Friday, March 2, 2018

The Structural, Institutional, and Hegemonic Power of White Supremacy As Ideology And Political Economy in The Age of Trump…/a-supreme-court-ruling-again…/

A Supreme Court Ruling Against Unions Would Hit Black Women Hardest

The decision could profoundly affect “the livelihoods of millions of individuals…all at once.”

by Eli Day
February 28, 2018
Mother Jones

PHOTO: AFSCME members protest at the Minnesota State Capitol against a "right to work" amendment in 2012.Richard Sennott/Minneapolis Star Tribune

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a case that could kneecap public-sector union funding if the court rules in the plaintiff’s favor. Union opponents have celebrated the case for targeting the financial heart of the labor movement. Beyond the lively legal arguments, some labor supporters have noted that an unfavorable decision for unions would disproportionately affect women and people of color. 

The legal team for Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee who is represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is arguing that the required fee he pays to the union for bargaining on his behalf violates his First Amendment rights. If the Supreme Court rules in Janus’s favor, it will undo the precedent in the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, in which the court ruled unanimously that public employees who disagree with the union representing them are not denied their right to free speech. 

During Monday’s arguments, the court’s liberal justices raised flags about how reversing a 40-year-old precedent would affect the livelihoods of millions of workers. Justice Sonia Sotomayor observed that the arguments against union fees were essentially no different from ones to “do away with unions.” And Justice Elana Kagan cautioned, “This is a case in which there are tens of thousands of contracts with these provisions. Those contracts affect millions of employees, maybe as high as 10 million employees.” About five million workers in 24 states are currently covered by the “fair-share” fees at the heart of the case.

If the court’s conservative justices rule against the union, it will hurt some workers more than others. In an amicus brief, the National Women’s Law Center and dozens of other groups “committed to civil rights and economic opportunity” argue that unions have been a vital tool for shrinking economic inequality for women and people and color: “Unions are associated with smaller wage gaps related to gender and race in part because they promote transparency in criteria and decisions on compensation, recruitment, and promotions. Gender-based wage gaps persist throughout the economy, but the wage gap for union members is 53 percent smaller than the wage gap among non-union workers.” The brief goes on to argue that union benefits like pensions, health insurance, and paid leave are especially important for women and people of color, who face greater vulnerability in the labor market.

The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, says that unionized black women would suffer the most from an anti-union decision in Janus. Black women make up a disproportionate share of public employees (18 percent, or roughly 1.5 million workers). Despite their ugly histories of racist exclusion, unions have emerged as a key vehicle for collapsing the vast inequality between black women and the rest of the workforce. According to the NWLC, black women who belong to unions make 30 percent more than those who don’t. And while black women earn 65 cents for every dollar earned by white men, that wage gap is 20 percent smaller for unionized black women. 

Justice Kagan acknowledged the significant real-world impact of this case, which could be decided this summer. Ruling against the union, she cautioned, would not only challenge laws across several states, but would affect “the livelihoods of millions of individuals…all at once. When have we ever done something like that?” 


Eli Day is an editorial fellow with Mother Jones and relentless Detroiter. You can reach him at

Trump and Congress Are Making It Easier for Banks and Companies to Rip Off Black People

“It’s fairly alarming”

by Hannah Levintova
February 25, 2018
Mother Jones

IMAGE: credit: P_Wei/Getty; hansslegers/Getty

In the mid-2000s, Hudson City Savings Bank, a large savings bank in New Jersey, was doing well, earning accolades for its smart management, its “small town” feel, and its relative strength in the face of the brewing financial crisis. It was even expanding—opening more than 50 new branches in neighboring New York and Connecticut.

But Hudson’s expansion strategy seemed designed to exclude certain customers. Despite placing dozens of new branches in counties near New York City, such as Westchester, the bank didn’t open any at all in Queens, Kings, Bronx, and New York counties—which happen to be the counties with the highest proportion of majority black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the state.

In 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) started investigating the bank for possible redlining—the practice of excluding minority communities from credit products. To build a case, the bureau’s investigators relied on information collected under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), which requires lenders to report various data points on the mortgages they sell—including the distribution of loans across census tracts, data that helps regulators spot patterns of racial discrimination.

Mapping Hudson’s HMDA data revealed that the bank’s expansion “excludes and forms a semi-circle around” those heavily minority counties, the CFPB and the Justice Department noted in a subsequent lawsuit. Hudson, the suit alleged, “discouraged consumers in majority-Black-and-Hispanic census tracts from applying for credit.”
A major anti-redlining lawsuit hinged on data rules the Trump administration is doing its best to undermine.
The data showed that plenty of people in those black and Hispanic neighborhoods were getting loans, only not from Hudson. In 2014, the bank had approved 1,886 mortgages in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, but only 25 went to black borrowers. When a customer from one of the four excluded New York counties showed up at a Hudson branch, they would be deemed ineligible for certain discounted products the bank offered its low- or moderate-income clients from other areas. What’s more, Hudson’s advertisements dictated that customers had to go in to a single branch location—in majority white Fairfield, Connecticut, an hour’s drive from New York City—in order to close on any of the discounted loans.

“Hudson City,” the agencies concluded, “had no legitimate, non-discriminatory reason to draw relatively few applications from these majority Black-and-Hispanic areas.” In 2015, Hudson settled the federal lawsuit for nearly $33 million, the largest redlining settlement in the history of the CFPB and the DOJ. (The settlement did not include an admission of guilt by Hudson.) The deal called for the majority of the settlement to be invested in a mortgage subsidy program offered in the neighborhoods Hudson had neglected.

The access of federal regulators to good HDMA data has been key, not just to the Hudson lawsuit, but to many other redemptive actions intended to help consumers. But the Trump administration recently made a move that threatens the integrity of the data. In December, the CFPB—whose new interim director is Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director—announced that the agency will no longer fine lenders for reporting errors. This will make the information, “much less useful,” says Makada Henry-Nickie, a governance studies fellow at the Brookings Institution and former senior analyst at the CFPB. “Every single mortgage discrimination or redlining case is supported by the HMDA data, even if it didn’t originate there,” she adds. “So with Mulvaney’s decision, we’re losing a lot.”

The agency has also announced plans to reconsider the data-reporting requirements altogether.

These recent changes are just one piece of a broader trend that has swept across government since Trump took office—a gutting of anti-discrimination measures across the financial services, including mortgages, car loans, payday loans, and more. “This is a pattern we have observed, and it’s fairly alarming,” says Yana Miles, senior legislative counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending. “You have good policy that protects consumers and tries to address discrimination. We’re seeing these rules delayed, picked at, or invalidated.”
Congress recently repealed a ban on corporate contract language that leaves consumers powerless in the case of a dispute.
This trend ramped up last October, when Congress repealed the CFPB’s rule banning clauses in financial contracts that required arbitration and prevented class-action lawsuits. Class actions allow customers to pool their resources to sue as a group, which tends to be much more feasible than financing a lawsuit individually—especially in cases where the financial losses are not large. With mandatory arbitration, too, the deck is stacked heavily against the consumer. The repeal marked a major win for Wall Street, easing the way for banks to engage in harmful practices—including unequal treatment of minority borrowers—unchecked by consumer lawsuits.

Last month, Trump’s Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it would delay enforcement of an Obama-era rule that forces local governments to identify racial segregation in housing and develop plans to address it. Under the original rule, communities had to submit their plans to HUD starting in January 2019 to remain eligible for federal housing aid. But the administration has extended the deadline to October 31, 2020—days before the next presidential election. Some observers think the delay may presage an undoing of the rule, which Housing Secretary Ben Carson has long criticized as akin to “social engineering.” (Since taking his Cabinet post, Carson has said he’d like to “reinterpret” the rule.) HUD justified the delay by saying some of the assessments already submitted were deemed ineffective at reversing housing segregation, a sign that communities needed more time to hone their plans.

Two weeks after the HUD announcement, Mulvaney’s CFPB said it would reconsider another Obama-era rule—one that created landmark federal restrictions on payday lenders. Using a person’s coming paycheck as collateral, these lenders loan cash at astronomical rates—sometimes, allegedly, as high as 950 percent. Studies have found that the lenders disproportionately target communities of color when setting up their locations.

With Mulvaney in charge, the CFPB has stopped going after auto dealers who give their black customers higher interest rates.

The CFPB has also announced it would strip enforcement powers from the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity, the agency’s division responsible for protecting minority borrowers against discriminatory lending. The fair lending office has levied hundreds of millions of dollars in fines on lenders who overcharged nonwhite borrowers, and has been responsible for some of the agency’s biggest victories, including a $169 million fine against GE Capital for credit card discrimination—the largest such settlement in the federal government’s history—and the 2015 Hudson settlement.

Consumer watchdogs are further concerned that under Mulvaney’s control, the CFPB, through a series of confusing legislative twists and turns, appears to have rolled back its guidance cracking down on discriminatory pricing on auto loans. In 2013, the agency called out car dealers for jacking up interest rates on nonwhite customers and then imposed limits on the dealers’ discretion to mark up those rates at random.

The auto-lending rule quickly became a Republican target—in 2015, Mulvaney, then a congressman, voted for a bill that aimed to nullify it. That bill failed, but several months after Trump’s inauguration, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) asked the Government Accountability Office to look into how the rule was made—the office determined that the CFPB had flouted certain congressional regulations in the process, and concluded that the agency needed to resubmit the rule for congressional approval before enforcing it any further. Perhaps not surprisingly, Mulvaney’s agency has not done so, which means the anti-discrimination rule is effectively null and void.

The CFPB did not respond to a request for comment about the impacts of its policy changes on communities of color, but the administration’s broad attack on anti-discrimination measures has raised the ire of Democratic lawmakers. Last week, 53 Democrats wrote to the CFPB demanding more information on how the agency went about deciding to roll back the protections, including the changes to mortgage data reporting and the reorganization of the fair lending office. “Laws that prohibit discrimination in consumer financial markets, like other consumer protection laws, were not prioritized by regulators before the financial crisis,” they wrote. “We are concerned that in taking these actions, you will frustrate the CFPB’s efforts to ensure all ‘consumers are protected from unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices and from discrimination.'”


Hannah Levintova is a reporter in Mother Jones' DC bureau. You can email her at hlevintova

Schools See Major Uptick In Racial Harassment, New Data Suggests

It’s “distressingly unsurprising,” one former Education Department official says.

by Rebecca Klein

February 23, 2018

Huffington Post

PHOTO: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Vice President Mike Pence, and Donald Trump. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

[Racial harassment complaints to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights increased nearly 25 percent between fiscal years 2016 and 2017.]

The U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights division saw a significant increase in the number of complaints it received regarding racial harassment in schools, including post-secondary institutions, in 2017, according to data the department provided to HuffPost. The increase represents the biggest rise in this category since at least 2009, the earliest consecutive year for which we could find publicly reported numbers in this category. 

The number of racial harassment discrimination complaints the department’s civil rights division receives has ebbed and flowed over the last nine years. It did not receive more than 600 complaints until fiscal year 2017, when the number climbed to 675, a nearly 25 percent increase from the previous year. Previously, the number had bounced between a low of 362 and a high of 577. 

The Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, is charged with addressing complaints under Title VI, the federal law that protects students from discrimination based on race, color and national origin.

The Department of Education provided the numbers in response to an inquiry from HuffPost. A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment when asked about potential reasons for this uptick, or to a request about numbers from earlier than 2009, by press time. 

Catherine Lhamon, who ran OCR during the Obama administration, said she could not speculate on the reasons for this increase, but pointed to outside data showing a surge in hate crimes nationally.

“Our schools are places that encapsulate and reflect the national climate as well,” said Lhamon, who is now chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. “It is distressingly unsurprising that there might be an uptick in racial harassment complaints coming to OCR.” 

Zoe Savitsky, deputy legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, pointed to the numbers as evidence that the Trump administration is creating a toxic national environment that is in turn affecting schools. In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center started surveying teachers about how the election had influenced their school’s climate. Many teachers reported seeing an increase in hateful language and attitudes toward marginalized student groups. 
“I am saddened but not surprised,” said Savitsky of the rise in racial harassment complaints in schools.

Our schools are places that encapsulate and reflect the national climate. Catherine Lhamon, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights 

In general, grievances regarding discrimination related to race and national origin appear to have mostly held steady between 2016 and 2017, per documents related to the department’s budget request released last week. But within that category, harassment complaints underwent a specific leap. Other types of complaints that involve race or national origin might cover disproportionate disciplining of minority students or segregation. 

The record number of harassment complaints comes as OCR has begun scaling back its operations under the Trump administration. The Education Department recently announced that it would no longer deal with discrimination complaints involving transgender students’ use of bathrooms. Last June, OCR announced that its attorneys would spend less time searching for evidence of systemic discrimination at public schools and universities in order to work through a backlog of complaints. The administration’s proposed budget for next year, released earlier this month, indicates that it plans to significantly shrink the number of employees working at OCR. 

Between 2016 and 2017, OCR saw a 23 percent drop in the number of complaints it received overall. This decrease, though, could be attributable to a single individual who filed over 6,000 complaints in 2016. Notwithstanding this complainant, the office actually saw a significant increase in overall complaints in 2017.

An Education Department spokesperson also provided HuffPost with numbers showing that complaints regarding incidents of sexual violence in schools, including at K-12 schools and universities, held mostly steady in 2017 after a huge uptick in 2016. 

Notably, in 2017, OCR also provided fewer technical assistance sessions, in which education department staffers advise public school officials and other stakeholders about their obligations under civil rights law. OCR held 250 sessions in 2015 and 295 in 2016. In 2017, the office held only 188. 

A spokesperson for the Education Department did not respond to inquiries about why this number might have decreased. 

Lhamon said she found the decrease concerning.
“I was sick about how few technical assistance sessions we were able to offer in my time,” she said. “Reducing the number means OCR reaches fewer willing audiences about how to do what Congress has commanded and make sure students are safe.”


Rebecca Klein is the Education Reporter for the Huffington Post…/43637-tax-forms-reveal-koch-brot…

Tax Forms Reveal Koch Brothers Spent Millions to Shape State Politics in 2017
by Alex Kotch 

February 25, 2018 

Truthout | Report

IMAGE:  Though positions advocated by the Koch brothers and their network are unpopular with Americans, big money can give life to even the unlikeliest of proposals. Though positions advocated by the Koch brothers and their network are unpopular with Americans, big money can give life to even the unlikeliest of proposals. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

The conservative billionaire mega-donors Charles and David Koch poured millions of dollars into state politics in 2017, according to tax forms recently released by the Internal Revenue Service, despite it being a year with relatively few state elections.

The brothers' massive investments in federal Republican politicians and groups have been more heavily scrutinized, but the influence they and their vast political spending network have on state politics is too often overlooked.
The Koch political network has funneled money and organizing into state politics for some time, contributing to huge state legislative gains by Republicans over the last decade. Having cultivated a large number of state officials who share their beliefs, or feel indebted to them, the Kochs are able to heavily influence right-wing policy change, even at the federal level. One current initiative is a radical Convention of the States, which would bypass an often gridlocked Congress and convene representatives from each state to alter the US Constitution with federal spending caps and any number of unforeseen changes. Another goal is gerrymandering the US Senate by allowing state legislators and governors, not the people, to pick US senators.

Last year, Koch Industries, the giant, private fossil fuel and materials conglomerate co-owned by the Koch brothers, lavished state-level super PACs, such as the Republican Governors Association, the Republican State Leadership Committee and the Republican Attorneys General Association with hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Groups like these use donations from wealthy conservatives and corporations to help elect state legislative, gubernatorial and cabinet secretary candidates who, in many cases, lower taxes, slash regulations and hinder collective bargaining -- policies that aid the profits of big businesses like Koch Industries and line up with the Koch brothers' libertarian ideology.

David Koch, the richest resident of New York City with a net worth of $60.7 billion as of February 22, personally donated $500,000 to the New York Republican Party in 2017. According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Charles Koch has not personally yet donated to state candidates since 2014; however, campaign finance report deadlines will soon arrive in some states, and these reports could reveal any such contributions.

"The positions advocated by the Koch brothers and their network are incredibly unpopular with Americans, and yet in our political system, big money can give life to even the unlikeliest of proposals," Laura Friedenbach, communications director of the progressive money-in-politics nonprofit Every Voice, told Truthout. "Big donors and their allies have successfully rigged the rules of our democracy in ways that give them, their political spending, and out-of-touch politicians too much influence."

Democratic donors also contribute to super PACs and dark money groups that spend on state elections, but in the last decade, Republican spending groups -- which are often better funded -- have proved more effective in influencing local policies.

Since 2010, Republicans have gained control of 18 additional state legislatures. However, recent elections in Virginia and other states demonstrate what appears to be a Democratic wave, in part due to the unpopularity of President Donald Trump and the dearth of major legislation passed by the GOP-controlled Congress.

To complement super PAC spending and campaign contributions, the Koch political network also spent millions of dollars on outside advertisements in state races. For example, the most well-known "dark money" nonprofit partially funded and overseen by the Kochs, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), spent at least $2.8 million on TV ads, digital ads and mailers attacking Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, intended to benefit the unsuccessful bid of Republican Ed Gillespie.

Virginia Republicans suffered some tough losses in last year's elections, but that hasn't deterred Freedom Partners, the "central bank" of the political network, from advocating work requirements for Medicaid recipients, or AFP from opposing a Medicaid expansion in the state.

Gillespie was a keynote speaker at an annual AFP event in August. The Defending the American Dream Summit is an annual weekend gathering for "defenders of freedom to come together to learn, be inspired, and celebrate liberty."
"Ed Gillespie has long been a champion for policies that promote economic prosperity and improve people's lives," said AFP President Tim Phillips. "I'm excited for our activists to learn more about his approach to advancing free market principles in Virginia and how he plans to keep the American Dream alive and well for this generation and many more to come."

In typical Koch fashion, one anti-Northam mailer attacked the candidate for supporting higher taxes on sales, gas, home and car sales. A digital video criticized Northam for opposing an "education savings account" proposal that would give parents who removed their children from public school 90 percent of the state funds that would have been spent on those children, which they could spend on private school tuition and other educational costs.

The Koch network, which advocates charter and private school expansion, is supporting similar education savings account bills around the country. In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey, a Koch favorite, signed a 2017 bill creating private school vouchers, which pay for children to attend private, often religious, schools. Now an anti-voucher measure is on the state's 2018 ballot, and the Kochs' LIBRE Initiative, a project targeting Latino voters, is campaigning against it.
"The Koch network of funders considers vouchers the 'low-hanging fruit' of what can be accomplished in the public policy world," Mary Bottari, deputy director of the Center for Media and Democracy, which studies and reports on the Koch network, told Truthout. "The terrible tragedy is that empirical research is increasingly showing that vouchers are actually harming kids."

Both the Arizona law and Virginia's measure on vouchers -- which passed the state legislature but was vetoed by then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe -- mirror model legislation crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate bill mill made up of big business representatives and conservative state lawmakers. ALEC receives funding from Koch Industries, which has been on the group's governing board, and the Charles Koch Foundation.

And the Koch network is embedded in the ALEC leadership. Frayda Levin, an AFP board member, and Michael Morgan, a Koch Industries lobbyist, are on ALEC's Private Enterprise Advisory Council. ALEC recently hired former AFP analyst Grant Kidwell to chair its Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force.

Donors to the Republican Governors Association can't technically earmark their donations for specific candidates, but they can convey their "interest" in certain races or say they are making a donation "at the request of a candidate," according to The Wall Street Journal.

In 2017, Koch Industries donated $525,000 to the Republican Governors Association, per recently released tax forms, which gave $5.25 million to Gillespie's campaign and gave almost $8 million to another super PAC, A Stronger Virginia. That PAC contributed the largest total out of all donors, $7.5 million, to the Gillespie campaign.

The New Jersey governor's race, also held in 2017, broke the state record for independent spending ($24.5 million), which included $2.3 million from the Republican Governors Association backing GOP candidate Kimberly Guadagno, who lost.

The Republican State Leadership Committee, to which Koch Industries and Koch Companies Public Sector LLC donated $154,000, put roughly $2 million into Virginia races in 2017, including $810,000 to lieutenant governor candidate Jill Vogel, $700,000 to the Virginia Republican Party and over $500,000 to the Dominion Leadership Trust, a committee set up by House Speaker Bill Howell to aid Republican state candidates.

Koch Industries donated nearly $60,000 directly to Virginia state campaigns last year, including $20,000 to Gillespie, $10,000 to Adams and $7,500 to the Dominion Leadership Trust.

Koch Industries and Koch Companies Public Sector LLC collectively donated over $215,000 in 2017 to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), a super PAC that spends large amounts to help elect GOP state attorneys general. RAGA donated at least $6.9 million last year to Virginia attorney general candidate John Adams, the Virginia Republican Party and the Dominion Leadership Trust, as well as to party organizations in other states, such as Florida, Michigan and Washington, according to the group's most recent tax forms. As a top-tier donor to RAGA, Koch Industries had "posting access" to an exclusive online policy bulletin board, according to documents recently revealed by The Intercept.

Koch Industries and its corporate political action committee, KochPAC, made over $137,000 in direct donations to state candidates' campaigns and state party groups, per data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

By maintaining and expanding Republican majorities in state legislatures across the country, the Koch network will help the party control the 2020 redistricting of state and federal districts.

In 2010, led by the Republican State Leadership Committee's REDMAP program, the party successfully took control of a majority of state legislatures, allowing the GOP to draw legislative and congressional voting districts in those states the following year, after the 2010 Census was released. The result in several states, including North Carolina and Pennsylvania, were partisan and racial gerrymanders. In 2021, state lawmakers will again redraw these maps after the 2020 Census, and political donors like the Kochs want to prevent Democrats from regaining majorities and controlling this process.

In addition to privatizing education and cutting taxes, the Koch network has plenty of other designs for the states. AFP supports an anti-union "Right to Work" amendment to the North Carolina constitution and expanded offshore gas drilling in nearby Atlantic waters. In Kentucky, AFP applauded Gov. Matt Bevin's push to impose Medicaid work requirements and his plan to repeal film tax credits.

Requests for comment from Freedom Partners, Koch Industries and KochPAC were not returned.

"The ALEC-Koch machine has long advocated this list of policies -- corporatizing public education, dismantling public health care, backing policies to lower wages and destroy public and private sector unions," said Bottari. "These policies benefit no one except corporations and the wealthy trying to rig our economy for their own benefit."

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.


Alex Kotch is an independent investigative journalist focused on money in politics, and he's been published by over 20 outlets including, Salon, Exposed by CMD, AlterNet, DeSmog and Rewire. Follow him on Twitter @alexkotch and see more of his work at

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