Count Me In, America!

New Orleans   The US Constitution is clear:  count everyone every ten years.  Period.  No, ifs, ands, and buts about it.

In the Supreme Court case the justices who claim to be “originalists,” meaning that they believe every single word of the document is evergreen despite the passage of almost 250 years, and all that has transpired in that time, didn’t argue that point.  Census takers, in our largest peacetime mobilizations every decade, send the forms to one and all, and hit the hard to find doors in streets and byways, but they wanted to add yet another question to the counting process.  They wanted to ask about citizenship.

Cities have routinely argued, census after census, about undercounts, especially in areas populated by minorities, particularly immigrant communities where language provides problems in both recruiting competent and versatile census workers and census takers.  Why does it matter?  It’s about the Benjamins, brothers and sisters.  The numbers trigger monies that flow from the federal government to the state and local governments for a plethora of programs.  An undercount in these communities could would shortchange local governments literally billions of dollars.

But, it’s not just about the money, it’s also about power.  The Census in our representative form of government determines the count on which districts are drawn for Congressional and other districts at the hands of state legislatures.  The Supreme Court has now ruled that gerrymandering, meaning drawing the districts to favor one political party over another, is legal or at least cannot be challenged in federal courts, except in cases of racial bias, based on the Constitution having left the line drawing to state legislatures full-well knowing they would use funny business in playing with the numbers.  State courts and state constitutions are another matter, and there are now gerrymandering cases pending in ten different states.

Of course, all levels of the courts found that Commerce Secretary and billionaire Wilbur Ross lied up and down town, including to the judges, about adding the citizenship question, claiming it for civil rights enforcement, when it was clearly about discouraging immigrants from turning in the forms in order to lower the count.  The smoking guns were revealed first when it became clear that Ross had asked Justice for a rationale for the question, even while claiming “the devil made him do it,” and then when the daughter of the premier conservative district drawer found on her recently deceased father’s computer effects, USB drives that detailed his arguments that adding such a question would favor Republicans for decades by lowering the response from immigrant and minority respondents.

Despite Trump claiming he would fight this to the death and delay the Census where printing needed to start July 1st, in a one-line message to the courts, the Justice Department threw in the towel and said they would not re-litigate the matter in the lower courts to try and come up with a justification for lying.  This is a huge victory, though not a permanent one.  It was front page news in the Wall Street Journal, but only a small item on pager 13A in the Times-Picayune / New Orleans Advocate.

Unfortunately, many observers think the damage is already done because many immigrants will be afraid to return the forms, since this government has given them no reason to trust fairness or privacy.  Nonetheless, for a change, lying didn’t work for the Administration, so their recognition that they were busted flat without a chance to get off the mat, is refreshing.  Justice has been done, and lying was not rewarded.  Something to celebrate for a change.

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Poverty Meltdown Crushing Families in Record Numbers

New Orleans Childern of the Gulf American PovertyYou can’t put lipstick on this pig.  There is no way to spin the Census Bureau numbers as anything but tragic or keep the phrases “lost decade” or “lost generation” out of the story of the avalanche income slide that is burying families in poverty in this Great Recession.  The coming argument over support for jobs is now moving past ironic to simply cynical.

I’m betting many of you lack the courage to get through the whole depressing litany of statistics whole sharpness cuts like a knife.  Here are some of the bullet points:

  • Another 2.6 million people became poor in 2010 compared to the year before.
  • 46.2 million people are now “officially” living below the poverty line (the highest # in 52 years since the Bureau began counting)
  • Median family incomes felt backwards to the same levels as 15 years ago in 1996-97
  • The gap between the rich and poor continued to increase with the recession only trimming household income for the top 10th by 1.5% but hammering the bottom 10th by 12%.
  • 15.1% of Americans live below poverty, the highest total since 1993 at $22,314 for a family of four.
  • Minorities were crippled by the poverty rate with African-Americans up to 27%, Hispanics up to 26%.
  • 10 million people are estimated to have joined the ranks of the poor in the last 5 years
  • 48 million people did not get even one week of work in 2010.
  • Median income felt for young workers by 9%.
  • 25-34 year olds showed a 25% jump in living at their parents home
  • The poverty level for a single household was $11, 344
  • Uninsured Americans increased to almost 50 million people
  • States with the highest percentage of poor people were (1) Mississippi (2) Louisiana (3) Georgia (4) New Mexico and (5) Arizona.  All Republican led I believe.

Let me know when we are finally willing to acknowledge that poverty is now a huge crisis and central issue for Americans.  Then let’s see if we can get a message to Congress and the White House, ok?

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