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Supreme Court now has a chance to end the real ‘systemic racism’

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Supreme Court now has a chance to end the real 'systemic racism'

As the nation’s racial reckoning following last May’s killing of George Floyd morphed into the summer’s riotous anarchy, the term “systemic racism” emerged as a fixture of our public discourse.

What began as a somewhat arcane dialogue about purported police “militarization” and the “qualified immunity” legal doctrine soon took on a much more insidious tone. America, those like The New York Times’ “1619 Project” fabulists told us, was rotten to its very core, blemished by the indelible taint of “systemic racism.”

In reality, there is no factual basis to support that. There will, sadly, always be individual racists from all backgrounds and all walks of life, but American society in the 2020s simply does not have anything remotely resembling a legally enshrined regime under which its racial majority “systemically” oppresses its racial minorities.

America in the year 2021 is not Germany in 1936; it is not South Africa in 1985; and it is not — after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — the Jim Crow South. This ought to be astoundingly obvious.

But while the notion of sprawling, multi-institutional “systemic racism” is a lie, there is at least one major American institution that does suffer from legally codified racism that tarnishes the institution’s integrity, sullies its legitimacy and is so widespread that it might earnestly be dubbed “systemic.” I speak, of course, of affirmative action admission policies in American higher education.

Thankfully, due to the petition for a writ of certiorari that was filed before the US Supreme Court this week in the case of Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College, the nightmarish systemic racism of affirmative action might finally end soon. (As a disclosure, I personally know Students for Fair Admissions’ attorneys, one of whom is now representing me before the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in unrelated litigation.)

There is at least some cause for optimism. A divided court in 2016 upheld race-conscious university admissions policies in Fisher v. University of Texas, but the court’s composition has changed since then. What’s more, affirmative action is perhaps the single issue upon which infamous Republican-nominated disappointment Chief Justice John Roberts is the most reliable.

In addition to his joining Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent in Fisher, it was Roberts who, in the 2007 race-conscious education case of Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle, penned perhaps his most iconic line: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Affirmative action might have been devised as a well-intentioned effort to eradicate the vestiges of antebellum chattel slavery, but as Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his 1995 concurrence in Adarand Constructors Inc. v. Pena, “Government-sponsored racial discrimination based on benign prejudice is just as noxious as discrimination inspired by malicious prejudice.”

And discriminate Harvard does. The university maintains noxious de facto racial quotas to penalize Asian Americans, redolent of the anti-Jewish Ivy League quotas of the early 20th century. Harvard’s lawyers conceded at trial that Asian Americans are penalized by the admissions office’s nebulous “personal rating” category — and they are penalized simply for the fact of being Asian. The university engages in deliberate racial balancing, seeking to fill its incoming freshman classes with a largely preconceived, annually consistent racial breakdown.

Harvard’s admission data are eye-opening. For high-school applicants in the top academic tenth of their class, whites are admitted at a rate of 15.3 percent; Asian Americans are admitted at a rate of 12.7 percent; Hispanics are admitted at a rate of 31.3 percent; and blacks are admitted at a rate of 56.1 percent. Poor refugees from Communist China and impoverished white students from Appalachia are thus placed at a “systemic” racial disadvantage relative to well-off Hispanics and blacks.

In no rational universe is this a just arrangement.

Legal conservatives usually have myriad reasons for pessimism, but affirmative action could prove an exception. The justices have a real chance to deliver a grievous blow to the systemic racism that blights one of the nation’s leading institutions. Let’s hope they don’t blow it.

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Opinion

Letters to the Editor — June 12, 2021

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Letters to the Editor — June 12, 2021

The Issue: A teen gang member who allegedly shot a young father while released on reduced bail.

How many people have to die for these idiot judges to realize that “leniency” doesn’t turn violent, recidivist criminals into good citizens (“Free to kill,” June 10)?

If anything, it encourages their psychopathy and teaches them that there is essentially no punishment at all for their violent acts.

Innocent and good people get hurt because judges like acting Criminal Court judge Denis Boyle try more to show just how liberal they can be.

If anything, these judges are even more guilty than the perpetrators they treat with kid gloves, because they should know better.

Thanks to jerks like this judge, our lives become that much more endangered — all in the name of deadly, blind and inexplicably stupid “liberalism.”

Norman Gold

West Hempstead

I don’t think I’ve ever been so emotional while submitting a letter to The Post.

I’m filled with both rage and sadness while looking at the photos of a defiant reputed punk gangmember, a clueless judge and a grieving family.

Would Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Maya Wiley suggest group therapy in lieu of incarceration for Alberto Ramirez?

T. King

Manhattan

Judge Boyle reminds me of the hand-wringing, breast-beating progressive jurists who contributed enormously to the decline of New York City in the 1960s and 1970s with their revolving-door sense of justice.

I guess Judge “Cut ’Em Loose” Bruce Wright was Boyle’s inspiration. It is evident that Boyle, like all too many other New York jurists past and present, regards criminals as the true victims of a racist society, which is entirely to blame for their behavior.

Now a law-abiding minority father of two is dead, apparently thanks to Boyle’s decision to dramatically lower bail on this clearly violent and dangerous gunslinger.

It is doubtful that a liberal ideologue like Boyle will lose any sleep over this, any more than he lost sleep over the various victims of other miscreants that he let loose on the citizenry of this city over the objections of prosecutors.

Dennis Middlebrooks

Brooklyn

Judges are supposed to possess a lot of wisdom, so why does Judge Boyle seem to have less wisdom than a wisdom tooth?

Two months after Alberto Ramirez was arrested for an October shooting, he was re-arrested for another gun crime.

Yet after his bail was set to only $2,000, Boyle set him free with no bail. After a third gun arrest in February, Ramirez was again locked up — until Boyle lowered his $75,000 bail to $10,000, thus enabling Ramirez to be free to allegedly shoot Eric Velasquez to death on May 16.

That’s not surprising, since Judge Boyle had previously released manslaughter-charged Jordan Benjamin so that he was free to slash a young woman across her abdomen (and yet be re-released on $3,500 bail).

I daresay that Boyle’s public-be-damned judicial decisions make him somewhat akin to a boil on the backside of justice.

Richard Siegelman

Plainview

It would be interesting and enlightening if a question was posed to mayoral and district attorney candidates regarding the cover subject “Free to Kill” in the June 10 paper.

How do candidates feel about Alberto Ramirez being freed with his prior arrests and then allegedly randomly killing Eric Velasquez? How would each of them address the issue of the shooter being freed numerous times?

This isn’t about police, this question is about policy regarding imprisonment, bail, safety and how they want to run New York City.

Peter Wunsch

East Hampton

Judge Boyle has blood on his hands.

He has repeatedly set free thugs who go on to hurt innocent people.

RIP, Eric Velasquez.

Laura Whitley

Garden City

Want to weigh in on today’s stories? Send your thoughts (along with your full name and city of residence) to [email protected]. Letters are subject to editing for clarity, length, accuracy and style.

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Opinion

An illegal and fake hit job on wealthy US taxpayers

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An illegal and fake hit job on wealthy US taxpayers

ProPublica obtained the tax returns of the richest Americans and discovered what every informed person already knew: They don’t pay as much in income taxes as some people would like them to. This is being called a great scandal by many Democrats and liberal journalists.

Meanwhile, that these returns were almost surely leaked by someone at the IRS seems not to bother a lot of the same people. There’s no way ProPublica got this information from dozens of high-priced accountants and attorneys. Barring the possibility that this was a computer hack — which itself would be a monumental scandal — this is outrageous. Weaponizing the IRS for political purposes is not just a crime; it is a long-term political disaster.

But I want to focus on the fake scandal.

Billionaires often pay little in income taxes, because billionaires don’t typically make their money from a salary. Billionaires exist for the most part because they own assets — stocks, businesses, commodities, property, etc. — and the paper value of those assets amounts to bulk of their wealth. And in America, we do not tax wealth.

Nor should we.

Let’s say you collect baseball cards. On paper, your collection is worth a bundle. But its real value is only realized when you sell it. Do you think the IRS should tax you every year for what your collection could be worth if you sold it? Do you want the IRS to tax you for the value of your wedding ring — not at purchase, but forever — even if you’re never going to sell it?

The same principle applies to other unrealized gains. If your stock portfolio increases in value, you get taxed on your gains when you sell.

ProPublica ignores all this. “We compared how much in taxes the 25 richest Americans paid each year to how much Forbes estimated their wealth grew in that same time period,” they explain. “We’re going to call this their true tax rate.”

Except it’s not a true tax rate.

First, this suggests that the only taxes they’ve paid are income taxes, when in reality they’ve paid a slew of other taxes: capital gains, property, sales, etc. Second, wealth is not income.

About a decade ago, it was a hot talking point on the right to complain that some 47 percent of Americans had no “skin in the game” because they didn’t pay income taxes. This got reduced to a lot of bad rhetoric about “makers and takers.” Liberals (rightly) shot back that the same Americans paid a lot in payroll and other taxes.

Why is conflating “taxation” with “income taxes” wrong for some Americans but speaking truth to power for others?

By the way, according to the Tax Foundation, in 2018 the top 1 percent of American earners paid more in income taxes (40.1 percent) than the bottom 90 percent combined (28.6 percent).

Also, it’s worth remembering that the tax laws have been written in ways to encourage things such as business investment, economic growth and charitable giving. I’d prefer a flatter, simpler tax code that eliminated a lot of this stuff. But when people complain that the tax code favors corporations and the wealthy, they’re ignoring the fact that it was written to advance all sorts of policies they like.

Want corporations to invest in green energy? Don’t whine when they use tax incentives to do just that. Want billionaires to fund charities or invest in new job-creating businesses? Fine, but then don’t freak out about “loopholes” that allow them to reduce their tax bill. These are features, not bugs.

Of course, reasonable people can argue for changing those features, but that would have costs, too.

The underlying premise of the people complaining the loudest about all of this is inherently unreasonable. For instance, politicians like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren often claim that if billionaires and millionaires simply ponied up a fraction of their wealth, we could have socialized medicine and a Green New Deal.

No, we couldn’t. You could confiscate all of the wealth of the top 1 percent — seize their bank accounts and stock portfolios, kick them out of their homes, sell all their stuff at auction — and it wouldn’t come close to paying for it all.

But let’s pretend it would work. What next? Everyone tries to minimize their tax burdens. Eliminate the incentives for people to get rich, or to invest, or to hire, and — ta-dah! — people will stop doing those things. Maybe not all of them. But enough of them to make us all poorer.

 Twitter: @JonahDispatch

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Opinion

Democrats’ disastrous ‘voting rights’ bill is a non-solution to a non-crisis

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Democrats’ disastrous ‘voting rights’ bill is a non-solution to a non-crisis

H.R. 1 has achieved sacrosanct status on the center-left, such that the nation’s democratic future is said to depend on it. If so, it is time to weep for the republic.

H.R. 1 (S. 1 in the Senate), which is known as a voting bill but wanders into all sorts of other areas, is objectively terrible legislation.

It is unfocused, high-handed in its impositions on the states, careless of speech rights and constitutionally dubious. Absent some radical turnabout, the bill is dead in the Senate, and it deserves to be.

The core of the bill forces every state to adopt automatic voter registration, same-day registration, no-excuse absentee balloting and early in-person voting, among other mandates.

The case that the bill will save democracy depends on the myth that voters are being turned aside in droves by onerous restrictions in the states — even though turnout in last year’s presidential election was the highest since 1900.

States like Georgia have tightened up their rules since that election, in part in reaction to Donald Trump’s ongoing campaign of disinformation, but these provisions are in many cases improvements and certainly don’t constitute Jim Crow 2.0.

In short, H.R. 1 is a non-solution to a non-crisis.

Even if you believe that, for instance, same-day registration is the preferable policy, it’s not remotely plausible that is the difference between democracy and authoritarianism in America. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 20 states and Washington, DC, have same-day registration, and yet we’ve still had free and fair elections, including in those states — among them, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Oregon — without it.

There’s also no reason to wipe out every voter-ID law in America, when research shows that even strict ID laws have had no effect on turnout.

So long as they aren’t actually disenfranchising people (which none is), states should be able to adopt the mix of voting rules that their democratically elected officeholders deem appropriate and that suit their particular political cultures.

If the goal is to increase confidence in the electoral system, by the way, having a narrow partisan majority in Congress make it harder for states to maintain clean, up-to-date voter rolls (as H.R. 1 does) at the same time it wipes out ID requirements is not the way to do it.

Then there are all the other provisions. Do we really need Congress, in its wisdom, to write an ethics code for the Supreme Court? What’s the urgency to adopt public financing of congressional elections and make taxpayers fund political candidates they oppose? Why does the composition of the Federal Election Commission need to change to make it less bipartisan?

H.R. 1 is a free-speech disaster.

As Bradley Smith, a former chair of the FEC explains, to this point, the definition of electioneering in election law has taken care to provide wide latitude for general policy advocacy. H.R. 1 broadens the definition to treat more ads as election expenditures, crimping the ability of groups to criticize elected officials.

The bill would also make more organizations disclose their donors, opening them up to intimidation.

Walter Olson of the Cato Institute has catalogued the constitutional problems with H.R. 1:

  • Congress has the authority under the Constitution to determine the “time, places and manner” of congressional elections, but less power over presidential elections, which H.R. 1 seeks to micro-manage anyway.
  • The mandate that all states form election commissions to determine redistricting is constitutionally vulnerable as federal overreach.
  • The stipulation that presidential candidates release their tax returns might be impermissible as a qualification on candidates beyond what’s in the Constitution.
  • The speech restrictions and disclosure requirements could well run afoul of the First Amendment.

Unless Joe Manchin has a sudden change of heart, H.R. 1 is heading to the legislative dustbin. Good riddance.

Twitter: @RichLowry

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