Books, Trump, and the “inner city”

About three years ago, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenéz was looking to make room in the annual budget by closing down 22 public libraries; next thing you knew, town halls were packed with angry Miamians, the Miami New Times was writing about it, and WLRN (our local NPR station) was reporting on it. The public outrage was so strong that the mayor removed closing any libraries from the budget proposal altogether.

If you don’t go to libraries regularly, it’s easy to forget or be unaware of how imperative they are to the success of a community. Public libraries are known for their impact in improving children’s education, lowering crime rates, and reducing unemployment in their respective areas. The library I grew up going to was (and continues to be) filled with children, teenagers, college students, adults, and retirees. The Miami-Dade public library system has community enrichment classes and activities like resume writing, music lessons, computer and computer software lessons, chess tournaments, and tutoring. Imagine the enormous impact libraries like these could have on a child whose parents can’t afford a book, an instrument, a chess set, or a computer. A library has the potential to totally change the life of someone like that.

Something similar to what happened in Miami-Dade is happening now: President Trump’s federal budget proposal removes federal library funding from the budget. Trump wants to cut all funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services ($231 million), which provides money to the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums, and he wants to cut funding from other sources of library funding like the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. For a President who talks a lot about building up the “inner city,” he’s doing a lot of damage to it. How much harder will this make it for low-income communities to progress without the basic tools a library provides for an individual to succeed?

I’ve been going to the library since I can remember–from the Children’s floor, to the young adult fiction section, to the french audiobooks in the multimedia section, to the Neuroscience atlas on the non-fiction wall– the public library has shaped me in unique ways that the internet alone never could. Walking through rows of books, stumbling upon a title I liked, and flipping through the pages before deciding to check something out–that’s how I learned about myself and the world.

Have you ever been to a public library? How have libraries helped you become who you are today? Tell me about your experience!

Check out these beautiful libraries around the world.

Trump’s Playground: Feb 20-March 20

Executive Orders:

  • Second Muslim Banthis article clearly outlines the big differences between the first and second travel bans
  • Light initiative to improve historically black colleges – seemingly well-intentioned order that could’ve been better if year-round pell grants would’ve been granted for students, critics say. This order is more rhetoric than action.
  • Dismantling of Clean Water Rule – the Clean Water Rule was intended to identify bodies of water that could be drinking water for the people of the United States so that these waters could be protected by the Clean Water Act of 1972.

  • Reorganizing the Executive Branch – this orders cabinet secretaries to present a plan to the president on how to restructure the agency they lead.

In the news:

Trump’s Playground: Jan 20-Feb 20

If you follow the news you know it’s been a hectic month in the United States. Trump’s presidency has been riddled with protests, controversies, and a cascade of executive orders. I’ll be writing one of these posts every month with links to the “news highlights” of that month that relate to the President, his cabinet, and his orders.

Executive Orders

Total of 11 executive orders (if you don’t count the Muslim ban since federal courts ruled against it).

Big Stories

Silencing the EPA

Sean Spicer scolds the media during his first press conference

Kellyanne Conway coins the term “alternative facts”

Federal appeals court rules against the Muslim Ban 

Kellyanne Conway cites Bowling Green Massacre that never happened

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigns over conversations with Russian ambassador 

Trump advisor Stephen Miller turns hype-man

Trump tells Netanyahu to “hold off on settlements for a bit”  Trump says he can live with a one-state or two-state solution in Israeli-Palestinian deal

Trump scolds reporter for asking about claims that his campaign spurred anti-Semitism

Trump makes Sweden terror comment

Petty Politics

My dad is an old school Cuban; born right before the Cuban Revolution of 1959, he witnessed enough crimes committed by the Castro Regime to despise anything that resembles communism. My great grandfather immigrated to Cuba from Catalonia, Spain in the late 1800s, my grandfather built on the work of his father, and my father was destined to do the same. But as a child, my dad had to watch as the Castro Regime took his family’s businesses, lands, and any surplus my grandparents and great grandparents had ever worked for and distributed it to people who hadn’t earned it. My dad had to watch as the Castro militia murdered by firing squad anyone who opposed the revolutionaries. As a result, my dad had nothing but grit to his name when he left Cuba in the early eighties (grit that you can still see today). When he arrived to America he saw the land of opportunity and the chance to rebuild a legacy the way my great grandfather did when he had arrived in Cuba from Spain. My dad, by all accounts, achieved the American Dream and he is the perfect example of what it means to be a hard-worker and to put family first.

Back when my dad emigrated from Cuba to the U.S., the U.S. president was Ronald Reagan. Reagan was an anti-communist roast master and a champion for amnesty and immigration; that combination was all it took to make my dad a loyal Republican for decades to come. In 2007, my dad voted for John McCain (in spite of his VP pick) who is one of the most stand-up, honorable republicans I’ve had the pleasure to watch; I’m a registered Independent, and while I don’t agree with everything the republicans (or democrats) believe, I know a decent human being when I see one.

John McCain was the last presidential nominee my dad voted for who was a republican.

If you ask my dad why he doesn’t vote republican anymore he’ll tell you it’s because there aren’t any decent republicans running against the democrats for the oval. My dad has an immeasurable amount of respect for the office of the president and he finds it impossible to stand behind any person or party that doesn’t hold the office of the president to the same high standard. While both parties can be “petty,” one party outdoes the other in pettiness (the republicans were staunch against helping the Obama administration make changes, and are now staunchly silent at the Trump administration’s serious faults).

I want to see a lot of changes in Washington, and if the next four years serve only to make the condition of Washington worse, then I have hope that within the next ten years we can see it get that much better. I know that our government can work, but we need to elect people who will fight for everyone and do so with integrity. And that starts with us, the voters. That means hearing each other out, that means compromise, that means meeting somewhere in the middle, that means respect, that means no name-calling. I really can’t wait to see a Reagan or McCain type of Republican run for president. Those are the kind of republicans who respect the oval and respect the American people. Until then, my dad and I are voting blue.

On The Muslim Ban

“I am in love with every church
And mosque
And temple
And any kind of shrine
Because I know it is there
That people say the different names
Of the One God.”
— Hafiz
We are a nation founded on religious freedom. We are a nation of immigrants. The Muslim ban is not only morally wrong, it is unconstitutional, illegal, and un-American.

The Greatest Lie Ever Told

If you were to be diagnosed with cancer with 97% of doctors saying that you have cancer and 3% of doctors saying that you don’t have cancer, would you seek treatment or would you risk dying from it? Or worse yet, would you tell them, “that’s ridiculous because cancer does not exist?”

Something I hear a lot about climate change is that yes, 97% of climate scientists have confirmed the human impact of climate change BUT there’s still 3% of climate scientists that claim climate change is either not happening or that it is happening but is not expedited by human activity (animal agriculture, burning coal, oil, etc.). The growing trend now is to believe that 97% of scientists have a reason to lie, which is to say that if 97% of scientists tell us how to cure cancer, HIV, Zika Virus, or any other sort of virus or ailment, we are to believe they don’t have these cures, that these are lies.

The myth about climate change is the idea that climate change can be a matter of belief when it is in reality based entirely on research, on facts. Religion is a matter of belief, science is not.

There are people who take articles from the 3% of climate change scientists who deny the impact of human activity on climate change (or deny climate change altogether) and use them to feed into the agendas of those who stand to gain the most from climate change denial (big oil billionaires, CEOs, lobbyists for animal agriculture, etc.) rather than listening to the 97% of scientists who stand to gain/lose nothing by telling the truth, whose only pursuit is knowledge. To these people I have two questions: why are you letting them lie to you? They know the truth, they know the human impact on climate change but it behooves them to lie about, it is entirely to their benefit. And hey, maybe you know they’re lying. Maybe you think that lying will get you your job back. Maybe that’s all you care about. Maybe you’ll lie until better jobs exist for you. And honestly, if you have mouths to feed I can’t completely villainize you for that, especially if these coal, oil, and animal agriculture jobs are all you’ve ever known. But I’m calling climate change denial for what it is, a lie.

 

Does Trickle-Down Economics Work For The Middle Class?

When I was a first year economics student in college, one of the first things we learned about was the difference between Trickle-up (Keynesian) and Trickle-down (aka supply side) Economics. The economy is, in general, susceptible to booms and busts (expansions and recessions), but is supply-side economics the economic system that promotes the best outcome?

After the Reaganomics and Clintonomics eras in the 80s and 90s, neoliberalism became one of the most favored among economic ideas, but whether or not tax rates should be higher or lower continues to be a subject debated among government leaders who choose to adopt the neoliberal model. Graphs depicting the GDP growth rate of the economy as well as the unemployment rate show that the relationship between the GDP growth rate and the rate of unemployment in the U.S. have an inverse relationship (if the nation’s GDP growth rate increases, the unemployment rate decreases). In other words, if the economy is growing, more people will have jobs. BUT what these figures don’t show is how policies for trickle-down economics contribute to these trends and whether these policies help the middle class. These economic indicators of GDP, GDP growth rates, and rates of unemployment are often used in favor of the arguments for trickle-down economic policies, but these economic trends are deceptive indicators when they are used in the argument for the middle class. What we should be looking at are the differences in income and wages after changes in tax cuts (one of the cornerstones of trickle-down economics) which show us that wages don’t go up and incomes remain the same.

The fact is that the intuition of trickle-down is incorrect. Tax cuts increase wealth inequality because most of the growth in GDP during these tax cut years go almost entirely to the country’s highest earners (aka the top 0.1 percent). Not to mention the fact that the financial gains of individuals in this small “top earning” bracket are steadily increasing despite tax increases in recent years. This means that the top earners earn top dollars regardless of tax cuts. What tax cuts do is allow for these earners to make money more speedily but these gains are not “trickling down” to the middle class.

Investing directly into the middle class is the best way of helping the middle class. How do we do this? We need to invest more in education. Every child needs access to free early childhood education (aka Pre-kindergarten). Children who have access to this early education demonstrate higher abilities than children who start school in Kindergarten; the way things are now, inequality begins at ages 3 and 4. Then, there’s the issue of the quality of public education. If we can’t train children and teenagers to compete against those who have access to private school, how will we ever expect the middle class to grow? By revolutionizing the way we do public education, we can improve the solvency of the middle class. This means government investment into education, which requires appropriating tax dollars into this sector. Tax cuts won’t help us build better public schools, since we’ll have less tax dollars to appropriate to education. If we don’t improve public education, the chances of children born into middle class families of staying in the middle class decrease because their chances of actually competing against children and teenagers whose parents can afford private school dwindles.

The economy will grow regardless of tax cuts, unemployment will decrease regardless of tax cuts; the only thing tax cuts do is allow for the top earners to pocket more money at a faster rate. The ratio of CEO to employee salaries demonstrates this inherent inequality; employee wages have remained relatively the same while CEO salaries have continued to skyrocket (this happens regardless of tax cuts). Trickle-down technically does work (by making earning more expedient for the top 1 percent), just not for the middle class.