January 20th, 2017

Martin Luther King, institutions and power

    When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, he was in Memphis, supporting striking sanitation workers. By that time in his crusade for racial justice, he had elevated full employment to a key plank in his platform. The full name of the March on Washington was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. A common placard held up that day read, "Civil Rights Plus Full Employment Equals Freedom," a powerful economic equation indeed.

    In my experience, too few people remember this aspect of King's movement, instead emphasizing his stirring spiritual commitment to racial inclusion. But King was of course thoroughly versed in the reality of the institutional barriers blocking blacks and his unique genius was to combine deep spiritual awareness with an equally deep understanding of the role of power in economic outcomes. That's one reason he was in Memphis, supporting the union.

It's more important than ever to fight hate and bigotry

    For more than a century, our two organizations have fought on behalf of justice and equality. We have worked together on anti-lynching laws, school desegregation, voting rights legislation, hate crime laws and criminal-justice reform.

    Both the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP have done much to make the United States a fairer and stronger nation, and we often have done it together. Either organization simply could stand on its legacy, especially on a day set aside to remember a hero of the civil rights battles of the past. But on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we recognize that this is no time to wax poetic about past triumphs or rest on our laurels. Now more than ever, we must build a strong coalition of now.

Trump's nominees are putting us all at risk by ignoring ethics laws

    President-elect Donald Trump is selecting nominees to run his government. It's no secret that I have deep reservations about the policy views of many of these nominees. I will vote against some of them.

    But before we can debate and vote on whether these nominees' policy positions make them suitable to run important parts of our government, it is critical that each nominee follows basic ethics rules to ensure that they will act for the benefit of all the American people and not simply to boost their bank accounts.

    The Republican-led Congress wants to brush off these ethics requirements as a mere inconvenience. Failing that, they are willing to intimidate the public servants charged with implementing the rules. If they succeed, the Republican-led Congress will erode public confidence in our democracy and set the new administration up for scandal and failure.

A tale of two crowds in one city

    Two big and passionate crowds have descended on Washington -- one thrilled by Donald Trump's inauguration, the other appalled.  Never in my lifetime has a new president been anticipated with such raw enthusiasm on one side and such fear and loathing on the other.

    Admit it, you have no idea what a Trump administration will actually be like. Neither does Trump, I would wager. He is a 70-year-old business executive and self-promoter extraordinaire whose lifelong working habit is to go to his office, see what opportunities the day presents, and then improvise. He is not going to change.

    Americans have elected as president a man who was caught on tape boasting of how he assaults women, kissing them and touching their genitals without invitation, and gets away with it because of his celebrity. It is fitting, then, that the biggest planned protest is Saturday's Women's March on Washington, with scheduled speakers such as Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis. A-listers such as Katy Perry are expected to attend.

Trump's economy: Plan for the worst

    An ironic contradiction is likely to define the global economic community's convocation in Davos this week as it awaits Donald Trump's inauguration. There has not been so much anxiety about U.S. global leadership or about the sustainability of market-oriented democracy at any time in the past half-century. Yet with markets not only failing to swoon as predicted, but actually rallying strongly after both the Brexit vote and Trump's victory, the animal spirits of business are running hot.

    Many chief executives are coming to believe that, whatever the president-elect's infirmities, the strongly pro- business attitude of his administration, combined with Republican control of Congress, will lead to a new era of support for business, along with much lower taxes and regulatory burdens. This in turn, it is argued, will drive major increases in investment and hiring, setting off a virtuous circle of economic growth and rising confidence.

Trump's attack on John Lewis fits a pattern

    In November 2015, when most Republicans and political journalists, including this one, were discounting Donald Trump's ability to win the presidency, Trump tweeted an image of a thuggish-looking dark-skinned man holding a handgun over a set of 2015 statistics about race and crime.

    The statistics, attributed to the nonexistent "Crime Statistics Bureau -- San Francisco" for a year that then wasn't even concluded, were transparently bogus. But two related data points were especially notable.

    One said that 81 percent of white victims of homicide in the U.S. had been murdered by blacks. The companion stat indicated that white murderers accounted for only 16 percent of white homicides. In reality, FBI statistics for 2014, the most recent year available then, proved the inverse; whites were responsible for 82 percent of white homicides.

    Trump's data was fake, but as a window into the means and ends of his propaganda, the false stats proved highly relevant. Fear of violent black crime was a constant theme of Trump's campaign.

Trump is wrong about black America

    Rep. John Lewis is the son of sharecroppers. As a child, he wanted to be a preacher; he practiced by delivering fiery sermons to the family's chickens. But history had other plans for him: lunch counter sit-ins, Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a seat in Congress representing most of Atlanta. No sane person would accuse such a man of being "all talk, talk, talk -- no action or results."

    But that is precisely what Donald Trump said of Lewis. It was not the first time the president-elect raised questions about his own sanity, and I doubt it will be the last.

    As I've said before, Trump's compulsion to answer any perceived slight with both barrels blazing is a sign of dangerous insecurity and weakness, not strength. We are about to inaugurate a president with the social maturity of a first-grader.

Trump is putting the wolves of Wall Street in charge of America's economy

    In announcing the appointment of Carl Icahn as his new adviser on regulatory reform, President-elect Donald Trump characterized the Wall Street legend as "one of the world's great businessmen." By Trump standards, it was a minor mischaracterization, one that confused the Main Street world of business, where value-adding goods and services are created and sold, with the trading, dealmaking world of finance on Wall Street.

    Such confusion is understandable. For if anything has come to characterize American capitalism over the past 30 years, it has been the financialization of business. Whereas top executives of America's biggest corporations once spent their time worrying about products, customers, employees and the communities in which they operated, today they focus on maximizing shareholder returns through clever feats of financial engineering. Executives who embrace this financialization are handsomely rewarded with tens of millions of dollars in bonuses and stock grants. Those who don't are fired.

Time for the U.S. to face reality in North Korea

    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump sounds awfully certain about one thing. After North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared on New Year's Day that his country was on the verge of testing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S., Trump condescendingly tweeted, "It won't happen!"

    As a matter of fact, it will happen -- unless a Trump administration radically rethinks U.S. policy toward the North.

Trump wanted a project in Atlanta. You can pretty much guess where it was going to be.

    That rhetorical firefight between President-elect Donald Trump and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., is so utterly predictable.

    The civil rights icon, who paid for first-class rights to challenge authority with blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, said in an interview, "I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president" because "I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected."

    This provocative statement from Lewis engendered an outsize and characteristically unhinged response from Trump. The man who can't let any slight or criticism from anyone go unchallenged took to his 21st-century sandbox: Twitter.

    "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart . . . "

    - Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2017