The horrifying insurrection in the U.S. Capitol was more than an affront to our democracy. It was white America clinging to white supremacy. Lucas Spielfogel, executive director of the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition, discusses this reality in a letter to The Advocate:
Underlying the U.S. Capitol terror attack is racism. Specifically, it’s White backlash, the hostile reaction by White Americans to the “threat” of full racial equality. Social progress makes us White people nervous. Since Reconstruction, we have argued for incremental advances in civil rights, warning of slippery slopes that will endanger liberty. It’s hard to admit our real fear: equality threatens our unearned power. With this power, we marginalize Black and Brown people while burdening them with our racial education. Last Wednesday wasn’t about White privilege but White power, a force in every level of society. The failed coup was carried out by private citizens but catalyzed, coordinated, and condoned by elected officials.
The New York Times’ Thomas B. Edsall takes a deeper look into the same issue, and the loss of status experienced by many non-college educated white men in recent decades.
White supremacy and frank racism are prime motivators, and they combined with other elements to fuel the insurrection: a groundswell of anger directed specifically at elites and an addictive lust for revenge against those they see as the agents of their disempowerment. It is this admixture of factors that makes the insurgency that wrested control of the House and Senate so dangerous — and is likely to spark new forms of violence in the future.
States should use TANF for cash assistance
Direct federal cash assistance to low-income families through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has deteriorated since the program’s creation in 1996. Over the years, TANF dollars have gone less-and-less to families who need them in the form of cash assistance, and have instead been used to pay for a variety of unrelated programs at the state level. In a new report, Ali Safawi and Liz Schott at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argue that states should prioritize the increase of TANF dollars for cash assistance:
Many families have turned to TANF (as well as other public programs) for relief, and more will likely seek assistance as the crisis continues and families exhaust their limited savings and eligibility for unemployment insurance. Unfortunately, TANF’s block grant structure leaves it ill equipped to respond to the sharp increase in need. While states with unspent TANF funds can draw down those funds to cover the costs of rising caseloads, those without reserves will need to shift funds from other programs. If unable to do so, they may end up restricting eligibility to reduce the number of families that qualify for assistance, leaving many families with no financial assistance to meet their basic needs.
Diverse populations will soon be the norm
The U.S. Census Bureau will soon be releasing findings from the 2020 census, allowing us to see major shifts in our nation’s population since 2010. One major trend over the last decade will be the increased diversity in younger generations compared to older generations. Demographer William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution writes that the public sector needs to be ready for the implications of this demographic shift:
This had led to stark generational differences in diversity. About 60% of the U.S population identifies as white alone; that figure reaches more than 70% for baby boomers and their elders, but only about half for the combined Gen Z and younger populations, with nearly two-fifths of those groups identifying as “Black or brown.” These generational differences are important for public and private sector planning, especially with respect to the needs of the increasingly diverse younger population. The generational divide in diversity also fosters what I have called a “cultural generation gap,” which has impacted politics in ways that are sometimes divisive. It is important to understand that as these younger, diverse generations age, their tastes, values, and political orientations will become the nation’s “mainstream.” As we enter 2021, the first millenials have already turned age 40.
Make social insurance work for the people
The $600 weekly boost to unemployment insurance approved by Congress last March helped millions of Americans survive the economic downturn. The extra aid was critical, as many unemployed Americans would not have been able to ride out the recession with the meager weekly benefits offered by most states. Wendy Edelberg and Stephanie Lu of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution are calling for changes to unemployment insurance and other social insurance programs to ensure that people can ride out the next downturn, with or without action by Congress:
A growing body of research has shown that consumer spending among lower-income groups has been effectively supported by social insurance benefits since March. Increasing the value and reach of social insurance was instrumental for maintaining spending, largely because many of the same households experiencing a decline in labor income lacked sufficient wealth or other resources to weather a temporary loss in earned income. To be sure, wealth holdings for many households were already nowhere near sufficient to face the recession. For example, The Hamilton Project recently documented that in 2019, the typical Black household only held $24,100 in wealth—7.8 times less than the median white household’s wealth ($188,200).
Number of the Day
19% – The percentage of Black students who attended schools with a majority white student body in 2018, compared to 37% in 1988, indicating school desegregation efforts are moving backwards. (Source: The Civil Rights Project at UCLA)