Let’s go to school. I was confused about the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Was does it do? Why was it necessary? Why was Section Five so important? Constitutional scholar Linda Monk answers all of these questions and more.
As you listen to this podcast, I would encourage you to check out some references. First, here is the Voting Rights Act. Secondly, Linda mentions a case that I had never heard of – South Carolina verses Katzenbach (more information here). You should also review the 15th amendment, which gives Congress the power to make voting fair across the US. We discuss the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. Finally, we discuss Eric Holder’s bid to try and make sure that elections are fair for everyone.
This is a great interview and conversation. Sit back and enjoy.
Update: Linda Monk clarifies: “FYI, technically the Supreme Court did NOT decide to strike down Section 5 of the VRA; it struck down the threshold definition used in Section 4, which meant that Section 5 did not kick in.” As usual, I was kind of clueless. So, I went back to the Voting Rights Act and looked at Section 4. Of course, Linda is correct. Here’s how ScotusBlog puts it – Today the Court issued its decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the challenge to the constitutionality of the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. That portion of the Act was designed to prevent discrimination in voting by requiring all state and local governments with a history of voting discrimination to get approval from the federal government before making any changes to their voting laws or procedures, no matter how small. In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts that was joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, the Court did not invalidate the principle that preclearance can be required. But much more importantly, it held that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which sets out the formula that is used to determine which state and local governments must comply with Section 5’s preapproval requirement, is unconstitutional and can no longer be used. Thus, although Section 5 survives, it will have no actual effect unless and until Congress can enact a new statute to determine who should be covered by it.
State budgets rely heavily on federal funding— in 2011, federal grants to state and local governments totaled $607 billion. The sequestration cuts that went into effect on March 1 are a prime example of the impact federal fiscal policy decisions can have on state and local budgets, as well as their overall economies. Sequestration cuts $85 billion from government spending for the rest of fiscal 2013. As this recent EPI paper details, this means a $5.1 billion reduction in federal funding for state grants, relative to federal funding levels that were in place when sequestration went into effect. Because states use these grants to fund vital services such as infrastructure improvements, education, social services and public safety efforts, these cuts will not only hurt state economies but will also mean real losses for working families across the country.
The March 1 sequestration resulted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia losing varying amounts of federal grant funding, ranging from a 3.36 percent cut for Wyoming to a 0.68 percent cut for Tennessee. Many programs were subject to sequestration cuts. A few examples of programs that saw their grant funding cut under sequestration include Title 1 education programs, Head Start, and the WIC Supplemental Feeding Program. For context, two of the most populous states (with presumably large programs), California and Texas, experienced the following losses in grant funding due to sequestration: $28.2 million for the Texas Head Start program, $58.2 million for the California WIC supplemental feeding program, and $83.3 million for California Title 1 funding for local education agencies.
80,ooo jobs were created in June. I’m not sure what everyone expected. This is about what I had expected. There is nothing I can see that would cause employers to start hiring massive numbers of Americans. There is nothing out there. We are stuck in the mud. Republicans are pushing on the front of the car. Democrats are sort of pushing at the back of the jobs car (because we have these Blue Dog Dems, I have to say “sort of”) and we aren’t moving anywhere. Add to this the confusion that is Europe and I’m surprised that the job market created 80,000.
Lost in these numbers is the fact that the government continues to shed jobs. Over the last three months, the public sector has lost over 16,000 per month. We have lost over 2.3 million public sector jobs since the start of the recession. This is the problem now. As the economy was starting to make a comeback, federal, state and local governments started cutting the payrolls. Now, I’m not going to say that Republicans and their cut here and there and everywhere philosophy is killing our recovery. You already know it. You know that Republicans limited the stimulus. You know that the GOP has cut aid to states. As a matter of fact, it was GOP state legislators who refused stimulus money that would have prevented these public sector loses. So, when Republicans scream about how “bad” the economy is, I can only laugh. The economy would be much, much better if they didn’t spend all of their time pushing the car in the wrong direction.
We need jobs. We need jobs that pay a living wage. We need jobs now. If Republicans have a plan that would facilitate the hiring of millions of Americans now, I’m willing to hear it. Everything that they propose rings of trickle-down economics, which doesn’t work. Ask George W. Bush. He presided over the worst job creation economy over the last 60 years. The government is the only organization that can hire millions of Americans now.