Isaac Park

Isaac Park is an editorial intern at the Prospect.

Recent Articles

Warren Calls on Banks to Invest in Minority Neighborhoods, Businesses

Senator Elizabeth Warren recently warned that minority families and businesses continue to suffer disproportionately from the lingering effects of the Great Recession and called on the country’s banks to step up to assist local communities.

Warren noted that most Americans experienced severe hardships during the economic downturn. “In 2013, the median income of white households was 13 times that of black households,” she said. But she also underlined the fact that large financial institutions had specifically targeted minority homebuyers with subprime loans that had a devastating impact on their finances.

“The housing collapse destroyed trillions of dollars in family wealth,” the Massachusetts Democrat told the Center for Global Policy Solutions’ “Color of Wealth” summit in Washington last week. “But the crash hit African American families like a punch in the gut.” “White households lost on average 11 percent of their wealth,” she added, “but black households lost over 30 percent of their wealth.” Given these disparities, Warren argued that “the federal government [needs] to make real investments in communities of color.”

The Center has released a study, “The Color of Entrepreneurship,” that documents racial disparities in the business sector. According to the report, racism has blunted the benefits of minority-owned businesses: The U.S. economy continues to forgo about 1.1 million minority-owned businesses due to historic and current instances of discrimination. The report concluded that if those businesses were up and running, they would potentially create nine million jobs and increase the U.S. national income by $300 billion.

The center’s analysis of business ownership survey data from the Census Bureau found that while the overall number of minority-owned businesses grew, the number of firms owned by African American men dropped by 2.3 percent. Black men were the only group to experience a decline.

Minority- and women-owned businesses have also experienced declines in average sales. In 2012, firms owned by men regardless of race had higher average sales than companies owned by women. Among male-owned businesses, white-owned firms saw the highest average sales in 2012, and black-owned firms the lowest. Similarly, firms owned by white women had the highest average sales and those run by black women, the lowest.

Most minority-owned businesses saw a decline in average wages as well. Employees working for companies owned by American Indian women saw a 6 percent drop in average pay, the biggest drop in the survey.

American Indian men and Hispanic men also experienced steep declines in wages, at 5.8 and 5.6 percent respectively. Employees working for firms owned by white women and white men saw a 0.2 percent and 1.3 percent decrease in average wages, respectively. However, workers employed by firms owned by black men saw a 1.2 percent increase in average pay.

The report suggested several ways to close the wealth gap, ranging from tax credits for new minority entrepreneurs (which could attract venture capital) to staving off tuition and fee hikes at state universities so that young entrepreneurs leave college with less debt and more money to invest in a business.

Warren proposed expanding the Community Reinvestment Act, a Carter administration-era reform that encourages commercial banks to invest in low-income communities. Federal officials make “deliberate policy choices that favor those with money and power,” said Warren. “The American people are holding up our end of the bargain. But for too long, many banks have not been holding up their end, and that has got to stop.”

This post has been updated. 

New Yorkers Clamor to Vote in Primaries

Remember when Ben Carson was the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary? Or when Bernie Sanders consistently failed to poll above 30 percent against Hillary Clinton? Or when Nate Silver assured us that Trump’s collapse was inevitable?  

All this described the state of the presidential race about six months ago—around the same time that voters in New York faced an October 9 deadline to declare their party affiliations, a requirement for anyone intending to participate in the state’s closed primaries on April 19.

A lot has happened since that deadline last year, including the October resignation of then–House Speaker John Boehner, three major terrorist attacks in Europe and in the United States, and the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Unchanged though, remains the fact that next week’s New York primaries will be closed, meaning that only registered Democrats and Republicans may vote in their respective parties’ contests. This means that the 3 million or so voters registered outside the two major parties will be effectively disenfranchised from Tuesday’s elections. Among them are some surprisingly influential figures, as was widely reported last week, including Trump’s children and even his lawyer. But while the world’s tiniest violin may be playing for the Trump family, a crescendo of complaints is mounting from the many voters who now realize that they, too, will be locked out of the voting booths.

The state’s board of elections has reported a flood of calls by voters confused and outraged at the rules—“pissed off,” as one election official put it—about their registration status. And Ivanka Trump has become a voting-rights advocate overnight, slamming New York’s registration rules as “onerous” at a Republican town hall earlier this week. Meanwhile, a number of democracy groups have called for New York to open its primaries, holding a small rally in front of New York City Hall on Thursday. 

First-time voters have a bigger cushion: They had until March 25 to register and declare their party affiliations. But anyone banking on same-day registration, available in 11 other states, will be out of luck.

The standard defense of closed primaries is that they fend off the political dirty trick known as “party crashing”—the practice of voters registered with one party voting in the other party’s primary as a backdoor way to elevate a candidate perceived as unelectable. But with 5.2 million and 2.5 million voters registered with the Democratic and Republican parties respectively, that kind of manipulation would only work if thousands of voters conspired to “crash the party” in advance. Besides, GOP enthusiasm for the radioactive Trump makes party crashing look redundant this time.

The paradox of New York’s strict primary rules is that the state also boasts one of the nation’s most liberal general election ballot systems. Through a little-known practice called “fusion” voting, New York allows multiple parties to endorse the same candidate and list them on the ballot multiple times. Also known as cross-nominating, fusion voting encourages participation by voters registered with minor parties. Once ubiquitous in the 19th century, when third parties flourished, the practice fell out of favor as larger parties attempted to snuff out insurgent candidates who threatened their stature. Today, only seven states, including New York, allow fusion voting.

Why, then, are the state’s primary rules so strict? The answer, say election experts, is that both fusion voting and closed primaries tend to protect minor parties. In New York, groups like the Working Families Party, the Conservative Party of New York State, and the Green Party enjoy much greater influence there than in other states. Those three parties boast more than 215,000 active registrants between them. The Working Families Party, a progressive organization that has backed Bernie Sanders and championed New York’s new paid family leave law, even has its own state assemblywoman. But with significantly fewer registered voters than the Democratic or Republican parties, these parties may be more vulnerable to manipulation via party crashing.

All this may be useful in protecting the parties at the state level, where factions like the Working Families Party have considerable influence in Albany. Yet in this year’s federal election, New Yorkers are clamoring to make their voices heard in the two major parties’ contests. But come Tuesday, countless New Yorkers—the Trump family and millions of others—will be denied that chance.

New Yorkers Clamor to Vote in Primaries

Remember when Ben Carson was the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary? Or when Bernie Sanders consistently failed to poll above 30 percent against Hillary Clinton? Or when Nate Silver assured us that Trump’s collapse was inevitable?  

All this described the state of the presidential race about six months ago—around the same time that voters in New York faced an October 8 deadline to declare their party affiliations, a requirement for anyone intending to participate in the state’s closed primaries on April 19.

A lot has happened since that deadline last year, including the October resignation of then–House Speaker John Boehner, three major terrorist attacks in Europe and in the United States, and the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Unchanged though, remains the fact that next week’s New York primaries will be closed, meaning that only registered Democrats and Republicans may vote in their respective parties’ contests. This means that the 3 million or so voters registered outside the two major parties will be effectively disenfranchised from Tuesday’s elections. Among them are some surprisingly influential figures, as was widely reported last week, including Trump’s children and even his lawyer. But while the world’s tiniest violin may be playing for the Trump family, a crescendo of complaints is mounting from the many voters who now realize that they, too, will be locked out of the voting booths.

The state’s board of elections has reported a flood of calls by voters confused and outraged at the rules—“pissed off,” as one election official put it—about their registration status. And Ivanka Trump has become a voting-rights advocate overnight, slamming New York’s registration rules as “onerous” at a Republican town hall earlier this week. Meanwhile, a number of democracy groups have called for New York to open its primaries, holding a small rally in front of New York City Hall on Thursday. 

First-time voters have a bigger cushion: They had until March 25 to register and declare their party affiliations. But anyone banking on same-day registration, available in 11 other states, will be out of luck.

The standard defense of closed primaries is that they fend off the political dirty trick known as “party crashing”—the practice of voters registered with one party voting in the other party’s primary as a backdoor way to elevate a candidate perceived as unelectable. But with 5.2 million and 2.5 million voters registered with the Democratic and Republican parties respectively, that kind of manipulation would only work if thousands of voters conspired to “crash the party” in advance. Besides, GOP enthusiasm for the radioactive Trump makes party crashing look redundant this time.

The paradox of New York’s strict primary rules is that the state also boasts one of the nation’s most liberal general election ballot systems. Through a little-known practice called “fusion” voting, New York allows multiple parties to endorse the same candidate and list them on the ballot multiple times. Also known as cross-nominating, fusion voting encourages participation by voters registered with minor parties. Once ubiquitous in the 19th century, when third parties flourished, the practice fell out of favor as larger parties attempted to snuff out insurgent candidates who threatened their stature. Today, only seven states, including New York, allow fusion voting.

Why, then, are the state’s primary rules so strict? The answer, say election experts, is that both fusion voting and closed primaries tend to protect minor parties. In New York, groups like the Working Families Party, the Conservative Party of New York State, and the Green Party enjoy much greater influence there than in other states. Those three parties boast more than 215,000 active registrants between them. The Working Families Party, a progressive organization that has backed Bernie Sanders and championed New York’s new paid family leave law, even has its own state assemblywoman. But with significantly fewer registered voters than the Democratic or Republican parties, these parties may be more vulnerable to manipulation via party crashing.

All this may be useful in protecting the parties at the state level, where factions like the Working Families Party have considerable influence in Albany. Yet in this year’s federal election, New Yorkers are clamoring to make their voices heard in the two major parties’ contests. But come Tuesday, countless New Yorkers—the Trump family and millions of others—will be denied that chance.

Chicago Teachers Join with Fight for 15 and Black Lives Matter in One-Day Strike

Labor leaders and activists unite in opposition to funding cuts, and see a broader fight against anti-union measures pushed by the state’s Republican governor.

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh Members of the Chicago Teachers Union cheer during president Karen Lewis speech at a news conference on Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Chicago. The Chicago Teachers Union has voted approve a one day walkout on April 1, 2016. W hen Chicago teachers walked out of their classrooms in 2012, they were protesting a slate of austerity measures and “reforms” they believed would erode worker protections and make the city yet another charter-school haven. Eight days into the longest Chicago teachers strike in a generation, their employers—Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools (CPS)—declared defeat, agreeing to annual raises and de-emphasizing at least a portion of the teacher evaluations that would have been based on standardized test scores. But after four years of continued budget cuts, school closings, and a new Republican governor, Chicago’s teachers will be back on the streets again today. Their strike will only last one day, but the action’s brevity will be more...

Legislative Primary May Help Tighten Democrats' Supermajority in Illinois

Illinois Democrats’ ability to thwart Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s right-wing, union-busting agenda has just been enhanced by the defeat of a state representative who regularly broke party ranks on key union votes.

Incumbent state representative Ken Dunkin, a Democrat whose defections on key votes often thwarted the party’s slim supermajority in the house, lost by more than two-to-one against Juliana Stratton in last night’s primary. His opponent received high-profile endorsements, including from Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and even President Barack Obama.

The local race served as a proxy war between the union-busting governor and his Democratic opponents in the legislature, who are deadlocked over a nine-month budget impasse. As I reported last week in the Prospect, the disagreements between Rauner and his Democratic opponents have centered on the governor’s insistence that spending measures be tied to anti-union measures. 

Dunkin, who has served in the House since 2002, raised eyebrows over the past year with a series of stunts aimed at Speaker Madigan and his colleagues. In September of last year, after missing a vote that would have hampered Rauner’s negotiating powers with a state workers’ union, Dunkin claimed he was “out of town,” and accused Madigan of running a “plantation” (Ken Dunkin is African American). In January, he brought a sleeping bag to a news conference, telling his colleagues he would not leave the chambers until he and his colleagues passed a budget deal.

His most notable and recent antic came in February, when Obama delivered a speech to the legislature. As the president extolled the need for a degree of bipartisanship and argued that occasionally crossing the aisle “doesn't make me a sellout to my own party,” Dunkin stood up and yelled “that’s right!”

Obama paused, looked toward the representative, and responded, “Well, we’ll talk later, Dunkin,” drawing enormous laughter and applause from the chamber.

If not for his repeated frustrations of his party’s agenda, Democrats might miss Dunkin as a source of mild amusement. Bruce Rauner, on the other hand, may have more to worry about. In the most expensive legislative race in Illinois’s history, “dark money” and super-PAC contributions made up more than 99 percent of the $3.4 million in donations to Dunkin’s campaign. Dunkin received $500,000 alone from a Rauner-aligned PAC, the largest single primary contribution in the state’s history. Stratton, by contrast, received about $1.8 million, largely from labor groups and political committees, but also from corporate interests and law firms. Almost none of the contributions to either campaign came from individual donors in the narrow district that snakes through from Chicago’s downtown business core to its poorer South Side.

Rauner found little solace in other state proxy races. Republicans failed to oust union-friendly Republican Senator Sam McCann downstate, and were also disappointed that insurgent efforts to unseat Madigan, who has occupied his chair since 1970, failed in the Democratic primary.

Through his communications director Lance Trover, Rauner issued a statement claiming many races where “special interests backed by Speaker Madigan” were also failures, though he did not mention any campaigns by name. Rauner then called on Madigan to “end his month long vacation and begin working with the Governor to enact a balanced budget alongside structural reforms that grow our economy.”

But Tuesday’s results suggest Madigan will have the upper hand in future negotiations, whether on union negotiations or the budget. Emboldened by a more secure supermajority, Madigan’s released his own statement last night. At face value conciliatory, it also appeared to signal a warning of sorts to Rauner:  

“With the clear message sent by voters Tuesday, I am hopeful we can use this framework moving forward to implement a state budget and work together to get things accomplished for the people we serve.” 

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