On Politics
by Anthony Stasi
Mar 24, 2009 | 2587 views | 0 0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Years ago, I applied for a fellowship in Washington called The White Fellowship Program (http://www.whitehouse.gov/). College students that are interested in getting good hands on experience will love this program. Fellows do not necessarily work at the White House; they can also work for an agency that is headed by a cabinet member. Back then, the program was run by Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Fair warning, however, they favor sitting military personnel – at least the last administration did.

In my application, I had to make a policy recommendation that would be read by a cabinet member. Today, it is my job, but then it was new to me. My policy proposal was to change affirmative action programs at the federal level and encourage change at the state level as well.

I proposed keeping affirmative action as a policy, but changing the parameters to focus on the poverty level, instead of any particular race. Most people would agree that government policy that singles out a race of people goes against the very principle that it is designed to fight.

If affirmative action was a program that gave a small advantage to people that have lived for three years below the poverty level, then the program is open to people who absolutely need it. Many of the people that would fall under this category might benefit from affirmative action as it stands now, but there are other people that it could help as well.

We need to recognize that Americans of color have arrived as a large part of the middle class. There is no need to have a program that can benefit a middle-class male, for example, who can succeed on his own. Basing the program on the poverty level allows the program to exist without polarization. As a country, we are very mixed racially anyway. Who determines which people are a “minority” anymore? It’s quite silly, really. But by basing it on tax forms, we know who qualifies as poor – it’s all right there in black and white. It also encourages people to actually file their taxes.

The other part of this program that I suggested changing was the name, from Affirmative Action to Lower Income Assistance. Affirmative Action has become a battle cry for groups to split up the country. Giving the program a focus that is fair, and adding a name that ushers in a new identity, is a good idea.

Some people would still oppose this, especially those that want no breaks for the poor – the “up from your boot straps” crowd, perhaps. I’m sure there are middle class people that benefit from this program right now that would not welcome this change. If you base this program on income, or the lack of it, you still cover people of color – as well as whites – that need a boost.

There is only one man that can bring this change. We do not live in a society that would welcome this idea from just anyone, unfortunately. In 1996, Bill Clinton said about affirmative action that “we should mend it, not end it.” He did neither. It’s a hot button issue. The only person that can make this happen is the current president. He has what Ronald Reagan had, when Reagan negotiated with the Soviet Union: street cred. Nobody would accuse the president of being a racist if he touched on this, just as few doubted Reagan’s determination to protect the country.

If the headline in the hopefully-soon-defunct New York Times the day after election day is true - that a racial barrier has fallen - then maybe it is time to let the other barriers fall – or be modified – as well.

The New York TV and Film Tax Credit: For Commercials Too?

I wrote last week that the state should continue the television and film tax credit that keeps entertainment jobs in the state. I spoke with State Senator Joe Addabbo about the tax credit and what the climate looked like for this tax credit in Albany.

“I noticed the benefit of this when I was chairman of the Labor Committee in the City Council,” Addabbo said. He explained how the tax credit affected 30,000 jobs in the city. Addabbo wants to see the tax credit extended to include the production of commercials. He mentioned – as did Comptroller Bill Thompson – that Ugly Betty is back taping in New York.

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