Blow and Krugman

In “Police Violence: American Epidemic, American Consent” Mr. Blow says that officers merely reflect the attitudes and fears of a racist society.  In “Progressive Family Values” Prof. Krugman outlines policies for the real, real America.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Another set of black men killed by the police — one in Tulsa, Okla., another in Charlotte, N.C.

Another set of protests, and even some rioting.

Another television cycle in which the pornography of black death, pain and anguish are exploited for visual sensation and ratings gold.

And yes, another moment of mistakenly focusing on individual cases and individual motives and individual protests instead of recognizing that what we are witnessing in a wave of actions rippling across the country is an exhaling — a primal scream, I would venture — of cumulative cultural injury and a frantic attempt to stanch the bleeding from multiplying wounds.

We can no longer afford to buy into the delusion that this moment of turmoil is about discrete cases or their specific disposition under the law. The system of justice itself is under interrogation. The cultural mechanisms that produced that system are under interrogation. America as a whole is under interrogation.

We are in a new age in which the shroud has slipped and trauma has risen.

This is a video age, in which facts that were previously filtered though police accounts and media sources, that were previously whispered over shoulders at barbershops and across kitchen tables, have been buttressed by the immediacy and veracity of visual proof.

It is an age in which the language of resistance has been set and accepted, in which the mode of expression and resistance has been demonstrated and proved effective. It is an age of enlightenment and anger, of fear and frustration, of activism and alertness. Black America is beyond the breaking point, a point of no return.

And in this era, the discussion around these issues must be broad and deep because the actions required to address the problems must be broad and deep.

This moment in our nation’s history is not about how individual fears are articulated — in an emergency call, in an officer’s response, in weapons drawn and fired, in black people’s desire to flee for their lives, in black parents’ anxiety about the safety of their children. This moment is about the enormous, almost invisible structure that informs those fears — the way media and cultural presentations disproportionately display black people, and black men in particular, as dangerous and menacing and criminal. It’s about the way historical policies created our modern American ghettos and their concentrated poverty; the ways in which such concentrated poverty and its blight and hopelessness can be a prime breeding ground for criminal behavior; the way these areas make poverty sticky and opportunity scarce; the way resources, from education to health care to nutrition, are limited in these areas.

We keep talking about choices, but we don’t talk nearly enough about the fact that choices are always made within a cultural and historical context.

People didn’t simply choose to live in neighborhoods with poor housing and poor schools and crumbling infrastructure and few grocery stores and fewer adequate health care facilities. There were many factors that created those neighborhoods: white flight, and the black flight of wealthier black people, community disinvestment, business lending practices and government policies assigning infrastructure and public transportation to certain parts of cities and not others.

And the people living in those communities — sometimes trapped in those communities — make choices, sometimes poor ones, within that context.

We may say that a poor choice is simply wrong and the offending party must deal with the consequences. But poor choices made in a poor environment don’t have the same consequences as those made in wealthy environments. For poor people, the same poor choices are punished more often and more severely, compounding their deficit.

Then America takes it further, imputing the poor choices of a few onto a whole race, and in so doing sets the stage for disaster. This creates the suspicion and fear that can lead to the deaths we’re seeing, in which the person killed may have made no poor choices, in which the only poor choice was the pulling of a trigger.

This is what people mean when they talk about the impact of systemic racism in these cases and in these areas. It is not that the police harbor more racism than the rest of America, but rather that racism across society, including within our police departments and system of justice, has been erected in ways that disproportionately impact poor, minority communities. That is acutely clear in these killings.

What took centuries to grow may take a long time to fully chop down. You can’t fight racism by plucking leaves from the top of the poisonous tree, but by taking an ax to the root.

Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence said last week, “We ought to set aside this talk, this talk about institutional racism and institutional bias,” calling it “rhetoric of division.” That is exactly the opposite of what we should do.

The police are simply instruments of the state, and the state is the people who comprise it. The police are articulating a campaign of control and containment of populations and that campaign has the implicit approval of every citizen within their jurisdictions. This is not a rogue officer problem; this is a rogue society problem.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Here’s what happens every election cycle: pundits demand that politicians offer the country new ideas. Then, if and when a candidate actually does propose innovative policies, the news media pays little attention, chasing scandals or, all too often, fake scandals instead. Remember the extensive coverage last month, when Hillary Clinton laid out an ambitious mental health agenda? Neither do I.

For that matter, even the demand for new ideas is highly questionable, since there are plenty of good old ideas that haven’t been put into effect. Most advanced countries implemented some form of guaranteed health coverage decades if not generations ago. Does this mean that we should dismiss Obamacare as no big deal, since it’s just implementing a tired old agenda? The 20 million Americans who gained health coverage would beg to differ.

Still, there really are some interesting new ideas coming from one of the campaigns, and they arguably tell us a lot about how Mrs. Clinton would govern.

Wait — what about the other side? Aren’t Republicans also offering new ideas? Well, I guess proposing to round up and deport 11 million people counts as a new idea. And Republicans in Congress seem to have moved past their tradition of proposing tax cuts that deliver most of their benefits to the wealthy. Now they are, instead, proposing tax cuts that deliver all of their benefits to the 1 percent — O.K., actually just 99.6 percent, but who’s counting?

Back to Mrs. Clinton: Much of her policy agenda could be characterized as a third Obama term, building on the center-left policies of the past eight years. That would hardly be a trivial matter. For example, independent estimates suggest that her proposed enhancements to the Affordable Care Act would extend health coverage to around 10 million more people, whereas Donald Trump’s proposed repeal of the act would cause around 20 million people to lose coverage.

In addition to defending and extending President Obama’s achievements, however, Mrs. Clinton is pushing a distinctive agenda centered around support for working parents. This isn’t a completely new idea, but the scale of the Clinton proposals is off the charts compared with anything that has gone before. And as I said, this tells us a lot about her priorities.

One piece of that agenda involves 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for new children, help sick relatives, or recover from illness or injury. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Mr. Trump, who has offered his own threadbare version of a maternal leave plan, was pants-on-fire lying when he claimed that his opponent has no such plan. Are you surprised?

Another, even more striking piece involves helping families with young children in several ways, especially through universal preschool and public outlays — subsidies and tax credits — to hold down the cost of child care (the campaign sets a target of no more than 10 percent of income.)

And everything we know, both about Mrs. Clinton’s long-term interests and her current choices of advisers, suggests that family-centered issues are close to her heart. I was personally struck by the campaign’s choice of Heather Boushey, a leading expert on work-life balance issues, as chief economist for the Clinton transition team. That tells me a lot about priorities.

But why should helping working parents be such a priority? It looks to me like an attempt to focus on the problems of the real America — not the white, rural “real America” of right-wing fantasies, but the real, real America in which most of our fellow citizens live. And that America is one in which working parents are the norm, in which stay-at-home mothers are a distinct minority, and in which the problem of how to take care of children while making ends meet is central to many people’s lives.

The numbers are striking: 64 percent of women with children under the age of 6 are in the paid labor force, up from 39 percent in 1975. Most of these working mothers are surely doing so out of economic necessity, and we as a society need to find a way to reconcile this reality with the need to raise our children well.

I suppose a free market purist might question why we need government policies to help deal with this new reality. But we are, after all, talking about the fate of children, who are to some extent a common responsibility. Furthermore, child care economics is in some ways like health economics: for a variety of reasons, mostly coming down to the fact that we’re dealing with people, not things, we can’t trust unregulated markets to deliver a decent outcome.

So anyone who complains that there aren’t big new ideas in this campaign simply isn’t paying attention. One candidate, at least, has ideas that would make a big, positive difference to millions of American families.

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