Thomas Jefferson, The Original American Gangster

My fascination with Thomas Jefferson crystallized recently.
I have been checking for him since last fall. I was researching
the subprime crisis
and I came across the following quote,

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.
Thomas Jefferson, Letter to the Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin (1802)
3rd president of US (1743 – 1826)

Then I learned that he founded the University of Virginia.
U of V, the flagship state institution which, as of 2007, retained
and graduated a higher percentage of Black students than
all other high ranked state schools in the country.

In the conclusion of the book, Trapped, Daniel talks about
how conflicted Jefferson was over the enslaved Africans that
he owned. Some of which were the children that he had with
Ms. Sally Hemmings. The personal was always political for
Jefferson, no?

I am fascinated by the idea of being a more human human,
and reconciling that notion with the dark side the comes
with being a simply being alive.

One day while struggling with these ideas, I thought of
how having love for a dude that hustles is really no
different then having love for slave owning president.

We need to see the humanity in both individuals.
(Believe it or not, I ran this idea to by a few friends,
from the most radical to the politically neutral, and they were ALL kind
put off and intrigued by the connection that I was trying
to make).

I realize that the same way white folks have a
hard time seeing how folks in the hood could have love for d-boys,
i.e., Denzel in American Gangster. It is similar to how many
Americans employ patriotic deference towards Jefferson, but
many of us just see him as another slave owner who was a President.

In reading Daniel’s book, I came across some of Jefferson’s
thought’s on his critque of slavery, and his unwllingness
to free the enslaved people he possessed when he felt so
conflicted over it. Daniel writes,

Jefferson was no Saint. When the rules of society are unjust, saints follow their own sets of rules. They answer to a higher authority. A Saint Thomas surley would have freed his slaves, martyring himself in the cause of equality, impoverishing himself and his family in order to do what was right. But Thomas Jefferson was unwilling to unilaterally free his slaves because it would put him and his family at an economic disadvantage relative to his contemporaries who would not free theirs. Instead he endorsed changing he rules to that no one could own slaves, setting a baseline of ethical behavior beneath which no one could sip, no matter how alluring the profits.


Humanity for all?

D’boys, Slave owners, and everyone in between?

Have I been drinking some of that hope Kool-aid? Lil’ bit…


I have been terribly under the weather this week blog fam.
It feels great to connect with you. I am locked out of AIM as well.
I dunno what happened. Whutareyougonnado?

Black Wonkett on Why You Need to Read "Trapped" by Daniel Brook, Part II.

Now that we have established that $250K is the
new $100K.

Let’s revisit why our social workers, teachers, and
filmmakers are choosing to go into finance.

Daniel suggests that young people
don’t want to be investment bankers because they
want to be rich
, they want to do it because they want
to live in the city and and they are scared of being poor.

Thats real talk.

Daniel posits that tuition costs are high because
the trustees can set them high. When he wonders
aloud, “Where is the sticker shock, and refusal to pay?”

I think of the “keeping up with the Jones’s
syndrome” and how that can impact a family’s decision to give
their children the “best education” even if that means saddling
the child and the family with $150K worth of debt.

I understand that school is expensive.
However, Daniel wonders out loud why Dartmouth and Harvard’s
tuition is within $500 of each other when they are both located
in two different states, with two different costs of living.

And don’t get me started on their billion dollar endowments
and their rarely criticized tax exempt status.

I am obsessed with school finance. But, you knew that.
So it was interesting to learn from his book that
U.C. Berkeley used to be free
Yes. Cal was tuition free for 100 years. It was only in the
the late 1970’s that Cal instituted in-state tuition.

It wasn’t that long ago — not as long ago as you’d think — that UC Berkeley cost $212.50 a quarter. When it went up to $236, there was serious debate in the Daily Cal as to whether it would cause the unfortunate to drop out, at the least, or cause blood in the streets, at the most.

It’s a quaint story that doesn’t mean much in the post-Proposition 13 world of public education. But these numbers mean something: Spread over 30 years, from 1975-76 to 2004-05, Cal has gone from $637 a year to $6,730, an increase of about 1,060 percent. Then as now, education at the University of California is tuition free for residents, a tradition since 1900 that was reaffirmed in the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education. What students pay are “fees,” a sleight of hand similar to the way executives who are fired have always decided to “spend more time with family.”

CUNY was free until New York’s fiscal crisis in the seventies and the city
and the state decided to charge working and middle class students tuition.
According to Wikipedia,

CUNY has historically served a diverse student body, especially those excluded from or unable to afford private universities. CUNY offered a high quality, tuition-free education to the poor, the working class and the immigrants of New York City until 1975, when the City’s fiscal crisis forced the imposition of tuition. Many Jewish academics and intellectuals studied and taught at CUNY in the post-World War I era when Ivy League universities, such as Yale University, discriminated against Jews.[2] The City College of New York has had a reputation of being “the Harvard of the proletariat.”[3]

Filthy astutly pointed out, that a city that decides to charge
poor and working class students tuition, in the middle of
a recession INSTEAD of charging more to corporations,
is pretty clear about its priorities.

Accessible, high quality k-16 education is
connected to
health of a city, and the health of the
families that reside within

Daniel closes his book with a reflection on Thomas Jefferson’s
vision for this country. He writes,

“Jefferson understood that his Aristocratic birth and private eduction had given him the ability to pursue his talents. Cognizant of his good fortune, he understood that a just and dynamic society should not leave th flowering to talent to chance. The gifted, not merely the high born must be able to contribute, both for their own sake and for the sake of society and humanity.”


College debt makes investment bankers
out of teachers,
social workers and it’s
a problem for all of us.

We need teachers, bankers, lawyers,
filmmakers and social
They are the thread that hold the cities

New York and SF is looking
at a New Gilded Age and it doesn’t
have to be this way.

We can change it.
They have ideas.


Black Wonkett on…..Why You Need to Read "The Trap" by Daniel Brook Part I

Raise your hand if you have college debt.

Raise your hand if you can’t buy a house
in the neighborhood you were raised in.

Raise your hand if you don’t have health care.

In his new book, Daniel Brook discusses how all of these
issues are intertwined and are disproportionately
affecting young college graduates and the middle class.

Daniels general premise is that 25 year olds, living Brooklyn,
San Francisco and Los Angeles are graduating with
$100K worth of debt , and consequently are choosing to
work in finance instead of public service because they
need to eat and pay off debt.

He goes on to say, that if they founding fathers, based this country
on rebelling against the British Aristocracy, then a system
that forces our best and brightest, especially those that are low
income and poor, to become investment bankers, then
we have lost. This flies in the face
of what America’s original
purpose and vision.

To me, it just rings of the Systematic Removal of the

Middle Class from the Cities.

So much of what we see with the inability to
raise a family middle class in the city was brought to us

by Ronald Reagan. He killed unions, de-funded the Legal Services,
under-taxed the hyper affluent and deliberately underfunded
government positions so so that our best minds would
be more inclined to join private industry instead rather than
serve the public.

The Freddie’s of the World shouldn’t be turned into
Alex P. Keaton’s in order to remain living in the city.

The issues crystallize when he focuses on the
challenged facing college graduates and young
families such as exorbitant rent/housing costs,

health care, child care, egregiously low minimum wage.

For the record Bill Clinton continued these policies.
Daniel writes,

” Most American don’t connect tax cuts that favor the rich to the countries
growing inequality…because no one- that is the Democratic Party
is not making the point.”

One of the first thing President Reagan did was publicly disable
the air traffic controllers union. Wiki provides the short explanation
stating that

Only a short time into his administration Federal air traffic controllers went on strike, violating a regulation prohibiting Government unions from striking.[72] Declaring the situation an emergency as described in the 1947 Taft Hartley Act, Reagan held a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, where he stated that if the air traffic controllers “do not report for work within 48 hours, they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated”.[73] On August 3, 1981, Reagan fired 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored his order to return to work,[74] breaking the union.[75]

It hasn’t always been this way. FDR believed in progressive taxation.

FDR instituted the first minimum wage.

As a result this country experienced some of its most broadly
share prosperity ever seen by this country.

Think about it. Six figure family education/housing debt is a recent
phenomenon. Similarly, the notion of the double digit college
tuition is a post Regan phenomenon.

Daniels rational is that university Board of
Trustees, who set tuition standards, are wealthy,
so they don’t see why students would be unable to
afford $35-$50K per year.

With this context, the move to offer more
financial aide to Harvard students
whose parents make less than $150K
per year makes sense.

$150K is the new $75K.


Six Figure College Debt.
Young people making career decisions based on
whether they will have healthcare.

Assets (Housing, Stocks) being taxed at 15% while
wages (our bi-weekly pay checks) are taxed at 28%.
(The above stated tax info is crude, but peep Warren Buffet,
he speaks on it as well

What part of the game is that?

Priced out of the Mission, Harlem and Forte Green.
It will take a visionary leader to address this. Our cities
and the future of our country depends on it.