Commentary

The Supreme Court of the United States must be criticized for blindness, perhaps even willful ignorance of reality, in their recent decision gutting the Voting Rights Act.

On a winter’s night in 1955, a young preacher named Martin Luther King climbed into the pulpit of the Holt Street Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Once there, he delivered a speech to a packed crowd of close to five thousand people that would eventually lead to his own assassination, but breathe new life into the struggle to transform America and the world. 

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The Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder is a setback for democracy — especially at the local level.

Overwhelming evidence shows that too many politicians continue to win elections by unfairly manipulating election rules based on how voters look or talk. The Court’s decision makes this problem worse. The biggest problem will be the manipulation of election rules for local offices that are often non-partisan and escape national attention.

Ever since the election of George W. Bush, the Republican strategy has been to keep a growing Democratic majority at bay by repressing the votes of people and groups likely to vote Democratic.

America's failure to solve the continuing mortgage crisis is the most serious lapse in the aftermath of the 2008 subprime meltdown. Several decades of increased homeownership rates in working-class and minority communities have been wiped out. Most homeowners who lost equity, or their homes, were not speculators but innocent bystanders caught in the downdraft of the housing prices that followed.

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The upheavals coming out of Washington are important and interesting in themselves.Supreme Court decisions about gay marriage, voting rights and affirmative action, the president's global warming initiative and the NSA snooping hoo-ha affect all of us. The stock market's downward slide and continuing economic insecurity are equally compelling.

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Financial markets exist to move capital from investors to users, and the value of the financial markets should be determined by their efficiency in intermediating these flows of capital. Unregulated markets are chronically inefficient using this standard and cost the economy enormous amounts each year, creating stresses to the system that make systemic crises inevitable.
 

In his much-anticipated speech on climate change, President Obama proposed smart, modest policies that would help decrease greenhouse gas emissions through support for renewable energy development and increased energy efficiency measures, prepare the country for the climate change that is already occurring, and lead international climate efforts, including phasing out fossil fuel subsides and stopping funding for new coal plants overseas.

At an impromptu confab on the stoop yesterday, one of my favorite neighbors updated me on his daughter, a 27-year-old who graduated from law school with sterling grades. A year later, she is still looking for work. The family is white. I nodded my head in concern.  Like many of her peers, she feels an ominous future, where the bottom is falling out. The economy is in a terrible, indefinite convulsion, and the rules of engagement no longer hold. Things are falling apart.

Five Supreme Court Justices just rolled back the most effective civil rights provision in our nation's history. What should we do now?

One option is to declare "mission accomplished" and forget about race in politics.

That, however, will not work. Although we have made amazing progress in the past fifty years, too many state and local politicians still maintain power by manipulating election rules.