Jerome "Jerry" Segal

Jerome "Jerry" Segal
  • Democrat
  • Age: 74
  • Residence: Silver Spring

About Jerome "Jerry" Segal

Education

I’m glad this question is about education not schooling. I used to teach Philosophy of Education and the distinction is essential to any serious thinking about education policy. The schooling part is easily told. I grew up in the Bronx, skipped the eighth grade and went to the Bronx High School of Science. Then on to the City College of New York, a free public college, where I did a double major in Economics and Philosophy. Then to the University of Michigan for a doctorate in Philosophy and then back to school for a Masters in Public Affairs. Education was different. Some in school and lots from life. In school, Aristotle, Dewey, Galbraith, Sartre, the early Marx were all important. Real world: - My father, who was a garment worker and a socialist, and an immigrant. - My uncle who had less money that we, and was happier. - A summer community where Normal Thomas gave the Labor Day speech (I still belong). - The first teach-in against the War in Viet Nam. - Some teachers who were role models. - Running a peace organization for 29 years, - Engaging with terrorists, Arafat, Habash, Haniyeh. - Engaging with members of Congress, occasionally one I truly respected, such as Donald M. Fraser of Minnesota whom I worked for. - Meeting top leaders such as Shimon Peres, and Abba Eban, and Prime Minister Olmert – and being impressed by some and not others. - My students in ten years of teaching the Bible - And Genesis 18:25 when Abraham says to God, “Shall not the judge of all the Earth deal justly?” which shows that the perspective of the Bible is that morality precedes God, and that most of organized religion does not understand the Bible, which is very instructive indeed.

Background

  • Taught Philosophy at University of Pennsylvania. - Worked on Capital Hill for four years including two on House Budget Committtee. - Ten years in USAID on international development, especially basic human needs. , - Twenty years at Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy in the School of Public Affairs, U of Md. - 29 years as Director of The Jewish Peace Lobby.

Questionnaire

1
Trump record
How do you assess the Trump administration so far?
Segal: There is no Administration. There is only Mr. Trump. In time and if need be, he will replace and uproot, each and every appointee. Moreover, there is no real policy. Trump can flip from day to day, and leave each and every appointee flapping in the wind. In the entire history of the country, we have never experienced this. Not to say that policy-wise there are not worse potential Repubican Presidents than Trump. There is Ted Cruz, and Mr. Pence, who cares about Israel because he really believes that Jesus is waiting in the wings until the rightwing Government secures the ancient Kingdom of David. And speaking of Israel and the Palestinians, the primary area of my expertise, a conflict I have been involved with for now 36 years, the jury is still out. The recognition (outside the negotiations room) of Jerusalem as Israel’ s Capital was a disaster. It was, of course, egged on by the AIPAC supporters in Congress, most notably Senator Cardin. But that aside, the real question is the character of the long-awaited Trump plan to end the conflict. As a conflict resolution expert, I have kept lines of communication with the Aministration open. A few weeks ago I shared ideas with NSC professionals in a three-hour meeting. There remain, despite the hollowing out of the State Department, some good principled people and they say that no one, not the Palestinians nor the Israelis, know what is in the Trump plan. So, who knows?
SHARE THIS ANSWER
2
2017 Tax Cuts
Do you support or oppose the federal tax cuts passed in 2017? What effect do you believe they will have on the economy?
Segal: The United States suffers from growing income inequality with respect to pre-tax income. The tax system should be progressive, so that after tax-income is significantly less unequal than pre-tax income. Every non-partisan analysis of the Trump tax cut showed that most of the benefits went to the rich and the very rich. The cuts made things worse. How such could be politically sustainable? The answer is that in dollar terms taxes were reduced for most people. So with more money in their pocket people are, for the moment, satisfied. This is essentially the “bread and Circuses” contempt for ordinary people first developed by the Roman emperors. To see the sick joke here, any politician can put more money in everyones pocket by just cutting all taxes in half, or should they want, by just eliminating taxes altogether. But then how do we pay for government? Why we just borrow the money. We increase the deficit and thus the national debt. And guess what, that is exactly what the Trump tax cut did. It resulted in a vastly increased deficit, in order to give small bits of bread to the masses, and big loaves to the rich and super rich. How will it affect the economy? With unemployment now relatively low, it may result in increased inflation. And if so, then guess what? The Federal Reserve fights inflation by dampening the economy, which means unemployment, and not for lawyers, but for low income people and minorities in particular. Welcome to America.
SHARE THIS ANSWER
3
National debt
Is the level of national debt a concern? What, if anything, should be done to reduce it or constrain its increase?
Segal: Intelligent economists disagree on how much national debt is a problem. Much depends on who we owe the money to. Is owing to China the same as owing to Canada? And if that doesn’t make clear that it is not a matter of a fixed number or debt-to-GDP ratio, consider that much of the national debt is actually owed to the Federal Government itself. When the US Government borrows money to cover the deficit (the gap between what we spend and the taxes we take in) the government issues Treasury Bonds. Sometimes American citizens, and sometimes foreign governments buy these bonds, paying us for them the cash we need to cover the deficit. Guess what happened during the last recession. The Federal Reserve, to put money back into the economy to end the recession, bought up those Treasury Bonds, and paid for them with money i essentially created out of thin air. It bought trillions of the national debt and now holds it. We owe much of the debt to ourselves. And the Social Security Trust fund also holds vast amount of our own debt. Who can fathom this stuff. For me the issue basically a moral not economic. Taxes are the obligation we incur when we decide to spend collectively. In no responsible society do the adults decide to burden the next generation with our public consumption decisions. Moreover, paying as we go, serves as a constraint on both foolish spending and foolish tax cuts.
SHARE THIS ANSWER
4
Income inequality
Is the level of economic inequality in the United States a problem, and if so, what should the federal government do to address it?
Segal: It is a major problem, and not just the unequal distribution of income, but the even more unequal distribution of wealth. Government should contribute to reducing these inequalities through progressive tax systems. Often we do just the opposite. Once upon a time we had significant estate taxes which at least were intended to prevent the massive transfer of wealth from one generation to another, essentially creating a wealth Aristocracy. Now the little that remains of it, they label “a death tax” and seek to eliminate it altogether, even for those with fortunes in the billions. The biggest contribution that the government could make is to really deal with unemployment. This falls differentially on different social groups in the society, and is a crushing blow, not just to income but to the entire economic career of those who are badly and regularly hit. We do not have to have significant unemployment in America if we are determined not to put up with it. The cost of eliminating unemployment is greater control of the economy. For instance during World War II, we had wage and price controls and we ran a red-hot economy with unemployment under 2% and inflation also under 2%. So it can be done. If we choose not to, because of the benefits of a freer market, then the burden of this policy choice should not crush the most vulnerable. That’s why I call for a legally enforceable Right to a Job (at a living wage) or to Retraining.
SHARE THIS ANSWER
5
Gun laws
Should federal gun laws be changed, and if so, how?
Segal: Rather than endlessly debating which solution is the best for school safety, we should set up a commission composed one third of bereaved parents, one third of police, and one third of teachers. The commission should identify five viable ideas. Then each school in the country should get a voucher to choose among the five. The decision will be made by teachers and parents. Then the best social scientists in the country should monitor the results and feed the evaluations back to the original commission. In time we will learn what works and solve this problem. We need to become a learning society, not a talk-a-thon.
SHARE THIS ANSWER
6
ACA
What should Congress do with respect to the Affordable Care Act? Should it be strengthened, and if so, how? Should it be scrapped? If so, what if anything should replace it?
Segal: Medicare works . Medical option for all, Stop the nonsense.
SHARE THIS ANSWER
7
Urban policy
What role should the federal government play in helping cities like Baltimore?
Segal: I’m from the Bronx, and lived in Philadelphia, in a marginal area. I loved Philly. Baltimore is like Philadelphia, one of the old American cities, a mixture of grit and gentrification. Mostly in Baltimore, I’m there to get my life saved at Johns Hopkins. But the last time I was in Baltimore it was to speak to the Baltimore chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, a group whose endorsement I would be proud to receive. The meeting was in a part of town where I was hesitant to get out of my car. A few days ago, I met Rikki Vaughn, a fellow candidate running for Senate, and a child of inner city Baltimore. I’m hoping he will show me around the real city. At the March For Our Lives, I gave out fliers affirming The Right to a Childhood Without Fear, a right of all children, both the middle class, mostly white, children, now stalked in schools and concerts, and the inner city children of Baltimore who had the bad luck to be born into a 247 shooting gallery. I said transforming the inner cities will take decades, but we can do something now to cut homicide rates for children and young people in the inner cities: Get them out of there. Summer vacation is 20% of the year. I proposed free sleep-away camp, a full summer, for any child in the 10 most dangerous cities in America. Baltimore is number six.
SHARE THIS ANSWER
8
Opioids
What can Congress do to address the opioid epidemic?
Segal: I don’t fully understand the opioid epidemic. We do, of course, know about the terrible and perhaps criminal promotion of an addictive pain killer that was given to millions without its dangers being properly understood. The need for enforcement and regulation is obvious. When these kinds of things happen, I tend to favor sending some of the high and mighty to jail. It serves as a wake-up call. Monetary fines just get passed through the system, and in the end, are largely paid by consumers. But send some CEO to prison, that’s a whole new ballgame. I had my own opioid experience. I had pancreatic cancer and underwent surgery. in response to my pancreatic cancer, an operation called “The Whipple.” For pain, I was put on opioids. It affected me powerfully, but in a weird way. Even more than usual, I thought every idea I had was brilliant. I couldn’t see the downside of anything, and ideas came at record speed. Some too stupid to relate. But none were dangerous. What is really strange is that this went on for about six months, way long after I stopped taking the opioid. What it brought home: If your reasoning is itself affected, then your free-will is gone. But what I don’t get, or perhaps I do, is why anyone would actually seek out opioids. In this it is much like other powerful drugs. At bottom the drug problem exists because lives have gone bad, it’s the effect, not the cause.
SHARE THIS ANSWER
9
Immigration
What changes if any should Congress make to our immigration and deportation laws and policies?
Segal: This country has a choice. Do we stand with the Statue of Liberty or not. We went through a great crisis when the Trade Towers went down because of terrorists. But the Statue of Liberty was in New York harbor and it did not fall. And on the statue, we don’t have a sign telling the world to send us your smartest and best educated. Rather it says, “Send us your teeming masses, seeking to breathe free.” It says “Send us your wretched.” That is my America. That’s the country my father came to and my mother’s parents as well. And they didn’t go to college, and low and behold, one generation later and their son in over-educated and has written six books and has three more on the way, and invests in Apple stock. And anyway, we really know so little about these wretched refugees. My dad was a garment worker, but in Europe, in his little village, he was a prince, because he came from the family of a Rabbi whose biographies occupy five inches of card space in the Library of Congress. At Ellis Island, they never asked. And when he was told that from now on his name would be Albert rather than Anshel, he thought it was the law.
SHARE THIS ANSWER
10
Free trade
Should the United States continue with the free trade policies it pursued for the last several decades, or should it enact restrictions in an attempt to help domestic industries?
Segal: The entire free trade argument, though widely accepted by economists, is specious. It rests on an economic model of “efficiency” that shows that with the absence of trade barriers that the largest aggregate economic pie can be achieved. In theory, those who are harmed by free trade can be compensated for their losses, and some pie will still be left over. This is wrong-headed on so many levels: 1) The compensation is just theoretical. The displaced workers and communities take it on the chin. 2) The calculation of “losses” reflects the typical economists’ psychological blindness. They never properly understand just how great the losses are to real people and real communities. 3) The United State is in a stage of “Post-scarcity” capitalism. Even if it were true that the pie got larger, and even if it were fairly distributed, this isn’t what American needs. Our real problems aren’t going to be solved by given everyone a 10% raise, or + 20%, or +30%. Much of what we think of as economic issues are really cultural. Thus, compared to almost every society in human history, the way we treat the elderly is debased and sick. In the poorest societies in the world, old people are respected elders. They end their lives surrounded by grandchildren and great grandchildren. Here we tell young people to start their 401 K’s as soon as possible so they are not destitute when they are old and alone and adrift.
SHARE THIS ANSWER
11
Iran
Do you support the Iran nuclear deal?
Segal: The Iran Nuclear deal was a triumph of diplomacy. It averted a military strike on Iran, a course of action sought by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and supported by Senator Cardin. Cardin was one of four Democrats who joined with all 54 Republicans in an effort derail the deal. This would have been a disaster. We would not know if it was total, or if Iran was now racing towards a weapon.Troops would have to go in just to be sure. American troops. In a Washington Post article Cardin offered a defense of his vote. It was a strange analysis, and just like Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to the Congress, it was silent about the central achievement of the deal, and it thus contributed to today’s atmosphere in which there is a widespread failure to understand just how remarkable the deal actually was. Iran’s nuclear program was based on attaining the capability of building nuclear weapons from highly enriched uranium. On the eve of the deal they were about two months away from achieving this capability. In the deal, all this was undone. They gave up their entire stockpile of medium enriched uranium and 97 % of low enriched, essentially going back to square one, and then they agreed to a 15 year freeze on any enrichment. Fifteen years is a very long time in international affairs, enough time for fundamental to be altered. The entire Nazi regime went from 1933 to 1945, twelve years.
SHARE THIS ANSWER
12
North Korea
How should the United States address the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program?
Segal: By getting in a time machine and going back to 1945, and doing everything pertaining to nuclear technology differently. This horror story comes from decades and decades of not taking proliferation seriously, really, really seriously. North Korea is a nuclear Sparta. Like the Spartans, it lives on nothing, consumes almost nothing. And like Sparta, it can defeat/destroy almost any country in the world, except the great nuclear powers themselves. Even here it pushes the envelope. That we have permitted the emergence of a hermit-Kingdom with a nearcrazed leadership, to gain the ability to deliver a nuclear holocaust to much of the United States, is an indictment of every President, every Secretary of State and every National Security Advisor going way, way back. I confess to being impressed that so far President Trump seems on the right track. His willingness to get into face to face negotiations speaks well of him, and frankly, we are not in any position to second guess him. The information gap between us and what is known inside the NSC is vast. He should always err on the side of not initiating the military confict. We should all pray that we and the world get out of this intact. If there is a way to truly put the genie back in the bottle we should be prepared to pay ALMOST any price to do so. Any accurate accounting of North Korea’s existing (not potential, but existing) nuclear arsenal and missile delivery system is simply terrifying.
SHARE THIS ANSWER

Election Coverage

    Help support our election coverage. Get 4 weeks of unlimited access for only 99¢. Subscribe