Black Girls Are Criminalized for Choosing Survival

(Photo: Bob Simpson / Flickr)

(Photo: Bob Simpson / Flickr)

In every state in the country, the right to self-defense is considered a mitigating factor in criminal prosecutions. If you use violence to defend yourself in an extreme situation, most Americans believe, the law should treat you gently.

But not everyone gets to enjoy this right. Just ask Bresha Meadows, who was arrested earlier this year for allegedly shooting and killing her father. She was just 14.

Advocates say that prosecutors failed to account for Meadows’ home situation. Her father, they argue, was a violent and abusive man who terrorized her family and threatened to kill them. “In the 17 years of our marriage,” her mother wrote in a court complaint, “he has cut me, broke my ribs, fingers, the blood vessels in my hand, my mouth, blackened my eyes.”

She went on to warn: “I am 100 percent sure he will kill me and the children.”

More troublingly, the evidence suggests authorities had failed Bresha and her family at earlier moments of crisis. Bresha herself cried out for help to family members and repeatedly ran away from home to escape her situation. Yet law enforcement never questioned Meadows without the presence of her father and sent her home every time she tried to escape.

Now 15 and detained in Trumbull County, Ohio, Meadows faces charges for aggravated murder. Denied pre-trial release, she’s been locked up away from family, friends, and school for months. In October, she was placed on suicide watch.

Unfortunately, Meadows’ case is not unique.

In fact, 84 percent of girls in juvenile detention have experienced family violence. And the number of girls in juvenile jail is rising, especially for black girls. Even as a national conversation around mass incarceration and racial profiling gains momentum, black girls like Meadows are often left out. That sends a harmful message that they aren’t valued.

The Meadows case is one of many examples in a larger trend of policies that criminalize girls and leave trauma unaddressed. These systems fail young girls when they need help the most, and then punish them for the result.

“Countless black women, girls, and gender-nonconforming people face similar matrices of interpersonal violence and state violence,” the advocacy group Love and Protect explained in a statement. “Many, like Bresha, are criminalized for choosing survival.”

Worse still, the juvenile justice system doesn’t work to rehabilitate anyone. Instead, it’s often damaging and re-traumatizing, especially for people who come from violent homes. Affordable, community-based solutions that prioritize assessing family security needs over sending teens that lash out to prison would be far preferable to incarcerating traumatized children.

Each day Bresha spends in prison is a reflection that the law doesn’t apply to everyone. “We should be worried about Bresha,” says Mariame Kaba, the founder of Love and Protect. “With the charges they put on her, it could be 25 years to life.”

Though incarceration rates are rising, violence against black girls isn’t new. Our justice system has been failing them for a long time.

A petition is circulating calling for prosecutors to release Bresha Meadows and drop her charges. Like all victims of domestic and family violence, she deserves support. Meadows’ release from detention would send a different message: that black girls’ lives are worthy of defense.

The post Black Girls Are Criminalized for Choosing Survival appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Nia Nyamweya is a Next Leader with the Criminalization of Poverty project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Remembering Fidel Castro: “This Was a Life That Got Things Done”

The recent passing of Fidel Castro has sparked widespread conversation of his life and legacy.

“So many people just don’t know about him, but it’s very evident to people around the world, particularly people of oppressed countries, the giant that Fidel Castro was.  This was a life that got things done.” IPS’ Netfa Freeman told Jared Ball on I Mix What I Like.

Freeman shared that despite the various opinions of Castro that will be spread during this time, he should be known as one of the greatest ideologues of our time.  The host agreed with Freeman that in Castro’s case, his image as an ideologue meant that he was able to approach issues with integrity and steer and inform people on pressing issues.

“This is someone who talked about the climate change disaster and what it means for the third world before anyone was talking about it,” Freeman said.

The panelists said they hope that Castro’s impeccable leadership is not lost in remembrance of him.  “One of the things that made Fidel a giant is that he knew it wasn’t just about him. He was able to lead a revolution that prepared the people to be in charge and go on in his absence,” Netfa explained.

Freeman recognized that while many are deeply saddened by his passing, some will not join the mourning of the fallen leader, and he addressed some of the burden of Cuba that Castro was made to carry.

“We should separate the shortcomings of a country from the shortcomings of an individual leader of that country,” Freeman told Ball.

With the miscellany of perspectives on the life and impact of Castro, Freeman charges those that are more informed to defend his legacy. “When a leader passes, they get more attention and not all of it is correct,” Freeman said. “For those of us that know more about him, it gives us an opportunity to correct that stuff.”

Listen to the full article below.

The post Remembering Fidel Castro: “This Was a Life That Got Things Done” appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Netfa Freeman is the events coordinator at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Living Wage Lab celebrates its first anniversary

The Living Wage Lab celebrates 1 Year Birthday today!

On 26th November 2015, Hivos and Fairfood gathered Dutch stakeholders of the agro-food sector to develop and experiment with innovative solutions for living wages in their supply chains.

The wages of many food workers around the world are so low, that they often cannot afford the food they are surrounded by the whole day. Workers in the Thai shrimp processing industry for example, can only dream of eating something as luxurious as seafood. The consequences of poverty wages are far-reaching for workers and their communities: workers are left with no other option than to work excessive overtime and send their children to work instead of school in order to provide for their basic needs. Living wages cover a decent standard of living for workers and their families. With a living wage, workers and their families can access education, healthcare and nutritious food. Amenities that enable them to lift themselves, and even their communities, out of poverty.

The Living Wage Lab follows a change lab approach: a social innovation process where stakeholders work together to be on the forefront of new developments and innovations that address the complex challenges they are trying to solve in a lasting and equitable way. Beyond technology, these innovations can be in public policy, new business models, framing of cultural values and behavioral change. Agrofood producing companies cannot solve the issue of low wages alone. That’s why the Living Wage Lab brings representatives from the government, trade unions, producing companies, retailers, NGOs, certification bodies and researchers together, to jointly tackle this issue.

In the words of Olav Boenders, director of a Dutch floriculture farm in Uganda:

“The Lab has been hugely inspiring. Bringing all the sectors together that can influence their part of the spectrum is essential to bring about great changes. I am deeply confident that with the Lab we are actually going to bring about changes regarding living wage!”

LWL-LinkedIn
Photo copyright: Askideas.com

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Report: Gilded Giving

For media inquires about this report, please contact Chuck Collins chuckcollins7@mac.com or Josh Hoxie Josh@ips-dc.org.

gilded-giving-cover

Gilded Giving: Top-Heavy Philanthropy in an Age of Extreme Inequality

Unprecedented levels of charitable giving in recent years mask a troubling trend. This report shows that charities are increasingly relying on larger and larger donations from smaller numbers of high-income, high-wealth donors. Meanwhile, they are receiving shrinking amounts of revenue from the vast population of donors at lower and middle-income levels. This trend mirrors the increasing concentration of wealth in larger society.

The report finds that this has significant implications for the practice of fundraising, the role of the independent nonprofit sector, and the health of our larger democratic civil society. The increasing power of a small number of donors also increases the potential for mission distortion.

This study tracks significant changes in philanthropic giving in recent years, puts forward a number of possible implications of these changes, and offers some solutions.

Key Findings:

  • Charitable contributions from donors at the top of the income and wealth ladder have increased significantly over the past decade. From 2003 to 2013, itemized charitable contributions from people making $ 500,000 or more—roughly the top one percent of income earners in the United States—increased by 57 percent. And itemized contributions from people making $ 10 million or more increased by almost double that rate—104 percent—over the same period.
  • The number of private grant-making foundations has shown similar dramatic growth. The number of grant-making foundations in the United States has doubled since 1993, from 43,956 to 67,736 in 2004, and to 86,726 in 2014. Between 2004 and 2014, the number of foundations increased 28 percent, and the amount of assets held in those foundations increased 35 percent.
  • Over the past ten years, charitable giving deductions from lower income donors have declined significantly, at almost the same rate that contributions from higher income donors have increased. While itemized charitable deductions from donors making $ 100,000 or more increased by 40 percent, itemized charitable deductions from donors making less than $ 100,000 declined by 34 percent.
  • The number of donors giving at typical donation levels has been steadily declining. According to one estimate, low-dollar and midrange donors to national public charities have declined by as much as 25 percent over the ten years from 2005 to 2015. These are the people who have traditionally made up the vast majority of donor files and lists for most national nonprofits since their inception.
  • The rate of decline in small-dollar donors correlates strongly with indicators of overall economic security in the United States, such as wages, employment, and homeownership rates. This correlation indicates that donor declines are likely due, in large part, to changing economic conditions.

Read the full report here [PDF].

Shareable Graphics:

guilded-giving-infographic-1guilded-giving-infographic-2

The post Report: Gilded Giving appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Chuck Collins is the director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Helen Flannery is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Josh Hoxie is the director of the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Trump’s Foreign Policy Picks Don’t Match His Isolationist Rhetoric

“The extremism of some of these characters is quite profound,” Phyllis Bennis told the Real News Network regarding Trump’s proposed foreign policy appointments.

Trump has chosen General Michael Flynn, who was fired as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in the Obama administration, as his national security advisor. This appointment does not have to approved by the Senate. Bennis said Flynn is largely viewed by people in both parties as “somewhat of a nut job.”

Former KKK leader David Duke tweeted in support of Trump’s choice of Flynn, saying, “Great Pick!”

“When you’re getting support from the Klan for your choice of national security advisor,” Bennis said, “we’re in very serious trouble here.”

There has also been talk of former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton as a pick for secretary of state. Bolton, Bennis said, is known for his extremist set of calls on Iran.

Bennis said we can’t know how many of these picks are a result of Trump’s own views, or how many reflect Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s views, or Trump’s son-in-law and close advisor Jared Kushner.

“We do know he has a heavy dose of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiment behind him,” Bennis said, even if it is still a mystery who’s calling the shots.

None of Trump’s picks so far match the kind of neo-isolationsist policies he pushed in the earlier days of his campaign.

As these names start coming up they’re generating enormous unease among mainstream press and political figures, Bennis said, but what’s more important is the social movements out there that are resisting Trump’s picks and focusing on foreign policy.

“We’re seeing just how dangerous these appointments are and I think it’s going to generate a much stronger movement,” Bennis said.

Watch the full interview on the Real News Network’s website.

The post Trump’s Foreign Policy Picks Don’t Match His Isolationist Rhetoric appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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When Billionaires Dominate Philanthropy

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The last couple of years have been boom years for philanthropy. Total donations from individuals, foundations, and corporations rose in 2015 to over $ 373 billion, a 10 percent increase since 2013.

But behind this statistic is a troubling trend. The charitable sector is getting a growing number of mega-donations from wealthy donors and experiencing a simultaneous decline in donations by low and middle-income households.

According to new study that we co-authored, Gilded Giving: Top Heavy Philanthropy in an Age of Extreme Inequality, the U.S. is moving toward a philanthropic sector dominated and controlled by billionaire mega-donors, their foundations, and donor-advised funds. This has dangerous implications for the independent nonprofit sector and the health of U.S. democracy.

Charitable contributions by the wealthy have risen significantly in the last decades. Between 2003 and 2013, itemized contributions from people making $ 10 million or more increased by 104 percent. The number of private grant-making foundations, mostly established by wealthy individuals and their families, doubled since 1993, from 43,956 to 86,726 in 2015.

Meanwhile, charitable giving by low and middle-income donors has steadily declined. From 2003 to 2013, itemized charitable deductions by donors making less than $ 100,000 declined by 34 percent. And, according to one estimate, the number of low-dollar and midrange donors giving to national charities declined by 25 percent from 2005 to 2015.

One explanation is rising economic inequality. There is a high correlation between donor declines and economic insecurity indicators such as declining homeownership and employment rates.

This top-heavy philanthropy is a danger to the independent nonprofit sector, as it contributes to funding unpredictability and a growing focus on wooing a finite, relatively small number of mega-donors. It also increases the risk of mission drift, as wealthy donors press their particular interests and projects.

But the largest peril is for our wider civil society and democracy. Unchecked, private foundations can become blocks of concentrated unaccountable power with considerable clout in shaping our laws and culture. They can become extensions of personal power, privilege, and influence for a handful of families.

This can lead to a wide range of abuses. In 2013, the Minnesota-based Otto Bremer Foundation gave out $ 38 million in grants and paid their three trustees a total of $ 1.2 million to make the decisions. Two of the trustees, Brian Lipchultz and Daniel Reardon, paid themselves over $ 465,000 each.

“It’s just an outrageously high level of compensation for trustee service,” said Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

“These institutions get tremendously preferential tax treatment,” he told The Pioneer Press. “And because of the tax-exempt status they enjoy, the rest of us pay higher taxes and, in effect, subsidize nonprofit tax-exempt charitable foundations.”

Indeed, taxpayers have a legitimate interest in the conduct of private charities. Through tax deductions, we subsidize up to 50 cents of every dollar that wealthy donors shift into the charitable sector. The wealthier the donor and the bigger the gift, the greater the amount of tax revenue lost from income and estate taxes.

Some wealthy people use foundations and donor-advised funds as an extension of a tax avoidance strategy, along with trusts and offshore tax havens.

When reducing or avoiding taxes is a significant driver of philanthropic giving, the urgency of moving funds directly to charities on the ground becomes a secondary consideration. By giving to private foundations, donors receive immediate tax deductions for the full amount of their donations, but are required to make only minimal payouts over time.

A similar warehousing of wealth occurs with donor-advised funds. The Fidelity Charitable Fund, an arm of Fidelity Investments, just surpassed United Way as the largest recipient of charitable contributions. These philanthropic assets may sit for years or decades after the initial tax deduction has been taken and before any significant payout is made. Charity Watch estimates that the growth of donor-advised funds has delayed an estimated $ 15 billion in donations to public charities.

And, in a troubling number of cases, wealthy families of all political persuasions have been able to deploy private foundation assets to advance a narrow set of interests under the guise of philanthropy.

For example, donors can use large donations to private schools and universities to secure admissions for their progeny. Foundations in affluent public school districts allow parents to make tax-deductible contributions to support their children’s schools, compounding inequalities between rich and poor school districts. Wealthy donors fund nonprofit think tanks and tax exempt advocacy groups that further a wealth-protection agenda in the political arena. As journalist Jane Mayer has documented in her book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, a segment of multi-millionaire donors have “weaponized philanthropy” to advance a self-interested public policy agenda of tax cuts, deregulation, and opposition to climate change policy.

The last time the legal rules governing the charitable sector were overhauled was 1969. Congress should modernize these rules, in this new era of inequality, to protect the independent sector, expand giving by low and middle-income households, prohibit the warehousing of wealth, and protect the integrity of our tax system.

Rule changes could include increasing incentives for low and middle-income donors, capping the charitable deduction for high-end donors, and requiring greater board independence. Rules governing donor-advised funds should require timely distributions. Lawmakers should levy a lifetime cap on tax-deductible charitable giving to ensure that those who possess some of the largest fortunes in the United States cannot use such deductions to entirely dodge tax obligations through donations and bequests.

To fundamentally address the perils of top-heavy philanthropy, however, the public must also demand that policymakers reduce concentrations of wealth and power in our society at large. This includes closing loopholes and restoring steeply progressive income and wealth taxation. And under a Trump administration, we will again be required to defend the federal estate tax, our nation’s only levy on the inherited wealth of multi-millionaires and billionaires.

Without action, we could drift further toward an oligarchy of wealth, with family-controlled philanthropy becoming an extension of private power.

The post When Billionaires Dominate Philanthropy appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Chuck Collins is the director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Helen Flannery is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Why We Need to Worry about Wilbur Ross

worker-exploitation-ross

(Photo: blue cheddar / flickr)

Billionaire Wilbur Ross, the Donald Trump adviser who may well become our next U.S. secretary of commerce, loudly opposes NAFTA and other trade pacts that ship U.S. jobs abroad.

Does that opposition make Wilbur Ross a corporate good guy?

Not quite. Wilbur Ross has made his private equity billions the old-fashioned way — by exploiting American workers right here in the US of A.

Those profits typically come right out of the hides of workers. Ross has been working the financial industry’s bankruptcy beat since the mid 1970s. His specialty: scouring America’s economic landscape for failing companies in down-and-out industries, buying them up cheap, and then “flipping” them for big profits.

Ross has never shown much interest in the difficult details of turning mismanaged enterprises into companies that can operate efficiently and effectively over the long haul. His private equity empire focuses instead on cutting costs.

And that cost cutting comes easy with companies in bankruptcy or about to fall into it.

Bankrupt companies can dump their liabilities — like mandates to fund pension plans — off the corporate balance sheet and onto somebody else’s shoulders. They can, as the economists like to say, “externalize” their costs.

Ross started externalizing his way to billionaire status with the steel industry. He waited until two steel giants — LTV and Bethlehem Steel — hit the bankruptcy skids, then picked up the two companies for a song, after going bankrupt had enabled the companies to shift their pension obligations onto the government-run Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

In no time at all, the International Steel Group that Ross created in 2002 to house his steel company collection would become the nation’s largest steel producer. He then sold it, late in October 2004, for 14 times his original investment.

By that time, Ross had also branched out big-time into textiles, where he followed the same basic M.O. as in steel. He created an International Textile Group and packed it with bankrupt textile companies that had successfully sidestepped their pension obligations and squeezed various other concessions out of workers. Ross would squeeze some more and even move some jobs overseas.

Ross next moved into coal. Early in fall 2004, he spent over three-quarters of a billion dollars to buy up a Kentucky-based coal-mining company, Horizon Natural Resources, and created the International Coal Group to host it.

“Ross’ buy-in,” the Chicago Tribune would later report, “came only after a bankruptcy court judge released Horizon from its promise to pay health-care benefits to its retirees.”

The Ross-run International Coal Group then added another bankrupt rust-belt operation, the Anker Coal Group, to its portfolio. Anker made a fitting takeover target. The company was already busy slashing costs — by playing fast and loose with mine safety regulations.

That compromising with safety would continue under the watch of Wilbur Ross, right up until the second day of January in 2006 when an explosion at one of the company’s mines in Sago, West Virginia, left 12 miners dead.

Wilbur Ross, now 78, is still fishing for potential bargains. He’s been “scouting for distressed companies in marine shipping,” Bloomberg reported earlier this fall. But that scouting around, complains Ross, is getting ever more difficult.

“It’s harder and harder and harder to find value,” he’s complaining, “even if you look in the dustbin.”

Ross himself may one day end up in history’s proverbial dustbin. But for the moment, with Donald Trump about to occupy the White House, Wilbur is riding higher than ever.

The post Why We Need to Worry about Wilbur Ross appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Sam Pizzigati is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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New IPS Report Warns of Increasingly Top-Heavy Philanthropy

For Release Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 7:30PM

Media Contacts:
Chuck Collins, chuck@ips-dc.org, 617-308-4433
Josh Hoxie, josh@ips-dc.org, 508-280-5005

A new report, “Gilded Giving: Top-Heavy Philanthropy in an Age of Extreme Inequality,” authored by Chuck Collins, Helen Flannery, and Josh Hoxie of the Institute for Policy Studies and Inequality.org, raises the specter of a philanthropic sector dominated by wealthy mega-donors and their foundations, and donor-advised funds.

“The growth of inequality is mirrored in philanthropy,” said report co-author Chuck Collins. “As wealth concentrates in fewer hands, so does philanthropic giving and power. We believe this poses considerable risks to both our independent sector and democracy.”

The report warns that unprecedented levels of charitable giving in recent years mask a troubling trend. Charities are increasingly relying on larger and larger donations from smaller numbers of high-income, high-wealth donors. Meanwhile, they are receiving shrinking amounts of revenue from the vast population of donors at lower and middle-income levels.

The report also finds that increasingly top-heavy giving has significant implications for the practice of fundraising, the role of the independent nonprofit sector, and the health of our larger democratic civil society.

Risks to charitable sector organizations include increased volatility and unpredictability in funding, making it more difficult to budget and forecast income into the future; an increased need to shift toward major donor cultivation; and an increased bias toward funding larger or heavily major-donor-directed boutique organizations and projects. The increasing power of a small number of donors also increases the potential for mission distortion.

Risks to the public include the rise of tax avoidance philanthropy, the warehousing of wealth in the face of urgent needs, self-dealing philanthropy, and the increasing use of philanthropy as an extension of power and privilege protection.

Key findings:

  • Charitable contributions from donors at the top of the income and wealth ladder have increased significantly over the past decade. From 2003 to 2013, itemized charitable contributions from people making $ 500,000 or more—roughly the top one percent of income earners in the United States—increased by 57 percent. And itemized contributions from people making $ 10 million or more increased by almost double that rate—104 percent—over the same period.
  • The number of private grant-making foundations has shown similar dramatic growth. The number of grant-making foundations in the United States has doubled since 1993, from 43,956 to 67,736 in 2004, and to 86,726 in 2014. Between 2004 and 2014, the number of foundations increased 28 percent and the amount of assets held in those foundations increased 35 percent.
  • Over the past ten years, charitable giving deductions from lower income donors have declined significantly, at almost the same rate that contributions from higher income donors have increased. While itemized charitable deductions from donors making $ 100,000 or more increased by 40 percent, itemized charitable deductions from donors making less than $ 100,000 declined by 34 percent.
  • The number of donors giving at typical donation levels has been steadily declining. According to one estimate, low-dollar and midrange donors to national public charities have declined by as much as 25 percent over the ten years from 2005 to 2015. These are the people who have traditionally made up the vast majority of donor files and lists for most national nonprofits since their inception.
  • The rate of decline in small-dollar donors correlates strongly with indicators of overall economic security in the United States, such as wages, employment, and homeownership rates. This correlation indicates that donor declines are likely due, in large part, to changing economic conditions.

“Since the last recession, the charitable sector has seen tremendous growth in giving,” said report co-author Helen Flannery. “That’s a good thing, in theory. But the growth is from donors at the top of the giving ladder, while giving from small and midlevel donors is steadily falling. And more and more giving is going into warehousing vehicles like foundations and donor-advised funds, instead of to charities on the ground.”

“The trends in philanthropy may be less visible than trends in income and wealth inequality, but they are following the same trajectory. Without intervention, these trends lead toward multi-generational wealth dynasties on one side and widespread austerity on the other,” added co-author Josh Hoxie.

The report tracks significant changes in philanthropic giving in recent years, puts forward a number of possible implications of these changes, and offers some solutions.

Read the full report here:  www.ips-dc.org/report-gilded-giving/

The post New IPS Report Warns of Increasingly Top-Heavy Philanthropy appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

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Building a New Populism in the Era of Trump

(Photo: Reid Rosenberg / Flickr)

(Photo: Reid Rosenberg / Flickr)

Imagine you’re standing in line for the American Dream.

You work hard, sometimes in dangerous jobs. You lead a moral life. But the line is stalling, even moving backwards. Yet you see newcomers up front — some of them immigrants and people of color.

Maybe you’ve worked all your life alongside African Americans and Latinos — more than most northern liberals have — but when you complain about people cutting you, those liberals call you racist. Worse still, they seem to look down on you because of your Christianity, or your Southern culture.

That’s the worldview sketched out by sociologist Arlie Hochschild, a liberal professor who spent five years interviewing Louisiana Tea Party activists. She made friends with them and stayed in touch as they got involved in the Trump campaign, an experience detailed in her new book Strangers in Their Own Land.

When Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “deplorables,” Hochschild’s Tea Party friends heard a put-down they suspect liberal elites say about them behind closed doors all the time. Trump, on the other hand, never dismissed them as racists or rednecks. Instead, he blamed their problems on the line cutters.

Unfortunately, neither Clinton nor Trump got at the real reasons the line isn’t moving.

The fact is, over the last three decades, both Republicans and Democrats have helped shift America’s wealth to a small segment of rich people and global corporations. They’ve each supported a corporate “free trade” agenda and failed to do anything more than tinker with tax rules that accelerate inequality.

The resulting economic insecurity has given rise to both progressive and regressive forms of populism.

On the one hand, the Bernie Sanders campaign focused on how the rigged rules of the economy benefit billionaires and transnational corporations. On the other, Trump deflected blame away from the real holders of power and onto less powerful groups.

In the general election, when Hillary Clinton became pegged as the status quo candidate, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that Trump’s regressive populism won out.

But Trump’s plans to deport immigrants while cutting rich people’s taxes will almost certainly fail to address the underlying concerns of the non-wealthy voters who elected him. That leaves room for a more progressive populism to get the stalled-out line moving again.

That means building coalitions between urban and rural workers to raise wages and expand opportunities at the state and local levels. At the federal level, campaigns to tax the wealthy, create jobs by building new infrastructure, and provide debt-free education could win allies among Trump supporters.

Meanwhile, progressive populists should engage with Trump’s white supporters to explain that millions of black, Latino, and Native workers are stuck in line for many of the same reasons they are. Together they’ve all been held back by the 1 percent, though racism has made things far harder for people of color.

Fighting racism is essential. But liberals shouldn’t assume that Trump supporters are too racist, too dumb, or too manipulated by the Koch brothers to vote in their real economic interests.

Instead, like Hochschild did in Louisiana, they should take the time to understand the deeper economic and cultural reasons people might distrust the Democratic Party establishment and the broader liberal agenda.

Because we’re only going to get the line moving again when we realize we’re stuck in it together.

The post Building a New Populism in the Era of Trump appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Chuck Collins directs the Inequality and the Common Good project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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The Case For Non-Cooperation With Trump

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(Photo: Feedback Underground)

In my senior year of college, my Russian teacher pulled me aside. He told me that the CIA was recruiting on campus. I should consider applying for a job.

It was 1986. Mikhail Gorbachev had taken the helm of the Soviet Union, but the Cold War was still very much in place.

“The CIA?” I said. “Really?”

“I know your politics,” my professor said. “But don’t you think it’s better for the CIA to have analysts who are smart and speak Russian well? Don’t you think that will better serve the cause of peace?”

However flattered I was by his assessment, I was not tempted. I didn’t like what the CIA was doing around the world, and I was under no illusions about what one person could do to change such an institution from within.

“I would prefer not to,” I told him.

I was echoing the character of Bartleby the scrivener who, in the Melville short story of the same name, initially works hard at his Wall Street job and then, mysteriously, refuses to do anything at all. After my polite refusal to consider CIA employment, I embarked on a path that would take me ever further away from government service.

Today, all of America faces the Bartleby challenge. A small number of hard-right conservatives — Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, Mike Flynn, Steve Bannon — made the decision to side with Donald Trump during the election campaign. They expressed no reservations about Trump’s disqualifications, worked hard on his behalf, and will soon reap the benefits of their opportunism.

Most Democrats — and a sizable number of #NeverTrump Republicans — never imagined that the billionaire would ever get near the White House. Now they have to decide: Will they engage with the Trump administration, or will they prefer not to?

Within this anti-Trump camp, two factions have emerged.

The exceptionalists believe that American democracy is strong enough to withstand the gale force winds of Hurricane Donald, so it’s better to get behind the levees to help with the sandbags. Perhaps they can moderate the fury of his attacks; perhaps they can find common ground on some popular economic projects.

The rejectionists counter that the new president is an autocrat who doesn’t believe in democracy, so it’s better to resist Trump at every step. Work with the devil, and you’re doing the devil’s work.

Each faction has a compelling argument to make. Columnist Dana Milbank, for instance, was one of the strongest voices in The Washington Post against Trump’s candidacy. In his first column after the election, a letter to his daughter, Milbank issued the following appeal:

First, we must try to help Trump succeed. I urge Republicans of conscience to join his administration, to temper his worst instincts, as I hope Vice President-elect Mike Pence will. Six years ago, the top Republican in the Senate said his top political goal should be defeating President Obama. I hope Democrats don’t act that way. If Trump drops the crazy talk of the campaign, he could easily find compromises on the economy and immigration. Trump reinvented himself for this campaign. He’s capable of remaking himself again into a practical leader.

Many politicians (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama) and many prominent Trump critics (Nicholas Kristof, Thomas Friedman) have shared this approach. Call it the Bartleby A position: the scrivener as a diligent and responsible worker.

Contrast that perspective with Masha Gessen, writing in The New York Review of Books. She speaks from her experience growing up in the Soviet Union and navigating the politics of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Institutions, she warns, will not save America from Trump the autocrat:

Democrats in Congress will begin to make the case for cooperation, for the sake of getting anything done — or at least, they will say, minimizing the damage. Nongovernmental organizations, many of which are reeling at the moment, faced with a transition period in which there is no opening for their input, will grasp at chances to work with the new administration. This will be fruitless — damage cannot be minimized, much less reversed, when mobilization is the goal — but worse, it will be soul-destroying. In an autocracy, politics as the art of the possible is in fact utterly amoral. 

This is a classic restatement of the “anti-politics” position of dissidents living in the former Soviet bloc. It was, as history turned out, the right position. Non-cooperation with the Communist regimes gradually undermined their legitimacy, and they collapsed. Call this position Bartleby B, when the scrivener was in his “I would prefer not to” mode.

It will probably be no surprise to learn that I lean in Masha Gessen’s direction. Here’s why.

Negotiating with Evil

“We don’t negotiate with evil,” former Vice President Dick Cheney infamously said in 2003. “We defeat it.”

Cheney was referring to North Korea. The George W. Bush administration was trying to figure out what to do with the government in Pyongyang: negotiate with it or try to initiate regime change. For the first six years, the Bush team tried the latter strategy. The regime didn’t budge. For the last couple years, however, the Bush administration attempted to negotiate through both bilateral and multilateral means. Dick Cheney was not happy.

I supported diplomatic engagement with North Korea. So why on earth would I favor negotiating with an undemocratic, tyrannical, human-rights-abusing regime and recommend resistance to the Trump administration, which won power through democratic means?

It’s quite simple. I believe that engagement with North Korea is the best way of changing the system there through trade, cultural exchange, and political contact. Isolation has only further hardened the system — and there are no viable alternatives within the country that can replace the Kim dynasty (except for the military, which isn’t likely to be any better).

Americans, however, live in a democracy (for the time being). We have strong, democratic alternatives. We can organize to blunt Trump’s power two years from now. We can mobilize to defeat Trump four years from now. And, more importantly, we can do whatever we can outside the voting booth to throw sand into the gears of the Trump juggernaut.

But what if Trump implements policies that I support? He’s no fan of free trade agreements. He wants to avoid a war with Russia. On the domestic side, he favors investments in infrastructure and other job-creation efforts.

Yes, and Hitler built the Autobahn, Mussolini made the trains run on time (actually he didn’t), and Stalin dragged the Soviet economy kicking and screaming into the 20th century.

Conservatives like to say that soft-hearted liberals and cultural relativists don’t believe in evil. Well, all three of those fellows were evil. And so is Donald Trump (and some conservatives, I’m heartened to see, agree). And when Trump is too inconsistent or distracted by his Twitter account to be truly evil, a cohort of super-villains that he has assembled — alt-right nutcases like Bannon, law-and-order fanatics like Giuliani, and aspiring world-destroyers like Bolton — will fit the bill nicely.

I won’t try to stop policies that I think are good for the country or the world during the Trump era. Rather, I’ll devote my energies to blocking all of the malign effects of the new administration — on immigration, climate change, military spending, and the like.

How to translate “I prefer not to” into concrete action?

Here’s one great initiative that recently arrived in my inbox. If Donald Trump requires Muslims to register in the United States, I too will register as a Muslim. You can do the same here. “Sanctuary cities” like Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, and DC have all pledged to refuse to cooperate with federal authorities in deporting immigrants. In a courageous Facebook statement, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that New York State will provide safe haven for anyone who “feels that they are under attack.”

Soon we may be called upon to stand with all embattled minorities. And thus we become an emboldened majority.

On Non-Cooperation

It’s easy enough for me to say “I would prefer not to” when it comes to the Trump administration. I’m about as far away from the corridors of power as one can be and still live in the DC area. It’s not like the Trump team is going to knock on my door and offer me a position. If there’s going to be any knocks on the door from the president’s men, it will probably be after midnight and for a more ominous reason.

Indeed, my first impulse after reading the results of the election was to return to my bed and pull the covers back over my head — I preferred not to acknowledge reality. The prospect of reading the newspapers over the next four years, with Trump’s face front and center, sickened me. The idea of writing about foreign policy issues during the Trump era struck me as little more than fiddling while Rome burns. And I’m not looking forward to living and working in DC when Trump’s henchmen arrive in their limousines.

Closing my eyes to Trump, however satisfying in an infantile way, won’t make him go away. Nor is “strategic patience” — the Obama approach to dealing with the North Korean regime — going to suffice for Trump. In fact, even the “I prefer not to” position of Bartleby B is not good enough.

In Melville’s story, Bartleby ends up starving to death in prison, never having explained his passive resistance. That scenario doesn’t appeal to me. So, let’s consider Bartleby C, in which we all borrow the battle cry of the pro-Trump crowd: We’re fed up, and we’re not going to take it any more.

Let the next four years of antipolitics begin.

The post The Case For Non-Cooperation With Trump appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

John Feffer directs Foreign Policy in Focus, a project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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