Gleanings: November 4, 2016

A Bane mask is a well known alt-right trope. Bane is the villain from Batman: the Dark Knight Rises. Photo by Nathan Rupert, https://www.flickr.com/photos/nathaninsandiego/, used under a creative commons license.

We gleaned three stories for this week:

  • Help for the “undeserving” poor?
  • AT&T CEO calls for dialogue on racial tensions.
  • The “reckless hate” of the alt-right goes mainstream.

Help for the “undeserving” poor?

Many American families fall through the safety net of antipoverty programs. Since 1996, there has been a redistribution of safety net benefits to those families deemed to be deserving and away from those deemed to be undeserving.

Primarily, the shift has been away from single-parent families to married-parent families and away from the poorest families in “deep poverty”–those with family income below 50 percent of the poverty line–to families that are barely poor and almost poor, according to Robert Moffitt of Johns Hopkins, here and here.

To help right this imbalance, which puts many children in “deep poverty” and potentially “extreme poverty” ($2 per day), a forthcoming article from the Russell Sage Foundation will propose a monthly child allowance of $250 per child, according to Eduardo Porto writing in the New York Times.

A child allowance is an old idea, embraced by Milton Friedman, a demigod of conservative economic thought, and others. “Austria, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden all already have some sort of child allowance,” writes Porto.

A child allowance would provide a basic, minimum guaranteed floor of income for families with children. It would be universal, and unrelated to work or income, thus shedding the implicit judgment that poverty is a personal failure. It would not create a disincentive to work. It would be paid monthly, amounting to $3,000 per child per year.

Most of it could be funded by eliminating the tax exemption for dependent children, which has been in the tax code since 1917, and the child tax credit, which was adopted in 1997 and will be phased out in 2017.

The United States has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the world (20.1 percent), according to data from LIS, a cross-national data center in Luxembourg. The US rate is higher than Russia and more than triple the rate for the Netherlands and Finland.

The U.S. poverty rates in the chart below use U.S. Census Bureau data.

2015-faq3-fig4

AT&T CEO calls for dialogue on racial tensions

Unless we talk about racial tensions, they will destroy our communities, said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, addressing hundreds of employees at a corporate diversity event in Dallas.

“If two very close friends of different races don’t talk openly about this issue that is tearing our communities apart, how do we expect to find common ground and solutions for what’s a really serious, serious problem?” said Stephenson, who is white, referring to one of his closest friends, who is black.

As a result of their conversations, he said he was now able to understand his friend’s anger when someone responds to a Black Lives Matter protest by saying, “All lives matter.” Stephenson now sees it as a dismissive comment “to justify ignoring the real need for change.”

In July, the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks extremist groups in the United States, had many requests to name Black Lives Matter as a hate group. The center found that BLM is not a hate group. However, later in August, the center found that the group called White Lives Matter is a hate group.

Stephenson’s comments were recorded by an attendee and posted on YouTube.

The “reckless hate” of the alt-right goes mainstream

In August, Donald Trump named Stephen Bannon, then chairman of the right-wing website Breitbart News, to be the CEO of his presidential campaign. Within a week, Hillary Clinton delivered a speech on Trump’s “embrace of the disturbing alt-right political philosophy.”

Trump and Breitbart.com are “twin towers of the alt-right,” writes David French in the National Review, a conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley in 1955.

David French, an Army veteran, Bronze star recipient, constitutional lawyer, and senior fellow at the National Review Institute, considered running for president as an alternative to Donald Trump. He declined to run, but merely contemplating a run was enough to incur the wrath of the alt-right.  

In French’s article titled “The Price I’ve Paid for Opposing Donald Trump,” he says “Trump’s alt-right trolls have subjected me and my family to an unending torrent of abuse that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

“Every campaign attracts its share of fools, cranks, and crazies. But Trump’s candidacy has weaponized them. Every harassing tweet and every violent threat is like a voice whispering in my ear, telling me to do all that I can to oppose a movement that breeds and exploits such reckless hate.”

Donald Trump is depicted kissing Pepe the Frog, an internet meme appropriated by the alt-right. The Anti-Defamation League regards the meme as a symbol associated with racism, anti-Semitism, and bigotry.
Donald Trump is depicted kissing Pepe the Frog, an internet meme appropriated by the alt-right. The Anti-Defamation League and others regards the meme as a symbol associated with racism, anti-Semitism, and bigotry.

Writing in VOX, Sean Illing said, “The alt-right was waiting for a candidate like Trump, someone who could carry their message to a mainstream audience, and that’s exactly what he’s done. And there’s no reason to think that that’s going to go away whenever he does, if he does.”

If Trump is the voice of the alt-right, then Breitbart is the mainstream channel. The Southern Poverty Law Center noted on its Hatewatch blog that Breitbart might be on its way to becoming “the media arm of the Alt-Right.”

Over the past year the media outlet has been openly promoting the core issues of the Alt-Right, introducing these racist ideas to its readership — much to the delight of many in the white nationalist world who could never dream of reaching such a vast number of people.

In a statement announcing his resignation from Breitbart, national security correspondent Jordan Schachtel said, “Breitbart News is no longer a journalistic enterprise, but instead, in my opinion, something resembling an unaffiliated media Super PAC for the Trump campaign.”

The alt-right is, according to a primer by the Southern Poverty Law Center, “a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization.” See also here, here, and here.

Updated Nov. 5.