Archive for Poverty

At an event Saturday night in eastern Tennessee, an organizer brought up the meme that poor people tend to “vote against their best interests,” for Republicans who vote to slash safety net programs that keep them afloat. This complaint, as I have written, is an old pet peeve. First, because it’s a lefty dog whistle for saying those voters are stupid — which they hear clearly even if we cannot. And second, as liberals do we really want our neighbors to go into the voting booth to vote what’s best for No. 1 rather than for an America that aspires to something better? But Saturday night, the same organizer offered a new twist from a New York Timesarticle by ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis:

In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.

This is perhaps a manifestation of the “last place aversion” I wrote about in February. It is the need to have someone to look down on so you do not see yourself on the bottom rung of life’s ladder: Read More→


List of demands

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How far down the rabbit hole have we gone that Republican candidates for president think they are entitled to a list of demands from networks hosting debates (and I use that term reservedly) that would make rock bands blush? (Remember, no brown M&Ms.) The Washington Post obtained the list. Here are just a few:

  • Will there be questions from the audience or social media? How many? How will they be presented to the candidates? Will you acknowledge that you, as the sponsor, take responsibilities for all questions asked, even if not asked  by your personnel?
  • Will there be a gong/buzzer/bell when time is up? How will the moderator enforce the time limits?
  • Will you commit that you will not:
    • Ask the candidate to raise their hands to answer a question
    • Ask yes/no questions without time to provide a substantive answer
    • Allow candidate-to-candidate questioning
    • Allow props or pledges by the candidates
    • Have reaction shots of members of the audience or moderators during debates
    • Show an empty podium after a break (describe how far away the bathrooms are)
    • Use behind shots of the candidates showing their notes
    • Leave microphones on during the breaks
    • Allow members of the audience to wear political messages (shirts, buttons, signs, etc.). Who enforces?
  • What is the size of the audience? Who is receiving tickets in addition to the candidates? Who’s in charge of distributing those tickets and filling the seats?
  • What instructions will you provide the audience about cheering during the debate?
  • What are your plans for the lead-in to the debate (Pre-shot video? Announcer to moderator? Director to Moderator?) and how long is it?
  • What type of microphones (lavs or podium)?
  • Can you pledge that the temperature in the hall be kept below 67 degrees?

Dude, can I get on the “guest list” and a backstage pass to hang out with the band?

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The Poors: Leaded and unleaded

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Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Once again, our vigilant T-party politicians are on the alert for the theoretical possibility of crimes by the Poors. Courtesy of Charlie Pierce comes the next wave of imaginary dirty tricks perpetrated by the Poors on honest, decent Americans. Landlords, in this case:

Holt is Maryland’s secretary of housing, community and development, and he is wise to the ways of America’s crafty poor people. Holt is seeking to “relax” Maryland’s lead-poisoning law in order to take the jackboot of regulation off the necks of the state’s landlords. And nothing gets by Kenneth Holt.

From the Baltimore Sun:

Kenneth C. Holt, secretary of Housing, Community and Development, told an audience at the Maryland Association of Counties summer convention here that a mother could just put a lead fishing weight in her child’s mouth, then take the child in for testing and a landlord would be liable for providing the child with housing until the age of 18.

Pressed afterward, Holt said he had no evidence of this happening but said a developer had told him it was possible. “This is an anecdotal story that was described to me as something that could possibly happen,” Holt said.

Thank heavens these public servants are always on high alert for the possibility of widespread voter fraud (or was it the widespread possibility?) and other dangers for which they never seem to produce evidence. Bigfoot might steal their Wheat Thins. The Poors might counterfeit the governor’s power bill.
Prisoners might hide tiny revolvers in their beards. “Just because we haven’t found the example doesn’t mean they aren’t there” was good enough to argue last year before the Supreme Court.

Pierce continues:

Republican audiences are perfectly willing to buy the notion that clever moms are having their children suck on lead weights to stick it to their landlords and get something for nothing. Within the Republican Party, there is a relentless search for solutions to problems that do not exist, and an equally relentless search for suckers in the general public.

Monorail. Monorail. Monorail.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : National, Poverty
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Georgetown Panel On Poverty

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Worth your time:

Categories : National, Poverty
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Behold, the relativist wasteland

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A number of people have taken shots at David Brooks this week for his essential cluelessness about people who are not David Brooks. Over at Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi calls Brooks’ “The Cost of Relativism” his “10 thousandth odious article about how rich people are better parents than the poor.” Taibbi writes:

Brooks then goes on to relate some of the horrific case studies from the book – more on those in a moment – before coming to his inevitable conclusion, which is that poor people need to get off the couch, stop giving in to every self-indulgent whim, and discipline their wild offspring before they end up leaving their own illegitimate babies on our lawns:

Next it will require holding people responsible. People born into the most chaotic situations can still be asked the same questions: Are you living for short-term pleasure or long-term good? Are you living for yourself or for your children? Do you have the freedom of self-control or are you in bondage to your desires?

Yes, improving your station is a simple matter self-discipline and of pulling yourself up by those bootstraps, if you have the boots. Can’t find a job? Pull together some investors and start your own business. Personal responsibility … yadda, yadda, yadda … achieve the American Dream.

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Inequality for dummies

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Corey Robin considers the irony of how white children learn about Martin Luther King while attending schools that have essentially re-seregated since the Nixon years. He casts a jaundiced eye on the effort for Salon:

In the United States, we often try to solve political and economic questions through our schools rather than in society. Instead of confronting social inequality with mass political action and state redistribution, we prefer to educate poor children to wealth. Education can involve some redistribution: making sure, for example, that black, Latino and working-class students have comparable resources, facilities and teachers as white or wealthy students. But one need only compare the facilities at the Park Slope school my daughter attends with those of an elementary school in East New York—or take a walk around James Hall at Brooklyn College, where I teach political science, and then take a walk around the halls at Yale, where I studied political science—to see we’re a long way from even that minimal redistribution.

Sometimes, our self-deception can be downright funny. Two weekends ago, the New York Times profiled a group of fancy private schools in New York City where wealthy, white and privileged students learn that they are … wealthy, white and privileged. There’s even an annual “White Privilege Conference,” which is being held this year at Dalton School (tuition: $41,350). More and more private schools, according to the Times, “select students to attend” that conference. These students are so select (and these schools so selective) that they have to be selected to attend a conference on their selectedness.

No amount of talking about class advantage this way will change it, Robin believes. He’s right. It’s not the kind of learning that comes from classroom exercises or a book.

But still, as children of advantage, doesn’t talking about structural inequality feel right in a truthiness kind of way? To talk about inequality and believe you’re actually doing something about inequality, the way clicktivism feels like activism. Season the lessons with terms like “micro-aggressions,” have students create and discuss “identity cards,” and such conversations become buzzword bingo. Corey Robin calls this kind of education “the quintessential American hustle.”

“Bingo, sir.”

(Cross-posted from Hullabloo.)

Categories : Poverty, Race
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The pigment tax

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Reading Charles Blow’s New York Times column this morning, one phrase stopped me cold: a pigment tax. That, essentially, is what the Justice Department’s report charges the Ferguson Police Department was extracting from African American citizens:

The view that emerges from the Justice Department report is that citizens were not only paying a poverty tax, but a pigment tax as the local authorities sought to balance their budgets and pad their coffers on the backs of poor black people.

Perhaps most disturbing — and damning — is actual correspondence in the report where the authorities don’t even attempt to disguise their intent.

Take this passage from the report:

“In March 2010, for instance, the City Finance Director wrote to Chief [Thomas] Jackson that ‘unless ticket writing ramps up significantly before the end of the year, it will be hard to significantly raise collections next year. . . . Given that we are looking at a substantial sales tax shortfall, it’s not an insignificant issue.’ Similarly, in March 2013, the Finance Director wrote to the City Manager: ‘Court fees are anticipated to rise about 7.5%. I did ask the Chief if he thought the PD could deliver 10% increase. He indicated they could try.’”

The report, writes Blow, reads like an account of “a shakedown gang.”

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A zombie faith

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It was kind of stunning, actually, to see the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson invoke “the common good” in a national newspaper, as I mentioned yesterday. Speaking of that sort of thing (like “public trust”) being so gauche and all. Pitting people against each other? Now that’s how you get ahead in politics. At least, for a certain kind of politician.

Long ago, President Lyndon Johnson explained how this conservative schtick works:

If you can convince the lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you.

The Fox News business model, ladies and gentlemen. They’ve just expanded the palette a little.

Regarding pitting people against each other, Michael Hiltzik yesterday looked at how the Republican Congress is dealing with Social Security disability funding — not by solving the problem, but by “intensifying the crisis.” Someone must be punished, and Republicans are pretty sure it’s the Poors, the aged, and the infirm:

In practical terms, the rule change sets up a confrontation over Social Security’s finances by pitting the program’s retirees against its disabled beneficiaries and their dependents. The confrontation is totally unnecessary, because the required reallocation would have minimal effect on the old-age program. The old-age trust fund, which is still growing today and has not yet been tapped, is expected to last at least until 2034; the reallocation would make both the disability and old-age funds solvent until 2033, according to the latest estimates by the Social Security trustees.

The rule change does, however, reflect Republicans’ cherished disdain for disability recipients, whom they love to caricature as malingering layabouts. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) slathered himself in iniquity last month when he told a New Hampshire audience: “Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts.”

Digby dealt with this at Salon yesterday, noting that at $1,130/mo on average, nobody’s living large on disability. But:

Apparently, even that’s too much. The government needs to crack down on these lazy moochers and put them to work. Back in the day they used to sell pencils and apples on street corners, amirite? And in third world countries you see plenty of horrifically disabled people making a tidy living by begging. They show the kind of gumption we are denying our paraplegics and mentally ill by molly coddling them with a poverty level stipend.

“Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled,” the apostle wrote mockingly of false piety, teaching that faith without works is dead. But that zombie faith is much in vogue.

This morning, Stephen Richter examines the need conservative lights such as George Will have to keep flogging the welfare horse, writing:

If there is a resurgence of the level of transfer payments to welfare recipients now, that is not due to any relaxation of the standards under which people qualify for welfare. (Indeed, the bar to obtain and keep benefits remains quite high.)

Nor is it the result of some sweeping cultural degradation foisted upon the good and hard-working American people by “progressives,” as Will ultimately insists. There is little to suggest struggling Americans have become newly enthusiastic about being compelled to seek help – including from the government – to make ends meet.

That the United States is at the bottom of rankings of social mobility among OECD countries matters little to theoreticians like Will, Richter writes.

Facts be damned. Hands up as well as handouts are for the weak, and against the natural order. The Founders may have mentioned tending to the “general welfare” twice in the U.S. Constitution, but they didn’t really mean it. Social Darwinism and The Market are hungry gods.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : National, Poverty, Religion
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What’s in a racial label?

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Esther J. Cepeda’s Washington Post op-ed discusses a study by Emory University researchers, “A rose by any other name?: The consequences of subtyping ‘African-Americans’ from ‘Blacks’”. Specifically, the study looked at how white people responded to the two terms and their attached stereotypes. Notice, there’s as much class as race here:

The researchers conducted four distinct studies in the realms of employment, media and criminal justice to determine the perceptions of the two labels in different contexts.

The data they collected point to whites believing that the label “Black” evokes a mental representation of a person with lower socioeconomic status, education, positivity, competence and warmth than the label “African-American.” And whites “will react more negatively” toward “Blacks” than toward “African-Americans.”

Even more chilling, the researchers found that use of the label “Black” in a newspaper crime report is associated with more negative emotional words than in an article featuring the words “African-American.” And whites view a criminal suspect more negatively when that person is identified as “Black” versus “African-American.”

Wonder how they’d react to calling them “citizens” or “people”? Or “neighbors”?

I noticed how both Cepeda and I both typed lower case above when writing “white” as though it is an ordinary adjective and less of a racial label, while the study prefers “White.” Race is always there, Cepeda notes, because “no matter how post-racial any of us thinks we are, we’re all carrying around varying degrees of racial and ethnic bias.”

For example, this reference in the report to another study jumped out at me for some reason:

Participants, who were predominantly White Americans, rated “poor Blacks” low in both warmth and competence and perceived them similarly to poor Whites and welfare recipients (Figure 1, p. 885, 887, Fiske et al., 2002). Conversely, participants rated “Black professionals” as having high competence and high warmth and perceived them similarly to Americans, the middle class, Christians, the Irish, and housewives (Figure 2, p. 638, Cuddy et al., 2007).

The Irish? HEY! What’s up with that?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Poverty, Race, Science
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That Time of Year

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People choosing between food and heat? It’s that time of year:

This past holiday week, those fortunate enough celebrated with family and friends around their Thanksgiving tables. But for those in our communities who are struggling to make ends meet, winter can be the toughest part of the year. According to the North Carolina Association of Feeding America Food Banks, about 160,000 people statewide receive emergency food assistance weekly and 75 percent of those individuals live in households who choose between buying food and heating their homes.

Times are tough around here as well. Please donate to Manna FoodBank. (See link in sidebar.)

Categories : Action, Local, Poverty
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