Letter to a Trump Supporter #7: Black Lives Matter

This is the seventh in my series of “Letters to a Trump Supporter,” from correspondence with a family friend who supports Mr. Trump.

Continuing our conversation about race, he sent me a video about Black Lives Matter. Again, I have to emphasize strenuously: This video will be extremely offensive to many of you. Please use your discretion in choosing whether to watch it.

Below is my response.

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Dear Mr. ——,

Thanks for passing along this video. It’s really interesting to see how much disinformation is out there about Black Lives Matter.

I debunked most of these claims in my last letter. You probably remember, for example, that poor urban whites are more likely to commit violent crimes than poor urban blacks and that the black community is more concerned about black-on-black crime than about unjust policing. So, the claim that blacks are to blame for a homicide “epidemic” is obviously untrue, and it’s equally false that the black community is ignoring the problem.

This video adds a new comparison: whether cops are more likely to use force on blacks, and if so, why.

The man in the video alleges that blacks are more violent, so it’s reasonable for cops to use force on them more often. The funny thing is, he never actually shows any evidence that cops use force because the suspect is more violent.

But we know that’s not the case.

Roland Fryer, one of the most celebrated economists in the world, published research a couple months ago showing that police officers were significantly more likely to use force on black suspects — by pushing them into walls, handcuffing them when they weren’t arresting them, drawing their weapons, pushing them to the ground, pointing a gun at them, and using pepper spray and batons on them — even if they displayed the exact same behavior as white suspects.

I’m honestly shocked that anyone would even question the notion that police officers are excessively violent toward black suspects. We all saw the videos on the news where cops clearly killed unarmed black victims. We watched them die before our eyes, and we saw that they did nothing to deserve that death. How can anyone pretend that didn’t happen?

Why would anyone not be concerned about that kind of behavior, especially when it’s repeated over and over and over?

Those videos alone are good reason for Black Lives Matter to protest. It’s pretty silly for him to claim that Democrats “need” Black Lives Matter to get elected, since Black Lives Matter is only a couple years old and Democrats have been getting elected for decades.

And it is absolutely one of the most disgusting, unconscionable things I’ve ever heard when he refers to blacks as “slaves on their vote plantation.” This man is degrading millions of human beings. He has stripped them of their dignity and their autonomy, and he has blatantly suggested that black lives don’t matter — that those people deserved to die — and that is exactly where the slogan “Black Lives Matter” came from.

This video is a perfect example of what’s wrong in America today that they are protesting. So I thank you for sending it as a reminder of that fact.

Finally, he has spent the entire video assuming that Black Lives Matter is opposed to the police. It becomes very clear at the end when he alleges that they want to remove cops from their communities. On the contrary, black communities feel that police officers have abandoned their neighborhoods; hence, the high rate of black-on-black crime and their distrust of the police. It makes perfect sense if you actually ask anyone what it’s like to live in these neighborhoods.

Obviously, he has never spoken to anyone in the Black Lives Matter movement. That’s how racism works. The racists don’t ask the victims how they really think. They don’t actually care. They have an unshakeable worldview that their victims are wrong and deserve to be oppressed.

But I understand that you really want to know what Black Lives Matter advocates want, since you sent me this video. I will tell you. They have released an entire list of solutions that you can read at this website. They include:

  1. Ending profiling and stop-and-frisks;
  2. Decriminalizing marijuana possession, loitering, and jaywalking;
  3. Creating mental health response teams that have proven to resolve many situations better than police;
  4. Disciplining officers who use excessive force;
  5. Allowing the community to give input into police policy;
  6. Establishing stricter procedures for allowable use of force;
  7. Recruiting more police officers of color;
  8. Requiring body cameras; and
  9. Ending “for-profit” policing that encourages police to take resources out of low-income communities.

These are very reasonable, centrist proposals. The only way to make Black Lives Matter sound extreme is to completely misrepresent what they say and what they believe. That is exactly what this video has done. I hope these facts help you understand the movement better, and I hope you will consider joining me in supporting them in their worthwhile efforts to make our country safer and more just.

Best regards,
Anthony

Republicans Want to Replace Obamacare with…Obamacare-Lite?

Americans Trust Democrats Over Republicans on Health CareEver since Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010, the Republicans in Congress have tried to repeal it. This week’s vote was their 50th attempt.

And yet, despite their unyielding opposition, their earnestness rings hollow to most Americans for the simple reason that they have not offered an alternative path to health care reform. Even the party’s own strategists have chastised it for its negative approach, for failing to offer a plan of their own, for obstructing rather than leading.

Finally, their pleas have been answered — in the form of the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment Act, or “PCEREA,” sponsored by Republican Senators Orrin Hatch, Tom Coburn, and Richard Burr.

At long last, we can answer the simple question that Democrats have been asking Republicans since March 23, 2010: You got a better idea?

Unfortunately, the answer is a disappointing “no.”

The ACA, better known as “Obamacare,” has four major provisions: (1) a ban on price discrimination against sick people, (2) an “individual mandate” requiring everyone to purchase health insurance or pay a fine to the IRS, (3) tax credits for Americans who cannot afford to purchase insurance, and (4) a Medicaid expansion for the poorest Americans who don’t pay enough taxes to qualify for the tax credits.

The PCEREA does away with the first provision right off the bat. The most popular feature of Obamacare, the one that appeals to our basic sense of fairness, is the rule prohibiting insurers from charging different prices to different consumers based on health status. The Republicans would erase this rule, once again making insurance least affordable for the people who need it the most.

With the first provision gone, there isn’t much need for the second one. This is what most people have trouble grasping about the individual mandate: As unpopular as it is, it’s necessary in order to sustain the most popular part of the law. Without an individual mandate, a ban on price discrimination will simply result in insurers charging high rates to everyone, driving all but the sickest consumers out of the market. Insurers can only afford to charge reasonable rates across the board if healthy people are required to buy in.

The PCEREA replaces these two provisions with two new provisions called “continuous coverage” and “auto-enrollment.”

Under “continuous coverage,” Americans would be given a one-time opportunity to buy insurance at prices that aren’t based on health status. So long as they keep this insurance plan for the rest of their lives, they’ll never be discriminated against. If they miss this opportunity — say, by being born after the window passes — they can be discriminated against. If they lose their plan — say, because they change jobs — they can be discriminated against. Basically, “continuous coverage” is a con, a “first come, first serve” lottery that doles out the right to fairness like it’s a privilege, a prize in some twisted game, and then snatches it out from your hands if you fall on hard times or dare to exercise your freedom of choice.

Under “auto-enrollment,” states can sign you up for insurance without your consent, but you can opt out. Basically, the Republicans are assuming that the problem with the insurance market is that Americans are so stupid that they aren’t signing up for insurance that they need and can afford.

Astonishingly, the Republicans have simply taken the provisions of Obamacare and made them temporary — and called it “reform”! We’ll give you fair prices, but only for a little while. We’ll require you to sign up for insurance, but only until you back out.

The third provision confirms this ploy. Just like the ACA, the PCEREA offers tax credits to Americans who purchase insurance on the individual market. The only difference is that the Republicans’ tax credits are far less generous, helping far fewer people.

Finally, the PCEREA addresses Medicaid by restricting its availability to only certain types of Americans, apparently the ones whom the Republicans deem worthy: pregnant women, children, the disabled — but not, for example, working parents. It would also change Medicaid into a block grant program, where it would get a chunk of money every year regardless of how much it needs, leaving most states with tremendous shortfalls during recessions and leaving patients out in the cold when they need help the most.

This last provision is just cruel, but the Republicans can slip it into the bill because the rest of the proposal looks so thoughtful and measured that they’re hoping you won’t notice that it will do almost nothing to address the serious problems ailing our health care system. It is little better than the status quo that existed before Obamacare — and in that sense, they haven’t really offered an alternative after all.

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This op-ed was published in the Huffington Post, and an abbreviated version was published in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Even the Shutdown Can’t Kill Old Republican Fallacies

Annualized Growth in Real GDP per Capita, by President

Old fallacies die hard.

You would think, for instance, that Americans wouldn’t trust Republicans anymore. Poll after poll has shown that the American public holds them responsible for the government shutdown — and the American public hated the shutdown. Their approval rating plummeted to 21 percent, while President Obama’s held steady at 42 percent.

And yet, according to a Pew Research survey released at the end of the shutdown, Americans still believe that Republicans do a “better job dealing with the economy” than Democrats.

Clearly, it will take more than a two-week shutdown to kill the myth that simply won’t die.

And it is a myth. Since the government started collecting economic data around World War II, we have accumulated plenty of evidence to measure each party’s success at “dealing with the economy” — and none of it makes Republicans look good.

In their book Presimetrics: What the Facts Tell Us About How the Presidents Measure Up on the Issues We Care About, economist Mike Kimel and journalist Michael E. Kanell use this data to calculate the performance of the economy under every president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush. Here’s what they found…

Real GDP per capita. The most basic measure of economic success is the growth of output per person, adjusted for inflation. The fastest growth came in the Kennedy/Johnson years, when “real GDP per capita” grew 3.48 percent per year. The second-fastest came in the Clinton years, a strong 2.49 percent per year. Compare those numbers to laggards like Eisenhower and Bush Sr., who oversaw annual growth of 1.11 percent and 0.93 percent, respectively. When you add up all the Democratic years and all the Republican years, you find that the economy grew 2.82 percent per year under Democratic presidents and 1.54 percent under Republicans.

You may say, “What about the Great Depression? Aren’t they cherry-picking numbers by excluding the biggest economic event of the 20th century?” Actually, if you add Hoover, Roosevelt, and Truman, the Democrats’ average score goes up, and the Republicans’ goes down.

Another common criticism is that presidents inherit the problems of their predecessors. Should we really hold them responsible for the beginning of their term, when the economy’s fate is decided largely by the last guy’s policies? Fair enough. Let’s exclude the first year of each president’s term and recalculate the numbers. Guess what? Again, the Democrats’ score goes up, and the Republicans’ goes down.

Employment-to-population ratio. Instead of focusing on output, we could focus on jobs. Is the economy creating enough jobs to employ the same percentage of the population? Under Democrats, the employment-to-population ratio increased. Under Republicans, it decreased.

Real average weekly earnings. Often, economic growth doesn’t translate into the average American’s pocketbook. Why not look at weekly wages? Okay. Under Democrats, average weekly earnings, adjusted for inflation, increased. Under Republicans, they decreased.

Real median income. But wages only tell part of the story. Maybe Americans work more hours or get more income from investments. Let’s look at the average household — the “median” — and see how their inflation-adjusted income changed: Under Democrats, it increased much faster than it did under Republicans.

Real net average disposable income. But Democrats are known for raising taxes (and, indeed, Kimel and Kanell find that the tax burden went higher under Democrats than Republicans). What if all that income growth winds up in the government’s pocket, negating the gains? Let’s measure average income after taxes: Still, the Democrats oversaw much faster income growth than Republicans!

Poverty rate. Under Democrats, the poverty rate decreased. Under Republicans, it increased.

Real adjusted S&P 500. The stock market grew much faster during Democratic administrations than it did during Republican presidencies.

Value of the dollar. Under Democrats, the dollar appreciated, as foreigners invested more in us. Under Republicans, the dollar depreciated, as foreigners invested less.

Of course, the picture is incomplete. Someday, we will add the completed Obama presidency to the list, and the numbers will change. But already GDP growth under Obama is faster than it was under George W. Bush, and it’s only improving. The stock market is surging up, and the shutdown confirmed what the data has proven: Republicans do not do a “better job dealing with the economy.”

The longer we believe that fallacy, the more shutdowns and recessions we will invite.

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This op-ed was published in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.