Reflections On Racial Bias In Our Criminal Justice System

by Ralph Scharnau

published with permission

The United States criminal justice system is the largest in the world with more people under some form of correctional control in federal, state, or local prisons and jails. The role of race or ethnic identity in the criminal justice system has been persistent and contentious for many years.

Since the founding of the United States and the introduction of slavery, states, territories, and other governance structures have enacted legislation and adopted policies that have discriminated and segregated African and African-American people. Indigenous people, Hispanics, Asians, and others of non-European descent, received similar treatment at the hands of white officials.

Throughout the history of the United States, race has been an important issue in all aspects of the society, cultural, economic, and political. The abolition of slavery during the Civil War era and the ending of formal racial discrimination during the civil rights era marked racial milestones. Despite the institutional and legal changes that made this possible, race continues to impact the criminal justice system.

Examples of racial bias abound today. Disparities between people of color and whites have been studied and reported when it comes to jury selection, arrest rates, severity of punishment, felony convictions, and restoring voting rights after release from incarceration.

The United States is one of an increasingly small number of countries that subscribe to capital punishment. In late July of 2019, the Trump administration decided to restart federal executions after a 16-year hiatus. The evidence against the death penalty includes findings of racial bias, prosecutorial misconduct, and DNA exonerations of some people on death row.

Statistics reveal the racial biases. A back person is nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person despite equal rates of use. Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be imprisoned than whites. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any major industrial country. About 70 percent of the imprisoned U.S. population are black and Hispanic. More young black men are imprisoned in the U.S. than attend colleges and universities.

African-American males have a one in four chance of going to prison even though the census figures show a U.S. population composed of 13 percent black. 17 percent Latino, and 61 percent white. Racial profiling continues to be evident in police stops. searches, and use of force during arrests. Non-white arrests of juveniles and transgender individuals exceeds that of the majority population. Similarly. black women are incarcerated at a rate three times higher than white women. Those with prison records often experience employment and voting problems.

The ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project (CLRP), focuses on the criminal justice system from policing to sentencing. It seeks to end excessively harsh criminal justice policies that result in mass incarceration, over-criminalization, and racial injustice. The CLRP studies detention and surveillance, police practices, public defense systems. disproportionate sentencing, prosecutorial and/or judicial abuses of authority in the name of public safety, and drug policies which have failed to achieve public health while putting an unprecedented number of people behind bars, CLRP is working to fundamentally change the punishment bureaucracy by reversing the tide of incarceration, protecting constitutional rights, eliminating racism, and increasing government accountability and transparency

Today structural racial/ethnic bias continues to mark our criminal justice system. We should respect the human rights of those who are caught in the criminal justice system. Given the legacy of racial/ethnic discrimination in the United States, this will require persistent efforts to bring greater fairness and equity to our criminal justice system.

Ralph Scharnau

April 2, 2020

Posted in Blog for Iowa | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Iowa Fiscal Partnership: Iowa COVID Metrics “Remain a Mystery”

This from Peter Fisher at Iowa Fiscal Partnership

iowafiscal.org/covid-metrics-arbitrary-backward-facing/

“While we now know something of how the guidelines work, much remains a mystery. We do not know why this scoring system was adopted, who developed it, what science is behind the measures and the scores, whether any other state or country has used anything like it, or whether it was vetted by any qualified epidemiologists at Iowa universities or hospitals. The matrix cannot be found anywhere on the IDPH website, and the underlying data have not been released despite repeated requests by members of the media and others.

“The IDPH matrix is not science-based guidance for decision-making. It is an arbitrary scoring method divorced from all the epidemiological analysis and modeling that is taking place elsewhere. It tells us nothing about when or by how much our health care system will face critical shortages. It is an embarrassment.”

Read  more

Posted in Blog for Iowa | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

June And November Are Coming

Admiral Michael Franken is working hard to unseat Joni Ernst so Iowans can get back to having real representation in DC. As important as defeating Donald Trump is, we need to take back the senate and make sure Mitch McConnell is no longer majority leader. Check out Franken’s campaign website frankenforiowa.org. “Even during a pandemic, this election is continuing apace. That’s how important beating Joni Ernst and electing Democrats is.”

Posted in Blog for Iowa | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A List Of What We Are Blaming Trump For

Video 30 seconds:

Tuesday afternoon Mark Bryson posted the list of grievances that George Conway generated against Donald Trump and his utterly failed handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US. As this list is now 5 days old I am sure you can add more to the list.   

Conway, if you do not know, is a Republican, a high priced DC lawyer and the leader of the Lincoln Project – which made the ad posted above – that is working to defeat Donald Trump in November. Here is his list:

From Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George Conway: 

“For Trump supporters, let me make one thing VERY clear! 

For the record NO ONE is blaming the President for the virus. Let me repeat. Coronavirus is not Trump’s fault. 

Here’s a detailed list of what we are blaming him for: 

* Trump declined to use the World Health Organization’s test like other nations. Back in January, over a month before the first Covid19 case, the Chinese posted a new mysterious virus and within a week, Berlin virologists had produced the first diagnostic test. By the end of February, the WHO had shipped out tests to 60 countries. Oh, but not our government. We declined the test even as a temporary bridge until the CDC could create its own test. The question is why? We don’t know but what to look for is which pharmaceutical company eventually manufactures the test and who owns the stock. Keep tuned. 

* In 2018 Trump fired Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossart, whose job was to coordinate a response to global pandemics. He was not replaced. 

* In 2018 Dr. Luciana Borio, the NSC director for medical and bio-defense preparedness left the job. Trump did not replace Dr. Borio. 

* In 2019 the NSC’s Senior Director for Global Health Security and bio-defense, Tim Ziemer, left the position and Trump did not replace the Rear Admiral. 

* Trump shut down the entire Global Health Security and Bio-defense agency. Yes, he did. 

* Amid the explosive worldwide outbreak of the virus Trump proposed a 19% cut to the budget of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention plus a 10% cut to Public Health Services and a 7% cut to Global Health Services. Those happen to be the organizations that respond to public health threats. 

* In 2018, at Trump’s direction, the CDC stopped funding epidemic prevention activities in 39 out of 49 countries including China. 

* Trump didn’t appoint a doctor to oversee the US response to the pandemic. He appointed Mike Pence. 

* Trump has on multiple occasions sowed doubt about the severity of the virus even using the word hoax at events and rallies. He even did it at an event where the virus was being spread. Trump has put out zero useful information concerning the health risks of the virus. 

* Trump pretended the virus had been contained. 

* Trump left a cruise ship at sea for days, denying them proper hospital care, rather than increase his numbers in America. 

Repeat. We do not blame Trump for the virus. We blame him for gutting the nation’s preparations to deal with it. We blame him for bungling testing and allowing it to spread uninhibited. We blame him for wasting taxpayer money on applause lines at his rallies (like The Wall). We blame him for putting his own political life over American human life. I hope this clears things up.” 

The Lincoln Project, a group led by George Conway, released a new video criticizing the president’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

They have also given Trump’s abettors some “love”: (1 1/2 minutes)

Posted in #nevertrump, #trumpresistance, 2020 election campaign, Blog for Iowa, Trump | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday Funday: Flowbee Edition

 

Thanks to Progress Iowa for this video of Governor Reynolds claiming Dr. Fauci doesn’t have all the information to issue a shelter in place order. Guess our governor is smarter than science? (21 seconds)

Well, sometime back in the 90s or early 00s we were somehow caught between folks who would clip our luxurious locks. As many people do, I saw a chance to save a couple of nickels by purchasing one of those “do it yourself at home” hair cutting kits. Yep, we got a Flowbee. 

Now fortunately neither of us were in situations where our hair had to be trimmed to an exacting style. Therefore the time between haircuts is usually longer than most folks would tolerate. As a child of the 60s it was a style I was quite comfortable with.

Over the years we became at best adequate with the Flowbee to the point where we could appear in public and not be stared at. When we decided to look around for a haircutter a couple of years ago, I thought that we had seen the last of the Flowbee. I stored it high on a shelf in the bathroom. But just in case life played some cruel trick on us I knew where it was. Well, guess what? I am now about 6 months past my last haircut. Hair is getting in my eyes, SO it looks like the Flowbee and I are about to be reacquainted. 

As the old curse goes, may you live in interesting times.

The nation continues to swirl the drain.

  1. What major sporting event(s) should have been taking place this weekend?
  1. As the Covid-19 pandemic was ramping up here in January what was happening to the US stockpile of medical PPE?
  1. As of Friday how many states had not yet issued lockdown orders for any part of their state?
  1. The Secret Service this week signed a $45,000 emergency order to rent what items that probably should not be considered an emergency?
  1. In the 3 month period of December, January and February when the administration said the borders were locked down we had 3/4 of a million people visit here from what early contaminated country?
  1. What high ranking US official insisted that his name be at the bottom of relief checks going to Americans from the new Phase 3 law?
  1. At an Amazon ‘fulfillment center’ on Staten Island a worker was fired after he did what?
  1. In Los Angeles a train engineer crashed his train in an attempt to attack what vessel in the LA harbor?
  1. In Midland, Texas a knife wielding assailant attacked and stabbed a family of four because they were what ethnicity?
  1. The top candidates for the job as Pentagon policy chief are currently employed as commentators at what cable station?
  1. Hitting close to home. What cable newser and brother to a governor has tested positive for Covid-19?
  1. The Democratic convention has been moved back into what month?
  1. As if the Covid-19 pandemic wasn’t enough, some health care companies (such as Intermountain Healthcare in Utah) have announced cuts in pay for what workers?
  1. In Iowa, the Covid-19 outbreak is centered in what two eastern counties?
  1. Approximately how many US workers filed for unemployment benefits last week?
  1. Prior to this outbreak, why was the highest number of unemployment claims ever filed in a week?  
  1. The Trump administration refused to reopen the sign up period for what despite the Covid-19 outbreak?
  1. While our attention is diverted, the administration rolled back what environmental regulation standard?  
  2. Trumpy has yet another new chief of staff. Who is it this time? (Remember this guy should be out of a job on Jan. 20, 2021 at noon.)
  1. A probable human carcinogen was found in what OTC drug and was officially pulled from the market by the FDA Wednesday?
  1. In the middle of the night Trump fired Michael Atkinson who as the Intelligence Community Inspector General had a role in uncovering what Trump scandal?

I don’t ever want to hear a f*cking word about having a business leader run the country. Between Bush and Trump, they have wrecked us. I want a goddamn politician in charge. I want someone who thinks that government is a good thing, not some rank amateur playing dress-up. – The Rude Pundit

Answers:

  1. The NCAA basketball championships, both men’s and women’s.
  1. It was being sold to China. ( the free market you know)
  1. 4, one of which is Iowa
  1. Golf Carts – just in case an unnamed person feels like golfing while Americans die.
  1. China
  1. Trump
  1. Led workers in a small strike for protective equipment and more pay.
  1. The naval hospital ship, Mercy. The engineer claimed the ship was there for much more subversive reasons (supposedly affiliated with Qanon)
  1. Chinese. The assailant claimed the family was spreading Covid-19. A boy, 6, and a girl, 2, were among the victims.
  1. Fox News! 
  1. Chris Cuomo
  1. August
  1. Doctors and Nurses.
  1. Linn and Johnson
  1. 6.6 million
  1. 695,000 in 1982 (Reagan – no surprise)
  1. The ACA aka Obamacare
  1. Rolled back the 5% annual increase in fuel efficiency to 1.5%.19)
  2. Mark Meadows
  1. Zantac
  2. The Ukraine Scandal

he has failed each of us

Posted in #trumpresistance, 2020 election campaign, Blog for Iowa, Humor | Leave a comment

Mike Franken Stands With Captain Crozier

24 seconds:

Posted in #trumpresistance, 2020 election campaign, Blog for Iowa | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Vote By Mail? What If There is No Post Office?

post_office_50278_zearing

Very disturbing news coming out in recent days that the venerable US Postal Service (USPS) which has been on shaky financial legs since a 2006 law passed by a Republican congress and signed into law by George W. Bush forced the USPS to pre-fund 80% of retirees health care benefits 75 years in the future. Before that the USPS was a profitable quasi-corporation. 

“Today, the Postal Service is just as essential: It delivers about 1 million lifesaving medications each year and serves as the only delivery link to Americans living in rural areas. Working with other delivery services like UPS, the agency supports $1.7 trillion in sales and 7.3 million private sector workers year, and this year will prove essential to delivering the 2020 Census to citizens as well as any vote-by-mail initiatives. The USPS is the federal government’s most favorably viewed agency, with an approval rating of 90%.

Yet once again, the USPS is in crisis mode.

With a negative net worth of $65 billion and an additional $140 billion in unfunded liabilities, the USPS originally expected to run out of liquidity by 2021 without intervention. That has accelerated rapidly because of COVID-19. Fewer people and businesses are sending mail because of the outbreak, which could hasten the decline of the Postal Service and close its doors as early as June, officials warned. “

An article from the Philadelphia Tribune back in 2011 gives a fairly good explanation of what that bill did to the post office: 

“The operational efficiencies — as the Postal Service refers to them — are aimed at reducing costs by $20 billion by 2015 in order to return the agency to profitability, according to David Williams, vice president of USPS Network Operations. That would be a noble accomplishment, except for the fact that — on paper at least — the USPS already turns a profit every year. But a mandate contained in the Postal Service Accountability and Enhancement Act — a 2006 reform bill that was signed by President George W. Bush — created a highly unusual burden on the agency that within a single year helped turn it from an operation that pulled in $1.4 billion in profits in 2005 to one that now bleeds cash like a sieve.

Embedded in the law is a requirement that the Postal Service put 80 percent of its retiree health benefits for the next 75 years into a newly created Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund. The payments are to be made at a highly accelerated rate that amounts to a total cost to the USPS of more than $5 billion each year through 2016. According to Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, the Postal Service is essentially being asked to pay the future health benefits of employees that don’t even work for it yet.

By contrast, most private sector companies pre-fund just 30 percent of future retiree health care costs, if they do so at all, and no government agency is required to pony up as much as the USPS for future benefits.

“Nobody else is required to do this. No government agency, no private company, nobody. And that’s what’s pushing the Postal Service towards the edge of bankruptcy,” said Sally Davidow, a spokesperson for the American Postal Workers Union, which represents more than 360,000 postal workers.

According to Davidow, the pre-funding caveat was inserted by the Bush administration at the last minute into what had been a widely popular reform bill, though she points out that the APWU opposed it from the start.”

Now the gut punch of the pandemic has decreased USPS volume dramatically and therefore their revenue has taken a big hit.

In order to understand why a Republican administration would slip such an amendment into a piece of legislation one must ask what the the Republicans would get from it. Setting the USPS up to fail would fulfill two long held dreams of the Republican Party. First it would privatize what once was a governmental agency and is still a quasi-governmental unit that is a for profit entity that has rules made for it by congress. Were the USPS to go out of business or be substantially reduced, private businesses would expect to inherit the USPS volume.

The second reason is that if the business that has one of the few strong unions left in existence goes out of business then logically so would the unions. Killing unions is a favorite Republican sport.

So now we are in a crisis where currently the very best thing we can all do to keep ourselves healthy and alive is to keep our distances from other people. That would include not doing such things as standing in voting lines. In recent years in Republican states one of the strategies Republican officials have used to discourage “certain” voters is to limit the number of voting places in specific areas. The lines at these polling places would be long and probably closely packed. Not a place that people would want to be in this Covid-19 era.

Thus the logical alternative would be vote by mail such as been used quite successfully by states like Oregon, Washington and Colorado. Democrats have been pushing to make such a thing happen because of the benefit of helping to curb Covid-19.

But what if the USPS would go under. The USPS delvers mail across the country for $.50. None of the private companies do anything like that. The fee would be drastically higher, no doubt. In addition the private companies do not have the equipment or personnel to handle such a huge influx of business. Nor do they or have they ever taken mail to all the remote places that people live in this country. That has always fallen back on the USPS to make those deliveries.

Congress must save the USPS for many reasons. Easily the most important is that the USPS may be the key factor in saving the American democracy. Here is a link to a petition to sign demanding to keep the Post Office open.

trump is culpable

 

Posted in #trumpresistance, 2020 election campaign, Blog for Iowa, union busting | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Do You Get It Now? Elections Have Consequences!

So many people sat out the last presidential election. We all know that the more people vote the greater the chance that Democrats will win. Now as the corona virus infects exponentially more Americans daily it should be very clear that the when Democrats are elected, the government functions much better and more for we the people.

This next election is not one that anyone can afford to sit out. Hopefully it is now abundantly clear that your own life and that of your friends and family depends on you AND your friends and family voting. Vote as if your life depends on it, because we have truly found out that it does!

Since January 20, 2017 I have awakened with a knot in my stomach wondering what the administration will do today to dismantle a government that has taken 220 years to build. Every day they did something. Now since early February, I still have the knot in my stomach but now what I fear at awakening is how badly the administration has further bungled the response to this deadly virus. Unfortunately, every day there is more than ample reason for the knot in my stomach. 

Some day I have felt like barfing as I read the news. Accusing doctors and nurses who are literally risking their lives daily of stealing PPE and selling on the black market? How low can you go? How about companies cutting pay to doctors and nurses? What a gut punch to these heroes. Or maybe hearing that states that voted for the president are getting more equipment than they need while states that didn’t vote for the president are getting stiffed on PPE? Those are just a few things for starters. 

There is a long, long list of outrageous actions by this administration. Outspoken Trump critic and founder of the Lincoln project George Conway posted a long list on Facebook  earlier this week. No doubt there are at least another half a dozen crimes to add to the list already, such as sending PPE and medical supplies so desperately needed in the US to Thailand and China. Items that doctors and nurses and YOU desperately need o survive.

It is not only the administration. We have two senators who are little more that cartoons for the administration. One is up for election this fall. It would be a dereliction of duty to send her (Ernst) back to congress. In her most recent incarnation she is claiming she “worked diligently” for a sick leave provision in the phase 3 act that she actually voted against.  

“From her home in Red Oak, Ernst said she and Sen. Chuck Grassley “worked diligently” on all three pieces of legislation enacted to treat and mitigate the spread, and economic impact, of COVID-19.

Lost amid the list of accomplishments, however, was the vote both Iowa senators took to strip “phase two” legislation, the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” of its paid sick leave provision.

Ernst and Grassley were among the 50 senators to vote in favor of Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson’s amendment “To strike Federally mandated sick pay and paid family leave and replace it with financial support provided through the State administered unemployment insurance systems and funds.”

Let us not forget how our governor took the opportunity of the pandemic to declare abortions an “elective” surgery so she could outlaw them. Nothing like using a crisis to impose your own religious views. If Reynolds cared about Iowa and Iowans, she would do what is working in other states – that is declare a state of emergency and issue shelter in place orders. As it is, schools in Iowa are still scheduled to reopen on April 13th – a time that the pandemic could be reaching its peak (or at least A peak). We well could be the very last state to issue a shelter in place order.

I can’t help but wonder just how different, how extremely different, the situation would be had more people voted and instead of the Clown Car that is running the state and country we had leaders such as Hillary Clinton, Bruce Braley, Patty Judge and Fred Hubbell instead. 

Imagine if someone with the experience of Hillary Clinton was warned in early January about such an outbreak. With her experience as First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State who had dealt with crises including ebola, you can be sure her response would have been immediate, strong and thorough. While the virus may have penetrated the US it probably would not have gotten very far.

Imagine if Iowa had elected Bruce Braley as their senator instead of the order following Joni Ernst. Braley would be keeping us informed of what was really happening not spinning like a tornado trying to make the press forget the mistakes made that have led to this mess.

What if Fred Hubbell were in charge in Iowa? What a night and day difference there would be in the state’s response. Given Hubbell’s experience in both business and governmental committees we could easily think that Hubbell would have been aggressive in his approach to the virus. I am sure we’d have been on lockdown long ago. Hubbell would be working closely with doctors, nurses and scientist to create a plan for the state. Reynolds wastes the state’s precious time and resources disputing scientists on projections instead of working to stop them.  

Had people got out and voted in those elections, our fate may well be much different. 

Remember, when election time comes around this year we need to vote as if your life depends on it. We have now been shown that it literals does.

Posted in #nevertrump, #trumpresistance, 2020 election campaign, Blog for Iowa, Bruce Braley, Charles Grassley, Clean Elections, Hillary Clinton, Joni Ernst, Trump | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Fox News A Danger To Public Health

This good thing happened.

thehill.com/journalism-professors-accuse-fox-news-owners-of-spreading-coronavirus misinformation

Dozens of journalism professors and working journalists signed an open letter to Fox News heads Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch on Thursday, bashing the network’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic as a “danger to public health.”

“Viewers of Fox News, including the president of the United States, have been regularly subjected to misinformation relayed by the network—false statements downplaying the prevalence of COVID-19 and its harms; misleading recommendations of activities that people should undertake to protect themselves and others, including casual recommendations of untested drugs; false assessments of the value of measures urged upon the public by their elected political leadership and public health authorities,” the letter reads.

In the letter, the group cites multiple surveys, including a recent Pew Research poll in which 79 percent of Fox News viewers reported that they believed that the media had overstated the potency of the virus. It also cited that the average age for Fox News viewers is 65. Senior citizens are one of the two most at-risk demographics to experience fatal complications from the virus, the other being people with underlying health conditions.

“Inexcusably, Fox News has violated elementary canons of journalism. In so doing, it has contributed to the spread of a grave pandemic,” the end of the letter reads. “Urgently, therefore, in the name of both good journalism and public health, we call upon you to help protect the lives of all Americans—including your elderly viewers—by ensuring that the information you deliver is based on scientific facts.”

Click here to read the letter

Posted in Blog for Iowa | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Kimberly Graham – A Voice For ‘Us’

Kimberly Graham

On Tuesday, March 17, Blog for Iowa conducted a telephone interview with U.S. Senate candidate Kimberly Graham. We had intended to do an in-person interview but in consideration of the coronavirus pandemic we maintained social distancing. Graham was thoughtful in her answers to our questions. The following portions of the interview are transcribed from an audio recording. Any mistakes are the author’s.

Blog for Iowa: Why are you in this race?

Kimberly Graham: It’s kind of a perfect storm of three different things. The first, like a lot of women running for office now-a-days, the first thing that made me start thinking about running was the 2016 election. I never had any intention or desire to run for office. It was not something I thought I could even do as a person from a working class background. But the 2016 election was very upsetting to me like it was to a lot of people. And that’s what initially started making me look into running for office myself.

At the time of that election my son was 17 years old. He’s now 20. I couldn’t keep just only voting. I felt like I needed to do something more and that I could do a better job than a lot of our current leaders. And so, I thought that it would be important for my son, and for the kids I’ve represented for the last 20 years and all of their families, for me to step up and run for office so that we would have what I kind of shorthand “have a regular person” running for office.

I think we need “us” to be representing “us.” When I say “us” I mean regular people who are not wealthy, not well connected, who struggle financially, who know what it’s like to try to make it in the United States of America where if we ever did, we no longer have equality of opportunity on a lot of levels.

So I would say the 2016 election, my son, and all of the kids I’ve represented and families I’ve represented for the the last 20 years as an attorney for kids, for abused kids, and for parents in juvenile court. And watching how we’ve been investing in those kids and families less and less and less and less.

BFIA: How does being an attorney prepare you for being a U.S. Senator?

GRAHAM: Yeah, well I think it really uniquely prepares me because I’ve literally had the job of standing up and fighting for vulnerable people for 20 years now. That to me is really, in a nutshell, that should be the job of the U.S. Senator to listen, listen, and listen again. Find out what it is that either your clients or constituents need, whether you’re being a lawyer, whether your being a senator. What is it they need to live lives of health and dignity?

And then you go whether they are a farmer, whether they are a single mom living in Des Moines, whether they are a rural person living in Harlan, you know, whatever they are doing in this state, what do they need? What are their needs to live lives of health and dignity?

And then I see it as my job to go to Washington, D.C. and either draft legislation that doesn’t exist, or co-sponsor legislation, or advocate for those positions, whatever it takes to respond and to help the people that I am charged with representing. Just like I’ve been doing for the last 20 years as an attorney for mostly, not always, but mostly for people in poverty.

So I have a pretty good idea of how we are not doing a very good job taking care of people that either are in poverty or at the lower edge of the middle class in this country because I see it and I work with those people every day.

BFIA: Why does that experience best qualify you among the five Democrats running for the office?

GRAHAM: I’m best qualified because I still to this day, am still doing this work. In other words, I’m seeing in real time what is happening out there. Meaning what it is that people need to lead these lives of health and dignity.

I think also as someone who has owned a solo practice law firm for all of these years, I also understand how incredibly difficult it is to make it as a small business owner. We know that especially in our rural communities here in Iowa, but also in our cities, too, there are a lot of small businesses that are providing a living for people, but just barely.

If we had things that other developed nations have and have had for many years, like universal child care, like paid parental leave, like universal health care.Just those things alone would transform what it is like to own a small business in this country.

It would really promote and support entrepreneurship in this country to an incredibly high level because we would actually be able to own a small business without, you know, half of our income maybe in some cases, even more than half, going out the door for say our medical insurance right off the top which makes it very difficult to be profitable or to be profitable and not to make it.

I also believe that because I spent three years studying the United States Constitution and I know what it says, and I know how to read laws, and read bills, and read and write legislation that that’s really important because the thing, the devil is in the details, it is. It’s really important that somebody who is going to be our U.S. Senator have the ability to read a law, to read a proposed bill and really hold it up to the light and turn it around and look at it this way and that way and from every angle and have an ability to understand what certain things in that bill may mean when you put that bill into action, when the bill is actually implemented.

I should add, too, that I really, really believe that it’s incredibly beneficial for us to have, for everyone to have, like some kind of voice in our representation. For everyone to have some kind of a voice and what I believe has happened over the last forty years or so is that those who really have a substantial voice at this point are the very wealthy and well-connected and/or corporations. And I mean large, huge corporations.

I’m not talking about a little incorporated business in some small town. I’m talking about these mega multinational corporations and there are I believe more lobbyists by far than there are representatives in congress at this point.

So my argument is, my assertion is, that business is more than represented, in fact, I would say they are over-represented. What we do not have, in enough of a critical mass, what we don’t have a large enough number of, are people in congress who come from a public service background like I do. People that have a demonstrated history of trying to help people, as clichéd and eye-rolling as that may sound to some people. I’m doing the kind of law I do for the most part the kind of law that I’ve done in my career because I want to help people to have better lives.

I want to really be clear. It is not that businesses and corporations are the enemy. We need corporations. We need jobs. We need big business. We need small business. We need medium business. We need social workers. We need teachers. We need nurses. We need all of us. I believe the problem has become that only those multinational corporations for the most part are really being represented in congress. That’s not okay.

Senator Tom Harkin started his career at Iowa legal aid, and so did I. I really believe that most people had quite a lot of respect for Tom Harkin. Tom Harkin, it appears clear to me anyway, became a congressman and then a United States Senator because he wanted to help people. He stood up for unions. He stood up for human rights the world over. He stood up for children. He stood up for people with disabilities. That’s important. That is the kind of U.S. Senator that I intend to be.

BFIA: Let’s talk about Joni Ernst. Why is this senate seat flippable this cycle?

GRAHAM: To me there are several indications that it is flippable. The first one and probably the most obvious is that her polling numbers continue to drop like a stone. I mean, they just continue to drop, drop, drop, pretty much every time there is a new poll she is less popular.

Number two is if we look at the presidential election, the caucuses here in Iowa, what we see, at least among the Democrats is that the ideas of Senator Warren and Senator Sanders, if you add their polling numbers together for the last year and a half in Iowa, that is the majority, at least of Democrats. I can’t speak to the majority of all Iowans; although it is now, I believe the most recent polling indicates the majority of all Iowans believe we should have some kind of universal health care and that pharmaceuticals like insulin, people shouldn’t be allowed to charge what they are charging for insulin and those kinds of ideas. To me, there seems to be a clear shift that people are very tired of politics as usual and I believe that that’s part of how Senator Ernst got elected. Because people were getting tired of politics as usual and what was her campaign slogan?

BFIA: She was going to make ‘em squeal.

GRAHAM: Correct. To me that slogan says, “I’m going to go root out that corruption. It is not going to be politics as usual. I’m going to get in there, and I’m going to be different, and I’m not going to kowtow to powerful special interests.” That’s what that said. I believe that’s why she won by a pretty hefty margin. There’s other reasons I think she won but that’s the main one.

I also believe that’s the main reason President Trump won Iowa is because people are sick and tired, regular working people who are working all these jobs, don’t have health insurance, are barely getting by and hanging on by their fingernails if they happen to be at least nominally middle class, they are still hanging on by their fingernails in a lot of cases because of the high cost of medical stuff, and college, and day care, and all the other stuff. They are tired of it. We’re tired of it. We’re tired of working so, so hard.

We are some of the hardest working people on the planet. Americans are very productive. We work hard but we are not seeing the rewards of that. We are falling further and further behind financially. More of us are hurting financially. We may have jobs, but yeah, we have two jobs because we can’t make it on one. There’s all the gig economy. We have fewer and fewer unions, fewer and fewer union jobs that come with benefits and come with a pension and all of that.

Over these past forty years we’ve just seen this erosion of opportunity and people are sick of it. I think that that is what left us unfortunately vulnerable to a really, really skilled and good con man.

I don’t really blame the person who got conned if they got conned by a skilled con man. I blame the con man. What did he say? He went all around Iowa, including the Keokuk area. He stood on the floor of the, I think it was, the Siemens factory and said “This factory is not leaving here. These jobs are not leaving here. I will keep these jobs in America.” Those jobs are gone, they are gone now. He went around and promised people and sold people a bill of goods. People wanted to hear that because they don’t want their jobs leaving already economically depressed areas. Here’s this guy that they see as a successful businessman. You know, oh, Trump he’s a multi-millionaire… He has this persona that he’s such a great businessman and I think a lot of people mistakenly thought and believes he was going to come in here and was also going to make ‘em squeal.

(Editor’s note: The interview covered additional topics, including Graham’s approach to the climate crisis. For more information about her views on issues, click here).

Posted in 2020 election campaign, politics | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment