When we look back through the annals of American history, March 2020 will stand out. That month, the spread of COVID-19 became the focus of intense national attention.
The NBA was cancelled. California issued a stay at home order, and many other states soon followed. Public life came to a grinding halt, as offices, restaurants, and much more, shut down. To say that life has changed, is a gross understatement.
Plenty has been written about COVID-19, vaccines, and the recent trajectory of the virus. I’d like to focus a bit more on what comes after.
More specifically, how might we use some of the changes which have occurred due to COVID-19, to improve our society — to really make things better? …
How a (partially) distributed, remote Congress could better serve Americans
435 House Districts, 435 Different Stories
Less than 2 weeks from today, on January 3, 2021, 435 members of the United States House of Representatives will take their oaths of office. So will 33 members of the Senate. The other 67 senators were elected / reelected in either 2016 or 2018.
These Members of Congress represent highly varied parts of our country. In the House, the 13th Congressional district, located in New York City, is the nation’s smallest (in terms of land mass).
Adriano Espaillat is the district’s congressman. The 13th District is a 10.2 square mile, densely populated swath of upper Manhattan, and the western parts of the Bronx. …
Early Voting Is Very Popular
In much of the country, early voting is well under way. Polls suggest that as many as 52% of Americans plan on voting early in the presidential election. In states like North Carolina, ballots for voting by mail were sent out beginning in early September.
It is widely anticipated that voter turnout will surge to record levels. The 2018 midterms brought the highest voter participation rates (for a midterm election) in at least 4 decades, with more than 50% of the voting-age population showing up at the polls.
Higher turnout seems to be reflective of the politically charged moment we’re living through. The COVID-19 pandemic, protests over the killing of George Floyd (and other incidents involving police and African-American citizens), and a damaged economy are all sources of intense political division. …
Just over 10 years ago, I graduated from the UCLA School of Law. I finished my legal education during what was a very difficult economic environment for most Americans — including attorneys. In the first few years after graduation, I grew skeptical of the value of law school.
Today, I look back fondly on those years. I believe there are plenty of good reasons to attend law school, and become a practicing attorney.
At the same time, I’ve also been critical of legal academia. More than 4 years ago, I argued that institutions were not being transparent in disclosing bar passage and employment statistics, and were thus painting an unrealistic picture of a graduate’s chances of succeeding in school. …
April 26, 2020. Los Angeles, California.
It was a warm, clear Sunday afternoon, though not unseasonably hot. Think mid 70’s and sunny. It’s this incredibly pleasant climate, which has attracted people from across the planet, for generations, to live in southern California. The time was 2:57 PM.
For the past 5 weeks, I had been (mostly) staying indoors, save for a vigorous morning run. Once or twice a week, I’d go to our nearly deserted office, located just a few miles from my home.
All those hours indoors gave me a chance to reflect. I never thought I’d say it, but I missed the freeways of Los Angeles. The creeping, ceaseless traffic. The multitude of people living their lives. Millions of stories — each incredibly compelling, if you stop for a moment to listen. …
Criminal Justice In California: The Way It Used To Be
From the 1960’s through the early 1990’s, many neighborhoods in California saw a sustained rise in crime. Whether we’re talking about burglary, robbery or murder, things were consistently getting worse, pretty much every single year.
While virtually every neighborhood saw an increase in crime during this time, some communities were absolutely devastated. In southern California, Compton, Watts, and most of South Central Los Angeles, faced astronomical levels of violent crime, particularly in the mid to late 1980’s, through the early 1990’s.
In large part, this was driven by the crack epidemic and accompanying gang violence, which left behind a trail of broken lives and shellshocked neighborhoods. In more affluent corners of the state, high profile incidents like the 1988 murder of bystander Karen Toshima in a gang shooting just blocks from UCLA shocked the public. However, such horrific violence was a regular occurence in poorer areas — and often overlooked by the rest of society. …
The economy is doing well. No, the economy is in trouble. Job growth is strong. Job growth is actually weak, and employers plan on scaling back hiring.
Gross Domestic Product (better known as GDP) is expected to grow briskly. Sadly, that’s not the case: GDP is actually going to drop, and the economy is shrinking.
As the years go by, we hear these sorts of statements every day, from politicians, media pundits, and economic analysts. At the same time, we observe how the economy is performing in our own backyards. …
A Nation Divided
On a range of social and political issues, Americans are deeply split. On questions ranging from how favorably the Supreme Court is viewed, to the value of higher education, or the role of scientists in policy debates, we see the world very differently. What’s more, whether or not you hold the Supreme Court in high regard, or think universities have a positive role to play, depends largely on whether you tend to vote for Republican or Democratic candidates.
Since 1994, think tank Pew Research has measured where voters stand on 10 different political values. From 1994 to 2017, they found that the gap between Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, and Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, widened from 15 to 36 percentage points. …
A few months ago, I wrote about Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s proposal to implement a form of universal basic income, known as the Freedom Dividend. Today, we’ll address another important topic of interest: student loan forgiveness.
Bernie Sanders has proposed wiping out all currently outstanding student loan debt, regardless of income. Elizabeth Warren wants to forgive student loan debt based on income, by reducing the amount of debt cancelled as income increases. Individuals with incomes above $250,000 would not enjoy any student loan forgiveness. Warren’s plan would also end tax penalties for forgiven student loan debt. …
California’s Housing Shortage
California faces an unprecedented affordable housing crisis. The nation’s most populous state (and the world’s 5th largest economy) ranks 49th of the 50 states, in housing units per capita. 4 of the 10 American cities with the highest rates of increase in rents over the past five years, are located in the Golden State.
Rental housing is considered “cost burdened” if it costs more than 30% of household income, and “severely cost burdened” if it exceeds 50% of income. In California, over half of all renters fall into at least one of these two categories.
For many, the burden is too much to bear. California has amongst the highest homelessness rates in the entire nation, with the homeless population increasing by 13.7% from 2016 to 2017. Much of this growth appears to be driven by high housing costs. …