Note: The following is a recent letter I sent to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch on the recent decision of the Senate Judiciary Committee to avoid holding a confirmation hearing for Judge Merrick Garland. It is my personal belief that this decision is erroneous and shortsighted. If you share this belief, I invite you to send your own letter, or copy the letter below and use it. If you think I'm completely wrong, tell me why in the comments! Oh, and though I fear sounding like a broken record, I want to make it clear that ALL opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of any of my employers or affiliates.
You Can Email Senator Hatch on this or any other issue here.
Dear Senator Hatch,
I am writing to urge you to use your influence as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to advocate for an immediate hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
You are no stranger to Judge Garland’s experience and scholarship. When Garland was under consideration for a position on the D.C. judicial circuit, you praised him extensively, noting that Garland was “highly qualified to sit” on the circuit and that his “intelligence and his scholarship cannot be questioned.” Further, in 2010, when Garland was among those considered for the Supreme Court seat which ultimately went to Elena Kagan, you believed Garland was the “consensus nominee” and that there was “no question” that he would be confirmed.
Finally, just days before President Obama announced Judge Garland as his nominee, you lamented that Obama had told you several times that he would nominate a moderate, but that you believed he was lying. You went on to add: “[Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man.”
In spite of this, there appears to be little to no effort on the part of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Republican wing to even conduct a hearing for candidate Garland. I am well aware of the letter signed by you and your esteemed colleagues prior to Garland’s nomination, noting your intention to ensure the American people a “full and robust debate” over the next Supreme Court justice. While I admire the spirit of this letter, I take issue with its erroneous insistence that this debate take place upon the swearing-in of the next President of the United States. Debate on the future of the Supreme Court has already begun. Preventing a hearing for candidate Garland will merely serve to diminish the full and robust debate you are purported to endorse.
Former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick once called Judge Garland a “brilliant lawyer with excellent judgment, utterly without any political agenda, other than to do right.” Now, I’m asking you to do right — by the Supreme Court, by the responsibility of your office, and by The People of the United States. Begin the confirmation hearing for Judge Merrick Garland.
Zachary J. Stickney
Actually, this is just what my gut told me 20 minutes ago when I randomly filled out this bracket. Chances are, it will be almost entirely wrong.
But can you do better? Fill one out, and let's see what happens!
Tomorrow is Super Tuesday - the Black Friday of politics which, with a little luck, will finally give us a decent idea of who will win the nominations for the major political parties. (More likely, it will be the groundhog day of politics, and Super Tuesday’s shadow will predict a minimum of 6 more weeks of nonsense.)
Whatever the outcome, what is clear is that whoever is elected come November will have to deal with some grim realities in terms of poverty, homelessness, and income inequality. Recent figures from TalkPoverty.org show the extent of the issue: as of 2014, some 46 million Americans are living beneath the poverty line. Of those, 15.5 million are children.
In terms of homelessness, on any given night some 578,424 Americans sleep on the streets. That’s essentially the population of the entire State of Wyoming.
Fortunately, there are a number of proven policies which have helped reduce the number of chronically homeless individuals in recent years. One of the best is called Housing First. The concept is as simple as the name - the idea is basically to get people housed before you do anything else, including solving addiction, unemployment, or mental issues.
Selling this idea hits an immediate wall with skeptics: why should they, with their tax dollars, support a drug addict, or someone who refuses to work, or someone suffering from severe mental issues? Or worse, someone who is all three?
The answer is: they already are.
In the State of Utah, for example, annual costs to the state for emergency care and and jail time for homeless individuals costs approximately $17,000 a year per person. Worse, these costs rarely, if ever, do anything to solve the underlying problem of homelessness. In the case of jail time, it often exacerbates the problem by creating or adding to the individual’s criminal record, making it difficult to obtain government services or even steady employment.
So not only are taxpayers already supporting these folks, they’re supporting them in a way that gets zero bang for their buck, and perhaps actively makes the lives of homeless individuals more difficult.
Housing First, on the other hand, immediately creates a safe place for homeless individuals to live, and integrates them into systems which allow them to get preventive care, counseling or other necessary services. The real kicker? It’s cheap. On average, Utah has spent $11,000 a year per individual using the Housing First method. More importantly, it’s changing people’s lives. Since the Housing First initiative began, Utah has cut chronic homelessness in the state by 91 percent.
I should note: chronic homelessness is just one part of a broad array of homeless issues in Utah and around the country as a whole. Utah still has a homeless population of 14,000 individuals on any given night. Housing First isn’t a silver bullet to defeat homelessness, but it is an incredibly creative and paradigm-shifting policy which has improved the lives of thousands of individuals. Solutions like this are what we need to defeat homelessness and poverty in the United States.
Note: to learn more about the difference between homelessness and chronic homelessness, read this NPR article: http://www.npr.org/2015/12/10/459100751/utah-reduced-chronic-homelessness-by-91-percent-heres-how
Photo: Blog photo from Cayce Clifford for NPR.
All opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of Dogtown Redemption's directors, producers, funders, or other associated entities.