Stephen Gottlieb | WAMC

Stephen Gottlieb

Stephen Gottlieb: Of Course, Black Lives Matter

Sep 22, 2020

I was on a Mohonason panel, talking with students about the Civil Rights Movement. The panel included Reggie Jackson, an African-American folk singer who sang on the front lines of the iconic demonstrations, his friend, Greg Greenaway, a southern-born white deeply committed to civil rights, and Nell Stokes, an activist raised in the segregated South before moving here and spending her life fighting for freedom. I have enormous respect for all of them. I was invited because I walked over from my apartment to the March on Washington where Dr. King delivered his I Have a Dream speech, and because I worked on civil rights in several legal offices.

Every economist understands that there are some things a capitalist economy won’t do for us. I won’t bore you with the technical reasons, but there are lots of things that depend on government. Trump and his Republican friends assume that calling them socialist will scare you away. Let’s understand that their claim is flawed from the get-go because public health, Armed Forces, police, fire departments and many others are all socialist in that sense. The interesting question is why they are trying to tar the programs they call socialist?

Stephen Gottlieb: Kleptocracy's Consequences

Sep 8, 2020

America, until recently, was one of the world’s cleanest places to do business. You didn’t have to pay people off to do what you wanted – indeed you couldn’t. Regulation was not about having a handout – it was about protecting the public. Public servants weren’t allowed to take anything for doing their jobs – from the president on down. Your job was your job. Taking anything was corrupt.

Stephen Gottlieb: What About Those Demonstrations?

Sep 1, 2020

The Black Lives Matter movement is being waylaid by provocateurs and others who want to use the opportunity to loot stores or, as one hoodlum did, shoot people on camera and then, apparently craving notoriety, tried to give himself up to police who ignored him because he’s white and they were convinced all bad things are black.[1]

Stephen Gottlieb: Health Law Arrogance

Aug 25, 2020

There’s so much to talk about, but let’s go out for a walk or step into a shop. Unfortunately, some people pugnaciously claim the freedom to ignore health laws.

I argued on this station that Trump should have been impeached for disloyalty. The American people understand disloyalty. They didn't understand the significance of the articles of impeachment.

Stephen Gottlieb: Statues And The Arc Of Justice

Aug 11, 2020

Let’s talk about statues. I love Michelangelo’s and was privileged to see his masterpieces in Rome. And I’m moved by Daniel Chester French’s sculpture of a seated Lincoln in the Washington memorial that bears his name. I think’s it’s ironic to tear down or even reconstruct the statue, erected by the freedmen themselves, of Lincoln with a former slave – the freedmen knew the difference between enslaving and freeing people and wanted to commemorate and honor their liberation while preserving the understanding of the great moral wrong that had been done to them.[1]

Two weeks ago, I commented about Jefferson’s fear of a presidential coup. Last week I spoke about using nonviolent methods to prevent a takeover by the incumbent president, who told Chris Wallace on Fox that he might not leave the White House if he loses the coming election. Afterward, I expressed my concerns and showed a copy to Ian Shapiro, a friend and polymath who’s done brilliant work on both foreign and domestic policy. He sent me back a portion of a new book of his on economic insecurity, The Wolf at the Door: The Menace of Economic Insecurity and How to Fight It. I quickly realized we were approaching the same problem from different angles. Insecurity makes people want to believe that Trump is leading them to better days. I’ll return to that next week. And the campaign itself will help protect us against a presidential takeover.

Stephen Gottlieb: Jefferson On Trump

Jul 21, 2020

I was weeding some of my papers last Saturday and found a copy of a letter sent by Thomas Jefferson from Paris, where he was representing this country, on December 20, 1787, to James Madison here in America. As a slave-holder, Jefferson committed grievous wrongs, but Thomas Jefferson wasn’t stupid and what he wrote struck me because he was precisely describing what we most fear today. Jefferson’s letter was about the Constitution. He played no part in writing it, stationed in Paris as he was. But having gotten a look, he wrote his friend about what he did and didn’t like.

Stephen Gottlieb: Our Human Constitution

Jul 14, 2020

Recently I spoke with a class of high school girls. They asked me to talk about the Constitution and we agreed I’d talk about how we interpret it. I wasn’t advocating any particular method. In fact, I referred to the late Justice John Paul Stevens, adopting an observation by the then sitting president of the Israeli Supreme Court, that a judge does best who “’seek[s] guidance from every reliable source.’”[i]

Stephen Gottlieb: The Case For Black Reparations

Jul 7, 2020

Many years ago, one of my professors at law school, Boris Bittker, wrote a book called The Case for Black Reparations. Bittker was known mostly for his work on taxation, but he cared and wrote a great deal about race. One year at Reunions, he took my wife and me to see a pair of very interesting films about the confinement of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast in internment camps during World War II, and the experience of Japanese-Americans in Hawaii, many of whom served in the American military. Bittker’s book on black reparations went through the issues in a very lawyerly way as if he were arguing to a court. But let me describe it on a very human level.

I wanted to deliver this last week but Trump’s use of the military against domestic protestors had me fear for the future of our republic and I put this off.

My heart wants to talk about the momentous things happening in our country but the disloyalty of this president is too frightening to talk about anything else. 

Stephen Gottlieb: To Reinvent The Cops, Disarm Them

Jun 16, 2020

The Governor wants us all to reinvent policing in our own communities. Let’s pull that apart. He wants each separate community to have a conversation about policing and reset everything. Sounds good. Community is a lovely warm word. But I think the reality is a lot different than it sounds.

Stephen Gottlieb: Trump’s Second Amendment Hooligans

Jun 9, 2020

The pandemic has been making life quite difficult for many of us, but if we don’t figure out a way to deal with Trump’s invitations to violence things can get a lot worse.

Stephen Gottlieb: The Killing Of George Floyd

Jun 2, 2020

After practicing law, it’s hard to stick to stereotypes about people, whether the police, the looters, whites, presidents or anyone else. Lawyers see the best and the worst, Mother Teresa and Jack the Ripper. The good and bad aren’t predictable.

Stephen Gottlieb: Trump's Misuse Of The Pandemic

May 26, 2020

I wanted to talk about something else; the health crisis is so serious and depressing. But it’s so serious because Trump has been unwilling to be part of the solution. He tries to double down, deny the science, ignore the tragedy and let everyone who’s not a Trump supporter sink into bankruptcy or perish, while Trump and his buddies play golf, and the people he put in charge of federal agencies use the pandemic as a smokescreen behind which to destroy all the agencies and the states and the services they provide – from schools to fire, police, safety regulation and health services.

Stephen Gottlieb: For Those Who Can’t Work From Home

May 19, 2020

As the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day. The fact that Trump has handled the virus badly, stupidly, doesn’t mean that everything out of his mouth is wrong even if he says it for all the wrong reasons and without any understanding of the impact.

Stephen Gottlieb: Not If We Rest On Our Laurels

May 12, 2020

Americans like to say we’re no. 1, we’re the greatest, the world’s only superpower. So this is for the America greatsters. Not if we rest on our laurels, we’re not. Our genes came from all over the world. The science that’s been our glory, had many stages of development off our shores. The world doesn’t sit still waiting for the U.S. to create the next big thing. Several Asian countries have nuclear weapons. Several are challenging our digital developments, invading our privacy and platforms in ways that threaten the utility of what gets designed here.

Stephen Gottlieb: The System Subverts Our Values

May 5, 2020

This virus has been bringing out how much we depend on each other, rich and poor, black and white, men and women, immigrant and native. We used to talk about brotherhood and I’ve never found a good substitute for the vision of mutual concern and respect that people in my generation meant by brotherhood. Now two people who shouldn’t be named claim that Blue states don’t deserve help though we do a lot for the rest of the country, through our taxes, the business we generate and by repeatedly jumping to the aid of people all over this country when they suffer from natural disasters. What they’re really saying is that they feel no responsibility for those among us who need help, especially if they don’t have the skin color and ancestry that they honor.

Stephen Gottlieb: No Time To Be Stingy

Apr 28, 2020

There’s no good time to be stingy about public health. It costs more, and it kills our own.

Stephen Gottlieb: Trump’s Malfeasance Goes Viral

Apr 21, 2020

I read the Times’ description of the Administration’s snafus through my tears because every snafu meant a large number of unnecessary deaths.

Stephen Gottlieb: What Lessons Will We Learn?

Apr 14, 2020

I’d like to look beyond this epidemic, beyond the people telecomputing and those taking bicycles to work instead of busses, beyond our fears of going to meetings to see and greet each other and work together, beyond elbow bumps at funerals as I had to recently, and think ahead to a better future.

Stephen Gottlieb: What Is Mr. Trump Accomplishing?

Apr 7, 2020

President Trump insists on painting a rosy picture. He’s great. He’s solved every problem. We were the first to stop people coming from China. We have great tests. And medical professionals have all they need.  Things are so good that America will be going to church for Easter. And it would be a shame not to have sports to watch.

Stephen Gottlieb: Paying For The Virus

Mar 31, 2020

In his discussion of the financial consequences of the pandemic to New York, Gov. Cuomo has not mentioned that New York isn’t permitted to borrow the money it needs. The reason is a New York State constitutional prohibition. Many states prohibit borrowing except for capital expenses. When states were permitted to borrow for current expenses, they ran up large debts and the practice needed to be stopped. So, many state constitutions barred the practice. With some exceptions, New York requires a law to be submitted to the voters for specific purposes. The Governor does not have the time to satisfy New York’s constitutional rules. For the moment, he’s stuck.

Stephen Gottlieb: Worth Fussing About In This Pandemic

Mar 24, 2020

I don’t want to talk about topic no. 1. I thought talking about politics might provide comic relief. But what’s funny about that? Politics is deadly serious, precisely because people’s lives depend on how elected officials take care of the rest of us, or whether they’re focused only on optics.

Stephen Gottlieb: The Pandemic

Mar 17, 2020

We’ve all been affected by this pandemic. People are telecomputing, taking bicycles to work instead of busses, and avoiding meetings to see and greet each other and work together. Things have been canceled that I was very much looking forward to. Virtually every step we take invites a calculation of how to do it safely. I found myself in Boston recently at a funeral for a nephew with people I really care about, everybody calculating whom to hug and whom to elbow bump. Many of us have been making frantic trips to the grocery and the drug store for needed supplies we think may go out of stock or just trying to buy things before the virus spreads any more widely.

Presidents are obligated to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” They are supposed to manage, administer and appoint people to carry out the tasks of government. Trump interprets that as his right to fire experts and replace them with yes-men devoted only to him. He’s reinstated the long disgraced spoils system in an era when everything is much more difficult and complex.

Stephen Gottlieb: A House Divided Cannot Stand

Mar 9, 2020

President Trump’s base thinks they can make America great by kicking out people they don’t like, people with different heritage, faith or color. Yet the evidence is that there are more and better jobs available in communities with more recent immigrants. A larger economy creates jobs and opportunities. It needs more goods and services. By contrast the effort to get rid of people is what economists call a deadweight loss. Deadweight because it is costly but produces nothing. We accomplish more working together than working against each other.

Stephen Gottlieb: The “Nanny” State

Feb 25, 2020

Republicans complain endlessly about “The ‘Nanny’ State”. Do anything good for the people – that’s “The ‘Nanny’ State.” Can’t we do anything for ourselves? What happened to self-reliance?

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