“Republicans: Dedicated to diminishing democracy, one voter-suppression tactic at a time.”

Seriously: what do you think?

Where for decades the country trended toward making it easier to vote — allowing women to vote, for example, and then blacks — the Republicans are now working full throttle to make it harder: cutting back on early-voting; purging voter files of legitimate voters; requiring photo ID (ostensibly to combat the nonexistent problem of people showing up with fake ID); disallowing university-issued photo IDs that lack expiration dates (ostensibly to combat the nonexistent problem of . . . what?); and, of course, withholding the vote from people who’ve paid their debt to society (in many cases for drug possession that should arguably not have been criminalized in the first place).

In Ohio, they cut back on voting hours in heavily Democratic counties — but not in heavily Republican counties.  And though that ultimately got squashed, they still plan to eliminate early voting the weekend before Election Day, knowing that this is when African American churches typically carpool their congregants to the polls.  In Pennsylvania . . . well, here’s Jon Stewart on what they’re doing in Pennsylvania, in case you missed it.


Whitney Tilson:Here is a very insightful New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story, by Paul Tough, about poverty in America and what Obama has (and hasn’t) done to address it.   It’s stunning to consider that there are SEVEN MILLION children today who live in households struggling to survive on income equal to less than HALF the poverty level!  Ah, but forget all that – I just need to remind myself that the future of our country depends on more savage cuts to our already tattered safety net so that private equity and hedge fund millionaires (like me) can pay even lower taxes. It makes me sick to my stomach (and despair for the future of our country).”

Just a few excerpts (it’s worth reading it all):

In 1966, at the height of the War on Poverty, the poverty rate was just under 15 percent of the population; in 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, it was 15.1 percent. And the child-poverty rate is 22 percent — substantially higher today than it was then. And yet as a political issue, especially during this presidential campaign season, poverty has receded almost to silence.

The idea that Obama hasn’t done much for poor Americans is simply not true; by some measures, he has done more than any other recent president. But [columnist Bob] Herbert is right that Obama has stopped talking publicly about the subject. Obama hasn’t made a single speech devoted to poverty as president, and if you visit barackobama.com these days, you would be hard-pressed to find any reference to the subject whatsoever.

[O]ver the last two decades, and especially during the Obama administration, the way the federal government gives aid to poor people has shifted away from cash transfers toward noncash transfers — food stamps, Medicaid subsidies, housing vouchers — none of which are included in a family’s income for the purposes of poverty statistics. If you do count food stamps and other noncash aid, the poverty rate has, according to some calculations, not gone up much at all during the Obama administration, during the worst economic crisis in 70 years. That is a remarkable accomplishment. When I asked William Julius Wilson last month for his thoughts on the current administration’s antipoverty efforts, he said that Obama had “done more for lower-income Americans than any president since Lyndon Baines Johnson.”

But, Republicans might ask: is that a good thing?  Isn’t it better to enact the Ryan budget, that slashes the social programs, so we can lower taxes on people at the top?  (The Ryan budget passed the house with unanimous Republican support.)  Isn’t it better to cut the estate tax on billionheirs from 45% to 0% as Mr. Romney is pledged to do?  And lower Mr. Romney’s own tax rate from 13.9% to under 1%?

When administration officials talk about longer-term solutions to poverty these days, they often talk about education. And the cabinet member who expresses the most personal concern about the plight of disadvantaged children is Arne Duncan, the education secretary. . . .

There is a growing body of evidence that for many low-income children, a great school can provide a route out of poverty. And Duncan is a firm believer in the idea that transforming the schools in neighborhoods like Roseland will in turn transform the lives of the children who live there. But the record of school reform in Roseland is not encouraging. . . .

Lett’s analysis has support from many of the academics who study how poverty has changed over time. Looking back on the lives and prospects of the American poor during President Johnson’s War on Poverty, you can see two broad changes. In material terms, the trends have been mostly positive. Americans who live below the poverty line are much less likely to be hungry or malnourished today than they were then. A majority of families below the poverty line now have material possessions that would have been unthinkable luxuries in the 1960s: air-conditioning, cable TV, a mobile phone.

But while the material gap has diminished, a different kind of gap has opened between poor and middle-class Americans: a social gap. In the 1960s, most Americans, rich, middle-class and poor, were raising children in two-parent homes; they lived in relatively stable, mixed-income communities; they went to church in roughly similar numbers; their children often attended the same public schools. Today, those social factors all diverge sharply by class, and the class for which things have changed most starkly is the poor. Damien may have a cellphone, but he has never met his father.

A critical factor perpetuating poverty from one generation to the next is family dynamics and their effects on child development. This means that if we want to improve social mobility, we need to find a better way to help disadvantaged parents and their children.

While this theory of poverty is still being debated by social scientists, it is not particularly controversial in poor neighborhoods. Obama saw it himself in Roseland. In “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama wrote that poor African-Americans were well aware of the role that family breakdown played in the perpetuation of urban poverty. As he put it, “black folks can often be heard bemoaning the eroding work ethic, inadequate parenting and declining sexual mores with a fervor that would make the Heritage Foundation proud.”

Poverty is not the top priority in most churches that it once was; now it’s the unborn and the threat that I might have married Charles that are the key issues.  But even if the Deeply Religious skew Republican, believing this is what Jesus would have done, a lot of us think Romney/Ryan have it all wrong and applaud the (admittedly limited) success the Obama Administration has had dealing with this most difficult of problems.



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