This interview is part of a series of interviews with the Democratic and Republican candidates for Maryland governor in 2022. In these interviews, WTOP asked all the candidates the same or similar questions on education, public safety and crime, jobs and the economy, and transportation. The Maryland primary is July 19.
The candidate: Jerome Segal
Running mate: Justinian Dispenza, member of the Galena, Maryland, town council
Jerome Segal is a philosopher and the founder of the Bread and Roses party, under whose banner he ran for president in Maryland in 2020. In his campaign for governor, he’s running as a Democrat.
He previously ran for Maryland Senate in 2018, seeking to challenge Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. In an eight-way race in which Cardin won 80% of the vote, Segal won about 3%.
A fierce critic of Israel’s policies, Segal said he’s the only candidate in the race with foreign policy experience. He says his Bread and Roses party is seeking to usher in the third era of American history, which he says will be centered around a new form of socialism he calls “graceful simplicity,” in which people work less and have more time for the things that are meaningful to them.
“You listen to all these other people running. Oh, it’s jobs, jobs, jobs. It’s getting into the middle class, equal opportunity,” Segal says. “No — that’s the old agenda. We’re ready to move into something that I would call utopia. We can do it without utopian policies. We could do it just by some savvy policy analysis.”
The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.
WTOP: Because of the pandemic, everyone’s thinking about concerns about learning loss about students mental health as well as their social interactions. And layered over this, the next governor is going to have to implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. What are your plans for education?
Segal: Oh, well, let me give you the short answer, right? And I said this to the Maryland State Education Association. So I haven’t held back, OK? The blueprint is really two different documents. One is a social justice document, and I totally support it. It’s about closing the the gaps. It’s about, your ZIP code [not] determining your destiny. It’s about free pre-K. It’s about everything that everybody loves about the blueprint, OK. Totally great. Gold standard for the United States.
The other thing is the educational component, which is quite different. You can have justice, fairness, and your allocation of educational resources. But completely wide open is what do you use those resources for? What do you mean by education? What should be taught in the schools? What’s the mission of the schools, the blueprint addresses both of those. Now, I used to teach philosophy of education at University of Pennsylvania. On that issue, I said to the Maryland State Teachers Association, “this document is the most impoverished document that any government commission has ever produced in the history of the United States.” It is total garbage, total garbage, and I would fire the whole State Board of Education for doing this, and I won’t implement it. I won’t implement it. I’ll either use the powers of the governor or new legislation. And I’ll open up a statewide conversation about what should be the missions — missions, plural — of schools in Maryland.
And let me just throw in two things. First of all, Maryland ain’t doing so bad. You know why Maryland ain’t doing so bad? It’s because education is about producing the next generation. Maryland beat Trump by 30%. Right? That tells us something good is happening in Maryland. The more education you had, the more likely you were to vote for Biden over Trump. That’s basic. That’s basic. Tells you something’s right in Maryland. The second thing is this notion that the whole blueprint was based on, which is that we don’t have a world-class schooling system, right?
As soon as you start talking about world class with respect to schooling, whether you think we’ve got one or don’t, as soon as you conceptualize in that way, you’ve gone down the rabbit hole. And it shows that you don’t know or haven’t thought deeply about what education and schools are, because that’s a competitive metaphor. You can talk about world-class soccer teams. You could talk about world-class commandos in the Air Force, right? Because you know what it is to be better or worse, right? When you start talking about world-class schools, and you’re comparing ourselves to Shanghai and Singapore: On what basis are you comparing them? What’s the metric? As soon as you have to answer what’s the metric, what did you base that judgment on? Well, you know what it is? It’s the only thing you can do, which is standardized testing.
Kids in Singapore take the same test as kids in Maryland, and they do better or worse. So it’s testing in math, and testing in reading comprehension. And that’s the fundamental basis for it, right? Well, guess what? The missions of schools go way beyond how you do on standardized testing. And so in order to put some intellectual floor behind this commitment to this comparative metric, you know, what the blueprint does? It comes up with a focus on what they call college and career readiness, which is just to single out getting a good job, which is only one of like 10 big missions for schools, and it focuses just on that one. And then on that one, it’s idiotic. It has no analysis of the future job market. The word automation doesn’t appear at all. It has no linkage between how you do on math problems and whether or not you’re ready for career success. Name me one person in Maryland who lost their job, because they couldn’t do Algebra II, in an age in which you can just say, “Siri, what’s the cube root of 318?”
I mean, it’s wacko. Right? It’s, it’s not based on anything, except … the needs of bureaucrats to show that they are, quote-unquote, modern managers. And for that they need to be, quote-unquote, accountable. So they need something that’s measurable, so that they can show that they’re making progress. And they’ll define progress in terms of whatever it is that’s measurable.
Amartya Sen, who got the Nobel Prize and is both a philosopher and economist, said that one of the stupidest things you can ever do is prefer to be precisely wrong over being vaguely correct. And that’s what the blueprint is. It’s dealing with a quantitative standard that is precisely wrong over being broadly correct and being broadly correct, means opening your mind to what is the mission of schools? Well, the mission of schools depends on the problems of society. And it depends on the values that we’ve got for our young people. And I say we think in terms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the framework for Maryland, right? Just taking the pursuit of happiness … people have to learn, among other things, that money isn’t the good life. In terms of protecting liberty, they’ve got to learn the virtues that allow them to say, “No, Mr. President, I won’t find 13,823 votes for you, because that’s not how this country works.” When do they learn those virtues? They’re spending more time, from day care to college, with their teachers in schools, than all of human history … The school and the invasion of the state, is the basic way in which we create character — or fail to — in this society.
WTOP: Every jurisdiction has to form their own police accountability board. What are your concerns about that? And how do you then also recruit and retain police?
Segal: It’s a complex question. But first of all, yeah, I’m all for accountability. But I think it’s too high a standard. Neighborhoods should not have to prove that some policemen did X, Y, and Z to say, “We’re uncomfortable with this person being here.”
So I would actually give — like in a jury trial, there are a certain number of jurors, potentially, that you can exclude without even giving cause. And I would give every neighborhood to simply say, with respect to any policeman, that, “You know what? We’d rather have you be in some other neighborhood, OK.” You don’t have to bring any charges. You don’t have to produce anything. You just say, “We’ve had a little bit of experience with you, and you’re just not our preferred cop on the beat.” That will change police behavior overnight. You know, why? If 10 neighborhoods reject the same cop, the police department has a big problem, because they’re paying for someone that’s not making a contribution to policing. So I would add that to accountability.
The other thing is, I think we have to have a way of getting really dangerous people off the streets and out of society. I grew up in the Bronx, and I grew up in a better neighborhood than a lot of other people in the Bronx. And yet, I was still scared as a kid. Even as an adult, I was scared to walk in certain neighborhoods, just between me and the subway. And as a child of the culture there, when I was three and four years old, I knew about the ropes on the street, and who to watch out for and who not to. And parents didn’t know a thing about that. So it happens at the earliest days, right? So we’ve got to deal with that. And I have a variety of ways of dealing with that.
But one is we have to have a way of taking people off the streets. The problem isn’t identifying those people. The problem is, what do we do with them? And we don’t have any humane institutions that you can, with good conscience, … remove someone and put them there and believe that he’s in a place or she’s in a place where they can still develop into a decent human being. Instead, what we do is we put them with hardened criminals, and we make them worse. So what we need to do is to rethink it. Maybe we need another term, not even to call it prison. Maybe it should be more like, you know, a certain kind of schooling, but a process in which in good conscience we take young people — and it is young people who are threats to other young people — and we say to them, “Look, you know, we can even give you a choice, you could do it voluntarily: Would you like to go to this beautiful boarding school and you’ll get special education. and you’ll come out of that with a great job. But you just won’t be able to scare other kids in Baltimore for the next 10 years.”
WTOP: Police retention and recruitment?
Segal: Look, I think we have to redefine the role of policemen, first of all, OK? There are experiments with systems that they have that are working on the West Coast. One’s called CAHOOTS, and they found that, like, only 15% of the emergency calls required sending out a guy with a gun — that you needed a social worker, really for the others. So you got to redefine what’s the role of a policeman? That’s one thing.
But second thing is, who are the police? And ultimately, either they change or we change them. We can’t have a culture in which, you know, Black parents have to have the talk. Right? That’s crazy. Absolutely crazy, that you’ve had a talk to your son, about how to avoid getting killed if you’re stopped for driving while Black. So that’s the bottom line. And we’ve got to put it to them that this is a new definition of policing — and love it or leave it.
And as far as recruiting is concerned, I have a proposal I call “Camp David day camp.” And it’s a free sleepaway camp that we’d have in Frederick County, where the real Camp David is located. And we would have free two months sleepaway for every kid from a violent neighborhood in Maryland. But also in that camp, we’d have training for kids who are a little bit older, to become counselors and, ultimately, young teachers who would support this. It’s out of that group that I’d create the next generation of police, and keep them segregated from the existing culture. Because what we found is that no matter what you do, if you take someone even with a different kind of training, and you put them into the existing police culture, they get transformed by the existing police culture into the same kind of cops that we’ve got. So you’ve got to stabilize that transition, and let them go from being protectors of young people to then having four or five years on the beat. So they’re not cowed by, as it were, the professional cop who says them on Day One, “Hey, you know all that stuff you’ll learn in the academy, forget it, because this is Baltimore.” And that’s how the culture reasserts itself. So you’ve got to start with the right people and then keep them segregated until they’ve got enough security and know how to be, on the beat, a different kind of policeman and they can say, “Hey, not me. That’s not my Baltimore.”
Jobs, economy, transportation
WTOP: The next question deals with jobs and the economy, and I folded transportation into that, because we so often hear that companies look at our transportation system.
Segal: So right off the bat, I’m in favor of a legal right to a job, right. We don’t have that in any state. Franklin Delano Roosevelt talked about that in his fourth State of the Union message, but he never introduced legislation for that. The one time that there was legislation was in 1977, I was working on the Hill at the time. In fact, I was I was the administrator of a House Budget Committee task force on social justice that I helped create, and we held hearings on it. It was called the Humphrey-Hawkins Bill. But the legal right to a job was taken out in order for it to pass.
Some of the most progressive things in labor legislation occurred first on the state level. So I would do that in Maryland — have people have a legal right to a job.
My proposal actually is more complex, but it would be for a four-day-a-week job, because I want to move actually to a shorter work week, which is what Bread and Roses is about, which is taking back your time for that part of life, which is really your passions and not what you do just for money — and making it financially viable for people with low income and low wages to live nonetheless on a shorter work week. But that’s a complex agenda.
So first of all, we’re going to guarantee people jobs. Second of all, we’re going to have a real supply of jobs, because we’re going to give major incentives for expanding the nonprofit sector. So it’s not just employment, but it’s also what people do — it’ll be meaningful jobs that address unmet needs in society. A lot of things I would do if I had control at the national level, right? But just on the state level, we can turn this around.
Now, as far as transportation is concerned, that’s one of the places in which we’re going to make it possible for people to work less. You know why? Because we spend, right now, 20% of our money on transportation. If we spend 20% of our money on transportation, except for very wealthy people, it actually means that we spend 20% of our work time earning the money for that. And that’s one day a week … Well, we can knock the transportation part of the household budget down from 20% to 5%. And we can do that by making it possible for everyone to switch to what I call a near-free EV.
That is an electric vehicle that costs about $3,000, right? Because almost all of that 20% Is the car, and it’s gasoline, and its upkeep and insurance. We have a whole set of transportation policies. This cheap electric vehicle — General Motors is making them now in China. General Motors owns 40%, of a company that’s making the Wuling Mini, which sells for $4,500 in China. And in America, you’ve got to pay $50,000 or $60,000 for a Tesla.
So being a socialist, you know what I’ll do? Day One, I’ll be on the phone to the CEO of General Motors and I’ll say, “You know what we’re thinking? Either we’ll be the intermediary, and we’ll purchase from Honda 100,000 of these things directly from China — in fact, we’ll purchase them from you in China and sell them here. Or, if you make us do this, we will actually start the Maryland Auto Company. And we’ll not only have jobs, but we’ll produce inexpensive electric vehicles, not just for Maryland, but for California too. And we’ll drive you guys right out of the market. So you better — within the next few months — show us your plan for an EV that will be under $10,000 in Maryland. Maryland already has a $3,000 subsidy. And Biden has a $7,000 subsidy for EV planned. So with the subsidies, and General Motors’ EV that ‘s $10,000 or less, we’ll have the new free EV which will allow us to knock out 15% of household expenditures, which is 15% more time, which is three-quarters of a day, which means that one policy alone will start the weekend at 10:30 on Friday morning, right?
… We’ve got doable policies that can have this impact within a few years. But we’ve got them locked into something vastly bigger than anybody else in America is thinking, which is really the new American Dream, which I was talking about before … Moving into the third phase of the American experiment, which is quality and having possession of your own time, rather than “Everybody gets into the middle class.” You listen to all these other people running: Oh, it’s jobs, jobs, jobs. It’s getting into the middle class, equal opportunity. No — that’s the old agenda. We’re ready to move into something that I would call utopia. We can do it without utopian policies. We could do it just by some savvy policy analysis. And that’s what I’ve been for 40 years, a policy analyst — and 25 years at University of Maryland School of Public Policy.
WTOP: Got it. Let me ask on some of the transportation issues. Two things that have come up Chesapeake Bay Bridge: Do we widen, do we add a bridge? And what about this plan for tolls on I-270 and the Beltway?
Segal: So, my whole approach this is only for safety reasons, right? This country made a terrible mistake in running after the automobile. I would do nothing to make automobile travel more feasible, OK? Public transportation. We want to get the automobile — except for the free EV, but even with that, because we’ve got congestion issues, we want to get that out of our lives. One of the ways that we’ll deal with congestion is a four-day work week and three-day work week. So right away with a four-day workweek, we’re down to 80% of the cars on the road. We’ll be down to 60% of them, if we get to the three-day workweek, right? So what we do is we invest in public transportation, and we invest basically, in making it possible to get to the shorter work week, rather than to accommodate the automobile. Every time we’ve tried to accommodate the automobile, you know, what happens? You get more car traffic. It’s just a vicious cycle. We should have stopped that 30 years ago. OK, but it’s over. That’s part of phase two. That’s part of the era of mass consumption and mass idiocy. What we’re looking for is quality of life, OK? And that’s what the the third era of the American experiment should be.
So, no to widening the wideway, no to the third span of the Bay Bridge. But yes — if a
bridge is about to fall or is in danger of falling, yeah, then we’ll invest in … security.
WTOP: I think you’ve talked about this, but what sets you apart and qualifies you to be governor?
Segal: Well, I’ll mention something that I haven’t mentioned. I’m actually the only person in the campaign who has any foreign policy experience. You think, “Well, that’s pretty irrelevant.” Well, it’s not. And in fact, I actually believe in a much broader conception of what a governor is, in part because we have a dysfunctional national system, and governors have got to step up.
But there’s actually a lot of foreign policy that’s involved in even the present being governor. So Hogan, for instance, has an executive order that prevents the state from doing any business with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, because Ben & Jerry’s said it will boycott West Bank Israeli settlements … So Hogan has an executive order that prohibits Ben & Jerry’s from doing business. And Wes Moore and Gansler and Peter Franchot, fell all over themselves, in an interview with the Maryland Bar Association, pledging to continue that Hogan edict.
On Ukraine, Hogan just delivered tactical protective vests collected from the state police to the Ukrainian military. So we got involved in foreign policy.
One of the things I think we should be involved in, because of a dysfunctional federal government, is immigration. There is no set of immigration policies that are going to deal with the millions of people that … understandably want to come into the United States from Central America. And the only way to deal with that is actually to transform Central America. We should be giving Central America $40 billion, just as we gave Ukraine $40 billion. And there are only half as many people in Central America as there are in Ukraine, by the way. And Maryland, right now, should put in a billion — as the richest state in the country — we should put our billion in right now, rather than waiting for the federal government if it will get around to this … but it’ll come from our taxes one way or the other. We should put it in right now.
And part of what we should use that for is not just investment than trade and technology transfer. But one place where we really have an advantage is federal government, right? Civil service. Maryland is filled both in terms of people like at the School of Public Policy, where I was, and the incredible advantage of having all of these high quality civil servants who work in government. Montgomery County, Prince George’s County — we’re filled with them, people like myself. I was a GS-15 for years.
We should start, in Maryland, an international school of public service that will train an entire new generation of high-quality young professionals to be civil service professionals throughout Central America and possibly throughout all of South America. And we could do the same thing with the business community. And if we had decent police academies, we could do it also with the police. But basically, we’ve got to have this whole transformation of the intellectual culture of people who run government, who run business and run the police in all in Central America. And then we’ll have the beginning of the kind of transformation that will make Central America — and it’s beautiful; I’ve been to Nicaragua; I’ve been to Honduras; I I’ve been to El Salvador. Those countries are great places to live if you deal with the human institutions, where right now that failed states.
But that’s where we got to work. We can transform them. And we can have an open-door Statue of Liberty policy to refugees. I’m all for that. My father was an immigrant; my mother was first-generation. In fact, I’m a Dreamer. My father was an illegal. He was an illegal immigrant.
Interview by Kate Ryan; edited by Jack Moore