Archive for "election"
Kudos to both candidates for making the presidential debates entertaining and enlightening. Both candidates demonstrated an ability to work the camera and the audience and demonstrated a thoroughly modern understanding of the importance of the performing arts. The public got to see the real Mitt Romney, the man who is intelligent, well spoken, thoughtful and commanding. This was a Mitt Romney in complete contrast to the picture painted of him by the Democratic attack machine over the past (what seems like) million years of the campaign. This was not the Mitt Romney President Obama wanted the public to see, and for good reason. Since the first debate, Mitt Romney has not only caught up to the president in most polls, but has started to pull ahead of him in many polls. Even if we settle at the two being tied following the third debate, no incumbent wants to be tied going into Election Day, especially against a candidate whom he worked so hard to paint as being completely unqualified to be the President of the United States.
In addition to Mitt Romney appearing presidential and intelligent, we saw a Barack Obama unlike anything we were told to expect. In contrast to Mitt’s demeanor, President Obama was snarky, derisive and condescending in tone and body language. Following a stunning defeat in the first debate, President Obama worked hard to regain his image and make it seem as if he really wanted a second term in office. Although he did a commendable job in picking up his performance in the second debate, he never fully regained the fight and he failed to put forth a serious reason to re-elect him (other than failing to try to tear down Romney on a personal level). Unfortunately, this strategy was just not going to work anymore once the American People got to meet Mitt Romney. Romney took advantage of this at every turn in the following debates and was able to transmit to the American people his vision for the future and his plan to get us there.
If you vote Democrat, or plan to on November 6th, I know I will not change your mind about who to cast your vote for. That is not my intention. This was not the intention of Mitt Romney either going into the first debate in Colorado a few weeks ago. What he set out to do, and what I seek to summarize, is to just change your mind about who he is. Whether you like it or not, Mitt Romney has a serious chance to win the election. He may not win. President Obama is a charismatic incumbent. He has the power of historical momentum on his side. But, what he now lacks is an opponent so easily misaligned with George W. Bush.
Mitt Romney set about showing the American people that he is not a radical, calloused, unfeeling, a war monger, or unintelligent. Instead he showed the American people that he is a thoughtful, intelligent, pragmatic and well-spoken choice to be the next President. That was all he had to do, and he did that and more. Through the three presidential debates and through Paul Ryan in the vice-presidential debate, he presented to voters a ticket that could be trusted to do the job that is needed. He displayed a commanding knowledge of the ills of our economy, and what we can do to correct things. On foreign policy he displayed an unsurpassed knowledge of the facts on the ground. And although he did not defer much from President Obama’s own policies on foreign policy, he did not need to. It was enough that for the challenger to displayed a pragmatic, intelligent understanding of the issues and an ability to come off as presidential.
So, Governor Romney’s goal was not to convince you to vote for him, it was to convince you that if he wins, you could trust that he will hold the office of the President in the highest regard. It was to convince you that he will faithfully execute his duties with the best interests of all Americans. Further, it was to convince you that there is no need to resort to the harsh vitriol of the Bush II years. We may not disagree on much when it comes to politics, but it is important that the President of the United States is a respectable and intelligent person, regardless of whether that person is a Democrat or Republican. Besides for doing a great job in the debates on substance, facts, and policies, Mitt Romney showed that he could be the next President of the United States.
For any incoming law student, the decision in National Federation of Independent Business, et al., v. Sebelius (The Affordable Care Act Cases) is an excellent primer for law school and a good option for summer reading. If you can read and understand all 180+ pages of this decision, then you will have a leg up when it comes time to take Constitutional Law. I would be surprised if Con Law professors do not include this decision in their syllabus, for it explicates the Roberts Court’s position on the Commerce Clause, its application, and its boundaries.
Although many students will not read the entire opinion because of its length, they may want to know what practical effects it has on them. There are two: (1) Students under 26 may remain on their parent’s health insurance plan (as they have been able to do since 2010); and (2) come January 1, 2014, they will be required to have health insurance or else pay a penalty on their next tax filing.
Some students may qualify for Medicaid, which may be the better option if you are over 26 and make less than $11,000 per year.
Brooklyn Law School offers students health insurance by Aetna through Gallagher-Koster. It costs about $1550 for the 2011-2012 academic year. At press time, rates for the 2012-2013 year had not been posted. While New York and New Mexico are very different states, the rate increases approved by the New Mexico Board of Regents for that state’s university system might provide guidance on possible cost increases in New York next year.
New Mexico has the second-highest number of uninsured people in the country at 21.7% (Texas is first with 26.7%) while New York is two percentage points below the national average at 14.8%. Until this year, the price of student health plans in both states was similar. Rates were previously $1,400 for the University of New Mexico until the Board of Regents voted on June 7, 2012, to increase the cost by 22%, or about $308. They said this increase was needed to put the school’s plan in compliance with the ACA, if passed. If the BLS Student Policy is raised by 22%, it will go up about $341, making it around $1,900 per year.
Some students may qualify for Medicaid, which may be the better option if you are over 26 and make less than $11,000 per year. Notably, the AccessNY health plan does not classify scholarships, grants, or work study as “income.” A student interested in either plan should note the differences between the two (for example, BLS does not cover dental care; Medicaid does).
The Effect on State Finances
On July 9, 2012, Texas Governor Rick Perry declared that the state would not “opt-in” to the Medicaid Expansion contemplated by the Affordable Care Act. As noted above, Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured individuals in the nation. So, what does this mean for the state of Texas and its residents?
The CBO projects that states will spend only 0.8% more than they would have, absent the ACA.
In his dissenting opinion, Justice Scalia uses Arizona to illustrate the increased burden states will face if they do not comply with the Medicaid Expansion, which requires states to offer Medicaid to all individuals under the age of 65 with an income at or below 133% of the federal poverty line. Justice Scalia notes that Arizona typically commits 12% of its state expenditures to Medicaid, and relies on the Federal Government to provide the rest, which amounts to $5.6 billion, or close to one-third of Arizona’s annual state expenditures. He then argues that if Arizona refuses to comply, it will lose all federal Medicaid funding, and will have to increase its state Medicaid funding by 33%. This means, essentially, that Arizona will put a whopping 45% of its state expenditures towards Medicaid.
Justice Ginsburg, on the other hand, notes in her concurring opinion the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of state spending. The CBO projects that states will spend only 0.8% more than they would have, absent the ACA. Accordingly, Justice Ginsburg contends that the federal government will cover 100% of the cost for newly eligible beneficiaries beginning in 2014, decreasing to 90% of the cost by 2020.
Texas spent nearly $22.8 billion on Medicaid in 2009, or approximately 25.4% of its state budget. The state received roughly $25.9 billion in federal funding for the program in 2010-2011. Because of Texas’s refusal to opt in, it will need to spend $48.7 billion per year, instead of the cost of expanding its coverage to residents at-or-below 133% of the federal poverty line. This annual income threshold is approximately $15,000.
It’s difficult to project the actual cost of the Medicaid Expansion to states. Justice Ginsburg’s 0.8% figure underscores the similarity of this situation to Dole (another case that features prominently in the first year Constitutional Law curriculum), which is discussed thoroughly in all three ACA opinions. But this is not a Dole situation. The penalty for non-compliance is, in the Chief Justice’s words, “a gun to the head.”
Justice Ginsburg’s figure does not take into account administrative expenses, nor does it specify whether that 0.8% figure applies for 2013, or the seven year period between 2013 and 2020. It appears to be the latter because she stresses that the federal government will cover 100% of new Medicaid enrollees next year.
Individual Mandate Penalties
The Individual Mandate was upheld; the most controversial aspect of it is a potential broadening of the taxing power. Consider this hypothetical:
The year is 2016. Unfortunately, you do not have a job. You are a solo practitioner who takes the cases you can get and you live from paycheck to paycheck and you can barely make the rent for that $800/month three-bedroom apartment you share in Williamsburg. You’re single. You reject whatever health insurance the American or New York City or New York State or Brooklyn Bar Associations offer because you just can’t afford it. Perhaps you should be on Medicaid, but you actually make about $35,000 a year, so you don’t qualify. You’re paying off loans without the Loan Repayment Assistance Program. You like to go out on the weekends and you try to keep your body in excellent physical shape. You almost never get sick, and when you do, you never need to go to the hospital.
One may actually “save money” by paying the tax, but…other federal (and possibly state) taxes are likely to increase.
April comes around and you start thinking about how you’re going to declare your income. You’re an honest person, so you keep accurate records of your income. If you choose to “say no,” your penalty will be “determined by such familiar factors as taxable income, number of dependents, and joint filing status.” (Majority at 33)
“In 2016, for example, the penalty will be 2.5% of an individual’s household income, but no less than $695 and no more than the average yearly premium for insurance that covers 60% of the cost of 10 specified services (e.g., prescription drugs and hospitalization) § 5000A(c); 42 U.S.C. § 18022.” (Majority at 7)
- 2.5% of $35,000 is $875 per year.
- 2.5% of $45,000 is $1,125 per year.
- 2.5% of $55,000 is $1,375 per year.
Thus, one may actually “save money” by paying the tax, but as the dissent points out, other federal (and possibly state) taxes are likely to increase. It’s impossible to predict what the market will be like in 2016, or how the “exchanges” will truly operate. But if your income reaches the maximum level, and you’re beyond the 400% poverty level for “exchanges” ($44,680?), this provision may fix the price of minimum coverage in the market.
The Majority held that the Federal government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance, but does have the power to tax those without insurance. Therefore, law students will have a few more sentences to write in their Constitutional Law exams. A brief outline may look like this:
- Lopez (1995): Gun-Free School Zones Act Unconstitutional under Commerce Clause (keeping guns away from schools does not have an effect on interstate commerce).
- Morrison (2000): Violence Against Women Act Unconstitutional under Commerce Clause (preventing the rape and abuse of women does not have an effect on interstate commerce).
- Raich (2005): Controlled Substances Act Constitutional under Commerce Clause (private growth of marijuana does have an effect on interstate commerce).
- The Affordable Care Act Cases (2012): Individual Mandate is Unconstitutional under Commerce Clause (failure to purchase health insurance does not have an effect on interstate commerce).
Similarly, a few more sentences will be needed to address the Medicaid Expansion in a separate line of cases:
- Dole (1987): Enforcing minimum drinking age Constitutional under the Spending Power (withholding a small amount of federal highway funds for failure to comply is not coercive).
- New York (1992): Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act Constitutional under Spending Power (imposing a penalty on states that ship their waste to other states is not coercive).
- Printz (1997): Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act Unconstitutional under State Sovereignty principles (Congress cannot command Chief Law Enforcement Officers to conduct background checks on all gun purchasers).
- The Affordable Care Acts Cases (2012): Medicaid Expansion is Unconstitutional under Spending Power (threatening to cut-off all federal Medicaid funding from a state if they do not comply is coercive).
This decision is unlikely to effect future Congressional action – none of these previous Court opinions have been overruled. Additionally, it is difficult to predict this decision’s effect on the upcoming presidential election. Since Governor Romney pioneered this kind of plan in Massachusetts (Justice Ginsburg takes pains to point out the success of that program, and the flocks of the uninsured making special trips to Massachusetts) it is hard for him to claim that he will immediately repeal the ACA without sounding like a hypocrite. President Obama could easily shoot him down in a debate by quoting from Ginsburg’s opinion: “In coupling the minimum coverage provision with guaranteed-issue and community-rating prescriptions, Congress followed Massachusetts’ lead.” (Concurring at 12)
*Editor’s Note #2: BLS has posted 2012-2013 insurance rates, and Jack’s predictions were spot on. Annual coverage for students 30 and under will be $1,811; for those over 30 it will be $2,022. Spring 2013 coverage only will be $1,092 and $1,217 respectively.
Yesterday, polls opened for the annual Student Bar Association election at BLS. Several positions are uncontested. Andrea Viafara, for example, will likely be named Day Vice President of the SBA. Andrew Buder, also, will likely be named Secretary of the SBA. Veronica Kapka, finally, will likely serve as Technology Secretary of the SBA next year.
However, eighteen other individuals will await the results, which should be announced early next week (polls close on Sunday). These eighteen individuals are seeking fifteen positions—twelve of those positions are for Upper Class Delegates, and the final three are for Evening Vice President, Treasurer, and President of SBA.
The race for Evening Vice President pits Dong Joo-Lee against Liat Zudkewich. Next year, Dong will be a 4th year student in a joint J.D./M.A. (Urban Policy) program. Liat will be a 3rd year student next year and has transferred from the evening to the day division. Both have previous experience in the SBA, and both have knowledge of the issues facing evening students. One of Dong’s initiatives is to encourage student organizations to hold more general body meetings in the evening, so that evening students may be able to play a more active role in them. Liat’s initiatives include establishing a Wellness Committee and promoting greater transparency of the SBA. This promises to be a hotly contested race.
The race for Treasurer pits Roman Zelichenko against Stacey Tyler. Roman is not currently a member of SBA, but he is Treasurer of MYLE, and proposes two specific initiatives—that student organizations will not only be provided with the figures for their “semester” funding, but also figures for funding each individual event. He also hopes to promote a more eco-conscious approach to the food that, as a general rule, is served at student events. He will purchase biodegradable utensils, plates, and cups in bulk and provide these to student organization leaders for their meetings – and from a cost-savings approach this certainly makes sense. However, he faces a tough rival in Stacey Tyler, who is a two-year member of the SBA and currently co-chairs the Race Judicata charity event taking place April 21st. Once again, this promises to be a close race.
Finally, Colin Hedrick will face off against Jack Knorps in the race for President of the SBA. Colin served as Technology Secretary of the SBA this year and has played an active role in the dean search, both last year and this year. In his speech on Monday, April 9, Colin expressed a desire to build a stronger relationship between the administration of BLS and the students and to work closely with the incoming dean to address the most pressing student concerns. Jack, by contrast, is not currently a member of the SBA. He served as Treasurer of HLPA this year, and his platform seeks the establishment of an official “Napping Room” in Room 104M of the Library, the instituting of Scholarship Policy Reform, and a reclamation of the $5,000 Summer Public Service Grant. Both Colin and Jack were active participants in the recent ABA student Q & A session on April 2, both have a vested interest in curing some of the present inadequacies at BLS, and both hope to begin the process of making BLS a happier place in the coming years with the arrival of Dean Allard in the Fall. Whoever is elected is sure to do a fine job, but the decision is in the hands of the students now.
Your vote is important, and The BLS Advocate urges you to participate in the process.
Jack Knorps, ’13, who is running for SBA President and is a columnist for the Advocate, helped us compile this candidate summary. If you notice any factual errors, please direct them to email@example.com. Happy voting!
Imagine this: You’re at work one day long after law school has ended. One of your clients comes in for a meeting and asks you to assist him with his latest project: writing the basic rules for his new country. You’re a little skeptical about this because you work in family law, but it’s been a slow week and he’s paying in cash.
A week passes. You’ve dotted your “Is,” crossed your “Ts” and everything looks great. Your client asked for democratically elected leaders, so you gave everyone the right to vote. And that’s what he calls you about, the next day, in a panic, saying, “Well, you know, I’d like to make sure my friends and I stay in power. Can you do that for me?” You now find yourself with two choices: Refuse on ethical grounds and take the money that he owes you, or make the changes because you knew he wasn’t serious to begin with (despite reading that 1,500 law students got together somewhere and bought an island). History shows that our leaders have asked, “how do I stay in power” from the beginning. Current events show us they still do.
There are two, and only two steps to winning an election: (1) convince people to vote for you, and (2) prevent people from voting for your opponent. Step (1) is fairly straightforward. The candidate presents himself (or herself) to the people via TV commercials, in-person appearances, debates, and The View in an effort to convince voters that he (or she) will be a good elected official. When we think of step (2), most of us probably think about attack ads and unsavory former acquaintances that either push candidates out of the race or make voters think twice about the candidate. However, our politicians have been far more creative than that:
- During the Constitutional Convention, the Southern States gave the Northern States a choice: write protections for slavery into the Constitution, or have more than one country. The North took the first choice. Among these protections were the creation of the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. Population determined representation in both. Free persons were counted as one person and slaves as 3/5 of a person. Therefore, any state with slaves received extra votes in the House and the Electoral College. The result: 10 of the first 15 U.S. Presidents were slaveholders. (Which may partially explain why the number of slaves tripled by 1845.)
- After the Civil War and the passage of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, the former Confederate States found themselves with zero slaves, and a lot of new citizens. These new citizens outnumbered their former masters in Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina, and made up a sizeable chunk of the citizens in the other Confederate States. The elected officials, legitimately concerned with the possibility that former slaves were likely to vote former slaveholders out of office, invented ways to prevent them from exercising their right to vote. Among these were poll taxes, threats, and intimidation. There were also tests. Voters would be asked questions such as, “how many bubbles are in a bar of soap?” Amazingly, none of the black voters could answer this question correctly, but all of the white voters could.
- Poll taxes were eliminated in 1964. The Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965, ending official race-based discrimination. President Nixon began the “War on Drugs” began in 1970. How does this correlate? The Fourteenth Amendment provides that the right to vote cannot be denied for a citizen over the age of 21, but that it may be denied if the person has participated in a rebellion or “other crime.” The U.S. prison population was near 500,000 in 1970. Today it is 2.2 million. Another 3 million people are on parole, probation, or otherwise subject to the jurisdiction of the penal system. In 2009, 12% (1.6 million) of all arrests were for drug abuse violations. Almost all of these people cannot vote. The prisoners? Disproportionately minority and disproportionately poor. Before 2008, only two states allowed all of their citizens the right to vote: Maine and Vermont. Kentucky and Virginia bar people with felony convictions from voting for life. The rest of the states fall somewhere in the middle.
Since 2008, the Republican Party has made no secret of its desire to see President Obama voted out of office in November. What has been less obvious until recently are some of the steps being taken to accomplish this goal:
- In June 2011, Maine’s Republican-led Legislature passed a measure ending Election Day voting registration. In November, the citizens of Maine voted to overturn the new law.
- Nine states introduced bills to reduce early voting periods. These bills [pdf] became law in Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Florida’s law specifically ends early voting on the Sunday before the election – a day historically known for its high turnout of Black voters.
- An Arizona law requiring voters to show proof of citizenship was struck down. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is trying to make a similar measure effective before November. In all, 12 states have introduced proof of citizenship legislation [pdf]. Only two states previously had such laws.
- Florida and Iowa used to end felons voting rights for life. Within the last few years, both restored the voting rights of their former prisoners. Recently, these restorations were overturned, affecting 200,000 former prisoners.
- Before 2011, only two states required photo IDs to vote. However, 34 states introduced legislation requiring photo ID to vote. Seven of these bills are now law. 21 million citizens do not possess a government-issued photo ID.
All of these measures are more likely to affect people voting for Democrats.
Our elected officials tell us that they introduced these bills to protect us against voter fraud. In the words of Stephen Colbert, “What fraud?” Voter fraud happens .00004% of the time. This means that if all 300 million U.S. citizens (including babies) voted, only 12,000 of these votes would be fraudulent.
Voting is not simply a way to choose leaders. Voting provides people a chance to directly impact how their government is run and express an opinion that might not otherwise be heard. Regardless of whether you consider voting a privilege or a right, one thing is clear: our elected officials want to win, and the voices of people who don’t vote, can’t vote, or are less likely to vote simply don’t matter.
My proposition: give all citizens over 18 the right to vote, without restriction. Allow your favorite politicians to take losses if they aren’t good enough at their jobs to get re-elected. Give them little incentive to win by displacing the competition or scaring us with false information. After all, I bet that most of us prefer our elected officials be honest with us rather than having us realize that their logic is insane.
I admit that you don’t have to go along with my proposition. But, you can petition your elected officials on the state and federal level, and ask them to consider ways to make sure the 2012 election is as fair as possible. For example:
- Don’t discriminate against equally valid forms of ID. The Texas ID law makes concealed carry permits acceptable, but student IDs unacceptable. Both are government issued IDs (at least in the case of public schools). However, the students are more likely to vote Democrat and the gun carriers are more likely to vote Republican, helping one party at the expense of the other.
- Make the proof of citizenship laws go into effect after November. Otherwise, the government is asking its citizens to (1) learn about the law, (2) locate birth certificates and naturalization papers, (3) in the case of married women, change their birth certificates and passports to match the married name, and/or (4) obtain a U.S. passport, which requires several proofs of its own all in nine months! Not only do these actions take time and money (harder to get for poorer people, who generally vote Democratic), only 30% of U.S. citizens have passportsbecause there is no reason to get a passport unless you leave the country.
- If voter fraud is the basis of the new law, request a stronger factual basis for the existence of rampant voter fraud, instead of telling us 31 people in Florida voted fraudulently. After all, the last time we agreed to something with scant evidence, the U.S. military ended up in Iraq for ten years.
Granted, your elected officials may not listen to requests that are against their own interests. Further, you may actually prefer that fewer members of the other party vote because it gives your guy a better chance of winning. (Of course, this means you can’t complain if the party you dislike does the same thing in the future.) But, if you choose to contact your representatives, they will know a potential vote is paying attention to their actions, and that check on their power is what democracy is supposed to be all about anyway.
Alternatively, I just heard of an island for sale…
Michael Scala, a 3L at BLS, plans to announce his candidacy for U.S. House of Representatives for New York’s 6th congressional district at 3 PM today in Jamaica, Queens. Prior to his decision to run, he started an online petition, the Solid Ground movement. Scala sat down with The BLS Advocate last week for an interview.
BLSA: What inspired you to run for elected office?
MS: The current situation that we’re in – lets say the economy, the state of the country generally. I was someone who like many was disenfranchised for a long time and I thought that what happened in Washington stayed in Washington, essentially — it didn’t affect me and I couldn’t affect it. Two things really changed that for me: the presidencies of Bush and Obama, respectively. President Bush showed that it really does matter who is elected and who is in office, and everyday Americans can potentially suffer the consequences if the wrong person is elected. And i think President Obama showed that everyday Americans can influence the political system and there is a place in it for us.
If you’re asking why I’m running right now thats a different question but I can address that too – because I did go to law school with an eye on politics thinking I could one day run for office. I didn’t anticipate I’d do it so soon but I think it’s a necessary time. People are fed up with what’s going on in Washington, Congress’s approval rating is at an all-time low, people want new faces, and leadership. People would vote out every single member of Congress if given the opportunity – the majority of Americans actually said that in a poll. And I think it’s a crucial time now to get involved. They say sometimes you pick the moment, sometimes the moment picks you, and I feel this is the moment to do it.
BLSA: Did anything from your BLS experience inspire you to run?
MS: Not with regard to the curriculum — more so my interaction with my peers at Brooklyn Law School. I come from a hip hop background, neither of my parents went to college, so I came in feeling like an outsider, or that I would be perceived as an outsider. My 1L year I ran for SBA delegate and when I won that election it showed me that my peers in law school respected me and saw me as someone who could help them, they didn’t look down on me, it was a very positive experience and it showed I wasn’t a joke I wouldn’t be laughed at –I would be taken seriously and I had something to offer. Paul [Rozenberg, '12, my campaign manager] was first one who urged me to run for Congress and I’ve received a tremendous amount of support from my law school peers.
BLSA: What did you learn from your experience running for SBA president last year, and losing that election?
MS: When you don’t win an election it certainly doesn’t feel good. I didn’t look at it as so much of a political defeat. It didn’t discourage me from getting involved in politics more. I was able to separate what’s going on at school from what’s going in on in the world. One thing that it taught me is that we can’t do it alone. Even a school election like that has a lot of people helping you out. Now I know when running for Congress I’m going to need a lot of people behind me, it can’t be done alone.
BLSA: Tell us about your prior work experience – before law school and internships you’ve had during law school?
MS: I come from a hip hop background. For the past 11 or so years I’ve been a hip hop artist – that’s been my main gig. So I’ve toured the country performing hip hop music, in addition to speaking. That’s one of the ways I got involved with politics, at least my interest was piqued because in addition to performing I’d speak at colleges about getting involved in the democratic process, helping students vote, things like that. I did go to college, I went to Polytechnic University which is now Polytechnic Institute of NYU, and I studied computer science. I used that degree to help me with my own businesses, building websites. I worked for a nonprofit in Virginia for a year, as a website coordinator. I edited and published their weekly newsletter to members.
In law school I worked for the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) union. I worked on cases involving teachers facing discrimination and helping defend them and fight for their rights. I liked it very much. I have an interest in civil rights generally, but don’t think I want to be employed as a lawyer. I’m interested in having own practice but like having flexibility.
BLSA: Have you considered any other offices other than U.S. representative?
MS: The conventional wisdom would say maybe start with a more local office, but I’m not looking at it from the perspective of trying to win a particular seat or get elected for my own sake. I’m looking at what’s happening and I’m satisfied with the state legislature. They just passed gay marriage for example. The president needs more support from Congress and if we want Congress to promote the values of everyday Americans then we need to elect more everyday Americans to Congress.
BLSA: Tell us about the district you hope to represent.
MS: It’s the 6th congressional district of New York, which is southeastern Queens where I was born, raised and spent most of my life. I grew up in Rosedale which was in the district. The district also includes Laurelton, Jamiaca, St. Albans, Cambria Heights, South Ozone Park, Queens Village, Hollis, Springfield Gardens, Old Howard Beach, the areas around JFK airport. Queens as far as I know, is the most diverse county in the entire country. I attribute the success of my upbringing to growing up in Queens and also attending public schools in Queens.
BLSA: How are you connecting with constituents in the district?
MS: I grew up there so I know a lot of people there. I have deep personal ties to the district. A lot of people I knew growing up who I still know are excited about the campaign and want to get involved. A lot of people I know who are very active in the local political scene are very excited. They’re frustrated with current leadership and want to make this happen.
BLSA: What’s your platform?
MS: Well my basic platform is that in order to get America working again we have to focus on the needs of everyday Americans; we have to develop a ground-up approach.
One of the things I did was presented my ideas before presenting myself as a candidate because that general idea of focusing on needs of everyday Americans is something every candidate should be presenting as their platform. The Solid Ground movement serves as basis for that platform and trying to get other candidates from the country to run on the same platform.
BLSA: What’s the single most important issue in your campaign?
MS: The economy in general is the most important issue in any campaign right now. My approach would be focusing on the needs of everyday Americans like I said. So in order to do that we need to make tax cuts for the wealthy expire and we need to cut back on the military budget a little bit in order to free up assets for essential programs that need to be strengthened — so programs like social security, Medicare, Medicaid, should not be cut. Education should not be cut. More money should be going to education — we shouldn’t be focusing on student loan cuts for example. People always say “you want to spend money on all these programs, where do you get the money from?” and we need to remind people that the money is there, it’s just being misused. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost us trillions of dollars. If we had that money we could be spending it on essential programs we need to be spending it on.
BLSA: How do you plan to raise campaign funds?
MS: We are in the beginning stages of planning fundraising events. Obviously raising money is a necessary evil of any campaign, not something I look forward to or think I’m going to enjoy, but it has to be done. This is really a grassroots effort though so most of the money will come from smaller donations — 5 dollars, 10 dollars. Obviously we hope to get large donations but I’m not running as the machine of the establishment, I’m running against them… so many of the funds are going to come from frustrated everyday Americans.
BLSA: Who will you appoint to be your chief of staff? Press secretary?
MS: We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
BLSA: Can BLS students expect employment from you if they join your campaign?
MS: I want to do everything I can to help people who get involved because I think that like-minded people want to be working together, generally. So the kind of people working on my campaign are the kind of people whose values I share and I’d want to be working with regardless. So I’d want to do all I could to make sure that could happen.
BLSA: How can interested students get involved in your campaign?
MS: The website is scalaforcongress.com. They can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.