Supreme Court Rejects Voting Map That Diluted Black Voters’ Power

Voting rights advocates had feared a decision would undermine the Voting Rights Act, which instead appeared to emerge unscathed.

Adam Liptak

By Adam Liptak

Reporting from Washington

June 8, 2023, 10:40 a.m. ET

The Supreme Court, in a surprise decision, ruled that Alabama had diluted the power of Black voters by drawing a congressional voting map with a single district in which they made up a majority.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the majority opinion in the 5-to-4 ruling. He was joined by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and the court’s three liberal members, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Voting rights advocates had feared the decision would undermine the Voting Rights Act, which instead appeared to emerge unscathed.

The chief justice wrote that there were legitimate concerns that the law “may impermissibly elevate race in the allocation of political power within the states.” He added: “Our opinion today does not diminish or disregard these concerns. It simply holds that a faithful application of our precedents and a fair reading of the record before us do not bear them out here.”

The case was part of a pitched battle over redistricting playing out across the country. Civil rights leaders say the redistricting process often disadvantages growing minority communities. Republican state officials say the Constitution allows only a limited role for the consideration of race in drawing voting districts.

The case started after Alabama’s Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, redrew the congressional map to take account of the 2020 census.

The state has seven congressional districts, and its voting-age population is about 27 percent Black. The new map maintained a single district in which Black voters made up a majority.

That district has long elected a Democrat, while the state’s other six districts are represented by Republicans.

After Black voters and advocacy groups challenged the map under the Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights law enacted in 1965 to protect minority voters, a unanimous three-judge panel of the Federal District Court in Birmingham ruled that the Legislature should have fashioned a second district “in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”

The unsigned decision was joined by Judge Stanley Marcus, who ordinarily sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, and who was appointed by President Bill Clinton; and by Judges Anna M. Manasco and Terry F. Moorer, both appointed by President Donald J. Trump.

The panel found that voting in the state is racially polarized and that it would be possible to draw “a second reasonably configured district” to allow Black voters to elect their favored candidates.

Last year, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the lower court’s ruling by a 5-to-4 vote, ensuring that the 2022 election would take place using the Legislature’s map, the one with a single district in which Black voters were in the majority.

In 2013, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court effectively gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which had required federal approval of changes to state and local voting laws in parts of the country with a history of racial discrimination. But that ruling assured the public that Section 2 of the law would remain in place to protect voting rights by allowing litigation after the fact.

In 2021, in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the court cut backon Section 2 of the law, limiting the ability of minority groups to challenge voting restrictions.

The new case from Alabama, Allen v. Milligan, No. 21-1086, also concerns Section 2, but in the context of redistricting.

Section 2 bars any voting procedure that “results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race.” That happens, the provision goes on, when, “based on the totality of circumstances,” racial minorities “have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.”

Adam Liptak covers the Supreme Court and writes Sidebar, a column on legal developments. A graduate of Yale Law School, he practiced law for 14 years before joining The Times in 2002. @adamliptakFacebook

Michigan lawmakers move to enact voter-approved election changes

Clara Hendrickson

Detroit Free Press

Michigan lawmakers kicked off hearings Wednesday on legislation to update election laws to reflect changes approved by voters who passed a major expansion of voting rights in the state last November.

Sixty percent of Michigan voters who participated in the 2022 midterm election approved Proposal 2 the “Promote the Vote” amendment to the state constitution.

Among the most significant changes, the amendment requires election officials to offer at least nine days of early in-person voting during statewide and federal elections. Before the amendment’s adoption, Michigan voters could cast an absentee ballot in person leading up to Election Day. But now they will be able to cast an in-person ballot just as they would at their polling location, placing it into the tabulator themselves.

The amendment also codifies current voter ID rules, allows voters to receive absentee ballots for all future elections with a single request, requires drop boxes and prepaid postage for absentee voting in every municipality and allows ballots cast by military and overseas voters to count even if election officials receive them after Election Day.

State Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, who chairs the state Senate’s Elections and Ethics Committee, celebrated the passage of the amendment at a time when the state’s election system came under intense scrutiny, saying it showed voting rights remain popular among Michigan voters.

“We are writing a historic new chapter for voting in the state of Michigan,” he said. “Today, we introduce the implementation of a new method to connect voters to their ballot box.”

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said the passage of Proposal 2 showed bipartisan support to create more opportunities for Michigan voters to have their voices heard and called on lawmakers to quickly pass bills enacting the changes to give clerks enough time to start preparing for the presidential primary next year.

“These bills will implement the will of the voters which I think spoke loud and clear last fall in a way that was both overwhelming and inspiring,” Benson

Benson’s Republican predecessor state Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, who served as secretary of state from 2011 to 2018, cast doubt on support for the changes made by Proposal 2. Johnson accused backers of the amendment of running ads that misinformed voters, and alleged that voters passed the election changes “based on lies and deceptions.”

At one point during the hearing, Johnson questioned whether sufficient safeguards would be put in place to prevent Michigan voters from voting more than once. Saginaw County Clerk Vanessa Guerra representing the Michigan Association of County Clerks pointed to checks and balances in the election system to prosecute those who break the law. But a perfect election system capable of rooting out all fraud is unattainable, she said.

I think that if the thought is that we’re going to have a system that entirely prohibits any type of fraud that that would be impossible. But if we create systems that are so prohibitive that they actually make it harder for voters to vote, I think that would be un-American, right?” she said.

In the 2020 election, hundreds of audits, court rulings and post-election investigations uncovered no evidence of widespread fraud

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has already approved one update to Michigan election law to reflect the changes made by voters last fall. She signed into law Senate Bill 259, which requires election officials to count military and overseas ballots received within 6 days of an election.

Other bills recently introduced in the state House and Senate would establish early voting procedures, new drop box requirements and other components of Proposal 2. The House Elections Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bills Thursday. The Secretary of State’s office estimates that it will take just over $63.8 million in one-time costs and just over $21.1 million in annual costs to implement the changes in Proposal 2.

The 2024 presidential election cycle will mark the second consecutive one in Michigan that sees major changes to the state’s voting process. The 2020 cycle saw the first statewide elections in which every voter had a right to cast an absentee ballot.

Contact Clara Hendrickson at or 313-296-5743. Follow her on Twitter @clarajanehen

Making Manufacturing Great Again

June 6, 2023

Paul Krugman- NYTIMES Opinion

Back when Donald Trump began his political rise, it was common for mainstream pundits to attribute his support to “economic anxiety,” to suggest that MAGA was an understandable, maybe even reasonable response to deindustrialization and the loss of jobs in the American heartland. You don’t hear that very much anymore.

But it’s true that Trump himself was obsessed with trade deficits and that if he indeed had any unorthodox policy ideas — in practice, he was mostly a standard, tax-and-benefit-cutting Republican — they were focused on attempts to revive manufacturing. That, at least, was the main rationale for the trade war he started with China in 2018.

As it turned out, Trump had no visible success in promoting manufacturing. But a funny thing has happened under his successor: Suddenly, investment in manufacturing has surged. What Trump’s trade policies didn’t achieve, President Biden’s industrial policies have.

The numbers are stunning. Here’s an annotated chart of manufacturing construction spending:

The Trump tax cut of 2017, which was sold as a way of promoting U.S. investment, didn’t have any visible effect. Neither did the trade war, which kicked off in earnest in mid-2018. But under Biden, manufacturing construction, as some people put it, has gone parabolic, more than doubling just over the past year.

Raw dollar figures can be misleading, especially when you’re looking at the long run; spending needs to be compared with the size of the economy as a whole. But the Census, which provides these numbers, has annual data going back to 1993; here’s manufacturing construction as a percentage of G.D.P. over the past three decades (the number for 2023 is April spending as a percentage of first-quarter G.D.P.):

Credit…Census, Bureau of Economic Analysis

It’s still really impressive. And there’s no real question about the causes of the surge. It’s being driven by two major pieces of legislation: the misleadingly named Inflation Reduction Act, whose actual core is subsidies for green energy, and the CHIPS Act (“creating helpful incentives to produce semiconductors” — call in the acronym police!), which is supposed to protect national security by promoting domestic production of, um, chips.

The ultimate impact of these policies will almost surely be much bigger than these numbers suggest. For one thing, planning and beginning work on new manufacturing plants takes time, so there’s probably even more spending in the pipeline. For another, these numbers count only construction — basically, factory buildings. Filling those buildings with machinery and investing in R&D to make the most of the new capacity will probably add hundreds of billions to the total business spending.

Why are Biden policies producing a manufacturing revival but Trump policies didn’t? Well, Trump’s trade policy was simply incompetent: Because it raised tariffs on industrial inputs as well as consumer goods, it raised costs and may well have reduced manufacturing employment. And the Trump tax cut was based on the belief that if you let corporations keep more of their profits, they’ll invest the money rather than use it to, say, buy back shares; this belief was proved wrong.

Biden’s industrial policies, by contrast, are largely focused on creating demand for U.S.-manufactured products, for example by subsidizing the purchase of electric vehicles. And business investment, while far less sensitive to tax rates than legend has it, is very responsive to demand.

And so we’re having a huge manufacturing revival.

Now, there’s a risk that what I’m saying may come across as too uncritically upbeat. So let me offer two major caveats about the Biden manufacturing boom.

First, even if we do have a major manufacturing revival, we’re not going back to 1970, when more than a quarter of U.S. workers were in manufacturing. We’re still going to be overwhelmingly a service economy despite these new policies. The new manufacturing boom may help lagging regions in the U.S. heartland and is specifically designed to help workers without college degrees. But nobody should expect it to turn back the clock on our transition to a postindustrial society.

Second, rapid growth in a sector isn’t necessarily a good thing for the economy. Until recently, for example, there was an explosion of resources devoted to Bitcoin mining. As far as I can tell, these resources produced nothing of value — sorry, crypto enthusiasts, Bitcoin has yet to show that it’s useful for anything besides money laundering. And the Bitcoin boom has both inflicted environmental damage and consumed resources that could have been used to produce things that are actually useful.

So why should we consider Biden’s industrial-policy-driven manufacturing boom a good thing? Mainly because it’s part of an urgently needed transition to renewable energy that may be our last chance to avoid climate catastrophe. And the surge in U.S. manufacturing investment in particular partly reflects protectionist aspects of the legislation that are a bad thing in terms of economic efficiency — but were essential to the political deal-making that made it possible to tackle climate change at all.

The point, then, is that the success of Biden’s manufacturing policy can’t be judged purely by the extremely impressive investment numbers. Still, the policy would clearly have been considered a failure if it hadn’t produced a manufacturing boom. So it’s good news that the boom is happening, indeed exceeding even the most optimistic expectations.

Young People Can Make A Difference

By David Leonhardt. NYTIMES

Young and active

In the 2018 elections — the midterms of Donald Trump’s presidency — turnout among younger voters surged. Almost twice as many people in their late 20s and early 30s voted that year as had done so in the midterms four years earlier. And they strongly backed Democratic candidates, helping the party retake control of Congress.

At the time, it was not clear whether the newfound political engagement of younger adults would last beyond Trump’s presidency. So far, though, it has — and it’s emerging as one of the biggest stories in American politics and a major advantage for the Democratic Party.

After each election, the data analysts at Catalist, a progressive research company, publish a post-mortem report based on months of analysis of election returns, voter files and other sources. A central theme of the latest report, covering the 2022 midterms, was that “Gen Z and millennial voters had exceptional levels of turnout,” as Catalist’s experts wrote. In the 14 states with heavily contested elections last year, turnout among younger voters rose even higher than it was in 2018.

This chart, by my colleague Ashley Wu, offers a nice way to see the trends:

Since 2014, turnout among people born before 1950 has declined, mostly because more have died or been unable to get to the polls. (Experts refer to this dynamic euphemistically as “exiting the electorate.”) Turnout among middle-aged people rose, and turnout among young voters rose even more sharply.

Older Americans still vote at higher rates than younger Americans, but the gap has narrowed substantially over the past two decades.

Fear, not love

Why? Many younger voters have become more politically active because they fear for the country’s future. Those on the left — who are a majority of younger voters — worry about climate change, abortion access, the extremism of the Republican Party and more. Those on the right worry about secularization, political correctness, illegal immigration and more.

“What seems to be driving younger voters to the polls isn’t love, but anger,” Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report has written.

Source: Catalist | By The New York Times

Contrary to conventional wisdom, younger voters throughout U.S. history have not automatically been liberal. In 1984, Americans under 30 strongly backed Ronald Reagan’s re-election. In 2000, they split almost evenly between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

It’s true that people often become somewhat more conservative as they age (and millennials are following this pattern, as my colleague Nate Cohn explained). But the more significant factor is that generations tend to have distinct ideologies. People are shaped by the political zeitgeist during their adolescence, as research by Yair Ghitza, Andrew Gelman and Jonathan Auerbach has shown.

Americans who came of age during the Depression and New Deal, for example, leaned Democratic for their entire lives. Those who grew up during the Reagan era (many of whom are part of Generation X) lean to the right. In recent decades, major news events, including the Iraq war, the financial crisis, Barack Obama’s presidency and the chaos of Trump’s presidency, appear to have created a progressive generation.

For four straight national elections dating back to 2014, Democrats have won at least 60 percent of the vote among 18- to 29-year-olds. It’s longest such run of success since at least the 1970s, when Catalist’s data begins.

The pattern offers reason for Democratic optimism. Millennials and Generation Z are growing parts of the electorate, while older, more conservative generations are gradually exiting the electorate. Even in the short term, the age dynamics matter: A Republican will have a slightly harder time winning the presidency in 2024 than in 2020. In the long term, Republicans will struggle to win national elections unless they can appeal to more Americans born since 1980.

Still a contest

With all this said, a coming period of Democratic dominance is not guaranteed. The party has other weaknesses that could eventually alienate more millennial and Gen Z voters.

Another theme of the Catalist report is that working-class voters across races have recently drifted toward the Republican Party. Many of these less affluent voters seem bothered by the increasing social liberalism of the Democratic Party. Many younger voters are also not sure which party offers more promising economic policies.

These concerns help explain why Florida and Texas have remained solidly Republican, to the disappointment of Democrats. The chart below compares the Democratic Party’s performance by class and race in the past two midterm elections when a Democrat was in the White House.

Source: Catalist | Asian includes Pacific Islanders. | By The New York Times

I realize that the combination of trends is complex. The Democratic lean of Americans under 40, combined with their recent increase in voter turnout, has become a huge advantage for the party. Yet not all these voters are committed Democrats. Many identify as independents and are more conservative than the highly educated, affluent officials who dominate the Democratic Party and progressive groups.

In the competitive world of American politics, Democrats are in a stronger position than Republicans among younger voters, but the contest is not over.

Putin, Orban, Netanyahu, Trump, DeSantis Perversions Of The Fight For Democracy

Heather Cox Richardson

Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, a staunch supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine, last week awarded the First Degree of the Order of Glory and Honor from the Russian Orthodox Church to Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán.

Orbán has dismantled Hungary’s liberal democratic government in favor of what he calls “illiberal” or “Christian” democracy that rejects LGBTQ and women’s rights, claiming that the equality valued by liberal democracies undermines traditional virtue. Kirill called out for praise Orbán’s “great attention to the preservation of Christian values in society and the strengthening of the institution of family and marriage.”

This award makes explicit the link between the Putin regime, which has been committing war crimes against Ukraine’s people, and Orbán, who is such a hero to America’s right wing that the Conservative Political Action Conference has twice gathered in Hungary, most recently just last month. Orbán has called for Trump’s reelection.

The common thread among these groups is a rejection of democracy, with its emphasis on equality before the law, and the embrace of a hierarchical world in which some people are better than others and have the right to rule.

In Poland today, an estimated half a million people marched in the streets to protest the loss of rights for women and LGBTQ people amid an attack on democracy by the nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS), which condemned the protest as a “march of hate.” Leaders for PiS claim they are only trying to protect traditional Christian values from Western ideas.

Today is the 34th anniversary of the first democratic elections in Poland in 1989 as the Soviet Union was disintegrating. Former Polish prime minister and president of the European Council Donald Tusk, who called for the march, told the crowd: “Democracy dies in silence but you’ve raised your voice for democracy today, silence is over, we will shout.”

Today is also the 34th anniversary of the Chinese government’s crackdown on demonstrations for democracy in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, with troops firing on their own citizens.

For 22 weeks now, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been protesting in the streets against the plans of right-wing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judiciary, weakening the country’s system of checks and balances by shifting power to Netanyahu, and threatening the rights of minorities and marginalized groups.

In Sudan today, the war between two military generals who seized power from a democratic government continues. Tens of thousands of Sudan’s people have fled the country since the fighting broke out in April.

The political career of Florida governor Ron DeSantis is the epitome of Orbán’s “Christian democracy” come to the United States. DeSantis has imitated Orbán’s politics, striking at the principles of liberal democracy with attacks on LGBTQ Americans, abortion rights, academic freedom, and the ability of businesses to react to market forces rather than religious imperatives. Last week he told an audience that “the woke mind virus represents a war on the truth so we will wage a war on the woke. We will fight the woke in education, we will fight the woke in the corporations, we will fight the woke in the halls of congress. We will never, ever surrender to the woke mob. We will make woke ideology leave it to the dustbin of history; it’s gone.”

But DeSantis’s speech was a perversion of the real speech on which he based it.

On June 4, 1940, nine months into the Second World War, British prime minister Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons. British, Canadian, and French destroyers along with dozens of merchant ships and a flotilla of small boats had just managed to evacuate more than 338,000 Allied soldiers from Dunkirk, in northern France, as German troops advanced.

Britain was fighting fascism, and Churchill warned his people that the war would be neither easy nor quick. But, he promised, “we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender….”

Texas Is Silencing the Will of Millions of Voters

June 3, 2023. New York Times

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

Gov. Greg Abbott, Republican of Texas, is expected to sign a bill in the next few days that would make it immeasurably more difficult for cities in the state to govern themselves. The bill would strip cities of the ability to set standards for local workplaces, to ensure civil rights, and to improve their environments, trampling on the rights of voters who elected local officials to do just that.

The bill, recently approved by the Texas House and Senate, would nullify any city ordinance or regulation that conflicts with existing state policy in those crucial areas, and would give private citizens or businesses the right to sue and seek damages if they believe there is a discrepancy between city and state. That means no city could prohibit discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q. employees, as several Texas cities have done. No city could adopt new rules to limit predatory payday-lending practices. No city could restrict overgrown lots, or unsafe festivals, or inadequate waste storage. Cities would even be banned from enacting local worker protections, including requiring water breaks for laborers in the Texas heat, as Dallas, Austin and other cities have done following multiple deaths and injuries.

Business lobbyists and Republican legislators who have pushed the bill said its purpose was to rid the state of a patchwork of conflicting regulations. In fact, that patchwork largely exists only in three or four mostly Democratic cities in an overwhelmingly red state, and the bill is the latest effort by Republicans to rid the state of any policies that conflict with their hard-right agenda — even if those policies are fully supported by voters in those cities, who elect representatives to serve their interests.

Already the state won’t let cities ban discriminationagainst low-income renters, and it prohibits them from cutting their police budgets. Dozens of other bills have been introduced to restrict election reforms by Texas cities and counties, including one that would let an official, most likely a Republican, overturn election results in a single place: largely Democratic Harris County, which includes Houston. “The bill is undemocratic,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio told The Texas Tribune. “It is probably the most undemocratic thing the Legislature has done, and that list is getting very long. Local voters have created city charters, and I can’t imagine that they will be pleased to have their decisions usurped by lawmakers.”

By reducing the right of localities to make their own decisions, Texas has joined dozens of other states that have asserted their dominance over cities in recent years through a practice known as state pre-emption. One watchdog group has counted more than 650 pre-emption bills in state legislatures this year; the large majority have been introduced by Republican lawmakers to curb policymaking in cities run by Democrats.

It’s not a new phenomenon — city halls and state capitols have always jockeyed for authority, and in a legal showdown, the state usually wins, as the more supreme power. But conservatives used to champion ideas like local autonomy, devolution and even block grants as a way of weakening centralized control. The 20th-century movement toward “home rule,” letting localities handle most of their own affairs, was once supported by both Republicans and Democrats. What’s now become clear is that Republicans dislike local control if they are not in charge of it. The home rule movement has steadily faded in the last few decades as state lawmakers on the right have become more aggressive in invalidating the priorities of elected officials in cities, which have moved leftward in their voting patterns in recent years.

“We are seeing a real increase in the pre-emption of local authority,” said Clarence Anthony, chief executive of the National League of Cities, and former mayor of South Bay, Fla. “Local officials are elected by citizens to represent them, and they’re the ones who know what their citizens need the most. But we’ve been seeing state legislators trying to have control over local communities, and that’s not good governance at all.”

Many of the recent bills are particularly brazen in their disdain for local decision-making. The Florida Legislature passed a bill in early May allowing businesses to challenge municipal ordinances in court simply for being “unreasonable.” If they win, the businesses can collect $50,000 in attorney fees from the taxpayers if the ordinance is not withdrawn, but cities can’t collect attorney fees if they win. In Tennessee, Republicans were angry that leaders in Nashville blocked a bid to host the 2024 G.O.P. convention, so they passed a bill to shrink the size of the Nashville Metro Council and upend its voting district maps, which many residents say will dilute the political strength of minority groups. A local court put that law on hold for now, but the final outcome has not been determined.

Most of these legislative power plays follow the ideological patterns of the hard-right MAGA core within the Republican Party, which is often more visible at the state than the national level. The efforts tend to fall into the following categories:

Democracy and voting. Several states are trying to make it harder for citizens to enact laws or constitutional changes through the referendum process, after abortion-rights supporters won several ballot initiatives in 2022. In Ohio, Republican lawmakers put a measure on the August ballotthat would raise the threshold for passing a constitutional amendment to 60 percent from a simple majority, where it has been since 1912, hoping to head off organized efforts to permit abortion in the state, as well as to raise the minimum wage and undo Republican gerrymandering. (They put the measure on a low-turnout election day, rather than the better-known day in November.) Arkansas now requires signatures from 50 counties (of 75) to get an initiative on the ballot, up from 15. Anyone can propose a ballot initiative, regardless of their ideology — recent measures in Kansas and Kentucky, for example, were proposed by anti-abortion groups. (Both were ultimately rejected by voters.) Restricting these ballot measures is fundamentally about depriving voters of a way to put a check on legislators, regardless of ideology.

In addition to the Texas bills, several states have tried to usurp the role of local election boards and officials, restricting attempts to expand voting and making it more difficult for voters in urban areas, who are often people of color, to cast a ballot. One study showed that there were 244 bills introduced last year in 33 states to interfere with election administration, 24 of which passed. Republican officials in Georgia, urged on by Donald Trump, are still trying to take over the election board in the Atlanta area, though a bipartisan panel recommended earlier this year that they stop.

Law enforcement and courts. Many rural legislators who live nowhere near urban areas are trying to capitalize on an exaggerated fear of crime to change the way cities enforce the law and prosecute criminals. In Mississippi, new laws allow the state to take over policing and the court system in Jackson, which is more than 80 percent Black, but nowhere else. The N.A.A.C.P. immediately sued the state after the laws were enacted in April, saying the laws discriminate against Black citizens and erode their political power. A new law in Georgia creates a commission with the power to remove local prosecutors. One elected district attorney there, Fani Willis of Fulton County, is investigating Mr. Trump over possible election fraud.

Guns. Only a handful of states— Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — allow cities to regulate firearms. The other 45 have enacted either extreme or limited forms of pre-emption that reserve this power to the states. This effectively means that cities in those states must accept the same attitudes around the use of guns as rural areas, even if voters might have different attitudes and would prefer different laws. Some states, including Florida and Kentucky, have gone so far as to impose fines or criminal liability on any local official who violates the pre-emption rules.

Discrimination. Many Republican-controlled states have forbidden cities from banning discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q. employees in the workplace, and there are hundreds of bills now pending that would override local authorities in order to ban books on L.G.B.T.Q. issues and prohibit drag-queen shows, even if those communities want them. Arkansas and Tennessee already prohibit cities from enacting anti-discrimination protections for L.G.B.T.Q. people, and Texas is one of several states that appears to be heading in the same direction. Many states are also telling local school boards to change their curriculums to limit classroom discussion of slavery, racial prejudice and the civil rights movement.

There are cases where pre-emption laws are in the public interest: for example, when it becomes necessary for states to prevent their cities from creating or perpetuating injustices, to prevent discrimination and help citizens achieve fundamental rights like equal access to housing, employment and the ballot. New York State did the right thing recently by proposing a law to get cities and towns to build more housing for families that are being priced out by restrictive zoning rules, but backed down when suburban towns protested on infringements to their autonomy. California was more successful in acting to remove local zoning laws to foster more low-income housing and increase density around transportation hubs.

But the vast majority of the pre-emption bills and laws in the last few years do not meet that test. They undermine fundamental principles of equality as well as access to the ballot and fair representation.

Some cities, including Nashville, Cleveland and Coral Gables, Fla., have fought back and won in court; in Maryland, Florida and several other states, Democrats have joined Republican moderates to beat back some of these bills. But in many other states, the will of the people in these cities is being silenced. They and their representatives will have to use every legal means available to be heard.



I’m on Strike With the W.G.A. I Owe My Father at Least That Much.

June 1, 2023

By Ron Currie

Mr. Currie is a novelist and screenwriter.

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Most discussion of the Hollywood writers’ strike has centered on money: the studio chiefs, tech demigods and private equity oligarchs who have it and the writers like me whose labor should entitle us to a greater share of it. As a member of the Writers Guild of America, whose strike will enter its second month this week, I think that discussion is important, but it misses the real point of why workers strike and why we’re willing to use the only leverage we’ve got — our livelihoods — in such a fight.

One morning back in the summer of 2002, I was walking my dog when I got a call that my father was having a heart attack. He’d been hustled to the E.R., and I was told to get there as soon as I could. They don’t say that if they know the patient is going to make it.

Dad was a longtime Teamster, Local 340, which represents a grab bag of freight jockeys, municipal workers and emergency services types. As a firefighter and E.M.T., he belonged to that last group — a mustachioed monolith and decorated combat veteran who worked and worked and, when he was done working, found some other work to do. He’d been at the fire station when he felt an unseen hand plunge into his chest and grip his heart, and he knew right away that he was in very serious trouble indeed.

By the time I arrived, doctors had succeeded in dissolving the clot that had been choking off one of his coronary arteries. I found him lying in the I.C.U., less than a quarter of his heart muscle still functioning. We didn’t talk about any of that, though. He had a few things at the house he’d meant to deal with that day after his shift ended, and now he wanted me to take care of them. More alarming to me than the prospect that he could easily have died was the way his mustache was twitching nervously at the corner of his mouth. He’d come real close, and Death throwing its arm around his shoulders revealed a version of my father I hadn’t thought possible: fragile, frightened, life-size and no longer a bit bigger.

His career was finished after the heart attack. Other fundamental things had changed, too. But he was alive, and the rest was just details. Besides, he’d covered his bases; he had income insurance and was eligible for early retirement with a large chunk of what his full pension would have been. The worst was over.

You know where this is going, naturally. The worst was not over.

For a man like my father, there are fates worse than death, and one of those was being treated like a deadbeat because the people who were supposed to cover him in such a circumstance refused to do so. The corporate jackals who ran the income insurance program he’d paid into for decades refused to pay out because the heart attack happened at work and, in their view, was thus properly covered by workers’ compensation. At the same time, the corporate jackals who held the mortgage on the house I grew up in came calling. And they gave not one-quarter of a damn that the man had been within a hair’s breadth of dying.

Dad eventually scraped together a couple of months’ worth of mortgage payments, but the check came back uncashed; he couldn’t pay the full amount overdue, so the mortgage company didn’t want a penny of it. What it wanted, instead, was to take his house. And so it did.

My father, barely more than 50 years old and with only 20 percent of his heart still working, lost the modest life he’d put together through tireless labor over decades and had to move with my mother into my aunt’s house for a time. He had, in his sudden infirmity, become an abstract problem for a business entity whose only concern was to hold on to every penny it could, decency be damned. And though his Teamster reps tried to intercede on his behalf, they were unable to persuade that entity to think of my father — and treat him — like a man.

I learned two things as I helplessly watched all this going down. First, only a sucker bets on a future more distant than his next breath. And second, the difference between being shaken down illegally and being shaken down legally is that instead of going to prison, the crooks in neckties get stock bonuses and gold Rolexes and hearty pats on the back for a job well done.

None of this is unusual. It’s tragic and infuriating and grievous, but it is also very, very normal. Using fine print and loopholes and the tectonic grind of the legal process to cheat working people is as American as a Norman Rockwell painting. And while superficially there might not appear to be a direct connection between my father’s losses and the W.G.A. strike, both spring directly from this time-honored exploitation of the powerless by the powerful.

Do I sound bitter? Good. I am. Still, after 20 years.

Now you know why I’m a union man myself and why I’m striking. Unions, imperfect though they might be, are the only entities that have ever provided an effective counterbalance to the corporate rapaciousness that victimized my father. A strike is not a fight at all, but rather a collective assertion of our dignity. It’s not about money — except insofar as, in America, money equals respect. For me, it’s about the look in my father’s eyes when he realized that not only was his body broken but so were all the implicit promises that go along with being a good worker bee and paying your taxes and staying on the right side of the law.

My old man eventually got a settlement and was able to buy a little double-wide in which he would die, five years later, at 57, of lung cancer that was surely a legacy of his military service and his working life as a firefighter. It was nice, I suppose, that he was made whole and could buy another home for himself and my mother, but the truth is that, as with the heart attack itself, the damage was done. The home he’d bought with his labor, in which he had raised his children, was gone. The humiliation and frustration of losing it couldn’t be rolled back. This is another way they swindle you: making you feel that, hey, you got your money, the right thing has been done, so why are you still so unhappy?

I wonder if the people on the other side of the negotiating table will ever understand that it’s not about money and never has been. There’s an almost genetic-level memory of struggle and privation among working people, and we’re tired of having to fight like animals simply to be treated like human beings. We’re tired of entering into agreements that, one way or another, always get broken.

That’s what this strike is about, at least for me. I don’t need a cut of Netflix executives’ stock compensation. What I need — what I demand — is that they treat me and the people I love as though our lives and labor are every bit as significant as theirs.

Ron Currie Jr. is the author of the novel “The One-Eyed Man” and a writer for film and television, most recently for the series “Extrapolations.”


Mississippi Is Offering Lessons for America on Education

The New York Times

By Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

  • May 31, 2023

JACKSON, Miss. — The refrain across much of the Deep South for decades was “Thank God for Mississippi!” That’s because however abysmally Arkansas or Alabama might perform in national comparisons, they could still bet that they wouldn’t be the worst in America. That spot was often reserved for Mississippi.

So it’s extraordinary to travel across this state today and find something dazzling: It is lifting education outcomes and soaring in the national rankings. With an all-out effort over the past decade to get all children to read by the end of third grade and by extensive reliance on research and metrics, Mississippi has shown that it is possible to raise standards even in a state ranked dead last in the country in child poverty and hunger and second highest in teen births.

In the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a series of nationwide tests better known as NAEP, Mississippi has moved from near the bottom to the middle for most of the exams — and near the top when adjusted for demographics. Among just children in poverty, Mississippi fourth graders now are tied for best performers in the nation in NAEP reading tests and rank second in math.

The state has also lifted high school graduation rates. In 2011, 75 percent of students graduated, four percentage points below the national average; by 2020, the state had surpassed the national average of 87 percent by one point.

Mississippi’s comeback story

Average high school graduation rate, by state.



National average




Washington, D.C.


2011 graduating class


Note: Rates are for public high schools only.

Source: U.S. Department of Education

“Mississippi is a huge success story and very exciting,” David Deming, a Harvard economist and education expert, told me. What’s so significant, he said, is that while Mississippi hasn’t overcome poverty or racism, it still manages to get kids to read and excel.

“You cannot use poverty as an excuse. That’s the most important lesson,” Deming added. “It’s so important, I want to shout it from the mountaintop.” What Mississippi teaches, he said, is that “we shouldn’t be giving up on children.”

The revolution here in Mississippi is incomplete, and race gaps persist, but it’s thrilling to see the excitement and pride bubbling in the halls of de facto segregated Black schools in some of the nation’s poorest communities.

One of the reasons I became interested in writing this series about how we can help those whom America has left behind was the loss of an old school friend when she froze to death while homeless. Since then, I’ve lost too many friends I grew up with to drugs, alcohol and suicide, and as I think about what might have saved their lives, education is high on the list.

But an education system can save people only when it manages to educate them, and America too often falls short. I had heard Mississippi cited for its progress, but frankly, I was skeptical until I visited. On my second day in Jackson, where 98 percent of public school students are people of color, mostly from low-income families, I visited a second-grade classroom.

The class was reading a book, “The Vegetables We Eat.” The children read aloud and debated what vegetables were. Things that are green? Foods that don’t taste good? I was startled to see second graders read words like “vegetables” and “eggplant” fluently and still more astonished to see the entire class easily read the sentence “Where does nourishing food come from?”

Mississippi has achieved its gains despite ranking 46th in spending per pupil in grades K-12. Its low price tag is one reason Mississippi’s strategy might be replicable in other states. Another is that while education reforms around the country have often been ferociously contentious and involved battles with teachers’ unions, this education revolution in Mississippi unfolded with support from teachers and their union.

“This is something I’m proud of,” said Erica Jones, a second-grade teacher who is the president of the Mississippi affiliate of the National Education Association, the teachers’ union. “We definitely have something to teach the rest of the country.”


Mississippi’s success has no single origin moment, but one turning point was arguably when Jim Barksdale decided to retire in the state. A former C.E.O. of Netscape, he had grown up in Mississippi but was humiliated by its history of racism and underperformance.

“My home state was always held in a low regard,” he told me. “I always felt embarrassed by that.”

Barksdale cast about for ways to improve education in the state, and in 2000 he and his wife contributed $100 million to create a reading institute in Jackson that has proved very influential. Beyond the money, he brought to the table a good relationship with officials such as the governor, as well as an executive’s focus on measurement and bang for the buck — and these have characterized Mississippi’s push ever since.

With the support of Barksdale and many others, a crucial milestone came in 2013 when state Republicans pushed through a package of legislation focused on education and when Mississippi recruited a new state superintendent of education, Carey Wright, from the Washington, D.C., school system. Wright ran the school system brilliantly until her retirement last year, meticulously ensuring that all schools actually carried out new policies and improved outcomes.

One pillar of Mississippi’s new strategy was increasing reliance on phonics and a broader approach to literacy called the science of reading, which has been gaining ground around the country; Mississippi was at the forefront of this movement. Wright buttressed the curriculum with a major push for professional development, with the state dispatching coaches to work with teachers, especially at schools that lagged.

The 2013 legislative package also invested in pre-K programs, targeting low-income areas. Mississippi made the calculated decision to offer high-quality full-day programs, with qualified teachers paid at the same rate as elementary school staff members, rather than offer a second-rate program to more children.

The pre-Ks get children started on recognizing letters, numbers and sounds, and more important, they help kids adjust to classrooms. In one pre-K that I visited, a girl named Allyson was wreaking havoc as the teacher tried to talk to the class about light and shadow.

Most of the class was sitting on the floor and enthusiastically answering the teacher’s questions. Meanwhile, Allyson was running around the classroom, trying to see if she could run faster than her shadow.

“Every classroom has an Allyson,” another teacher said with a sigh. All the early-grade teachers I spoke to said that the Allysons of Mississippi are less disruptive and more ready to learn after attending pre-K.

Perhaps the most important single element of the 2013 legislative package was a test informally called the third-grade gate: Any child who does not pass a reading test at the end of third grade is held back and has to redo the year.

This was controversial. Would this mean holding back a disproportionate share of Black and brown children from low-income families, leaving them demoralized and stigmatized? What about children with learning disabilities?

In fact, the third-grade gate lit a fire under Mississippi. It injected accountability: Principals, teachers, parents and children themselves were galvanized to ensure that kids actually learned to read. Each child’s progress in reading is carefully monitored, and those who lag — as early as kindergarten and ramping up in second and third grades — are given additional tutoring.

In classrooms, I saw charts on the wall showing how each child — identified by a number rather than a name — ranks in reading words per minute. Another line showed which children, also noted by number, were green (on track to pass) and which were yellow (in jeopardy). Then there were some numbers representing children who were red and urgently needed additional tutoring and practice.

As third grade progresses in Mississippi, there is an all-consuming focus on ensuring that every child can read well enough to make it through the third-grade gate. School walls fill with posters offering encouragement from teachers, parents and students alike.

“Blow this test out of the water,” wrote Torranecia, a fifth grader, in a typical comment.

In the town of Leland in the Mississippi Delta, one of the poorest parts of America, parents and family members come early on the day of the big exam and line a hallway at the elementary school, cheering madly as the kids walk through to take the test — like champion football players taking the field. And when I visited, 35 new bicycles were on display in the school gym, donated by the community to be awarded by lottery to those who passed.

Those who did not pass would get a second chance at the end of the school year. Children who fail this second try are urged to enroll in summer school as a last desperate effort to raise reading levels. Those who fail a third time are held back — about 9 percent of third graders — although there is a chance for a good-cause exemption if, for example, a child has a learning disability or speaks limited English.

What happens to the children forced to repeat third grade? A Boston University study this year found that those held back did not have any negative outcomes such as increased absences or placement in special education programs. On the contrary, they did much better several years later in sixth-grade English tests compared with those who just missed being held back. Gains from being held back were particularly large for Black and Hispanic students.

With such a focus on learning to read, one of the surprises has been that Mississippi fourth graders have also improved significantly in math. One possible explanation is that some math problems require reading; another is that children try harder in all subjects when they enjoy school.

The state and the Barksdale Reading Institute also partnered in experimenting with approaches that failed; in those cases, they measured the results and dropped methods that didn’t show gains. They tried to lure family members into visiting schools through drop-in centers, and few showed up. They tried to introduce approaches through teacher training in universities, and this proved expensive and much less successful than dispatching coaches to offer guidance in the classrooms.

Mississippi is also striking for what it didn’t do. For example, it didn’t reduce class sizes: Officials weighed the evidence and concluded that while smaller classes would improve outcomes, spending the money on teacher coaching and student tutoring would help even more.

Nothing worked quite as expected, and everything was harder than it looked. But Mississippi kept testing and tweaking its model, following the evidence where it led. And now second graders can read “nourishing.”


Many white families fled the Mississippi public school system around the time courts forced integration in 1970, so 48 percent of public school students were Black in 2018-19 and 44 percent white — with three-quarters of all pupils labeled economically disadvantaged.

One challenge is that while Mississippi has made enormous gains in early grades, the improvement has been more modest in eighth-grade NAEP scores. Still, the state has made progress in several areas that help upper grades: getting parents more involved and promoting vocational education, in addition to raising high school graduation rates.

The school superintendent in the town of Hollandale, Mario Willis, told me his high school graduation rate was 97 percent, and he explained how his school fights to keep kids. The other day, he said, he had a call from the high school principal about an 18-year-old senior who was dropping out.

The student lived in poverty and had a single mom who was unemployed, so the family’s economic situation was desperate. Not seeing a way out, the young woman left school and took a restaurant job.

That’s when the school went all out to bring the student back. School officials repeatedly visited the young woman at home. They spoke to her mother, and they talked her employer into arranging work hours for her after school.

So now she is back in school, on track to graduate.


Other states, particularly Alabama, have adopted elements of Mississippi’s approach and have improved outcomes — but not nearly as much as Mississippi has. Perhaps that’s because those states’ leaders didn’t work as hard or because Alabama until recently didn’t have a must-pass third-grade reading test, but it’s also true that Mississippi has been guided by a visionary leadership team that may be difficult to recreate elsewhere.

Barksdale recruited Kelly Butler, a former teacher, to run his reading institute, and she provided much of the vision for the state. Two Teach for America veterans, Rachel Canter and Sanford Johnson, in 2008 founded an organization called Mississippi First that has been a tireless advocate of raising standards.

All of these education leaders, along with Superintendent Wright, reinforced one another and brought in others with fresh ideas who were utterly committed to lifting Mississippi standards — and as state test results improved, politicians responded with pride and allocated more funds to the cause. Last year, Mississippi passed a major increase in teacher pay.

Since so much of the debate about K-12 education is about teachers’ unions and whether they prevent improvement, let me make the point that the states with arguably the best public schools (such as Massachusetts and New Jersey) have strong teachers’ unions while the state with some of the most-improved schools (Mississippi) has weak teachers’ unions. We needn’t get bogged down by debates over unions.

The education reform movement that for decades captured the imagination of tech executives, documentary makers and presidents from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama and Donald Trump has fizzled. We no longer hear presidents and opinion makers regularly describe education as the civil rights issue of our time. Many people seem to have given up and moved on.

Mississippi is one answer to that sense of exhaustion and futility. And other states are noticing. Education Week reported that 31 states have passed legislation on evidence-based reading instruction. Many school systems, most recently New York City’s, are adopting the science of reading, based partly on the success in Mississippi and elsewhere.

Education reformers have often thought it hopeless to tackle state public school systems directly and so have pursued the equivalent of bank shots: Run effective charter schools, for example, and public schools can adopt lessons learned. Mississippi raises the question of whether we truly need bank shots. Or maybe for the United States, the whole state of Mississippi is the ultimate bank shot.

The Barksdale Reading Institute is developing a free online tool, Reading Universe, to make the state’s approach to reading available to all schools in America and around the world. The idea is that kids everywhere should have the same opportunities to learn and graduate as, say, students in high-poverty schools in the Delta.

Thank God for Mississippi.


U.S. employers added 339,000 jobs in May, an upswing in hiring that defied expectations of a slowdown.

Friday, June 2, 2023 8:41 AM ET

New York Times

The labor market continued to show resilience in May, adding many more jobs than expected, despite efforts by the Federal Reserve to cool the economy.

Job growth jumped in May, reaffirming the labor market’s vigor despite a swirl of economic headwinds.

U.S. employers added 339,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Labor Department said on Friday, an increase from a revised total of 294,000 in April.

The strong figures emerged from a survey of employers. A separate component of the report, based on a survey of households, yielded a somewhat dissonant picture.

That data showed a rise in the unemployment rate to 3.7 percent, from 3.4 percent, and a decrease of 310,000 in the number of people employed, as participation in the labor force was little changed.

In a sign that the pressure to entice workers with pay increases is easing, wage growth slowed slightly in May, with average hourly earnings increasing 0.3 percent from April, and 4.3 percent over the year.

“We’re still seeing a labor market that’s gradually cooling, but it’s at a glacial place,” said Sarah House, an economist at Wells Fargo.

Still, the hiring numbers suggest that employers across the spectrum remain eager for workers even in the face of high interest rates and economic uncertainty. Many are still bringing on employees to meet steady consumer demand, especially for services. 

Rather than lay off workers — which would signal deeper cracks in the labor market — a large swath of companies have also been content to limit their head count through attrition.

An open question is whether employers can continue to rebuff economic challenges — and for how long.

“While overall the jobs market performance has been surprisingly strong, I think the labor market can’t defy the gravity of Fed rate hikes forever,” Ms. House said.

The report complicates the picture for the Federal Reserve, which has been raising interest rates for more than a year to temper the labor market and rein in price increases. Fed officials have indicated that the jobs report will be an important factor as they decide whether to raise interest rates again. Their next meeting is June 13 and 14.

Looming over the report is the debt ceiling deal, which the Senate passed on Thursday, though economists largely expect the spending caps and cuts to have only marginal impact on the labor market going forward.

Michael D. Shear

June 2, 2023, 9:46 a.m. ETJune 2, 2023June 2, 2023

Michael D. Shear

President Biden hailed the jobs report on Friday, saying in a statement that “today is a good day for the American economy and American workers.” He said the report brings the total number of jobs created while he was president to 13 million. 

Michael D. Shear

June 2, 2023, 9:46 a.m. ETJune 2, 2023June 2, 2023

Michael D. Shear

President Biden also said in his statement that he plans to sign the debt ceiling legislation that passed Thursday night, saying “the agreement protects our historic and hard-earned economic recovery, and all the progress that American workers have made in the last two years.”

Fiscal Responsibility Act Passes and Inequalities In The Housing Market Targeted

Heather Cox Richardson

Late tonight the Senate passed H.R. 3746, the Fiscal Responsibility Act, suspending the debt ceiling and cutting certain federal spending. President Joe Biden has promised to sign it tomorrow, preventing a government default. Forty-four Democrats and two Independents—Angus King (I-ME) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ)—voted yes, along with 17 Republicans. Four Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted no, along with 31 Republicans. The final tally to pass the measure was 63 to 36.

“Democrats are feeling very good tonight,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said. “We’ve saved the country from the scourge of default.”

Republicans brought the nation to the brink of default with their insistence that they opposed runaway government spending, but their demands did not square with that argument. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said that the $21 billion cut in funding to the Internal Revenue Service, for example, will result in $40 billion in lost revenue, increasing the deficit by $19 billion. 

In other economic news, the Biden administration today announced actions designed to address racial bias in the valuation of homes. 

This sounds sort of in the weeds for administration action, I know, but it is actually an important move for addressing the nation’s wealth inequality. In 2019 a study from the Federal Reserve showed that white American families had a median net worth of $188,100, Hispanic or Latino families had a net worth of $36,200, and Black American families had a median net worth of $24,100. 

Homeownership is the most important factor in creating generational wealth—that is, wealth that passes from one generation to the next—both because homeownership essentially forces savings as people pay mortgages, and because homes tend to appreciate in value.

But a 2021 study by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, more popularly known as Freddie Mac, showed that real estate appraisers are twice as likely to undervalue minority-owned property relative to contract price for which the home sells, than they are to undervalue homes owned by white Americans. 

The story of lower valuation came to popular attention after a Black couple living near San Francisco applied for a loan and received an initial valuation far too low for them to qualify for that loan. Shocked, since the same house had been appraised at almost a half a million dollars higher the year before, the couple removed all traces of their ownership of the house and asked a white friend to stand in as the owner before a new appraiser evaluated the worth of the property. That new appraisal came back a half a million dollars higher than the lowball one.

(The couple sued, and the case was settled in February 2022). 

Two years ago, the Biden administration announced a sweeping effort to “root out racial and ethnic bias in home evaluations.” Today it bolstered those efforts to “ensure that every American who buys a home has the same opportunities to build generational wealth through homeownership.” They call for fixing algorithms to ensure that home values are accurately assessed, creating pathways for consumers to challenge low assessments, and increasing the numbers of trained appraisers.

There is a reason that the administration has centered its housing policies on June 1. This is the anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, when in 1921 white gangs destroyed the prosperous Greenwood district of that city, which was home to more than 10,000 Black Americans. It wiped out 35 blocks with more than 1,200 homes and businesses and took hundreds of Black lives, robbing Black families of generational wealth and the opportunities that come with it.

In 1921, Greenwood, known as “Black Wall Street,” was estimated to be the richest Black community in the United States. The destruction of May 31 to June 1, 1921, changed all that. Residents of Greenwood filed $1.8 million in damage claims—more than $27 million in today’s dollars—against the city, but all but one of the claims were denied when the city was found not liable for damages caused by mobs. (A white pawnshop owner was compensated for the guns stolen from his store.) Insurance didn’t help, either: insurance companies claimed that damage caused by “riots” was not covered by their policies.

In a 2018 article in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Chris M. Messer, Thomas E. Shriver, and Alison E. Adams estimated that the destruction in Tulsa might well have amounted to more than $200 million in today’s dollars. 

Greenwood’s Black residents nonetheless pooled their resources and rebuilt the district, despite the system of “redlining” by mortgage companies that deemed parts of Greenwood to be credit risks and made it impossible for residents to get mortgages. “Urban renewal” then destroyed the area again in the 1960s through the 1980s as white city planners rezoned the district, built highways through it, and took property through eminent domain. 

Vice President Kamala Harris acknowledged the destruction of Greenwood today in a call with reporters. Noting that “[h]omeownership is one of the single most powerful engines of wealth-building available to American families,” she explained that ‘[m]illions rely on the equity in their homes to put their children through college, to fund a startup, to retire with dignity, to create intergenerational prosperity and wealth.” But “for generations, many people of color have been prevented from taking full advantage of the benefits of homeownership.”

The inequalities of the past have persisted in the home appraisal system, Harris said. “[B]ecause their homes are undervalued, Black and Latino people often pay more for their mortgage, receive less when they sell, and are less able to get access to home equity lines of credit—all of which widens the racial wealth gap and deepens longstanding financial inequities.”

“Today,” her Twitter account said, “our Administration is announcing new actions to root out racial bias in home valuations to ensure that all hardworking families can realize the true value of their investment and have a fair shot at the American dream.” 

Jonathan Lemire, Adam Cancryn, and Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico reported today that White House officials urged allies to downplay their substantial victory on the debt ceiling crisis and the related budget negotiations, afraid of sparking Republican opposition and eager to be seen as the adults in the room. 

But they needn’t have worried. Today, President Biden tripped over a sandbag left in his path as he was jogging away from the center stage of the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation in Colorado after giving the commencement address. He appeared fine after the fall, but it is dominating right-wing social media, the debt ceiling crisis already forgotten.