Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mitarack Obamney

“I’m Mitarack Obamney, and I approve of this message.” But what message is being approved of?  A closer examination reveals that both candidates are much more alike than different.  Both nominees are pragmatists and moderate candidates from the left and the right.  President Obama, despite right-wing pundits labeling him as a Marxist-socialist – has taken a moderate stance on the issue of free trade, opting to take a page from the Clinton playbook by signing trade agreements with countries like South Korea, Columbia, and Panama.  The president has also taken a stronger approach to national security, hunting and killing Osama Bin Laden, affiliates of al-Qaeda, and is even willing to target American citizens through drone strikes if suspected of collaborating with enemies of the state.  This has forced the staunchest Republicans to applaud his efforts.  Mitt Romney, on the other hand, was the most moderate candidate who ran in this year’s entertaining Republican primary and managed to beat (or outspend) his more conservative challengers. While he played to the Republican base as a true conservative, Romney’s moderate stances on economic and social issues, not to mention being the governor of ‘blue-state’ Massachusetts, also explained why conservative voters pegged him as the second most palatable flavor throughout the primary election opting towards more conservative candidates like Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, and Santorum until the lack of funds and poor organization forced these candidates out of the race. 

Since both men are essentially middle-of-the-road candidates, this general election campaign will focus more on independent voters than with energizing an unenthusiastic base albeit both candidates will still attempt to appeal to them.  Obama’s recent coming out in support of marriage equality may or may not have been driven by conviction (we will never know) but did score him tremendous political points by infusing millions of dollars into his campaign coffers from an under-tapped LGBT community and powerful Hollywood allies, i.e. George Clooney and friends.  Romney’s appeal as being a genuine conservative backfired when onetime campaign advisor Eric Fehrnstrom made the infamous “Etch A Skecth” gaffe that argued that Romney is able to re-invent himself and change his positions on key issues as they entered into the general elections.  This author believes that both candidates will not be able to muster strong support from their bases.  Obama will have difficulty to recapture the same excitement and momentum from 2008 because he is forced to defend his record and Romney will be challenged to rally his conservative base, those who view him as not conservative enough and those evangelical Christians who may view him negatively because of his Mormon faith.   Regardless of whether or not both bases become energized this campaign season, the reality is that the war will be won in who can cater to independent voters particularly in battleground states like Colorado, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Florida.

Every election for the second term is always a referendum on the incumbent president’s first term.  Thus, independents, when deciding who to vote for should not just consider President Obama’s record but to also ask the question, “What would Romney have done in that situation?”  This author believes that Romney would have taken similar action to the major policy decisions Obama made from the past four years.

The Great Recession

Would Romney have passed economic stimulus in 2009 when the country was experiencing an economic freefall losing an average of six-hundred thousand jobs per month?  Of course, he would.  No sitting president would stand idly by as the economy falls into shambles.  A policy of doing nothing isn’t policy at all and could be seen as a sign of weak leadership.  If President George W. Bush’s economic policies in his lame duck years were to give an indication of what Romney would have done, it would have been towards preventing the banks from collapsing while injecting economic stimulus.  Why?  Recall that the financial crisis occurred due to market failure (a bubble created from a bloated housing market) because of laisez faire policies and deregulation.  To cure the financial contagion would not have been to lessen regulation and allow the market to fix itself, as Republicans would have preferred, but to do the opposite, to increase government intervention to reign in Wall Street.  I’m sorry, but private equity firms like Romney’s Bain Capital, if given the choice, would not suggest that Wall Street simply restructure itself and fail, understanding full-well the economic repercussion: the entire U.S. and global economy’s demise.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask former Secretary of the Treasurer and former Goldman Sachs executive, Henry Paulson the next best option.

Health Care

Would Romney have aggressively pushed healthcare like Obama in 2009-10 - probably not, but would Romney have supported it if he sat in Oval Office?  Yes, he would if his Massachusetts’ health care plan was an indication.  In fact, Obamacare’s national provisions are far more moderate than the one Romney signed into law in Massachusetts.  Despite Mitt’s attempts to distance himself from Obamacare – asserting federalism as a justification stating that he would have never proposed the same model on the national level is disingenuous – and calling for its repeal to satisfy the Tea Party is no doubt political.

The Auto Bail-Out

Would Romney have bailed out the auto industry?  While Romney wrote an op-ed that argued that he wouldn’t have bailed out General Motors in The Detroit News, in hindsight this was a political tactic to differentiate him from the president and to show that he would have done things differently.  However, if he were sitting in the Oval Office presented with the same proposition, I suspect he would have done what Obama did since it would have affected his home state of Michigan.  If faced to make a decision to save thousands of US jobs, Romney would no doubt follow in the same footsteps.  To let GM fail would be political poison. 

While the campaigns will do everything to differentiate the candidates, define the other as more different or not in touch with the American people, remember that both candidates are likely to take the same policy positions on the major issues, despite the common philosophical-ideological-political differences both candidates hold.  In the end, America’s choice this November is really not one of apples and oranges but really just two different types of apples.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Pyrrhic victory over a looming war

The recent battle, impasse, and last-minute compromise over the federal budget illustrates the continued hyper-partisanship occurring on Capitol Hill.  

The same old political wrangling between Republicans and Democrats was on display that asked the question of what to cut in a midst of a government shutdown.

While the American electorate continues to stand along the sidelines frustrated at Congress and over the political process, it can blame itself for causing the problem since it voted in a divided Congress during last year’s midterm elections.  Whether or not this is what was expected is really a moot point since this is the very nature of divided government: more conflict and not less of it as the political parties attempt to exert power over the other.

Inevitably, compromise occurs, albeit last minute. The Republicans and the president finally compromised cutting $38 billion in spending from the federal budget.  While this may seem significant at first, in reality, it’s not.  If one were to take that amount and compare it with just the federal budget’s discretionary spending, it only amounts to 1%. That’s a pittance if we compare it with the entire federal budget that accounts over $4 trillion.   

While Speaker Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell tout this as a major victory for Republicans, it really was a pyrrhic victory.

The real battle begins as the president and Congress considers how to tackle the long term problems of ballooning structural deficits that continue to increase our national debt.  How do we curb the cost of entitlements - our unfunded promises and liabilities - like Social Security and Medicare?  Compound that with our national debt that has soared to $14.3 trillion (approximately $70,000 per person) and we have a perfect storm that is forcing Congress to face the difficult, yet inevitable task of raising the debt ceiling so the country does not default on its loans.

While the reality of the debt is grim, politically, the Republicans and Tea Party freshmen have no choice but to go along with the Democrats to raise the debt ceiling since the repercussions of the U.S. defaulting on its loans would mean another catastrophic, debilitating economic crisis at home and abroad.  

The battle to balance this year’s budget may have just ended, but the war to tackle the national debt has just begun.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Political Genius of Barack Obama

In a bold move of political maneuvering, the Obama Administration decisively convinced a few Republicans that politics needed to be set aside in order to get things done, which called for political expediency.

By the end of 111th Congress’ impressive lame-duck session, an array of vital legislation moved swiftly through the often protracted legislative process that included extending the Bush tax cuts, the ratification of the START Treaty, the repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell”, $4.2 billion bill to provide health care for 9/11 first responders, a sweeping food safety bill, 19 federal judges confirmed to the bench and enough money to fund the federal government through March.

One wonders if the White House had this game plan all along, resorting to “Plan B” after the “shellacking” the Democrats suffered during the midterm elections or was it an impromptu maneuver of an entrenched president.  This author credits the lame-duck victory to the president himself.  In an audacious and unexpected move, the president ventured on his own accord and conspired with Republicans to broker the extension of the Bush tax-cuts as a trade-off to extend unemployment insurance.  This, of course (what’s past is now prologue) infuriated Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats in an interesting twist when the majority party openly defies their own party leader.  But some way, somehow, the White House brilliantly orchestrated behind the scenes political-arm twisting that would make former presidents Truman and LBJ proud.  Recall that after the deal involving tax cuts was brokered, headlines battered the president’s lack of leadership: “Obama can’t lead”, “Concessions swindled by the Republicans”, “capitulated”, unable to muster “the power of the bully-pulpit”, Obama as “a one-term president”.

How did the administration in the course of two-and-half weeks managed to turn it around?  Was it the political calculus of moving towards the middle?  Was it convincing his party, particularly defeated Democrats, of the necessity of statesmanship over politics—the politics of nothing to lose?  Was it also the convincing of moderate Republicans like Sen. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown of the negative implications to political posturing?  Whatever President Obama did to persuade members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and allow them to see eye-to-eye clearly worked.  This week’s events were testaments of his political genius.  Mr. Obama was able to not only persuade both parties of the need to work together but to also convince himself of the necessity to do what the American people expected and demanded for him to do.  Mr. Obama clearly understands the situation, "If there's any lesson to draw from these past few weeks, it's that we are not doomed to endless gridlock," the president said. "We've shown, in the wake of the November elections, that we have the capacity not only to make progress, but to make progress together."

Not since Clinton did an American president heed former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s words of wisdom, “There are no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests.” Obama chose to compromise risking alienating his own party.  He traded-off tax cuts for the wealthy to extend unemployment insurance.  As a result, Obama was hammered from the left and right and by the press for giving in, but in the end, opened the dialogue necessary that allowed him to push other pieces of legislation he considered of importance.  The strategy of attempting to take the high road provided the edge he needed over the Republicans and it paid off dividends.

Is this a sign of what to expect in the 112th Congress?  If it is, Mr. Obama has to continue this political strategy as he moves towards the center. In fact, Mr. Obama needs to be more politically savvy considering newly-elected Tea Party members like Tennessee Sen. Rand Paul and Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio are poised to make it difficult to move his legislative agenda along the process.  On the other hand, this may play positively to the president’s re-election bid in 2012.  Mr. Obama can, in fact, scapegoat Republicans if they play the role of obstructionists.  Nothing infuriates the American electorate more than gridlock and if the Republicans don’t help the president in moving legislation deemed important by the people, we may see a repeat of the Clinton playbook that helped propel him to a second term in 1996.  This is the political consequence of shared-government.

The question is who will out-maneuver who?  When does Obama push, when do Republicans dig their heels, when do both relent and compromise?  One thing is for sure as we begin a new Congress, bipartisanship will always find the undercurrent of partisan politics lurking below.  The question is who will have the political winds behind them as they approach 2012? 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What happened to America's Middle Class?

Bob Herbert joined The New York Times as an Op-Ed columnist in 1993. His twice a week column comments on politics, urban affairs and social trends.  Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Herbert was a national correspondent for NBC from 1991 to 1993, reporting regularly on "The Today Show" and "NBC Nightly News." He had worked as a reporter and editor at The Daily News from 1976 until 1985, when he became a columnist and member of its editorial board.  In 1990, Mr. Herbert was a founding panelist of "Sunday Edition," a weekly discussion program on WCBS-TV in New York, and the host of Hotline, a weekly issues program on New York public television.

By Bob Herbert

We can keep wishing and hoping for a powerful economic recovery to pull the U.S. out of its doldrums, but I wouldn’t count on it. Ordinary American families no longer have the purchasing power to build a strong recovery and keep it going.

Americans are not being honest with themselves about the structural changes in the economy that have bestowed fabulous wealth on a tiny sliver at the top, while undermining the living standards of the middle class and absolutely crushing the poor. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have a viable strategy for reversing this dreadful state of affairs. (There is no evidence the G.O.P. even wants to.)

Robert Reich, in his new book, “Aftershock,” gives us one of the clearest explanations to date of what has happened — how the United States went from what he calls “the Great Prosperity” of 1947 to 1975 to the Great Recession that has hobbled the U.S. economy and darkened the future of younger Americans.

He gives the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve credit for moving quickly in terms of fiscal and monetary policies to prevent the economic crash of 2008 from driving the U.S. into a second great depression. “But,” he writes, “we did not learn the larger lesson of the 1930s: that when the distribution of income gets too far out of whack, the economy needs to be reorganized so the broad middle class has enough buying power to rejuvenate the economy over the longer term.”

The middle class is finally on its knees. Jobs are scarce and good jobs even scarcer. Government and corporate policies have been whacking working Americans every which way for the past three or four decades. While globalization and technological wizardry were wreaking employment havoc, the movers and shakers in government and in the board rooms of the great corporations were embracing privatization and deregulation with the fervor of fanatics. The safety net was shredded, unions were brutally attacked and demonized, employment training and jobs programs were eliminated, higher education costs skyrocketed, and the nation’s infrastructure, a key to long-term industrial and economic health, deteriorated.

It’s a wonder matters aren’t worse.

While all this was happening, working people, including those in the vast middle class, coped as best they could. Women went into the paid work force in droves. Many workers increased their hours or took on second and third jobs. Savings were drained and debt of every imaginable kind — from credit cards to mortgages to student loans — exploded.

With those coping mechanisms now exhausted, it’s painfully obvious that the economy has failed working Americans.

There was plenty of growth, but the economic benefits went overwhelmingly — and unfairly — to those already at the top. Mr. Reich cites the work of analysts who have tracked the increasing share of national income that has gone to the top 1 percent of earners since the 1970s, when their share was 8 percent to 9 percent. In the 1980s, it rose to 10 percent to 14 percent. In the late-’90s, it was 15 percent to 19 percent. In 2005, it passed 21 percent. By 2007, the last year for which complete data are available, the richest 1 percent were taking more than 23 percent of all income.

The richest one-tenth of 1 percent, representing just 13,000 households, took in more than 11 percent of total income in 2007.

That does not leave enough spending power with the rest of the population to sustain a flourishing economy. This is a point emphasized in “Aftershock.” Mr. Reich, a former labor secretary in the Clinton administration, writes: “The wages of the typical American hardly increased in the three decades leading up to the Crash of 2008, considering inflation. In the 2000s, they actually dropped.”

A male worker earning the median wage in 2007 earned less than the median wage, adjusted for inflation, of a male worker 30 years earlier. A typical son, in other words, is earning less than his dad did at the same age.

This is what has happened with ordinary workers as the wealth at the top has soared into the stratosphere.

With so much of the middle class and the rest of working America tapped out, there is not enough consumer demand for the goods and services that the U.S. economy is capable of producing. Without that demand, there are precious few prospects for a robust recovery.

If matters stay the same, with working people perpetually struggling in an environment of ever-increasing economic insecurity and inequality, the very stability of the society will be undermined.

The U.S. economy needs to be rebalanced so that the benefits are shared more widely, more equitably. There are many ways to do this, but what is most important right now is to recognize this central fact, to focus on it and to begin seriously considering the most constructive options.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why the 14th Amendment should be reinterpreted

I pulled this op-ed from the Sacramento Bee. It examines the debate whether Congress should reinterpret the 14th Amendment, specifically the clause that states, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States …"  Congress is currently debating this issue which is relevant to immigration reform and national security.

By Jan C. Ting
Jan C. Ting is professor of law at Temple University Beasley School of Law, where he teaches citizenship, immigration and refugee law.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 8 percent of the babies born in the United States, one out of every 12, have at least one parent whose presence in the United States is illegal. The Washington Post and other news sources have reported on widespread birthright tourism, by which pregnant tourists come here to give birth in order to provide U.S. citizenship to the child. The current interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows all such children, whether born to illegal aliens or to temporary tourists, automatic U.S. citizenship at birth.

Elected officials have begun to question whether that interpretation of the 14th Amendment is correct, and whether it can be changed. What the 14th Amendment says is, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States …"

The 14th Amendment does not say or mean that all persons born here are citizens. There are many examples of persons born here who are not automatically citizens under the 14th Amendment. And in every such case the denial of birthright citizenship is because of the status of the parents.

For example, the children of foreign diplomats, even if born in U.S. hospitals, are not considered U.S. citizens because they are not subject to the jurisdiction thereof. Children born on U.S. soil to alien enemies in hostile occupation are not citizens for the same reason. The Japanese military occupied two of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska during World War II. A Japanese child born there during hostile occupation would not be a U.S. citizen.

Children born in the United States to Russian spies recently accompanied their parents back to Russia when they were exchanged for Russian prisoners. Are those children entitled to return as U.S. citizens after graduating from Russian spy school? Shouldn't they, too, be regarded as born to alien enemies in hostile occupation?

For many years after the adoption of the 14th Amendment, children born to American Indian tribes were not considered U.S. citizens because of their allegiance to the sovereign tribes. The fact that the exception for children born to American Indian tribes was later overturned by congressional enactment suggests a role for Congress in determining the proper interpretation and application of the 14th Amendment.

If Congress has the power through statutory enactment to interpret who is and who is not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States under the 14th Amendment, what interpretation should it adopt? Should it legislate that children born here to illegal aliens who are citizens of another country are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States? Or that children of temporary tourists are not born U.S. citizens for the same reason? The answer depends on whether we want to encourage or discourage the various categories of non-citizens who come to the United States.

The United States has the most generous legal immigration policy in the world. We give out every year about 1 million green cards to foreign nationals for legal permanent residence. It has been our policy to encourage the assimilation and naturalization of legal immigrants, and clearly their children born here should enjoy birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment.

But what about tourists who enter legally on tourist visas, but who have no ties or loyalty to the United States other than wanting the benefit of U.S. citizenship for their child? We want to encourage tourism, and most birthright tourists are in fact fairly affluent. But do we want to encourage persons raised entirely in a foreign country by foreign parents to be able to enter the United States as citizens because their parents were birthright tourists? If Congress decides otherwise, this opportunity could be limited by making tourist visas unavailable to pregnant foreigners who intend to give birth in the United States.

The issue of the children of illegal aliens is part of the larger issue of illegal immigration. The economist Walter Williams, when he taught at Temple University, used to say that, "The poor people of the world may be poor, but they are not stupid. They are as capable as anyone in this room of doing multi-functional cost-benefit analysis to determine what is in their own self-interest."

So if we want to encourage more of those considering illegal immigration, all we have to do is lower the costs and increase the benefits. Conversely, if we want to discourage illegal immigration, we have to increase the costs and decrease the benefits. What we cannot do is lower the costs of illegal immigration through non-enforcement, and increase the benefits through amnesty or a liberal interpretation of the 14th Amendment, and then expect illegal immigration to go down.

Discussion of the genuine and complex legal issues surrounding the 14th Amendment should be encouraged and not arbitrarily cut off. Ultimately, we and our elected representatives must decide whether we want no numerical limits on immigration, i.e. open borders, or the alternative, enforcement of numerical limits as adopted by Congress. Pretending we have numerical limits, but not enforcing them, is not a viable policy.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Analysis on Proposition 8 decision

The decision to strike down Proposition 8 by a federal district court starts a process that will take this contentious issue towards a showdown at the Supreme Court.

The process has already begun with pro-Proposition 8 supporters appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Here are the hypotheticals. If the Ninth Circuit Court lets Judge Walker's ruling stand, I am sure that the Supreme Court will have no choice but to grant certiorari as it falls directly under the Court’s original jurisdiction of states versus states. Currently, five states including the District of Columbia recognizes same-sex marriage while about half of the states in the union have provisions similar to Proposition 8 that bans same-sex marriage.

If it gets to the Supreme Court, and it decides to frame it as a civil rights issue, then this case will be classified under the minimum rationality standard - meaning that the government doesn't have to present overwhelming evidence to the Court to discriminate against same-sex couples. Thus, traditional marriage supporters should feel optimistic about their chances that the Supreme Court may rule in their favor. However, traditional marriage supporters' advocate on the government side (Obama's new Solicitor General, whoever that person maybe, now that Elena Kagan has assumed the bench) may not totally be one-hundred percent on their side. Why? - Because of Obama's position on the issue.

This is a quandary for the Obama administration whose middle-of-the-road position regarding same-sex marriage may get him into deep political hot water. President Obama is against Proposition 8, but he does not support same-sex "marriage", however, he is in favor of repealing Congress' Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was passed by a majority Republican congress. Obama's walking a political tight rope with this issue fearing in alienating his base (pro-same-sex marriage supporters) while not losing the support of moderate to conservative independents (traditional marriage proponents) who helped him win in 2008. The bottom line is that the administration wants to make this a states' rights issue; however, looking towards the future, it has moved from the states to the federal courts and is inevitably now a federal issue.

A brief analysis at the current makeup of the court - five conservative and four liberal justices - indicates that the Court will rule in favor of traditional marriage; however, the swing vote in Justice Kennedy - a Sacramento native - is also known to side from time-to-time with the four liberal justices.

This is going to be a very interesting case if it gets to the Supreme Court whether it frames the issue under the 1st Amendment’s free exercise clause or the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. In the former, the court may interpret the government, by expanding its definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, infringe on religious practice and freedom, thereby violating separation of church and state. Framing the issue this way would mean that it will rule in favor traditional marriage supporters. To frame it violating the 14th Amendment would make it a classic civil rights case. The Court could interpret the issue as violating same-sex couples' civil right to marry and thereby rule that they are not being protected equally under the law. This scenario will play well in favor of pro-same-sex marriage supporters.

Another scenario is that the court may narrow the scope of their opinion and rule in favor of states' rights, thereby upholding majority rule and Proposition 8. While this may reinforce the status quo, it will not make anyone happy nor will it make this issue go away as it will continue to prolong a violation of the Constitution's "full faith and credit clause" that requires states to recognize other state's official governmental documents. To rule in favor of states rights will mean that each state will continue to determine whether or not to recognize same-sex marriage. This would only prolong the matter rather than solving it.

The only answer is a clear and definitive opinion from the Supreme Court.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A bailout for US Public Education

Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, needs all the help he could get. At a time when the Obama administration seeks to raise education standards by announcing billions of extra federal funds for under-performing public schools, this recession has wrecked havoc on state and local budgets. This, in turn, meant deep cuts for public school and universities. This has sparked lively teacher and student protests and rallies across the nation in March 4.

UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich gets it right in his op-ed piece recently aired on public radio. If our financial institutions can be bailed out, why not consider a bailout for U.S. public schools and universities? If we are to remain competitive within the global market, isn’t it imperative that the U.S. invest in the future of its workforce? If we are to retain our standing as the world’s preeminent economy, shouldn’t we invest in our own unique resource – our citizens?

While raising standards of under-performing schools is important, Secretary Duncan must first save the dismal state public education finds itself presently. He, along with the president, needs to make sure public schools and universities stay afloat and survive this economic storm. If it doesn’t, we endanger all of our schools and the strides we have made. The Obama administration must understand that one cannot do the former if it does not address the latter.

ROBERT REICH: The recession has ravaged state and local budgets, most of which aren't allowed to run deficits. That's meant major cuts in public schools and universities, and an unfathomable future deficit in the education of our people.

Across America, schools are laying off thousands of teachers. Classrooms that had contained 20 to 25 students are now crammed with 30 or more. School years have been shortened. Some school districts are moving to four-day school weeks.

Community colleges are reducing their course offerings and admitting fewer students. Public universities, like the one I teach at, have raised tuitions and fees, which means many qualified students won't be attending.

Last year, the nation committed $700 billion to bail out Wall Street banks, the engines of America's financial capital, because we were told we'd face economic Armageddon if we didn't.

We've got our priorities backwards. Our schools are the engines of our human capital, and if we don't bail out public education we face a bigger economic Armageddon years from now.

Financial capital moves instantly around the globe to wherever it can earn the best return. Human capital -- the skills and insights of our people -- is the one resource that's uniquely American, on which our future living standards uniquely depend.

Starting immediately, the federal government should give states and local governments interest-free loans to make up for all school and university budget shortfalls. The loans can be repaid when the recession is over and local and state tax revenues revive.

Over the long term we've gotta shift incentives away from financial capital toward human capital. A tiny one half of 1 percent tax on all financial transactions would generate about $200 billion a year, according to the Economic Policy Institute. That might put a crimp on Wall Street bonuses, but it's enough to fund early childhood education, smaller Kindergarten through grade 12 classes, and lower tuitions and fees for public higher education.

The Street's financial capital is important to the American economy, but over the long term the classroom's human capital is absolutely critical.