crossposted from jspot.org

for Molly Ivins, may your memory forever be a blessing — “We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous.â€?–Molly Ivins

Earlier this month, United for Fair Economy released a much needed report entitled, “Voting Blue, Staying in the Red. ” The report outlines the failure of the 100-Hour reform agenda to address the economic divide between white people and people of color. In particular, UFE is doing something that more national progressive organizations need to be doing right now, which is directly addressing race, and not allowing economic policies to be put forward with the illusion that their impact and their resolve is “color-blind”.

Rinku Sen hit the nail on the head when she wrote in one of her latest pieces, “Universal solutions, however, have to deal with discrimination if they’re to be truly universal. Policies designed without racial justice goals can actually deepen the divide, while creating the illusion that they’ve taken care of everyone.” Her example: universal healthcare.


As healthcare becomes the prime time issue, Sen challenges us to think about the impact of these policies without addressing racial discrimination along with economic policies.

“I also often hear that rather than highlighting racial disparities in healthcare, rampant though they are, we should fight for universal healthcare. But if public healthcare were enough to prevent discrimination, then Canada and the United Kingdom wouldn’t have any health disparities. But they do. A study published in July’s American Journal of Public Health reported that nearly twice as many non-white Canadians needed medicines but could not afford them as their white counterparts, and that 18.6 percent of non-whites had unmet healthcare needs as opposed to 11.1 percent of whites.”

Here is a brief break down of highlights in UFE’s report:

According to the report, the number of Blacks and Latinos assisted by the proposals is positive, but the impact of the assistance will not change the relative economic inequities among the races.

In addition, the report found that:

Two of the proposals – increasing the minimum wage and decreasing college loan interest rates – provide some economic support to low-income Blacks and Latinos. But not only are their numbers higher in the lower-income and lower-asset tiers of our economy, their unemployment rates are rising and their college enrollments are falling due to the skyrocketing cost of a college education.

The Medicare drug coverage proposal helps only middle-income Blacks and Latinos, whose numbers are small relative to the overall population.

The investment in alternative energy proposal offers the promise of high-wage jobs, but would not help Blacks and Latinos much since they are under-represented among those receiving advanced degrees in math and science and among those residing in the Midwest, where the ethanol industry is based.

The minimum wage proposal of three 70-cent increases during the next two years is inadequate. Even if the same increase of 70 cents were approved every single year after that, a minimum wage worker, supporting a family of three, still would not rise above the poverty level until 2013.

The college loan proposal, which saves a typical college student $5,600 in total, will not help African American and Latino students as much as white students. Black families have only 15 percent of the wealth of white families, resulting in less capacity to handle debt. Moreover, Black college graduates on the average earn half as much as the overall population of college graduates over their lifetimes, making college debt burdens more onerous for non-whites.

One aspect that the report did not cover, however, and what still has yet to be adequately addressed by Congress, is the devastating impact of mass incarceration.

This past week, the NYT’s had a stunning editorial driving this issue home, contesting the “heavy price for the mandatory sentencing fad that swept the country 30 years ago. After a tenfold increase in the nation’s prison population — and a corrections price tag that exceeds $60 billion a year — the states have often been forced to choose between building new prisons or new schools. Worse still, the country has created a growing felon caste, now more than 16 million strong, of felons and ex-felons, who are often driven back to prison by policies that make it impossible for them to find jobs, housing or education.”

The editorial calls on Congress to take a stand on these issues, including abandoning mandatory sentencing laws, supporting alternative to incarceration, revoking laws that bar people with a drug conviction from receiving Pell Grants, and ending the discriminatory practice of sending rap sheets of young people’s arrests that never led to convictions (and offenses like drunkenness or vagrancy) to employers.

Ultimately, what they are calling for is an end to a system that shows little place for restorative justice, but rather transforms single indiscretions into lifetime stigmas–even after time has been served. I, for one, join that call.