Commentary

Recently re-elected Governor Andrew Cuomo likes to complain that he's "a progressive Democrat who's broke." Here's a simple way to raise millions of dollars and make the economy safer at the same time: a small tax on financial transactions. Politically impossible? Not in New York, where Governor Cuomo could lead the way to reinstate New York's Stock Transfer Tax, which remains on the books but currently is not collected.

| |

Nearly half of the nation's employers investigate job applicants' credit histories as a condition of employment.

As a result, New Yorkers struggling with debt -- medical bills, school loans or car payments -- are often shut out of jobs. This unfair barrier to employment can be dismantled by outlawing employment credit checks.

Democratic Council Members Brad Lander of Brooklyn and Debi Rose of Staten Island have introduced a bill that would ban such checks in hiring except when required by state or federal laws. The measure is supported by 40 council members.

| |

In the wake of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, after the Aug. 9 shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson, there has been a focus on racial disparities in representation. A recent study found that while people of color make up 37.2 percent of the U.S. population, they account for only 10 percent of elected officials at the federal, state and county levels. By contrast, white men, who make up 31 percent of the population, account for 65 percent of representatives.

With Election Day approaching on November 4th, Americans are faced with a perennial question: to vote or not to vote? In the last midterm election, in 2010, only 47 percent of the eligible population voted. Voting patterns typically break down along clear demographic lines: Non-voters tend to be low-income, young and people of color, while those who vote tend to older, whiter and richer than the population at large.

Last week, AT&T agreed to pay $80 million to customers who had been overbilled for charges they had not authorized. This was an all-too-rare case of a perpetrator brought to book: In recent decades, Americans have increasingly been hit with fees they know nothing about, which have contributed to a crisis of consumer debt. We must hope we are entering a new era of regulatory activism that will shine a light on hidden fees.

|

In the wake of the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager shot by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9, the public has heard quite a bit about the town, its residents and their supposed violence.

But about half an hour drive west of Ferguson, along a highway straddling the Missouri River, you will come to what may seem a planet away: St. Charles County.

| |

This fall, I’ll be teaching some of the most financially distressed students in America.

For a moment, Monday’s funeral for Michael Brown, the young black man shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, pulled our attention away from the protests and militarized police response and back to the body on the street. The police left Michael there in the middle of the road, under the midday sky, for over four hours, blood seeping from his head in a drying rivulet on the asphalt. “To have that boy lying there, like nobody cared about him.

|

Last week, as I sat and watched the events unfold in Ferguson, Missouri over the death of Michael Brown, I went through a range of emotions: rage, grief, depression. Even without the full details of the case, it was upsetting—horrifying really—to see another unarmed black body slain in the broad daylight for the entire world to see. For days and days, I tried to express the emotions that I was feeling, but my fingers went limp.

| |

I remember the stunned reaction of so many Americans back in the summer of 2005 when legions of poor black people in desperate circumstances seemed to have suddenly and inexplicably materialized in New Orleans during the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina.

Expressions of disbelief poured in from around the nation: "How can this be happening?" "I had no idea conditions were that bad." "My God, is this America?"

| |