and Republicans.

3. Most Millennials have a tougher financial road than Boomers – so expect them to demand changes in how we finance higher educationAccording to Pew Research, Millennials are the first generation in the modern era, “to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty, and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than any other generation at the same stage of life.” No surprise, then, that Millennials are living at home much longer than previous generations, and getting married later.

4. Millennials view the social safety net differently than boomers – so expect them to demand that Medicare and Social Security are strengthened. Boomers move into older age, more and more of the federal budget is going into Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Many Millennials even doubt Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will be there for them when they retire.

5. Millennials care more about the environment – so expect them to demand stronger environmental protectionOver 90 percent of them believe climate change is occurring, compared with 74 percent of Boomers. Over 60 percent of Millennials want to reduce the use of coal as an energy source, compared with 28 percent of Boomers. And over half of  Millennials support a carbon tax, compared with 23 percent of Boomers.

6. Finally, as wealthy Boomers transfer $30 trillion to their lucky Millennial heirs, expect Millennials to demand a fairer inter-generational tax systemAmerica is now on the cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history. As very wealthy boomers expire, an estimated $30 trillion will go to their children and grandchildren over the next three decades. The tax code allows these lucky Millennials to inherit rich Boomer assets without paying capital gains on them, and paying far lower estate taxes than previous generations. Expect this to change.

As I said, I’m a Boomer – born the same year as Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Dolly Parton, among others. It’s up to you – the Millennials – to fix a  system we Boomers broke.

Student Activism: A Force For Change

This month, a school full of children suffered an enormous tragedy. Again. Seventeen young people were gunned down inside a Florida high school but instead of devolving into the same cycle of meaningless debate, we’re seeing a new moment of student leadership. In a time of crushing grief and anger and fear, these students have chosen to rise up and fill the vacuum of leadership that many of our leaders have created. And they’ve been joined in their activism by their peers all across the country.

For decades, the NRA and the politicians backed by them have stymied any effort to push for stronger gun legislation. After Sandy Hook and Pulse and Las Vegas, efforts failed and the conversation faded away time and again. The callousness with which NRA-backed Republicans have shirked away from their responsibilities to play a role is sickening. Again and again, we go through the same ritual — tragedy, debate, defeat, repeat.

We’ve gone as far as convincing ourselves that there’s nothing we can do — as if we’re doomed to eternally suffer these tragedies. But we know what the issue is and we know the steps that needed to be taken. At the moment, the only thing holding us back is the lack of courage it takes for politicians to do away with the NRA and the checks they write. It’s a horrible reason and one that these student activists have now dedicated themselves to ending.

I, for one, think they’ll succeed.

The poise, grace, and passion that these students have conducted themselves with has been inspiring. Their movement is a heart-wrenching call to action from our youngest generation, a rebirth of student activism which may feel new to us now, but I know the power that student activism can have.

As students across the country engaged in Brown v. Board litigation, at 12, my mother joined that fight and sued Western High School in Baltimore so she could desegregate the school when she was 15. She would become part of the first class of black girls to attend that high school from freshman year through graduation. Along with young men and women across the country, they fought for their rights and the rights of young people that would follow them.

My mother raised me on protests. At Columbia, participating in a protest against the university’s plan to tear down the site of Malcolm X’s assassination would get me suspended. It was the first student suspension for activism in nearly three decades, when the famed protests against the Vietnam War rippled through college campuses nationwide.

During my suspension, I went to work for the NAACP in Mississippi, where I trained as an organizer. During my time there, I met other incredible student activists, like Stacey Abrams and Derrick Johnson. This training would come in handy during the uprisings in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray. I found myself in a church teaching young people how to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience that would maintain the purity of their message, protect them, protect innocent bystanders, and protect members of the police seeking to keep the peace.

Student activists have the ability to be the loudest and most powerful voices. They’re not hemmed in by the equivocating and hedging that hampers most political discourse. These students know what will keep them safe and they’re not going to stop until they accomplish the change they want to see.

Student activists, and these student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas in particular, are the best of us. They’ll do things we’ve told ourselves are impossible.

And I’ll be here, doing everything I can to help them.

Harry Belafonte On Finding His Voice

Even before Harry Belafonte won global fame as a performer, he saw himself as part of a grand tradition of artists who use their voices for change. His role model was Paul Robeson, the singer, actor and activist whose career was derailed by McCarthyism. CBS News’ Vladimir Duthiers sat down with Belafonte, who drew a direct line from his years traveling the world with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., back to something Robeson told him when he was just starting out.