How Funding the Vote, Schools & Police Could Change America

One of the most amazing things about Donald Trump as a presidential candidate is his ability to say something interesting or at least hint at something interesting when he appears to be saying absolutely nothing.

The latest example of this came last week, when Trump told African-Americans they really have nothing to lose by voting for him.

Now obviously what Trump said was in large part just a rehash of stereotypes that clueless white people have about black people -- they’re all poor, they live desperate lives, etcetera etcetera.

And obviously, black people do have a lot to lose by voting Republican.

But still, even in the midst of all that garbled logic and racial stereotyping, Trump was getting at something important: the seemingly permanent problem of poverty in the United States of America, especially in communities of color.

Which of course, raises the question why DO so many of our poor communities remain poor whether they’re black in West Baltimore or white in Appalachia?

Why are we STILL seeing poor people stay poor, generation after generation?

The answer is actually simpler than you might think: it’s all about the money, stupid.

It’s all about the money and who controls it.

For decades, centuries even, conservatives have been pushing this idea of state’s rights and local control.

Big government far away in Washington just messes things up, they say, so it makes more sense to let the people who actually live in communities make decisions about things that actually affect those communities.

But here’s the thing: when conservatives say “local control,” they really mean “local funding,” and that’s the problem.

You see, there are three primary things that make a community successful and give its citizens the opportunity to improve their lives.

The first is good schools, the second is safety (good police), and the third is the ability to make effective political and policy changes when changes need to happen (access to voting).

If you live in a rich community, you never even have to think about these things.

They’re there at your beck and call, and they always work fine. The schools are great, the police are friendly, and voting takes 15 minutes or even less.

But things are different when you’re poor.

The schools are bad, the cops are downright hostile (especially if you’re a person of color), and voting is difficult, if not impossible.

And why is that?

Easy: local control, which is really just code for local funding.

Why are schools in poor neighborhoods not as good as those in rich neighborhoods?

Easy: most schools are largely funded by property taxes, and thus poor neighborhood schools are starved for cash while rich towns are swimming in it.

Why is policing in poor neighborhoods so crappy?

Easy: Police departments are also largely funded locally, which puts poor neighborhoods at a disadvantage again because they can’t afford to hire the high quality police officers who work in rich neighborhoods. Local funding in low-income areas also adds an incentive for local police departments to treat their citizens as if they were an ATM machine - something we saw in a big way in Ferguson, Missouri.

Finally, why is it so hard and time-consuming to vote when you’re poor?

Easy: Voting services are largely paid for at the county level and poorer counties can’t afford as many polling places and poll workers as rich counties can.

Working together, these three things -- bad schools, bad police, and bad democracy -- create a large part of the vicious cycle that undermines any possibility for poor communities to emerge from poverty.

This is, by the way, no accident.

Conservatives know that rich white people don’t want to pay a dime to help poor people of color, and so they promote this idea of local control to give cover to what they really want to do: preserve the system of local funding that’s the source of all our problems.

So that’s the problem -- what’s the solution?

Well, one solution is to declare voting, schools, and police as "critical infrastructure" and then pass legislation to the change the rules of the game so that every school, police department and polling location in poor communities has the same level of funding as its rich community equivalent across the state.

This can be done at the level of either federal or state government -- either works.

It’s really that simple to get a good start on this.

It’s time to do away with all this “local control” BS and build a society that protects its most important critical infrastructures.


cccccttttt 6 years 41 weeks ago

Would not disagree with Tom's thesis.

But would add a key factor that needs an honest assessment.

A culture of academic achievement.

Why did Germany and Japan rise from total decimation?

Why are poor US regions forever in poverty despite Great Society money?

Why are the children of poor Asian immigrants working as professionals after

a few generations?

By all means increase funding in the areas Tom mentioned, but realize it will be ineffective without changes in family values.


Old_Curmudgeon 6 years 41 weeks ago

Squishes and Squeams

{… a rhyme …}

Political-news continues the themes

of our yuugely stressful nightmare-ish dreams.

Nothing redeems;

no hope here gleams.

One’s churning tummy squishes and squeams*.

… … …

* The rhymer’s license allows

using adjectives as verbs.


Old_Curmudgeon 6 years 41 weeks ago

Trumpian Saga

{… a rhyme …}

Doggies, the Trumpian saga!!

“Show biz” like Lady Gaga

{’tho’ with less pizzazz

than the Lady has}.

Whole durn’ show he would hog a.

Sewage system he would clog a.

He drags us down into bog a.


Kittyscalzo's picture
Kittyscalzo 6 years 41 weeks ago

So much wisdom as usual. I totally agree with you. We have a chance thanks to the Donald. We could take the presidency, the Senate and the House. But what then? I live in California with some of the richest and poorest communities are just a few miles apart. As far as I know our state government is all liberal but we have done nothing to change your three points. I will be contacting my gov at all levels to discuss this issue now that I see it so clearly. I hate to say it but the Donald and Bernie have shown lights on issues long hidden.

Ou812's picture
Ou812 6 years 41 weeks ago

I'm a Teacher in Maryland. Despite what Mr Hartman says, about Baltimore City Schools, Baltimore City is the second highest funded school system in the entire nation.

I don't teach in Baltimore City where the annual school budget is $1.3 Billion. Baltimore City has a population 3 times greater than the county in which I teach. Our education budget is $182 million. Baltimore City has three times our population, but 8 times our budget. Students in Baltimore City are given ipads, notebooks, and other tablets. We have none. If a student wants to use an electronic device, his family must purchase it. Rumor has it quite a few students in Baltimore City Schools sell there devices on the black market. Our county is among the top ten school districts in the USA. Baltimore City one of the lowest in the USA.

Cccccttttt has nailed it, It's about family values, not how much is spent on education. BTW, for you political types, Baltimore City is run by Democrats. The last time Baltimore had a Republican mayor was 1963 --Theodore Mckeldin. He was preceded by Thomas Delasandro Jr. (Nancy Pelosi's father) for 12 years, and followed by Thomas Delasandro III (Nancy Pelosi's brother) for 1 term. Since Theodore Mckeldin ( a great mayor by the way), nothing but Democrats. In fact, no Republican has served on the city council or any other elected office in Baltimore in many many years. Our county is the political opposite of Baltimore. Republican commissioners, state senators and delegates. A Democrat wouldn't be elected trash collector here.

Queenbeethatsme's picture
Queenbeethatsme 6 years 41 weeks ago

I disagree. It is not about the money, it is about the mindset.

Spend every election cycle telling people how,lazy, craven, animalistic, pitiful, criminal and subhuman a group is, then back that up with manipulated or,skewed stats and what you end up with is a public that does not want to live, work with or for, or have any sympathy or empathy for the targeted group.

The targeted group, left without jobs, hounded by police and disregarded until they can be blamed and courted in the next election become resentful, insular and ethnocentristic, , developing their own speech and standards often diametrically opposed to the dominant group. EACH oblivious to just how deep in the rabbit hole they squat.

MONEY is something easily thrown at a problem and easily lofty goals get corrupted. People make businesses out of poverty which enrich them and their friends as they skim off government money but do nothing to change the trajectory of the average black.

Consider Rangley, Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. THEY all started with nothing and now all are millionaires, having made a business out of advocacy and government funding. It is not in their best Interest to actually have self sufficiency in the hood..that government money is their money train and estate plan: as long as there is poverty, there is justification for throwing money at black neighborhoods..most of the money discreetly enriching a few while the many wonder why a 2 million dollar rec center was built instead of maybe giving each family money for utility bills.

How detrimental is this mental manipulation?

It means most whites think the majority on welfare are black when they have ALWAYS been white. It means whites think blacks commit the most crime when from assault to rapes and burglaries, whites commit almost 5 times more than EVERY MINORITY combined. (SEE FBI TABLE 143 for any year beginning with 2010)

It means whites rely on stats instead of real numbers and so don't realize that two races commit almost all the murders each year. 46K + or - for blacks and over 46k +or - for whites, the difference is often around 500 more for one group or the other with most murders of each targeting their own race.

Some years whites commit more, some years blacks commit more, skewing it into stats instead of real numbers always favors the much larger group.

It means when Adam Lanza killed all those people at Sandy Hook, Eric Cantor called for gun control referencing "urban youth"..or blacks " and not the predominance of whites as mass shooters.

It means most whites think blacks rape the most *blacks rape on average around 45K any given year and 85% will be other blacks) but whites do not realize that white males often rape over 200 thousand people in a year with about 85% being other whites which leaves around 30k rape victims not being white.

It shapes a narrative so crazy, that a cop killing an unarmed black person is excused because somewhere two black criminals shot each other, or that because there are black criminals, that justifies killing any other black anywhere.

This is also why blacks distrust and detest the GOP, that party having been the architect of much of the stereotypes and beliefs about black people.

People think most blacks are criminal and until the Internet, that view was enforced. NOW WE CAN GOOGLE, and so find out the numbers of crimes by race on the FBI table 143, and we can find out that the % of blacks in all the prisons,jails and reformatories is about 1.2 million, which leaves about 42 million blacks not in prison.

Mindset, not money. Talk is cheap.but it is still valuable.

Some are learning.

A well placed comment makes people think. AN EXAMPLE of white privilege, is when a Muslim commits a crime...all Muslims are blamed, when a black commits a crime it is a referendum on all blacks, white privilege is that when a white person commits a crime, whites do not blame their entire race, begin to suspect their entire race, nor do police profile all whites because of criminal areas they dominate in (such as mass shootings) nor do whites ever call upon the "white community" to stop other whites from criminal behavior.

Mindset, the only thing money does is inspire new levels of corruption.

Excuse my typis,, autocorrect from my phone.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 6 years 41 weeks ago

The same level of funding for "critical infrastructure" equals the same starting line for all..... or at least it would bring everyone close enough to the starting line to have a real chance to actually succeed in the race out of poverty.

We all know the very wealthy would much rather pay property tax than switch to income tax to fund "critical infrastructure." With property tax the very wealthy pay the same rate as the very poor. Income tax would be the progressive and fair way, because income tax can be calibrated to the ability to pay, unlike the extremely regressive property tax method which has zero to do with ability to pay.

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 6 years 41 weeks ago

While black people are disproportionately poor, the majority of US poor are white. As a result of our "successful welfare reform," the number of Americans in permanent poverty skyrocketed. The overall life expectancy of our truly poor has fallen to age 60-62 so far. The last I heard, there are 7 jobs for every 10 jobless people who still have the means to pursue one (home address, phone, etc.). The US shut down/shipped out a huge number of jobs since the 1980s, ended actual welfare in the 1990s, and remains content to pretend there are no consequences.

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 6 years 41 weeks ago

What percentage of infrastructure jobs go to women?

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 6 years 41 weeks ago

Family values? The leading cause of families being torn apart of economic hardships. Find a way to convince men to take personal responsibility for their families? Even when they're willing, we simply don't have jobs for all. Complex issues, but in a nutshell, the US has worked very hard over the last 30 years to destroy its economy, making the country unsustainable.

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 6 years 41 weeks ago

A funny thing happens when US corporations pack up and leave, taking our jobs with them.

tcluney's picture
tcluney 6 years 41 weeks ago

Equal funding from community to community? Awesome concept Thom, unfortunately hell hasn't frozen over. The right wing business mentality is running our state and local governments, people are the lowest priority. Just take a look at Flint, Michigan. An absolute disaster. On top of that, Gov Nerd cut DHHS funding by 14.4% and VA funding by 6%, but we won't discuss the 2 billion dollar tax cut the year before. Optimism for local communities: Zero.

Tom Dorricott's picture
Tom Dorricott 6 years 41 weeks ago

In terms of education, it is NOT all about the money. Take the Philadelphia school district, for example. There is constant complaint ablout how Philadelphia schools are lousy, and failing the students. Also bemoaned is the disparity between the achievement in Philadelphia public schools and suburban public schools. The blame is put on funding and substandard teachers.

However, in Philadelphia, Asian and African immigrants of all incomes thrive in the Philadelphia School district. As a group, these students not only graduate at very high levels and score extremely high in standardized academic achievement test, they outperform the students (as a group), in the "rich" suburban school districts.

This is because of a family structure that predominantly consists of two parents, who prioritize and demand educational achievement , delay of gratification, civilized behavior, respect, and not breaking the law. The parents also lead by example. There is no corrosive culture of complaint.

Yes, I'm being facetious when I say the only way more money would significantly increase educational outcomes for all students in the Philadelphia School District would be to supply, for every students that needs them, two Asian parents. However, it is very close to the truth. Great parents make great students; lousy parents handicap their children immensely.

Also, schools in districts where parents have abdicated their responsibility to feed and teach their students civilized behavior force schools to spend money on things not even considered 40 years ago. Schools now have to babysit children in pre-school, feed them free breakfast and lunch, provide enhanced medical care, keep the students from beating each other, and provide male role models for fatherless boys. This is money other districts can use for actual education.

Much can be learned from Asian and African immigrants and their children. They apparently have alot more "gratitude" than "attitude", and take advantage of the opportunities afforded them.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 6 years 41 weeks ago

It seems there is high correlation between family wealth and family values. It seems the solution to this problem is reparations. In other words, fund the families, not the schools.

Tom Dorricott's picture
Tom Dorricott 6 years 41 weeks ago

chuckle 8: I see a strong correlation, but believe the cause and effect is the inverse of yours. Strong family values lead to wealth and poor family values and decisions can lead to and perpetuate poverty.

Asian and African immigrants who come here with low incomes are greatly enabled by strong family values to achieve educationally and financially.

Throwing money at disfunction would just subsidize and perpetuate it. Reparations is also pipe dream with no chance of happening, so as any type of solution it is a non - starter.

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