Thursday, February 16, 2017

The biggest beneficiaries of the government safety net: working-class whites

(Photo Credit: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

By Tracy Jan
The Washington Post

Working-class whites are the biggest beneficiaries of federal poverty-reduction programs, even though blacks and Hispanics have substantially higher rates of poverty, according to a new study to be released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Government assistance and tax credits lifted 6.2 million working-class whites out of poverty in 2014, more than any other racial or ethnic demographic. Half of all working-age adults without college degrees lifted out of poverty by safety-net programs are white; nearly a quarter are black and a fifth are Hispanic.

The result does not simply reflect the fact that there are more white people in the country. The percentage of otherwise poor whites lifted from poverty by government safety-net programs is higher, at 44 percent, compared to 35 percent of otherwise poor minorities, the study concluded.

Among working-class minorities, blacks also benefit significantly from government programs, with 43 percent of otherwise poor blacks being lifted from poverty by the safety net. Only 28 percent of otherwise poor Hispanics were lifted from poverty by these programs.

“There is a perception out there that the safety net is only for minorities. While it’s very important to minorities because they have higher poverty rates and face barriers that lead to lower earnings, it’s also quite important to whites, particularly the white working class,” said Isaac Shapiro, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and one of the report’s authors.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank in Washington, analyzed working-age, non-college educated adult beneficiaries of more than a dozen government benefits, including food stamps, welfare, housing subsidies, tax credits, home energy assistance, school lunch programs, and Social Security.

Without the government programs, 24 percent of whites were poor, compared to 43 percent of blacks and 36 percent of Hispanics. After the programs, 13 percent of whites were poor, compared to 24 percent of blacks and 26 percent of Hispanics.

The researchers did not draw a conclusion from their study as to why working class whites are disproportionately helped by government poverty reduction programs. One possibility is that white Americans are better positioned to know all the government benefits that are available to them, Shapiro said. Whites also benefit more from the Social Security system than minorities, both because they may have paid more into it and they are an older population, he said.

Shapiro said that the low percentage of Hispanic beneficiaries reflects that the Census Bureau counts unauthorized immigrants in the poverty rate, but they are not eligible to receive most government benefits aimed at the poor.

Working-class whites drawn to President Trump’s campaign may be particularly hard hit by the policies of the Trump administration and congressional Republicans, Shapiro said, including the push to dismantle President Obama's health-care reform law and changing the way food stamps and other programs for the poor are administered. The safety net appears to be even more critical, he said, in states with a large share of working-class whites, including the previously blue states of Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio that flipped to Trump in 2016.

“A missing element of the political conversation has been the degree to which government programs are important to the working class in general, and the white working class in particular,” Shapiro said. “Many of these programs could be the subject of dramatic cuts over the next year. Rather than helping the working class address their basic needs and escape from poverty, the potential political agenda is going to push precisely in the opposite direction.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Donald Trump, the Arsonist-In-Chief?

President Donald J. Trump

By Michael D'Antonio

President for just two weeks, Donald Trump is courting a constitutional crisis over his ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
He has spooked allies around the world, fired the acting attorney general, feuded with Arnold Schwarzenegger over TV ratings and inspired millions to protest in the streets.

Remarkably, Trump has managed to create all this excitement, drama and chaos with little effort.The spree of irresponsibility has involved both putting his signature on hastily drafted documents and firing off words in public or on Twitter.
Trump's tweet about the " so-called" judge who stopped his anti-immigrant/anti-refugee order, for example, was uniquely impulsive for a modern President.

After each of these moves, Trump has then stood back and watched the world struggle to respond.The easiest way to understand why Trump does all this might be to call it political arson.

The analogy isn't perfect, but consider how Trump and a skeleton White House crew have used multiple incendiary actions to create a sense of emergency, while expressing little concern for those who are affected.

This is precisely how an arsonist disturbs the peace. With a flick of a match, he sets a destructive fire and then thrills to the reactions.

Likewise, the nation and the world are reacting in the way of a city besieged by a fire-setter. Fear and confusion reign and, before an effective response develops, it seem as though stability will never return.

The Arsonist Mentality
Experts writing in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law note that pyromania is a "disorder of impulse" afflicting people whose moods are out of sync with their objective reality. If it is not stopped and addressed -- either by the criminal justice system or mental health intervention -- the arsonist's behavior becomes a chronic problem. This is why communities under an arsonist's attack will be plagued by one fire after another.

Does Donald Trump fit the arsonist profile? His impulsiveness has been evident throughout his life. 

As a boy he was so out of control that his parents sent him away to military school for discipline. In business, a big humiliating bankruptcy wasn't enough to stop his risk-taking. He went on to suffer three more. Instead of one headline-grabbing public divorce he had two.

In his campaign for President, he could not control his provocative behavior. When violence loomed at his rallies he used his microphone to encourage it. In debates and campaign speeches he torched his rivals with a stream of personal insults and distortions (such as repeating unsubstantiated claims from the National Enquirer that Ted Cruz's father helped killed JFK) never seen in a modern major party candidate.
Trump set fire to the GOP, happily burning down the structure for his own benefit.

As President, Trump's behavior has frequently contradicted the mood of what was going on around him. At his inauguration he didn't celebrate with a positive vision of the country, but instead described a nation on the brink of dystopia. A prayer breakfast became a forum for boasting. At a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency he complained about the press.

Were Trump alone in his impulsive and dark-minded condition he might have been contained by sober advisers. Instead, he has been aided mainly by an adviser, Stephen Bannon, who is committed to upending the political order and rose to prominence as head of a website that dispenses bigoted messages.

Apparently the most influential man in Trump's orbit, Bannon has no experience in public service and has likened himself, and his followers, to "know-nothing vulgarians."

The Arson Dynamic

Although arsonists frequently plead not guilty by reason of insanity, they rarely win this argument. This is because they are not generally considered to be delusional or otherwise separated from reality.

Simply put, they know what they are doing, and they know that it is wrong, but the compulsion is too strong and the thrill of the crime is too great. This issue was settled in a case involving a fire-setter who lit a barn ablaze, gazed at it from a distance, reported the fire and then asked the first responders if he could ride along with them to the scene.

In communities besieged by an arsonist, residents and public officials may fail at first to recognize what's happening. A spate of fires can seem simply a matter of coincidence until the pattern is established and the problem gets worse.

By then the public is alarmed and afraid and investigators are hard-pressed to stop the destruction. In the early 2000s, for instance, officials in greater Washington finally realized they had a serial fire-setter on their hands when Thomas Sweatt crossed into Maryland to commit one of his crimes.
With political arson, once it is recognized, it is not as mysterious as the problem of a fire-setter working under the cover of night to torch buildings.

Trump's destructive tendencies were once obscured by the notion that he would act as a normal President when the weight of the office settled upon him. This cover was blown when he issued his anti-immigrant executive order. Trump and his team have also signaled their disrupting intentions with diatribes against the press, assertions of "alternative facts," and wild claims about voter fraud that cast doubt on the foundation of American democracy.

Countering The Chaos

One textbook on arson notes that people who set fires like to feel they have outsmarted the authorities and enjoy testing their intelligence against them. They are adept at reading others and not generally burdened by feelings of guilt. Some experts recommend sending female investigators to interrogate male suspects, believing they may slip up because they feel insulted under their questioning. The point here is that overconfidence and arrogance can make an arsonist vulnerable to those who set out to stop the crisis.

In the case of Sweatt, a determined and massive investigation led to the discovery of a small flaw in his methods. He used bits of his own clothing to make his fires and the remains contained DNA evidence.

Trump's political arson is now encountering a massive and increasingly well-organized opposition. 

Like a community terrorized by fire, the nation was temporarily shaken, but it is recovering its balance. Citizens gathering in the street and at airports signal resolve. Journalists monitor every development. Court cases brought in defense of the Constitution resemble firefighters' efforts to put out the flames.

In Washington state, a federal court order halting the Trump immigration ban across the country represented a defining act on behalf of a national community reacting to crisis. Although many Americans remain alarmed by the emergency created by the new administration, the response of the courts and others has been remarkably swift. In just two weeks, a White House devoted to chaos has been stopped, at least temporarily, by a system designed to put out fires.

Looking forward, those who favor stability and peace would be wise to consider the arson prevention advice offered by the United States Fire Administration. The agency advises education, organization, and most of all vigilance.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Majority of Fatal Attacks on U.S. Soil carried out by white supremacists, not international terrorists

By Maggie Ybarra

The Washington Times

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

In the 14 years since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, nearly twice as many people have been killed in the United States by white supremacists and anti-government radicals than by Muslim jihadis, according to a new study.

White supremacists and anti-government radicals have killed 48 Americans, including last week’s deadly attack in South Carolina, versus 26 killings by Muslim radicals, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.

New America program associate David Sterman said the study shows that white supremacy and anti-government idealists are a major problem, that their growth rate needs to be addressed and that there is an “ignored threat” woven in the fabric of American society.

“Each time it [right-wing, radical violence] comes up, there’s a tendency to dismiss it as lone actor, mental health issues,” he said. “So it’s important to not ignore threats,”

The suspect in last week’s slaughter of nine people inside a Charleston church, Dylann Roof, 21, had posted a manifesto that lays out a racist worldview, posted pictures online featuring white supremacist imagery and a T-shirt featuring the number “88,” which is often used as a symbol for “Heil Hitler.” He faces federal hate crime charges.

Attacks by Muslim extremists appear to center around military targets, such as Fort Hood, a U.S. military post in Killeen, Texas, and areas where the possibility of mass casualties is high, such as the Boston Marathon, New America says. Meanwhile, the killing sprees of right-wing extremists lean more toward police ambushes and were rooted in anti-government sentiment, according to data compiled by the research center.
Experts say the research findings could be an indicator the nation’s intelligence collectors have been paying more attention to thwarting potential terror plots against the homeland concocted by Islamic extremists and less attention to the anti-government attacks of right-wing extremists.

“There has certainly been a tremendous concentration — not just by FBI and law enforcement, but intelligence community intelligence — focused on both the foreign born and the homegrown Islamic extremist terrorist threats,” said Ron Hosko, president of Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and former assistant director of the FBI. “And you’re talking about people in the military, intelligence, all the alphabet soup agencies as well as local law enforcement.”

There is also the possibility that the U.S. government has better information on Islamic extremist attacks because its surveillance techniques and information data collection techniques, said John Malcolm, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation. As a result, government agencies may be able to thwart those plans before they come to fruition, which might account for the low number of Islamic extremist attacks.

Mr. Sterman agrees. He said the data does show a potential imbalance in the type and amount of intelligence gathering that the government’s various agencies are doing. It also shows that there is another “ignored threat” woven in the fabric of American society, he said.

Terrorism should not be measured by whether the perpetrator is Muslim, he said. Additionally, indicators of a pending plot should not slide under the radar simply because the plot is not tied to the Islamic State or some other foreign terrorist organization, he said.

“For example, in the Dylann Roof case, in the Charleston attack, you do see that he is leaking quite a bit of information to people around him about his view point and his desire to commit violence,” Mr. Sterman said.

If an Islamic extremist were to do something similar, he or she would attract the attention of federal authorities and keep their attention until they no longer posed a threat, he said.