February 14th, 2016


Guests: Rep. Charlie Rangel and NYC Councilman Ben Kallos

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Rep. Charlie Rangel

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Read highlights: Rangel on how Bernie Sanders will do with black voters:

CR: “It is so sad when we talk about Bernie Sanders that not even a half dozen African American leaders are on that list of supporters. And I don’t think it’s Senator Sanders’ fault but, as John Lewis pointed out the other day when the Congressional Black Caucus members, approximately 33 out of the 40, endorsed, or re-endorsed, or reaffirmed their endorsements of Hillary Clinton. It’s just that a guy who has spent his public life in Vermont really doesn’t have the opportunity to show what they would do in a progressive way as related to improve the quality of life of black folks … to have demonstrated any profiles in courage. So John Lewis pointed out that, hell, throughout the civil rights struggle, he had never even heard of or met Bernie Sanders.

And I pointed out that when I came to the Congress and served on the Judiciary Watergate Committee, there was Hillary Clinton serving as an intern, and then with the Children’s Defense Fund, there was Hillary Clinton. Health care … there was Hillary Clinton. When New York really needed a Senator, there was Hillary Clinton. When the President needed a Secretary of State, there was Hillary Clinton. There has been no struggle politically that I have been involved in in the Congress that Hillary Clinton has not been a part of and demonstrated that she’s earned her stripes. As far as Bernie is concerned, I don’t think he’s had the opportunity to earn stripes. I don’t doubt his sincerity, but he just doesn’t have a track record in so many areas. For a lot of people, the debates are the first time they’ve heard of Senator Sanders and that’s what makes America so great.”

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Rangel on the appeal of Trump and the tenor of the country right now:

CR: “Because we are a democracy, when we get frustrated and angry with our leadership, whether it is on the local level or state legislature, unlike some countries, we don’t pull ’em out and hang them or shoot them and have a revolution. We have elections. And in those elections, voters don’t have to be right. They have their Constitutional right to vote their frustrations and to be able to angrily and emotionally to vote against something. …

And so, when you take one of the billionaires who knows that this frustration is out there, and he plays with this, ‘Are you happy with your government?’ And I think the response is, “Hell, no!” And then when you change the rules and say, “Do you find that I’m the only one that talks like you and speaks like you and says let’s tear the whole system down? Are you with me?” And, in a revolutionary way, they say “Yes!”

There is no way in the world that I think that Don Trump has any ability to win an election with the American people. I do, however, truly believe that, whether you are for Bernie Sanders, who is talking about the aspirations of all Americans. I mean, he really sounds terrific. It’s not that he’s done anything, but he is saying what people hope and wish that we could have, where college should be free, where universal health care should be out there, where we don’t have Wall Street dictating by billions of dollars who is going to survive the primary political contests, where a kid really could be heard by his parents as saying, “You can be anything you want. You don’t have to have a billionaire or raise millions of dollars to succeed politically.”

But right now we’re going through this feeling where people say, “Hot damn! We can still dream.” And I think that the things Don Trump is saying, “Keep the Muslims out and I’m going to make America great.” Well, those are things you normally hear at Coney Island with a barker, ya know, “The greatest show on earth!” And no one asks you to prove it before you say it. I think it’s an emotional release of aspirations, but when the show of how many candidates they have is actually reduced and moderators have an opportunity to say, “And tell me how do you expect to do this?” I think we’ll get a clearer understanding as to who will be a leader and not just someone that promises.”

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Rangel, a Hillary Clinton supporter, on the current state of the Presidential primary:

CR: “I think this is the beginning. I wish we had won everything, but hell, it’s not necessary. I think we’re getting more publicity than we would if we just had Hillary Clinton as the candidate. And I feel so embarrassed for the country that the Republican’s slate of candidates looks more like Saturday Night Live than the top legislators, or the top leaders, rather, of the country. I feel awkward and embarrassed when talking with foreigners because I can’t possibly explain to them how we are serious in saying to the world that we are prepared to put the next leader of the free world up as President of the United States. But because of my confidence in the United States and the American people, we have so much time for all of the dust to settle and for real adults to walk out there and compete for the American vote.”

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NYC Councilman Ben Kallos

Kallos on the new voter information portal NYC Council Speaker Mark-Viverito announced in her State of the City address:

BK: “I’m slightly partial, as Chair of the Governmental Operations Committee, which is focused on cleaning up our elections in the City of New York. And one of the items that she announced is a voter information portal, which is legislation I actually introduced based on work I did all the way back in 2007, which kind of spurred me into politics. In 2007 we had a state voter file and one day there were 12 million voters and the next day there were 10 million voters and the state had lost two million voters. And so I created Voter Search so people could verify their registration, see what party they were registered with, and where we are now, almost a decade later, is that the city would start doing this. You’d be able to look up your registration. You’d be able to apply for your absentee ballot. You’d be able to see whether or not it got mailed to you, whether or not your absentee ballot has been received. And something that’s kind of interesting that most people don’t know about is that you’d be able to see your voter history, which for folks in the know and on the inside, that’s actually how we target people during election season. It’s whether or not you vote in these particular types of elections and that information would actually be shown to the individuals. Additionally, a lot of different resolutions and advocacy that we are doing like saving the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as just making it easier to vote by consolidating the primaries to just one day in June instead of having three different primaries this year.”

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Kallos on his proposal to make the receipt of social service benefits automatic:

BK: “Government should work like a public utility, just like your faucet in the morning. You don’t have to fill out forms or applications in order to get your water turned on every time you need it. But when we are talking about things like hunger or remaining in your home with subsidies on rent, we put people through the ringer and they have to fill out paperwork upon paperwork. They have to recertify every period of time, sometimes every six months or every year. And that’s just not something we’re used to. When you shop online on Amazon you put in your credit card once and you’re done. Imagine if every time you used Amazon they wanted you to recertify who you are and prove who you are once again and put in all the information. You wouldn’t shop online.

So what we’re trying to do here is use the information government already has. And so the dream would be to pay your taxes, and on that tax form you’re already telling us whether or not you’re married, you’re telling us whether or not you rent or own. You’re also telling us a lot of detailed information … and instead of just using that for law enforcement purposes, it would be great if when you paid your taxes instead of having to apply for an earned income tax credit, we could just say, “You know what? Based on your form, here’s a check in the mail.” Or, “it looks like you’re probably going to go hungry. Let’s get you those food stamps or SNAP benefits and let’s just mail you an EBT card in the mail.” Some states are actually already doing this. Or in the city we have a senior citizen rent increase exception. If somebody lives in applicable housing, rent stabilized or otherwise, and they’re making within the limit, let’s just get them that subsidy immediately.

So instead of having to figure out whether or not you qualify and then filling out mountains and mountains of paperwork, let’s just get people the benefits they need automatically. And some interesting facts: The White House and President Obama already issued an executive order on this. There is funding in the Affordable Care Act and there are many states that are moving forward with this, but clearly not enough and I’ve called on the Mayor of the city to do this. And I’m hoping Governor Cuomo will take the federal dollars to make this happen and working very closely with Health and Human Services on the federal level to really just make sure that as many municipalities are taking advantage of this resource.”

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Kallos on the creation of a registry of affordable housing:

BK: “Recent reporting by Pro Publica initially identified 50,000 units, which quickly became 200,000 units of affordable housing, which are receiving subsidies from the government—tax benefits to the tune of hundreds of millions of your tax dollars that are going to real estate developers so that they will offer affordable homes.

But 200,000 units aren’t being registered with the state and the state isn’t really doing the enforcement it’s supposed to be doing. In 1993, the state got rid of actually having any fines and the state and the city have now announced that they will do some modest enforcement but we don’t actually know where to look.

And so this legislation would require every single building receiving these subsidies to register all the affordable housing to be registered in one place and create a fine schedule that goes up to as much as $2,000 per unit per month. It creates a centralized portal where every one of your listeners would be able to apply for any new or affordable housing that already exists.

And last but not least, because I’m not one to trust the government to do what they say they’re going to do, people would actually be able to hire a lawyer or go to court themselves and say, ‘You know what? I think there’s units in this building that aren’t being offered affordable that should be and they themselves would get that $2,000 per unit per month. And so between that we wouldn’t actually be relying on the city to actually do its job. It’s been not doing it for so long. But between hopefully if the city actually did it and using this resource and making it easy for people to find affordability, I’m hoping it would make it a lot easier for New Yorkers.”

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