These posts reflect my original interest in American politics, history and political theory broadly cast. I’m interested in exploring the nexus between American Political Development (APD) and American Political Thought (APT) as well as American Studies and Africana Studies or all regional “studies,” including working with Gajo Petrovic a leader in Praxis published in the former Yugoslavia.

This was the reason I stayed in politics for my Ph.D. rather than leaving for law school, history, sociology or business school as faculty kept trying to convince me to do in undergraduate and graduate school after spending a gap year reading Heidegger’s Being and Time with University of Zagreb philosophy professor Gajo Petrovic, who spent time at IAS and working with the author of the former Yugoslavian Constitution, the one that stuck — written in the 1970s.  The latter scholar attended the Sorbonne in the 1930s and ended his career as the Dean of the best law school in Belgrade.  In the 1980s the Fulbright funded his scholarship on Jefferson at Claremont Graduate School.  I worked with him for my B.A. thesis on Marx, existentialism, phenomenology and Yugoslavian self-management supervised by Claremont Men’s College’s public law professor Winston Fisk.

Sovereignty of (50) States Shadowy Subcontractor Hybrid Social State

440px-Fagin_from_Oliver_Twist Murder is not the only way to deprive our most vulnerable citizens of their lives, or their quality of life.  Each politician, after all, is akin to a jobs center, and now they dole out the jobs with no accountability in the shadowy subcontractor hybrid, or private-public, state.

I could talk about education and other social services delivered by the states, and how deep the shadow subcontractor hybrid state goes.  Here it gets messy and counter-productive to the point of absurdity.  The very policies that politicians are elected to pass and implement to serve our most dependent people — foster children — end up being used to do things as mundane as pave our roads.

How does this happen?  State governments rely on private industry — contractors — and those contractors hire subcontractors.  We contract out services and deliveries and many other things.

In a book called The Poverty Industry, Daniel Hatcher exposes how most states partner with private contractors or consultants to get federal-government payments intended to serve foster children, women and children on what we commonly call welfare, persons with disabilities, and those in poverty over 65, and use those payments for their own purposes.

The citizens supposed to be served — the intended beneficiaries — receive at best services worth pennies on the dollar. Instead, the states and the private contractors and subcontractors collect the money from the feds and divvy it up among themselves.

Since the 1990s, the United States accepts this practice of states “contracting” out services under the illusion that it is more efficient and cheaper.  In reality, it takes the monies for services that we all agree are necessary through the representational democratic system of elections and governance and puts them in darkness.

The shadow falls in the states.  The darkness occurs in the states’ use of a hybrid shadow subcontractor state that has little or no accountability — by design. Federalism amounts to the states’ accepting federal dollars from SSI, etc. . . . you name it, and then states spending it upon what they will — but they do not will it to be spent on these dependent, quiet, uniformed, not-yet-old-enough-to-understand citizens, or too-old-to-protest citizens.

Let me give you one graphic example.  A foster child who has both parents die does not get the Social Security death benefits.  Rather, the private contractors notify their state supervisors that a foster child is eligible for Social Security benefits, turning this child into an orphan rather than a foster child.  They file the paperwork with the Feds.

The perversity happens next, when the states and the private companies split up the monies — the private company for profits, and the tax-starved states for state revenue needed to pave the roads.  Not one penny goes to the intended beneficiary of the program — the foster child.  It’s a “rob Peter to pay Paul” arrangement by the states, as designed by our nation-state — or the federal government.

In the 1990s we didn’t just privatize prisons, as that wonderful book, The New Jim Crow, illustrates — we created For-Profit Orphanages.  The American state and the 50 states took the Charles Dickens Oliver Twist turn by hiring contractors who hire subcontractors, or the Fagins of government (the criminal boss of boys), who must beat Nancy (the prostitute who tries to rescue the boys by shedding light on the Fagins of this state).

The states’ continuing revenue shortfalls, which must be made up by shady means like these, raise another question:  Why are the 50 states afraid to tax their citizens?  The U.S. system of federalism is a race to the bottom among states that live in fear of highly paid citizens and their high-paying companies leaving the state — that is, in the absence of strong national or federal regulations to harmonize taxes.  Often they don’t go to different regions, or abroad, just to a neighboring state. For instance, top employees at the pharmaceutical company Merck share a “helicopter-pool,” like a car-pool, from their homes in Pennsylvania to Rahway, New Jersey, so they won’t have to pay New Jersey’s high taxes when Pennsylvania’s taxes are so low.#



-1  Violence begets violence.  It is escalating across this land.  As I watch with horror, however, I am heartened by the impact this beloved man — Philando Castile – is making in death.  His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, in her shock, schooled this nation into shame.

Like Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till, Diamond is standing up for all black men murdered by vigilantes deputized in effect by the police.  In Philando’s case being murdered by the police is one step closer than vigilantes, and one large step worse than it was in 1955.  Sixty-one years of not enough progress, for sure.

Barack Obama should come home to attend all the funerals, in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas, so that this will trigger the right type of mobilization – real citizen participation for real reform.

Obama needs to use his last days in office to lead the nation, with the heavy hand of executive action superseding municipal, local, and state actors like the police, whom the United States of America funds on a national level.

My Crystal Ball

9780226041629 Boom. What am I talking about? That I anticipated President Barack Obama’s actions by virtue of developing a study about his modus operandi — or his ideas as political thought — in Out of Many, One: Barack Obama and the Third American Political Tradition. Put differently, I drank the Kool-Aid — which isn’t to say I wasn’t disappointed by Obama at times (especially his stance on civil liberties).

Four of the six articles on today’s New York Times front page reflect Obama’s legacy or the body of our President’s political thought, in this order:

  1. Transgender transformation (chapter 3 of my book)
  2. Representational democratic reform via social media (as an extension of Occupy Wall Street or OWS) (chapter 6)
  3. Obama being a hawk, not a dove, left a vacuum in foreign policy when he could not get Congress to give him enough authority to effect real change in the Middle East. He inherited not one but two wars in the Middle East when all he wanted to do with his administration was concentrate on Asia. (chapter 5)
  4. Obama is an economic progressive — and he used executive action to achieve it. If Congress refuses to play ball and raise the minimum wage, so what? Obama just did a due-process reform by raising the limit for time-and-a-half pay for salaried employees. Sure, this helps the middle class, but Obama was always a middle-class reformer. (chapters 1 and 2)

Finally, it’s great that Antonin Scalia is dead. Now, this could not have been predicted — at least, not the timing. And I do not mean as a man, only as an aged Supreme Court Justice who reflected a small portion of rebel rousers — called rednecks and religious rednecks — the kind that reside in Oildale CA, where my relatives lived.