Biden, Harris muddle issue with discrimination and faulty information on climate change
Hurricane Ian’s 150 mph winds entered Florida by destroying the beach towns in Lee County, making millions depressed and deprived, which are synonyms for “disadvantaged.” Were they all considered “disadvantaged” by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris?
President Biden, while standing in the rubble of the Ian-destroyed Ft. Myers, Fla., ignored the “disadvantaged” Floridians by discussing the Colorado River before global warming by saying, as only he could, “What the governor has done is pretty remarkable so far, what is, what he’s done. In terms of, you know, it’s, it’s you know, first of all, the biggest thing the governor has done and so many others have done, they recognize this thing called global warming.”
Mr. President, the governor standing next to you is named Ron DeSantis, and you should check your conclusions on global warming with those of your acting director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Hurricane Center, Jamie Rhome.
Mr. Rhome told CNN, “I don’t think you can link climate change to any one event,” after a NOAA study concluded it was “premature to conclude with high confidence that human-caused increasing greenhouse gasses have any impact on hurricane activity in the Atlantic.” The founder of Environmental Progress, Michael Schellenberger, tweeted the “NOAA analysis shows there is no definitive long-term trend in hurricane frequency or in increasing intensity.”
Since the president failed to discuss with the hurricane victims any specifics about how the Federal Emergency Management Assistance would aid the “disadvantaged,” what did the vice president say?
Vice President Kamala Harris, while safely ensconced at the DNC Women’s Leadership Forum, used FEMA to connect the president’s fixation on climate change to his administration’s fixation with systemic racism, by offering this policy for FEMA: “We have to address this in a way that is about giving resources based on equity, understanding that we fight for equality but also need to fight for equity. People of color would get disaster aid before white people.”
Florida Rapid Response Director Christina Preshow said Florida would not follow the vice president’s policy, and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell appears to be ready to ignore the vice president by agreeing with Christina to follow the FEMA Mission Statement, which is “to help people before, during and after disasters, such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and forest fires.”
Sadly, the vice president saying “People of color would get disaster aid before white people” was both a violation of her oath of office as the attorney general of California and a prevailing theme of this administration. Here are a few other examples:
— In August, 2022, the Senate approved Donald R. Cravins Jr., as the head of the group of minorities who runs the Minority Business Development Agency, which is part of the Department of Commerce. The MBDA website states they are “solely dedicated to the growth and global competitiveness of minority business enterprises.” The MBDA runs grant programs, offers training programs, and assists in financing and other things only for “disadvantaged” businesses. Would all the Florida businesses destroyed by Ian be considered “disadvantaged?”
Not really, because the MBDA defines “disadvantaged” by race. For example, here are the races that qualify as “disadvantaged” and their percentages of the California population in 2018: African Americans, 5.8%; Hispanics, 22.9%; American Indians, 0.8%; Asians 14.7%; Pacific Islanders 0.4%; other races, 5.8%, and mixed, 13%.
Amazingly, while many of the programs silently practice discrimination, the MBDA actually provides that the “all white-owned businesses are presumed to be ‘not disadvantaged’,” which in California is 37%.
Here are a few programs with the same race-based definition of “disadvantaged.”
In 2021, they instituted a farmer loan forgiveness program of $4 billion to help only black farmers and “other socially disadvantaged producers” with 120% of outstanding U.S. Department of Agriculture loans, meaning that not only would the loans be expunged but the USDA would add a 20% cash kicker. Notice the use of “socially disadvantaged” instead of “business disadvantaged.” A Florida judge blocked this program.
A Restaurant Revitalization Fund prioritized “disadvantage” restaurant owners. The Sixth Circuit ruled that the program administered by the Small Business Administration was unconstitutionally based on race and sex.
A Homeowner Assistance Fund with flexible standards for only “disadvantaged” homeowners of $9.961 billion as part of the American Rescue Plan administered by the Treasury Department.
A $37 billion infrastructure fund for “disadvantaged” federal contractors. It appears the administration is indicating the it discriminates based on race since it is the one who signs these contracts.
It appears that the USDA, SBA and the Treasury Department would be practicing systemic racism if the Equality Under Law Project had not obtained the favorable court orders, one substantial programmatic change and one legislative repeal. How many more similar programs are there?
The only apparent benefit of Hurricane Ian appears to be that the vice president’s definition of “disadvantaged” under FEMA connected the administration’s fixation with climate change, despite the conclusions of the Hurricane Center of the NOAA, and race, despite it being illegal under the Constitution and laws of the U.S.
Where is the Department of Justice?
The reality is that when everybody in the room is defined as “disadvantaged” except you, then you are the one who is “disadvantaged.”
Hopefully in Florida, FEMA will not use race to prioritize the aid for the “disadvantaged.” Longer term it appears that the needs of citizens will become at least as important as climate change, and equality can only be achieved by voting these leaders out.
Brent E. Zepke is an attorney, arbitrator and author who lives in Santa Barbara. His website is OneheartTwoLivescom.wordpress.com. Formerly, he taught law and business at six universities and numerous professional conferences. He is the author of six books: “One Heart-Two Lives,” “Legal Guide to Human Resources,” “Business Statistics,” “Labor Law,” “Products and the Consumer” and “Law for Non-Lawyers.”