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Tag: politics

How To Keep The Faith When Religion And Politics Divide Us

In a recent phone conversation — a catch-up during COVID isolation — a longtime friend talked of a memory that seemed especially relevant these days. A fellow cradle Catholic, whom I met at a Catholic university, she recalled how startled she was on entering my childhood parish for my decades-ago wedding and finding herself surrounded by statues of the saints and Christ on the cross, familiar to her but so very different. The faces and hands and pierced feet were painted black, so unlike anything she had experienced growing up.

It stopped her, until she realized how appropriate the scene was. Of course, these representations would be reimagined in the image of those who gathered and worshipped in this particular holy place, located in the heart of West Baltimore.

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In Defense Of Iowa

We have reached that time in every presidential nominating year when distinguished, national opinion leaders beat up on Iowa and that admirable state’s influential role in determining the two major parties’ eventual presidential nominees and, therefore, the next president. The USA Today editorial board indicts Iowa for being “one of the least ethnically diverse states in the country” and its status as the first-in-the-nation presidential test every four years as ” un-American,” while Paul Waldman writes in The Washington Post that the Iowa caucuses “are a crime against democracy.”

It is time someone stood up for Iowa and Iowans. It’s true that Iowa is neither very representative of the entire nation nor very average. Scholarly studies have ranked Iowa as tied for first place in percentage of the adult population who are high school graduates. Iowans are fourth highest in access to health care (more “representative” Florida and Texas rank 46th and 47th respectively in citizens’ access to health care); first in broadband access; and third highest in public libraries per capita. True, the Hawkeye State leads the nation in production of corn, soybeans and pork, but Iowans are at the top of the nation in literacy, and the state has the U.S.’s 14th lowest murder rate.

But Iowa remains a small, rural state in the middle of the country. How representative can its voters be of the nation at large? The answer: amazingly so. In 1992, Democrat Bill Clinton won 43 percent of the national vote and the White House; in Iowa, Clinton won 43 percent of the vote. In 1996, winner Clinton carried 49 percent of the national vote and 50 percent of the Iowa vote. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won the national vote by one-half of 1 percent and Iowa by one-third of one percent. Republican George W Bush won reelection in 2004 with 51 percent of the national vote and 50 percent in Iowa. Democrat Barack Obama, in 2008, got 53 percent of the national vote and 54 percent of Iowans. In 2012, Obama was reelected nationally by a margin of four percent and in Iowa by five percent. In 2016, the exception: Donald Trump, who lost the national vote by two percent to Hillary Clinton, carried Iowa by a solid ten percent.

Yes, Iowa’s 2008 Democratic caucuses were 93 percent white, and those mid-American Caucasians made history by giving legitimacy and momentum to a freshman senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. In Iowa, the African American underdog won an upset victory over the heavily favored former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and was propelled to the top of the national polls.

In fact, the rest of us owe Iowa our thanks. Iowans faithfully and earnestly fulfill their civil responsibilities by showing up at campaign town halls and listening and questioning the men and women who seek the White House. They take their responsibility seriously and then, on a cold winter night, hundreds of thousands of Iowans leave their homes and go to the local church hall, firehouse or school gym and spend a couple of hours declaring and defending their presidential preference openly in front of neighbors and friends. In the caucus, firefighters join shoulder-to-shoulder with nurses, teachers, retirees, students and small businesswomen in truly vibrant democracy. Here in Iowa, because Iowans give them a full and fair chance, the underfinanced, underdog candidate has a real chance. It was in Iowa that Jimmy Carter broke through and where George H.W. Bush’s upset win would lead to his being chosen vice president.

Thank you, Iowa, for serving the nation so well.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Why It’s Time To Kill The Iowa Caucuses

“It is quite astonishing to see with what deadpan and neutral a tone our press and television report the open corruption — and the flagrantly anti-democratic character — of the Iowa caucuses.”

I quote the late Christopher Hitchens because I couldn’t put it better.

In a primary, eligible voters can show up anytime while polls are open, cast anonymous ballots and go home. In the caucuses, they must show up on a winter night and spend several hours jostling with neighbors and strangers as they show support for one candidate or another.

This setup favors activists who are not deterred by snow, cold and the dark. They tend to be educated and have the luxury of free evening hours. They’re also aggressive and skilled in working the intricacies of the caucus process.

The caucuses disfavor working people who must juggle two children and three jobs. Add to that anyone who works nights at McDonald’s or drives an Uber after hours. Or who depends on a public transportation system that slows down in the evening.

The obvious winners in this unfair setup are candidates with passionate followers. Bernie Sanders has notably been a beneficiary. In 2016, he did better in the caucuses, where his activists could exert control, than in the primaries, where a wider electorate cast simple ballots without pressure.

Caucuses routinely suppress voter participation, according to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. In 2016, turnout at the Iowa caucuses was under 16 percent, whereas the New Hampshire primary attracted 52 percent of eligible voters.

Washington state, which held both a caucus and a primary in 2016, offered a real-world contrast of the two. In March that year, Sanders swept Washington’s Democratic caucus, walking off with 74 delegates to Hillary Clinton’s 27. When Washington held a primary two months later, Clinton won by 6 percent.

Only about 26,000 people “voted” in the Democratic caucuses, while more than 660,000 voted in the primary. The state Democratic Party is switching to a meaningful primary in 2020.

Were caucuses how conservative state runs a general election, liberals would rightly accuse election officials of practicing voter suppression. The Supreme Court might even strike down its election laws as unconstitutional. But this is a party matter, and it is up to the Democratic National Committee to fix the problem.

In assessing a candidate’s ability to prevail in a general election, some members of the punditry put great importance on the level of voter enthusiasm. Should that matter? It shouldn’t, not in a democracy. Votes are supposed to be equal. A vote cast with mild affection or indifference — even with nose held — counts every bit as much as a vote made with thumping heart.

Some friends, particularly younger ones, worship the ground Bernie walks on. I back Joe Biden but don’t adore him. (I could be happy with another moderate, say, Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg.) To me, Biden is a solid progressive and, more importantly, the Democrat whom President Donald Trump most fears.

What excites me, though in a bad way, is the belief that a Sanders nomination — or his trashing of the actual Democratic nominee, as he did in 2016 — would deliver another four years to Trump.

Whatever the results in the Iowa caucuses, one can be confident that they will leave an exaggerated impression of the level of Sanders’ support. They will reveal the preference of a tiny slice of a tiny slice of the electorate and, in the Democrats’ case, of an electorate more heavily weighted toward the white liberal gentry than the party at large.

Only the Democratic Party can end this undemocratic means of choosing its nominees. And it should.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

In A Challenging New Year, Life Awaits Us

On Dec. 29, I became one day older than my mother on the day she died.

I did not go to bed until I could say this out loud.

At the stroke of midnight, I turned to my husband and said, “Today—”

He finished my sentence, in the softest tone. “You have outlived your mother,” Sherrod said. “Here’s to many years to come.”

Our daughter-in-law, Stina, had stayed up with us, reading on a nearby sofa. She set down the book and walked over to me, her arms open wide. “I love you,” she said, holding me tight. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Of course, they knew. Everyone who loves me knows I’ve been anxiously counting the days, even though I’ve always known it was a deadline only in my mind, and in my heart. I’ve never heard a moment’s judgment from any of them, even though they wished I hadn’t obsessed about running out this particular clock. I can hear their silent collective sigh of relief, not for my milestone, but for my acceptance that it’s time to move on.

Life awaits.

It is New Year’s Eve as I write, and I am ready to welcome 2020 with open arms. I am leaving more than that personal milestone behind. This year started as one thing and ended as something much worse. Even as I think through this next sentence, I worry that some would like me to get over it by now and stop bringing it up, but this is as much as part of me as the creases in my face and songs spooling in my head. Twenty days before my birthday, my brother killed himself. This is who I am now, too, and pretending otherwise only delays the grief I must claw my way through.

I’m getting there. I am.

So, here’s to you, 2019: can’t wait to let you go.

On Monday, “The Hoarse Whisperer,” a popular anonymous account on Twitter, asked, “What is the one (non-political) thing you want to do or accomplish this coming year?”

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I disappoint myself on a regular basis. The last thing I need are goal posts to mark my poor finishes. And yet there I was, responding with the speed of a cook racing to the nearest counter space after scooping a hot casserole out of the oven with threadbare mitts:

I want to double down on making my home a nurturing and fun place for family and friends. More crockpot meals on weeknights, more spontaneous gatherings. I love the music of laughter and clinking dishes at our table. Vacuuming can wait. We need one another.

We do, you know.

More than ever, we need to know the comfort of normalcy in a time when virtually nothing is working the way it’s supposed to, starting with the presidency of the United States.

Lately, I am obsessed with the notion of “shrinking the change,” which I first learned about after reading former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power’s memoir, “Education of an Idealist.” We can’t fix everything that is wrong with the world, but we can improve the world in our immediate orbit.

Every time I set my table and leave the door open for invited friends or family, I feel a sense of mission. My homemade cornbread and vegetarian chili won’t stop Donald Trump from demonizing migrant children and their families, but our conversations over dinner can help us brainstorm ways to help them. As I’ve learned over hundreds of meals in our home, the most fruitful endeavors often begin with a ritual of the most reliably ordinary.

Dinner, for example.

Time with those we love, for another.

We are embarking on the 2020 campaign year, which will be the worst we’ve experienced because the man running for reelection is the most dangerous president in American history. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic because most people love this country more than Trump, including you.

None of us knows how much time we have on this earth, but each of us gets to decide how we will use what’s left of it.

I have now lived three days longer than my mother on the day she died. Every day is a gift, and just like you, I have to figure out how best to use it.

We’re alive, my friends. Happy New Year.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, “The Daughters of Erietown,” will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Trump’s Inartful Dodges: A Year Of Presidential Blame-Shifting

During a policy retreat in September, Donald Trump attributed his signature orange hue, which seems to be caused by the amateurish application of bronzer, to energy-efficient lightbulbs. “The light’s no good,” he told House Republicans. “I always look orange. And so do you. The light is the worst.”

It was hardly the most consequential instance of Trump’s blame shifting in 2019, but it was part of a pattern for a president who seems constitutionally incapable of accepting responsibility. Here are some of the more memorable examples from the last year.

Border Song. “The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only: because Democrats will not fund border security,” Trump said in January. Yet it was Trump who caused the shutdown by insisting on money for his “big, beautiful wall” along the southern border — money that Congress still has not approved.

Hanoi Shuffle. After his February meeting in Hanoi with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended abruptly, Trump initially blamed Kim’s insistence on a complete lifting of economic sanctions in exchange for only partial progress on denuclearization, saying, “Sometimes you have to walk.” A few days later, he argued that Democrats had helped spoil the summit by inviting his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to testify while Trump was in Hanoi, which he said “may have contributed to the ‘walk'” — i.e., Trump’s own decision to end the meeting.

It’s Not the Crime. While it turned out that Trump was telling the truth when he denied that his campaign had illegally conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, his public and private efforts to impede, curtail or stop investigations of that question needlessly prolonged the “witch hunt” he blamed on Democrats and the “fake news media.” Those efforts filled an entire volume of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s March report, which detailed obstructive behavior that made it look like Trump had something to hide.

18th-Century Airports. During an Independence Day speech, Trump claimed the Continental Army “manned the air” and “took over the airports” during the Revolutionary War. He attributed the flub to a teleprompter failure that had forced him to extemporize.

Love Him or Leave. After Trump supporters at a July 17 rally chanted “send her back” when he mentioned Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who was born in Somalia, he claimed “I felt a little bit badly about it” and “started speaking very quickly,” which was not true. Trump’s attempt to distance himself from the spirit of the chant was especially implausible because just a few days before he had suggested that “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen” — a reference to Omar and three other representatives, all of whom were born in the United States — should “go back” to the countries they “originally came from.”

Do Us a Favor. To this day, Trump insists that his July 25 telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — Exhibit A in the case for impeachment — was “perfect” and “totally appropriate,” even though his request for an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender to oppose him in this year’s election, alarmed several administration officials. Instead of conceding that it was even a little bit unseemly to mix foreign policy with his own political interests, Trump has blamed all the fuss on hostile underlings, treasonous Democrats, “corrupt journalists” and even Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

First Resort. In October, Trump suddenly reversed plans to hold next June’s Group of 7 summit at his golf club in Doral, Florida, after his advisers and congressional allies warned him that the appearance of self-dealing and self-promotion would provoke an easily avoided controversy. Trump blamed Democrats who “went crazy” and reporters who cited “this phony Emoluments Clause.”

There was more, including Trump’s claims that the impeachment inquiry and the Fed were responsible for economic developments more plausibly linked to his trade war. But I have run out of space, which is what happens when you try to catalog this president’s inartful dodges.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @JacobSullum. To find out more about Jacob Sullum and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Good Things That Happened In The Decade Now Ending

Ten years ago, America was in an awful way. It had been through a decade of terrorism, war and recession, which combined to create a pervasive sense of anxiety. The worldwide expansion of democracy had shifted into reverse.

At the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the U.S. economy was just beginning to climb out of the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Unemployment was at 10 percent. Americans were being killed in Iraq at the rate of three per week. The war in Afghanistan was going so poorly that President Barack Obama mounted a troop surge. Congress was bitterly divided over his proposed health insurance reform.

Throughout the world, the United States was losing influence. In his 2009 book The End of the American Century, David S. Mason wrote that “in the past decade, and particularly since September 11, every aspect of this American dominance has begun to wane.” It was not only foreigners who were disenchanted with us. Americans were also beset with dread, confusion, and outrage.

Today, we still have plenty of serious problems: climate change, the epidemic of opioid overdose deaths, mass shootings, the continuing battle over health insurance. Not to mention Donald Trump and everything associated with his poisonous presidency.

But the end of the decade is a moment to remember that good things have happened since it began.

—The economy has enjoyed the longest expansion in American history, reducing unemployment to 3.5 percent and pushing up wages — without setting off inflation. The S&P 500 stock index has tripled. Home prices, which plummeted in the recession, have rebounded.

—The U.S. left Iraq, and even after the return of American troops to fight the Islamic State in 2014, we have only about 5,000 military personnel there now — compared with 136,000 in 2009. The number of Americans fighting in Afghanistan is down from 51,000 in 2009 to 13,000. In 2009, the U.S. military lost 465 men and women in the two wars. This year, the number is less than 40.

—The military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which banned openly gay members, was lifted by Obama in 2011. Same-sex marriage, which was allowed in only a handful of states and had been forbidden by state constitutional amendment in most, gained nationwide constitutional protection thanks to a 2015 Supreme Court decision.

—Twenty states have banned discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. Only one state, North Carolina, enacted a “bathroom bill” to keep transgender people from using facilities matching their gender identity, and North Carolina eventually agreed to a federal court settlement overturning key elements of the policy. Both the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts decided to admit members based on their gender identity.

—Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in 2011, and Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died during a U.S. military raid in Syria this year.

—Obama banned the use of torture on suspected terrorists by the CIA, reversing the Bush administration’s policy.

—The Obama administration granted protection to some 800,000 undocumented foreigners who were brought here as children. Courts have blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, whose fate is now in the hands of the Supreme Court.

—A succession of killings of unarmed black men by police helped focus lasting attention on America’s persistent racial inequities. This year, some Democratic presidential candidates have endorsed reparations for slavery and Jim Crow. The city of Evanston, Illinois, recently decided to use revenue from cannabis taxes to pay compensation to black residents, who make up 17 percent of the city’s population.

Trump has done immeasurable harm on all sorts of matters. But he has also created a powerful backlash that has manifested itself in annual women’s marches, renewed awareness of the persistence of racism, and public support for modest gun regulations, action against climate change, immigration reform, the Affordable Care Act — and his impeachment.

It says something good about the American character that for almost the entirety of his time in office, a majority of people have disapproved of this president’s performance.

In 2019, it’s easy to think our politics will never get better — just as in 2009, it was easy to think the economy would never get better. But when you hit bottom, most roads lead upward.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

In A Fractious Holiday Season, Glimmers Of Hope?

In Washington, Santa’s naughty and nice list will be mighty lopsided this year. Donald Trump sealed his fate when he went after Speaker Nancy Pelosi — for her teeth. Then he followed with a six-page letter, a rant that projected many of his transgressions onto those he has labeled his accusers, targeting Pelosi, again, and mentioning the Salem witch trials for good measure.

Perhaps you have to step away from politics for some relief. Well, not this year, as even escapist Hallmark Channel fare has been sucked into arguments over love and family and the true meaning of the holiday.

It isn’t pretty.

Christmas itself has taken on the mean and partisan tone of a country that often seems at war with itself. This week, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were off to Michigan for a “Merry Christmas” rally — and you better not slip and say, “Happy holidays.”

What once was an innocuous and inclusive way to offer good wishes to those of any or no faith during this time of year has become a litmus test for a subset of militant believers, so “Season’s Greetings” becomes an assault on all that is holy and good.

As for a “war” on Christmas, isn’t putting war and Christmas in the same sentence its own kind of blasphemy?

Almost as ridiculous and disheartening is the war over chicken, a major food group. Last month, Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A announced its foundation would focus its philanthropy on education, homelessness and hunger, its statement said, “to create more clarity and to better address three critical needs facing children across the communities we serve.”

Who could argue with that? Well, more folks than you might think. People took the company’s new direction as capitulation to protests from LGBTQ activists over statements by its CEO and past support of organizations that worked to ban same-sex marriage. While it might have been in part a business decision from a company that this year closed a restaurant in the United Kingdom after protests and is also facing competition from media-savvy Popeyes, helping children was nevertheless gracious.

Many conservative groups, however, saw the move and the foundation’s decision not to renew financial commitments to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as betrayal. Evangelist Franklin Graham encouraged his social media followers to pray for the company and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, suggested Chick-fil-A had “lost its way” over a donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tangles with conservatives over which organizations it classifies as “hate” groups.

Damning emails don’t lie

Not a peep from these same quarters when the SPLC exposed a trove of emails from White House senior adviser Stephen Miller to a former Breitbart editor, the majority of which parroted white nationalist rhetoric on race and immigration. Many Democrats demanded Miller’s resignation; the White House defended its architect of immigration policy and Republicans stayed mum.

While the SPLC has had its own set of scandals this year, those damning emails don’t lie. That Miller reportedly had input into Trump’s fact-challenged, exclamation-point strewn Pelosi letter is not at all surprising.

The holiday classics we rely on don’t exactly work anymore. With the president in the lead, the new version of one of my favorites, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” would end with the Grinch’s heart shrinking as he steals Cindy Lou Who’s slice of roast beast while shouting, Mick Mulvaney style, “Get over it.”

So, how about a Hallmark movie refuge, as the insistent card-store clerk kept asking as she pressed a schedule into my reluctant hands? This season, a commercial featuring two women at a same-sex marriage ceremony kissing caused more drama than any plot point in one of the channel’s all-too-predictable programs. (Full disclosure: I’ve never been a fan of their overwhelmingly white Christmas fantasies, but to each his or her or their own.) The channel’s decision to pull the ads, and, after backlash, to reinstate them managed to upset everyone.

Peering into Pelosi prayers

What folks believe and how they choose to worship (or not) is so personal, especially in America, a country not founded on religion or bound by it, that you would think that corner, at least, would be respected. But in his screed to Pelosi, Trump went there: “You [Nancy Pelosi] are offending Americans of faith by continually saying: ‘I pray for the president,’ when you know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in a negative sense.”

So now, Trump speaks for all persons of faith and, along with his other superpowers, can see into people’s souls.

Moving from Washington to holiday dinner conversation, it means the “no religion or politics rule” has been permanently obliterated.

Somehow, though, I find the transparency refreshing, as Americans are free to witness leaders engaging in a conversation about the Constitution and what it requires. They can also observe a president embraced by white evangelicals who seem impervious as he insults women and a young climate change activist, and calls for duly elected congressman Adam Schiff to receive Guatemala-style justice (and we can only imagine what that is).

Even if you choose to ignore politics, it will affect you, a lesson I learned as I watched family members put their lives on the line to make America live up to its promise; they made my life better though I hardly understood that during that divisive and dangerous time. In America, you can do something, as pro and con impeachment protesters showed this week.

And amid all of the acrimony, in an event crowded out by impeachment and the rest, there was Speaker Pelosi, acting more presidential than the president, leading a bipartisan delegation marking the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.

“In an afternoon ceremony at Luxembourg American Cemetery,” her statement said, “we paid our respects to the thousands of American soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom and democracy.”

Fighting back during that wintry siege seemed hopeless, too.

There’s always time for a holiday (excuse me, Christmas) miracle.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

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White People Use Food Stamps, Too

We are not who we think we are.

America is not the land of unlimited opportunity, not the home of the free and the brave, not the shining city on a hill. Instead, it is a troubled nation spurning its more noble traditions, stirring the cauldron of racial and ethnic hatred and turning its back on those who didn’t have the good luck to be born wealthy.

Even if voters rise up to defeat the corrupt narcissist in the Oval Office, the nation will still be in trouble, having allowed the gaping wounds of race and class to fester for far too long. President Donald J. Trump’s cultish base of aging whites is fearful of demographic tides, anxious about cultural change. But many of his voters also fear losing their economic footing, and they incorrectly blame their lack of opportunity on immigrants.

Globalization certainly plays a part in the current economy, but greed also plays a major role. Conservative politicians and the wealthy executives who support them have trampled the labor unions that had helped to boost a broad middle class. The wealthy have also cobbled together a tax structure that ensures the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

While Trump glories in an unemployment rate that suggests a buoyant economy, closer inspection provides a much more distressing picture: The haves have almost everything. Just take a look at a disturbing recent report from the Brookings Foundation: “Meet the Low-Wage Workforce.” It found that nearly half (44 percent) of all American workers toil in low-wage jobs: “They earn median hourly wages of $10.22 and median annual earnings of $17,950.” That is staggering.

As you might expect, those low-wage workers tend to be less educated, lacking post-secondary training. And, yes, many of those workers are black and brown. Workers of color are disproportionately represented among low-wage workers, given their numbers in the U.S. population.

Even so, most of those low-wage workers are white. The report states: “Low-wage workers are a racially diverse group, and disproportionately female. Fifty-two percent are white, 25 percent are Latino or Hispanic, 15 percent are black and 5 percent are Asian American.” Many are the very white voters who would tend to vote for Trump because they don’t understand the forces that have made their lives precarious.

While policymakers seem to think of the working poor as laborers who clean commercial buildings or work as orderlies in hospitals, job classifications such as retail sales generate mostly low-wage positions. You can work very hard at any of those jobs and still find it difficult to make ends meet.

Yet, Trump has just announced a change in the rules for beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly known as “food stamps” — that is likely to toss nearly 700,000 people off the rolls. The rule change will make it more difficult for states to waive a requirement that “able-bodied” recipients work at least 20 hours a week in order to receive assistance for more than three months. Ask any hourly laborer — including your neighborhood barista — whether his or her employer guarantees 20 hours a week of work. The answer is likely to be “no.”

How did we come to this? How did we get to be so mean-spirited? Why is it that a nation as rich as this one refuses to provide a few meals for people who cannot afford them?

Unsurprisingly, racism is part of the answer to that question, too. For decades, politicians, pundits and the news media have painted the social safety net (except Social Security and Medicare) as a web of programs that benefit mostly the black and brown poor. That portrayal has led easily to a widespread belief that food stamps and Medicaid, for example, assist only lazy, able-bodied black and brown folk who will not lift a hand to help themselves.

Those perceptions are, of course, at odds with the facts. Government data show that white people make up the largest share (52 percent) of people lifted from poverty by safety-net programs, while black people make up less than a quarter of that group. Still, some political science research has suggested that whites would rather miss out on a stronger social safety net than share any of its benefits with their darker fellow citizens.

This, unhappily, is the real America.