The Importance of Following the Money in Politics

Say it ain’t so, Joe!

He hasn’t even taken his oath of office yet, and I’m already writing about a concern I have with the Biden administration. Yes, I voted for him (and even wrote a blog post about my planning to vote for him[1]), but this doesn’t mean that I (or anyone else) should avoid holding who we vote for accountable.

The offense? President-elect Biden nominated former Secretary of State John Kerry to be Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate. Kerry, who is also a former United States senator and the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States back in 2004, is a believer in climate change and taking measures to address it. However, people should have concerns about whether Kerry will be as bold as he needs to be (and by extension, concerns about whether the Biden team will be as bold as it needs to be) on climate change, which is a major crisis.

Why am I concerned? Just look at Kerry’s investments. I don’t know about now, but at least as of 2013, Kerry had investments with dozens of companies in the oil and gas industry. And these are not all small investments, either—at least six of those companies he had investments in were of $100,000 or more.[2] At the very least, in the recent-ish past, he was benefitting from big oil money.

I hope that between 2013 and now, Kerry has dropped all of his oil and gas investments. If he hasn’t, then people should definitely be concerned about his investments keeping him (and, by extension, the Biden administration, potentially) from being as aggressive as he should be on the issue of climate change.[3] That concern should be present because aggressive action on climate change would go against the best interests of what’s potentially profitable for many of these companies Kerry has invested in, and by extension for Kerry himself; because of that, it’s reasonable to be concerned that this conflict-of-interest could result in Kerry not advocating for actions as bold as they should be.

Let’s be real though—Kerry is only a microcosm of a larger issue, which is the concern that money, and particularly receiving of money from certain people or entities, could influence politicians in unjust ways.

This problem can manifest itself in many major issues, ranging from climate change to income inequality. From Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma saying odd things about environmental issues and then having the oil and gas industry as his second largest industry of contributions,[4] to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer being criticized for being cozy with Wall Street (with Wall Street being accused oftentimes as being a big reason for our current income inequality) and then having big banks as four of his five largest lifetime contributors,[5] there are serious concerns about money having a major influence on our politics and politicians.

However, these concerns about big money polluting our politics in unjust ways can only be recognized if we follow the money. If we learn about the monetary connections to the policies of the Kerrys, Schumers, and Inhofes of the world, we can start to recognize how it might be the large donor class, and not so much the constituents these politicians are supposed to serve, that influences the work that is done (or the work that is not done).

As to how we can learn about these monetary connections, I would strongly recommend starting with a website called Open Secrets for national candidates (presidential candidates, as well as members of Congress). This website can allow you to learn about what sorts of companies contribute to individual candidates, as well as which companies a candidate has investments in. That way, you can learn, for example, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a lot of money invested in the technology sector,[6] so if she ever sounds tepid about holding Facebook accountable for certain things, maybe it’s because of the $500,000+ in investments she appears to have in Facebook. As for holding local and state-level candidates similarly accountable, it varies from municipality to municipality, and from state to state, but in many cases there are ways to find out even at the local and state level who your elected officials seem financially beholden to.

By learning to follow the money with our politicians and their actions, we will hopefully also learn how much big money can result in some of the positions our elected officials take, even if some of those positions are unjust. Recognizing this might not solve any injustices, but it could offer one explanation of how we ended up where we are in the first place with issues like climate change, income inequality, and many others.


[1] https://blindinjusticeblog.com/2020/10/26/how-issues-of-injustice-influenced-my-presidential-pick/

[2] https://www.opensecrets.org/personal-finances/john-kerry/assets?cid=N00000245&year=2013

[3] While I am guessing that Kerry will help the Biden team with any help needed in rejoining the Paris Climate Accords, there should be concern about whether he, and by extension the Biden administration, will be as aggressive as needed. You can read about the Paris Climate Accords here: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/what-is-the-paris-agreement

[4] https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/james-m-inhofe/summary?cid=N00005582&cycle=2020

[5] https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/charles-e-schumer/contributors?cid=N00001093&cycle=CAREER&type=I

[6] https://www.opensecrets.org/personal-finances/nancy-pelosi/assets?cid=N00007360&year=2018

Blog Tips: Discerning Which Sources to Use

One of the ongoing struggles—even more so given the misinformation coming from places of power (if you are a blog that talks about politics)—is to discern which sources[1] to use when writing your posts. As such, I think it is important to dedicate a blog tips post to talking about which sources of information to trust, because if we fail in discerning which sources to trust, we are doing an injustice to both ourselves and our readers.[2]

I will start by advocating for the use of sources to begin with. Even if your post is completely opinion-based, it is worthwhile to at least look at sources (even if you don’t cite them in your post) to make sure your opinion is based on facts.

But how can we, and how should we, discern which sources to trust?

I think that we should consider three things: currency, bias, and sourcing, or CBS (no, not the acronym for the network and major news source in the United States, though hopefully this acronym will make what I’m saying easy to remember).

Currency: Do we know when the piece was written, and if so, is the piece current?

You will want to see when the piece was written. If you don’t see a date on a particular piece, then I would recommend avoiding the source, as there would be no way of knowing whether the piece is current or was written several years ago.

Many sources show when the article was published. Please look at the date! There’ve been a number of times over the years when a news article would spread like wildfire on social media, but the article would turn out to be something published years ago even though some people (even some social media friends) would be promoting it as if current. The last thing you want is for your blog to be a source of promoting old news that’s no longer relevant.

Note: This is not to say that an old piece can’t be relevant. For example, a story from 2009 on Joe Biden’s role during the collapsing of the automobile industry is still relevant to today because it is a part of the extensive record of the president-elect, and particularly his record on handling crises. However, a piece from 2009 on a current events issue is not a piece to rely heavily on, other than for the purposes of seeing how a particular issue was being covered back in 2009.

Bias: What sort of bias might your source have?

I do not believe that there is no such thing as a source or an article with no bias whatsoever. Everyone has some level of bias. But that’s why it is really important to discern the bias of the source you’re reading.

An easy way to do this for news sources is to visit a site such as “Media Bias/Fact Check” and see where the news source (if the source you are looking at is on the site) fits along the spectrum of bias. If you are looking at a source and it falls into the categories of “least biased,” “left-center,” or “right-center” on Media Bias/Fact Check, then chances are quite high that the source is well-balanced and trustworthy. I will make a note, though, that if the source you are looking at has a “left-center” or “right-center” leaning, you may want to look at other generally credible sources (according to Media Bias/Fact Check or other well-regarded sites rating news sources based on media bias) to make sure that what you are reading is true. However, I would strongly recommend against using far-left and far-right sources, such as Huffington Post a Fox News, in your blog posts—such sources may be skewed to a particular viewpoint, unreliable as sources, and can result in producing an unreliable blog post.

Sourcing: What sources does the piece use?

All too often, an article posts about a particular issue or subject matter but does not quote anyone. Or, if they quote someone, it is someone who is not reputable or some entity that is not reputable (or someone who is “anonymous” or an “unnamed source”). If you come across a source like that, then the source you’re reading is not one you want to draw many conclusions from.

If you’re not sure whether the source (or sources) of knowledge for the piece is reputable, do a quick search of the person, people, or entities cited in the piece you’re reading, and/or do a search for the person who wrote the piece you’re reading. For example, if you’re reading an article on economic issues that cites findings from the Brookings Institution, then a quick search will help you find that the Brookings Institution is a highly respected center to center-left think tank that covers a variety of issues, including economics. But, if you’re reading a source on COVID-19 where only a podiatrist is cited, then you might not want to cite the source in your blog post.


So now that I’ve gone over things we should consider when discerning which sources to use in a blog post, what should we do if we have serious doubts about the source’s currency, bias, and/or source (CBS)?

Personally, I think it’s best to avoid citing any piece where there are serious doubts about its currency, bias, or source. If we use a piece with doubts about its currency, we run the risk of writing a blog post based on outdated information. I would also recommend against using sources with a far-left or far-right bias, because use of such sources can result in oft-inaccurate blog posts. I would also be careful with a piece when there are doubts about the sourcing, regardless of bias—the last thing we want is a blog post based on dubious sourcing (even if the article you are reading is not from a publication with a far-left or far-right bias).

But, regardless of my own personal take of what pieces to avoid or not, we need to remember how important CBS (not the network) is to determine which sources to use in our blog posts. Because if we don’t discern what we use in our blog posts on currency, bias, and sourcing, then we run the risk of our blogs becoming sources of misinformation.

Please note that as next week is Thanksgiving, I will not publish a blog post.



[1] I will be mostly referring to news sources in this post, but what I say here could be applicable to other types of sources.

[2] This post could double up as a “blind injustice” type of post, but given the amount of misinformation being spread online, I wanted to write this as a blog tips post so as to hopefully prevent readers from also unwittingly becoming sources of misinformation.

Obamacare and Race

One of the signature issues for both major political parties is health care. Many Republicans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that passed in 2010. President-elect Joe Biden, who was Vice President in the administration under which Obamacare was passed, says he wants to expand it. These are two wildly differing views on what to do with our health care system.

However, given the current climate of racial unrest in the United States, as well as the potential repeal of the law being considered by the United States Supreme Court, it seems timely to talk about Obamacare from a racial justice standpoint.

So, where does Obamacare stand from a racial justice standpoint? Well, I have some good news for proponents of Obamacare, and some not-as-good news:

Reductions in uninsured rates were significant among minorities.

Among the highlights of those gains:

  • 21.8% of American Indians and Alaska Natives were uninsured as of 2018, down from 32% in 2010.
  • 19% of Hispanics were uninsured as of 2018, down from 32.6% in 2010.
  • 11.5% of Blacks were uninsured as of 2018, down from 19.9% in 2010.
  • 9.3% of Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders were uninsured as of 2018, down from 17.9% in 2010.
  • 6.8% of Asians were uninsured as of 2018, down from 16.7% in 2010.[1]

These are undoubtedly significant gains. However…

The aforementioned gains I mentioned have stalled out.

Most of the gains that occurred were between 2014, when important provisions of Obamacare were implemented, and 2016. Those gains have stalled since then, and for Blacks the rate of those uninsured has started to tick up in recent years. The Kaiser Family Foundation, which focuses on health care issues, attributes this to certain policy changes in the Trump Administration “that affected the availability of and enrollment in coverage.”[2] But whatever the reason for this stall, it has happened, and this stalling trend is one that a President Biden will need to address (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t repeal the law).

However, the gaps in insurance by race are about more than just what’s coming out of Washington, DC. It’s also because of policies at the state level.

Many states with large Black populations have refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

As a result of this, even though there appear to be modest gains in racial disparities among the uninsured overall as a result of Obamacare, the gains are not as big as many might like. Additionally, the result of this is that about half of the remaining uninsured Americans are people of color.[3] This goes to show that elections have consequences—not just federal elections, but state ones too. This is worth keeping in mind for future elections at the state level.

In spite of the issues I’ve mentioned, the racial gap among the uninsured has closed somewhat.

The rate of those without insurance has dropped among whites too, but as there were fewer uninsured whites than uninsured people of any minority group to begin with, the rate among whites of those lacking insurance dropped more slowly than among any other racial group. As such, the racial gap among the uninsured has closed somewhat, even if there are disparities that still exist.[4]

In spite of all this data I’ve shared, there are some unanswered questions.

So far, I have painted a mixed picture of what Obamacare has been like for minority groups, particularly from an insurance coverage standpoint. But there are some unanswered questions about the true impacts of the health care law, too. Here are a few such questions:

  • While the number of uninsured Americans has decreased significantly since Obamacare was passed in 2010, the number of underinsured Americans has also increased.[5] To what extent does this underinsurance issue affect people of color?
  • Is there anything about Obamacare that might, even unintentionally, contribute to the continued (if somewhat decreased) gap in the uninsured between some minorities and whites?
  • There are mixed messages about how Obamacare affected health care costs—out-of-pocket health care spending decreased, while premiums increased.[6] To what extent are people of color getting the benefit of reduced health care spending, or the drain of increased premiums?

The unanswered questions are so numerous that I may need to republish this post at some point, as a version that hopefully answers some of the questions that I’m asking here.


Over the last several hundred words, I have painted a rather mixed message on the question of Obamacare and racial justice. But where does this leave us?

For those in the United States who care about American health care, this raises some questions. For the Republicans, who are proponents of repealing and replacing the law, how does the law get repealed and replaced without erasing all the gains that people of all races, particularly minorities, have seen as a result of Obamacare? For Biden and his supporters, how can we continue making progress in increasing the number of insured Americans, and how might the issues with underinsurance and health care premiums be addressed (assuming, once again, that the Supreme Court doesn’t strike down the whole law)? And for all sides of the debate on this law, how can we ensure that every American is insured?

The last question is maybe the most important one of all, because access to affordable health care should be a human right, not just a privilege to those fortunate enough to access it.



[1] https://www.kff.org/disparities-policy/issue-brief/changes-in-health-coverage-by-race-and-ethnicity-since-the-aca-2010-2018/

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/usc-brookings-schaeffer-on-health-policy/2020/02/19/there-are-clear-race-based-inequalities-in-health-insurance-and-health-outcomes/

[4] https://www.kff.org/disparities-policy/issue-brief/changes-in-health-coverage-by-race-and-ethnicity-since-the-aca-2010-2018/

[5] https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2019/feb/health-insurance-coverage-eight-years-after-aca

[6] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/22/out-of-pocket-health-spending-dropped-after-obamacare-rolled-out.html

Some Words About the Recent American Election

President-elect Joe Biden. Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

We found out today, November 7, 2020, that Former Vice President Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States.

I am glad that Biden won. While his record is not perfect (far from it), I believed that out of all of the candidates for this position, he was the one most capable of leading the country justly through these difficult times.[1] While I know I have written on here about issues with Biden’s past record, I do wish that his presidency is a successful one. To take from the words George H.W. Bush wrote to Bill Clinton upon Clinton becoming President, his success is now our country’s success.

I also know there is a strong possibility of Republicans holding on to the United States Senate. If that is indeed the case (depending on how the runoff elections in Georgia go[2]), I recognize that I will need to be realistic with what Biden is able to address, given the partisan environment with American politics at the moment. But, I shouldn’t get too ahead of myself either, as there will be two runoff elections in Georgia to help determine control of the Senate.

Election results aside, I think that there are a few thank yous that a lot of us, myself included, owe in light of the election that recently happened.

First and foremost, thank you to we, the American people, for turning out in such high numbers! Reports seem to be indicating that the turnout for this election is the highest it has been in generations. Hopefully, this level of engagement with our elections will continue well beyond 2020.

A thank you must also go to people who’ve worked the polls and counted the ballots. Without the work of these people, it would not be possible to have an election.

I thank those involved in overseeing the operations of this election. Many Secretaries of State (regardless of political affiliation) as well as local Boards of Elections have operated this election, in the middle of a pandemic, about as smoothly as one could reasonably expect. Furthermore, in light of baseless claims of election fraud from President Trump, many involved in overseeing this election have gone to great pains to be transparent about the election process (even to the point of doing things like having livestreams of places where votes are being counted). I hope this transparency will increase the faith some of us have in American democracy—a faith that seemed to be on shaky ground heading into this election.

My final thank you goes to all of the people outside the United States who have expressed thoughts for, and in the case of people of faith, prayers for, us as we go through this election. These have been tense times, so I appreciate the thoughts, well-wishes, and prayers.

Speaking of thoughts and prayers, I will end this post by requesting that people hope for (and, if you’re the praying type, pray for) a smooth transition of power from President Trump to President-elect Biden. I am sadly not confident that the transition will be smooth or that Trump will even accept the fact he lost this election, but given the challenges this country currently faces, a smooth transition of power is desperately needed.

Author’s Note: I am aware that the Trump campaign has made numerous legal challenges regarding the election results. I am also aware that Trump himself has not conceded as of the time of my writing this. However, what I hear from legal experts (which I am not) is that the legal challenges from the Trump campaign are highly unlikely to change the result of this election (even if said challenges succeed, and the overwhelming majority of challenges are not succeeding from what I hear).

Second Author’s Note: I will not publish a post next week as Veterans Day is next week.

Third Author’s Note: This post was written recently, so I apologize for any typos that may appear here.



[1] If you’re wondering why I believe this, please refer to the blog post where I explain why I support Biden: https://blindinjusticeblog.com/2020/10/26/how-issues-of-injustice-influenced-my-presidential-pick/

[2] Currently, Democrats have 48 seats (a tally that includes two independents who caucus with the Democrats). The elections for both United States Senate races in Georgia are going to a runoff. If Democrats win both races, their 50 seats will be enough to control the Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris serves as the tiebreaking vote.

Three Notes: Please Vote, Wear Your Mask, and Socially Distance

I did not publish a post yesterday evening for a reason: because I wanted to start off early Tuesday, Election Day, with a reminder for people to vote if they have not voted already.

Many of you who’ve read this will have already voted; if you are one of them, great! But if you are eligible to vote and you haven’t voted, then today is your day to vote. If you are voting today, please wear your mask and socially distance when going to the polls.

Speaking of mask wearing, I’ve noticed quite a bit of vitriol from anti-mask people. I don’t know if this is a post that will reach any such individuals, but let me be frank—before we knew about the science of mask wearing in New York (and elsewhere), the COVID situation here was a living nightmare. Hospital sirens were constant. My family went through a 10-week period where we lost, on average, three people we knew a week. A hospital in my county lost thirteen individuals…in 24 hours. This was the world without mask wearing. I beg people to wear their masks.