Writing

Piece 65 – In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union, An Argument for Further Federal Involvement By. Raimondo Graziano

In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union,

                                       An Argument for Further Federal Involvement

By. Raimondo Graziano

The United States is run woefully ineffectively. This is clear to many policy makers from both sides of the political aisle. The current crisis we find ourselves in has only made this all the more clear. The national response has been an utter disaster, and we have left it up to the states, of which there are fifty different ones with differing sets of codes, laws, regulations and governing styles, to deal with a crisis that in reality called for a unified national response.

It is pitiful and frankly pathetic. From the mixed messaging of the federal government to denialism across swaths of the country from public officials. While the rest of the world seems to be getting a handle of things, we lead the world in pure ineffective governance. It seems like this crisis has worsened and hastened our wholly avoidable decline. While the American people suffer, Congress cannot even reasonably get their act together to pass meaningful stimulus and economic relief – as always leaving matters of grave importance to the very last minute.

One would think that this is an argument for less government involvement. Quite the contrary. We need an overwhelming display of federal oversight. This here is a great lesson for would be statesman of the years to come. If the United States is ever to step into it’s true potential we from time to time must engage the full force of government to tackle threats and circumstances that cannot be managed effectively by essentially fifty different governing bodies.

We have seen glimmers of an executive branch unhinged and exercising the immense powers afforded to it – whether through lack of congressional oversight or the very ceding of power from Congress to the Presidency. We have seen the extraordinary powers of our central bank to bring stability and direction to a faltering economy. We have seen shadows of power used only when the elites of the nation are in peril. We must use these strengths to carry out the will of the people. We must restore decency to Washington and push an agenda to uplift the people, and root out corruption and dereliction of duty wherever it hides. We cannot use the full force, the might of the federal government until we restore decency to Washington. If we are to remain a strong and united country, we must increase the reach of the federal government to answer the increasing frequency or crises.

Writing

Piece 66 – School Choice? An Answer to Our Failing Public Schools By. Raimondo Graziano

School Choice?

An Answer to Our Failing Public Schools

By. Raimondo Graziano

      Like many programs that are run by the government, schooling in this country is woefully a low priority for policy makers from the local to the federal government. Politicians are good at the talk of it all – supporting students, supporting teachers, etc. Though when it comes to enacting meaningful reforms, they fall far too short. It is obvious there is a serious problem with educating in the country – we lag far behind the Western world in educational standards, and our students meeting them. For many decades now the quality of American education has been declining steadily. Our students have been given a raw deal – something has got to give. It is obvious that there are systemic inequities in our nations schooling system; from the way funds are appropriated, to how we evaluate students, and to what is taught not from state to state but from district to district. It is going to take a great deal of political will to tackle the issues surrounding education; teacher pay, quality of education, and the great disparities in the direction of our higher educational institutions.

      But there is something we can do today. What’s spurred my thinking on this is the current debacle Congress has stumbled into in regards to relief bills aimed at direct assistance to millions of American families. Bear with me – I do have a point pertaining to education. They, in their usual fashion, waited to the very last minute to address the concerns facing millions of Americans. Now they have a handful of days to hammer out an agreement between two deeply entrenched political parties, who have wildly differing views on how aid ought to be dispensed. The Senate aims to cap a bill at $1,000,000,000,000. While the House’s starting position is $3,000,000,000,000. A cavern of differences exists. The problems the bills aim to address are far reaching and can effect many facets of American life. But there are portions that overlap – namely the need to extend unemployment benefits and provide direct stimulus payments. Disagreements may exist on amounts, but both sides recognize that action needs to be taken now on this issue. They should address that now. It is the same for education. We can sit and debate about issues we have deep, deep disagreements over but the bottom line is the American people need actionable results now. In that, and I say this as a moderate and a progressive, school choice may be our answer for our children across the country.

      In the interim while Congress works to tackle the greater issues at the heart of our education system, why can we not use the resources afforded to us to give greater power and agency to families across the country, and even here in New York City. Why is it that Democrats are so opposed to school choice? How is the freedom to choose ones school any different from the cities voucher program as it pertains to housing? We give people a voucher which covers the cost, or part of the cost for rent- that way folks can avoid the shelters. The shelters and public schools are run shoddily – why not give more choice to families. Education of our youth is the most important. Parents ought to be able to give their children the best – and whether that is a public school or a private school the state ought to facilitate the greatest most beneficial agreement and policies in the immediate for the sake of our children, while our politicians work out fixing the broader strokes. Action now, broad reforms later. People, and families need action now.

Writing

Piece 63 – Invest In Our Communities Across The Country; Why We Need A Major Investment in Americans By. Raimondo Graziano

Invest In Our Communities Across The Country

Why We Need A Major Investment in Americans

By. Raimondo Graziano

     It is no major understatement to say that the American family needs a foundational restructuring. The American family is struggling and is under immense strain from numerous differing directions. We need a major investment in the American family, and in our communities across the country. I am not simply talking about an economic investment, this approach needs to be many pronged. There are numerous fronts in this great war to reclaim and reforge a truly unique American identity, and a uniquely American community. There are many strains on the American family, financially, morally, and as a unit itself. If the country is to survive we need to begin to place a greater emphasis on the American family and of community if we are to build strong bonds that help to propel us forward, we need to create a sense of community that transcends ethnic, and nationalistic feelings of patriotism. We must work to create a sense of patriotism rooted in an ideal and an idea. There are many fronts in this war – it begins with our communities, and it begins with our families.

      Too often we heap a great deal of responsibility on the American family to take on so much, with so little resources at hand. Now during these times of crisis, and the continuing ensuing economic uncertainty, American communities and families are under enormous pressure. This week Congress meets to try and work out a deal for additional economic relief to American families and states across the country. This week extended unemployment benefits expires for every American family that is receiving them. If taken away, this will throw American families into a harsh economic reality. These benefits are but a temporary reprieve and another shoddy attempt by Congress to provide relief. It is nothing but a side project for Congress.

    If they were interested in propping up American communities and the American family, then they would not have taken a recess for nearly a month, only to meet a week before millions of family are thrown into complete uncertainty. While Congress bickers and takes in their salaries, unabated, Americans are deeply struggling. People cant find work, cannot give their children an education and cannot put food on the table, pay bills, and so much more. Americans deserve so much more. So much more from their country, and so much more from their elected officials. We must begin to invest in our communities, we can no longer settle with half-measures. We must work for the empowerment of the American family – economically, internally, and in all other spheres of influence.

Writing

Piece 62 – Monuments of Our History, What to Do? By. Raimondo Graziano

Monuments of Our History, What to Do?

By. Raimondo Graziano

      In the wake of recent unrest that has swept the nation a question has arisen as to the importance, relevance and the very existence of our national monuments, and of the question of monuments to the confederacy. In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd a whirlwind of anger, pent up after months of isolation and distance from others, with only our thoughts and introspection to temper our troubled minds, a tempest of anger and vitriol has washed over the nation and has become a turning point, becoming so much more than the man. In just over a month, a nation has become gripped in unrest across the country – from protests to demonstrations, to riots and looting – the country is experiencing an unraveling. We have seen the deployment of federal troops to cities across the country, we have seen the national guard descend upon Washington, and we have seen a backlash to the police forces that riddle the country. In short we have seen a moment of reckoning in motion. A nation questioning itself, questioning who we are as a country, and perhaps violently reacting to the truth of some of the harsh realities of existing in this country today. A virulent backlash to a history which we are beginning to reckon with, a history that is not entirely as picturesque as our collective upbringing would have us believe.

    We have to walk a fine line between admonishing our history for its wrongs, and praising it and singing of its glory with abandon. If we are going to work to reconcile the wrongs of our past, we cannot actively work to foment its erasure. We must firstly understand our history, and recognize the inherent flawed nature of the world and the men who helped to forge it. There is a major difference however in the erection of a statue of Washington and the erection of a statue of Davis. One is an American, the father of the nation, who yes, was a slave owner. We all today can be in agreement that the institution of slavery is an abhorrent wrong.

     However, the ideals that Washington represented transcend the truth of the man, Washington is our history. To begin to construct a nation of liberty for all, takes generations. And the fullest liberation of a people takes time. Washington in his ideals reflected this, though the reality of his day, fought against it. Washington said “As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.” On the other hand, the other is a portrait of racism and a picture of an American cancer, that of the treasonous Confederacy. A collection of states which severed its ties to the union in order to preserve the institution of slavery. At that moment they forfeited their rights as Americans. They choose enslavement and misery, over the promise of a higher ideal. The ideals of Davis highlight the moral bankruptcy of the man, Davis is the antithesis of what this country idealistically represents. The truth of Davis is he did not strive for a higher ideal, he settled for the abhorrence of slavery and justified it. To quote Davis “My own convictions as to negro slavery are strong. You cannot transform the negro into anything one-tenth as useful or as good as what slavery enables them to be.”

     There is credence in tearing down the monuments erected in commemoration of the Confederacy. They are monuments to rebellion, to treason and to the institution of slavery. The confederacy is indeed apart of American history – as a combatant, a separatist breakaway nation deserving of no grand adulation. It is a lesson to be learned from, in right and wrong. The moral and immoral. Our mistake has been allowing the glorification of the Confederacy for nearly a one hundred years. In short – Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt. These are men of this country. Where they flawed? Yes, as you and I are. But where they empathically for the progress towards our highest ideals, the highest ideals of this country? Absolutely. The same cannot be said of the Confederacy. Down with Davis, and every flag and every monument to the greatest cancer that to this day plagues the progress of our country forward.

Writing

Piece 64 – An Open Letter to the 116th Congress, Both the Senate & the House By. Raimondo Graziano

An Open Letter to the 116th Congress,

Both the Senate & House

By. Raimondo Graziano

     I intended for this to be an article originally to deal with exclusively local matters in the City of New York. However, on a recent walk home from a local market, running some errands for my mother, something profound occurred to me. At the sight of many of the people in my hometown, in this senate district, in this congressional district, in this city council district and so on and so forth – I have seen two things. Both pain and hope. In the former, it has manifested in the very real economic consequences of the current crises we are all collectively experiencing. It also has manifested in regards to the inaction of Congress. On many fronts, this current crisis only exacerbating the very real consequences of apathy displayed by those whom we have sent to those hallowed halls to be stewards, shepherds of the well being of the people of this country. In the latter, I do see great hope. I see members of my community rising to the occasion – taking on more responsibility in a time of crisis, persevering and overcoming challenges, and watching out for their families and their neighbors. That is the spirit of the people who live in this community, in this district, and in this city at large. We are a community of innovators, fighters and devoted Americans – devoted to an ideal – no matter how often those whom we have placed so much trust in betray that sacred honor. So these words herein are addressed to the 116th Congress, and in honor of all those who reside in our community in Queens, New York.

     For too long we have put you in office, and provided for your pensions, your salaries, and your government sponsored healthcare that you admonish us for seeking. We have received very little in return. We have been brandished by both sides of the political aisle as opposed to the very idea of America. We the people, whether Democrat or Republican have been too busy fighting each other to the benefit of your political campaign coffers. While we suffer, you all enrich yourselves and take long and frivolous recesses without accomplishing much of note. Both sides of the political aisle have made negligible overtures to the opposing sides of Congress. Instead, through your blatantly hostile rhetoric, you have turned the American people against one other and have worked to fool us into believing that our fellow man is our enemy. In reality, by the definition of such a word, you have been acting in that manner toward the broad masses of the American people. See here; “a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something:,” see further; “a thing that harms or weakens something else.” That is the definition of an enemy. You have acted as an enemy to the people, in an overwhelming way as evidenced by your gross dereliction of duty, and egregious negligence toward the very basic needs of the American people. The evidence is clear:

Economically, Americans are suffering, according to reporting from The Wasington Post:

Forty percent of American adults don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency expense such as an unexpected medical bill, car problem or home repair.

  • Forty-three percent of households can’t afford the basics to live, meaning they aren’t earning enough to cover the combined costs of housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cellphone, according to the United Way study. Researchers looked at the data by county to adjust for lower costs in some parts of the country.
  • More than a quarter of adults skipped necessary medical care last year because they couldn’t afford it.
  • Twenty-two percent of adults aren’t able to pay all of their bills every month.
  • Only 38 percent of non-retired Americans think their retirement savings is “on track.”
  • Only 65 percent of African Americans and 66 percent of Hispanics say they are “doing okay” financially vs. 77 percent of whites.”

American education is under siege from mismanagement, and misguided leadership – hampering our children futures.

  • Teacher quality is one of the most significant factors related to student achievement. In the U.S., 14% of new teachers resign by the end of their first year, 33% leave within their first 3 years, and almost 50% leave by their 5th year.
  • 1.3 million high school students don’t graduate on time yearly. States with highest rates (80-89%) are Wisconsin, Iowa, Vermont, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. States with lowest (less than 60%) are Nevada, New Mexico, Louisiana, Georgia and S. Carolina.
  • If the 1.3 million dropouts from the Class of 2010 had graduated, the nation would have seen $337 billion more in earnings over the course of the students’ lifetimes.

  • High schools are not preparing students with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel after graduation. Only 1 in 4 high school students graduate college-ready in the 4 core subjects of English, Reading, Math and Science.

  • In the workplace, 85% of current jobs and 90% of new jobs require some or more college or post-secondary education.”

Poverty in the nation is appalling. Our measurements of poverty as well are woefully out of date compared to the rising standard of living, or should I say burden of living. For a family of four, the Federal Poverty threshold, is $25,700. For a single individual that’s nothing, especially when you’re living in a city such as my own. In my own community, rent averages out at $3,000.00 month. That means someone living in New York City would need to allocate $36,000.00 for rent – without even factoring in utilities, groceries, healthcare, childcare and personal expenses. And the rent alone is $10,000.00 over the federal poverty threshold where nearly “One out of every five New Yorkers, 1.7 million people, lives below the federal poverty line. One out of every ten New Yorkers has a full or part-time job and still lives below the federal poverty line.” Lets dig in nationally:

  • In 2018, 16.2% of all children (11.9 million kids) lived in Poverty USA—that’s almost 1 in every 6 children. In 2015, the National Center on Family Homelessness analyzed state-level data and found that nationwide, 2.5 million children experience homelessness in a year.

  • 5.3% of the population—or 17.3 million people—live in deep poverty, with incomes below 50% of their poverty thresholds. And 29.9% of the population—or 93.6 million—live close to poverty, with incomes less than two times that of their poverty thresholds.

  • The USDA estimated that 11.1% of US households were food insecure in 2018. This means that approximately 14.3 million households had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line.

  • Poverty thresholds are determined by the US government, and vary according to the size of a family, and the ages of its members. In 2018, the poverty threshold—also known as the poverty line—for an individual was $12,784. For two people, the weighted average threshold was $16,247.

  • In 2018, the poverty rate for people living with a disability was 25.7%. That’s nearly 4 million people living with a disability—in poverty.

    So, Congress; both the House & the Senate, there is this, a small sliver of the maddening reality of living in the United States of America – the nation you are sworn to preserve, protect and defend. You have sold us on a false idea of what is actually going on – and you must do better. Do better or face the consequences of the ballot box, and an increasingly agitated American public willing, ready and able to march to Washington to make their demands, a reality.