Category Archives: Politics & Money

America…A stagnant economy?

what-minimum-wage-will-look-like-in-the-us-by-the-end-of-2015_mapbuilder

Wages are stagnant. Does this mean the Economy is healthy?

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Mr. or Mrs. President?

…..And They’re Off

America’s presidential sweepstakes have begun in earnest. Ted Hillary_Clinton_Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Hillary Clinton have all announced their intentions, with the likes of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, and Rick Santorum all trying to figure out when the most opportune time for them to throw their hat in the ring. There’s one thing they all have in common, though. They’re “major party” candidates.

This means they’re somehow entitled to at least one news cycle’s worth of analysis about everything from whether and how they can win, to profiles of their spouses (except Bill Clinton. We know him). The others will get their respective places in the sun when the time comes.

In fact, media coverage of presidential campaigns has become formulaic to the point of numbing the brains of even the most obsessive political junkies. The rest of the population hasn’t yet tuned into the obligatory political spin. This is understandable, given the general election is more than a year away. But still, the form and substance of campaign coverage hasn’t changed much in decades. The reason? Money, pure and simple. The interlocking components of media, polling, and unfettered campaign contributions make starting the horse race early a virtual necessity.

Almost no one asks if the system benefits or hurts anyone, or whether it actually has to be this way.

Do most people in America know the name Jill Stein? It might surprise you to know she too is running for president. However, since she’s not running for the Democratic or Republican nominations, she doesn’t exist. Yet she ran on the Green Party ticket in 2012. Here’s a question for you. Who deserves more coverage, Jill Stein, or the person that finishes dead last in the Republican presidential sweepstakes?

jill_stein

There are those who think the current process of choosing who will lead the most powerful country on the planet is fine, and does not need fixing.

I disagree.

By focusing time and attention almost exclusively on the “mainstream” candidates of the two “major parties”, the media does a disservice to the democracy we say we have. That, combined with the Citizen’s United decision of the Supreme Court, have created a twisted political universe that shuts the average American out. And make no mistake. That’s just how the players in this game want it. All the players, that is, except you.  I’ve long believed that Americans deserved better coverage of presidential campaigns than we’ve come to accept. I’m thinking there might be some simple things just plain folks can do to cut through the clutter.

The most important one is this: Don’t form your opinion of any candidate based on a single source of information.  Compare and contrast candidate coverage from all forms of media, not just radio or television.

As you evaluate those who would be president, be clear about the priorities you have. Is one a higher minimum wage? Ironing out the kinks in the Affordable Care Act? Police brutality? Whatever you care about, candidates for president ought to be speaking out on them. If they don’t, why vote for them?

Is there are candidate or potential hopeful that you’re following? Or is it to early? You tell me.

 

 

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Rangel – The Lion of Harlem Runs Again!

I don’t exactly remember the first time I met Rep. Charles Rangel. I do know his career in Congress and mine in radio have slightly overlapped. He was serving his second term when I began my radio career in 1973.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve interviewed him, through good times and bad for both of us. I’ve admired his work in the House of Representatives, and said so. I also said so when I thought he was getting the shaft, which he did more than once.

And so it was on Thursday, December 19th, that Charles Rangel announced he was running for a 23rd term in Congress. I for one was happy to hear it.

Charles Rangel

Charles Rangel has faced some formidable opponents in his time, including the person he first beat back in 1970. Last time around, in 2012, a state senator from Upper Manhattan came dangerously close to defeating the Lion of Harlem. That bid fell short.

The senator, Adriano Espaillat, has broadly hinted he’ll make another run. At least two Harlem clergy people have been the subject of media reports saying they may run. At his announcement news conference Thursday, none of this seemed to faze Charles Rangel (I can’t call him Charlie, not even in print). When asked about opposition, he said he was unconcerned about any opponent.

Through the years, I’ve heard quite a bit of criticism of Charles Rangel. I’ve been criticized for defending him, mostly by callers to my radio programs that never lived in his district. In fact, I was part of an effort to show citywide support for the congressman when the House Ethics Committee was breathing down his neck. There was a rally for him at City Hall, organized by my friends Ken Sunshine and the late Bill Lynch. As we waited for the rally to officially start, a member of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration walked by, on his way inside City Hall. I heard him say to Bill, “You do know Charlie Rangel brings about a half billion dollars in federal money to the city each year, don’t you?” Bill smiled, because he knew. My jaw dropped because I didn’t.

Critics will often ask “What has Rangel done for Harlem?” It may not be obvious, and hasn’t been all that obvious to me, even though I walk through the neighborhood regularly. I can think back 40 years, to the Harlem I work in when starting my radio life. I remember Sylvia’s when it was just a lunch counter, and the Chinese restaurant that stood where Sylvia’s Also is today (the old heads told me that Ho Chi Minh worked there was a college student back in the ’20s).

Yet when someone asks what Rangel has done for Harlem, it’s not about buildings or artifacts. It’s about people. Walking across 125th St. on this unusually balmy Thursday in December, I was struck by the number of middle aged and older black folks who still call the street home. Yes, there’s been gentrification, and the displacement it causes, but there are still vendors, and people walking along the street I’ve seen for decades. They still call Harlem home in large measure because Charles Rangel has looked out for them.

Charles Rangel shops Harlem

He hasn’t been able to beat back all market forces in the neighborhood, but he’s kept the community affordable for enough folks that Harlem still has its unique pulse and rhythm. You know, that which is created by people.

And so, Charles Rangel runs again. He’s not just running in Harlem this time. He’s got a good sliver of the Bronx that he’ll have to convince that he’s still the best man for the job.

I wouldn’t bet against him.

Would love to know your views…

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