Perry Talks Poverty & Race (Part 1)

“We cannot dismiss the historical legacy of slavery, nor its role in causing the problem of black poverty."

On Thursday July 2, 2015 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC
Sources: C-Span, National Press Club (PDF), Washington Examiner 

The Context: While he acknowledges significant barriers for some minorities in entering the mainstream economy, Rick Perry is optimistic that the prosperity of our country depends on our ability to lift minority groups out of poverty. He continues by saying, "And because slavery and segregation were sanctioned by government, there is a role for government policy in addressing their lasting effects."  He asks, "In a country with Hispanic CEOs, Asian billionaires and a black president. Why is it that so many black families feel left behind?” As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to gain traction and America’s widening income inequality conversation continues in the buildup to 2016, the candidates are establishing their positions. Perry presents the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and block grants which would allow individual states to create their own financial safety nets for impoverished families. 

Part 1 of 2     

This is the first of a two-part entry on the regional patterns of race and poverty across the country.

In no uncertain terms, Perry opens up the Republican conversation on the economic impacts of historical and structural racism. Race and Poverty are two topics that every candidate has discussed—in different ways and to different extents. Thus far into the Campaign Mapping project, we've collected several entries in the Atlas on each, but haven't yet had cause for direct comparison of the two. As we've seen with a few of our other topics, especially when we begin to compare regional patterns, it's important to establish a baseline. In other words, we know that the law of percentages will affect what we see in the maps: where we find higher levels of poverty we are likely to see higher levels of minorities in poverty. We should start with reminding ourselves of a few of the maps to date on the topic. (Click any of the maps below to enlarge.)

Further, before isolating any specific racial or ethnic group, we should consider the national trends. And so, we start with asking

What are the overarching trends in poverty in the US—regionally, racially, and by age group?

Nationally, poverty is overwhelmingly (statistically) concentrated in regions stretching across the southern portions of the country, which coincide with the regions with the highest levels of racial diversity, the highest percentages of minorities, and the highest proportions of African Americans specifically. But this colocation does not necessarily always mean that poverty and minority status are one in the same. Nor does it mean that the extent to which poverty affects different racial groups is the same nationwide. Certainly, these maps cannot imply that minority poverty is only a concern where there are great numbers of minorities. Instead, we should ask

What are the poverty levels for different racial and ethnic groups across the country? And how do those rates compare to the local average?

Because this is where Perry starts the conversation, we will also start by looking at the poverty levels of African Americans. 

Let's talk about what we find. Poverty in Black and African-American communities is prevalent at levels far above the national average in almost every county where there is a sufficient Black population to measure poverty. Beyond this, poverty for Black Americans reaches some of its highest levels where we also see some of the lowest poverty rates overall and in some of the least racially diverse regions. When compared to the poverty rate of the total local population, we find a similar pattern. While poverty rates for African Americans are higher than average in most (measurable) places, they reach above five or ten times greater levels in parts of the country with low levels of diversity and low levels of poverty. 

In Part 2, we will continue this comparison and take a look at the poverty rates of other racial and ethnic identities.

Chafee on the Minimum Wage

"I’ve always voted to raise the minimum wage. We raised it as governor in Rhode Island twice. And I’ve always supported social programs that build the middle class. I Have a 30-year record of votes in favor of good social programs, beneficial social programs that help people, especially in the middle class."

On Friday, July 24, 2015 in an interview on PBS with Tavis Smiley
Sources: PBS (with video and transcript), OnTheIssues (including a summary of Chafee's record on minimum wage)

The Context: Much of Chafee's interview with Smiley discusses his record on social issues and his history as a one-time Republican. He describes his party change as the result of the fact that the GOP "party moved away from [him]." Regardless of his party, Chafee reiterates that his record on social, environmental, fiscal, and foreign issues has not changed. On these issues, Chafee walks a moderate line holding stances on several specific questions that are common to each (but not both) major party. 

With his reassurance that he is a sufficient Democrat, Chafee specifically cites his record on the minimum wage because (at least, in part) it often draws a line in the political sand. Which side of that line a politician chooses—and how that stance is discussed in public—can align a candidate with big labor or big corporations, with the struggles of the working poor or the struggles of small business. 

Several individual cities have enacted their own minimum wage laws, often motivated by the high costs of living particular to urban areas. The motivations behind minimum wage laws in states are different. In addition to the politics of the issue, individual states' laws and debates on the minimum wage are also a forum for discussing states' rights and our federalism more generally. As a result of all this, many states have complex definitions of what comprises the "minimum," which may fluctuate with cost-of-living indices, the federal minimum wage, or the size and revenue of individual employers. Still other states have opted to separate the employee positions subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act entirely from the scope of their wage laws. 

Right now, the federal hourly minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour, which at first glance would suggest an even minimum lowest threshold across the country. Given how many political issues are included in a debate on set wages, however, we asked

How much does the minimum wage and the laws that determine it vary from state to state?

Lindsey Graham Is Single

“I am single like many other people. If you’ve got a good marriage, God bless you. If you're single, there's nothing wrong with you. The last time I checked, there was nothing in the Constitution or at the White House that said, 'Single people need not apply.' I'm going to be a ready-to-go commander-in-chief, protect everybody, single people included."

On Sunday, June 14, 2015 on Face The Nation
Sources: CBS News, The New Yorker

The Context: Lindsey Graham is an unmarried candidate for the presidency. While several candidates speak frequently about their spouses and families, Graham's bachelor status brings questions about who would serve as first lady. Similarly, while many other (specifically Republican) candidates are forging their platforms on specific concepts of American family structure, here Graham is speaking directly to the portion of the electorate who are unmarried. 

Certainly, the image of the American family is changing—as younger adults wait longer to get married and with this summer's Supreme Court decision to strike down state bans on same-sex marriage. Within Graham's party, we've heard calls for the maintenance of "traditional marriage," warnings about the consequences of "broken homes," and calls for the end of "the marriage penalty." (Of course, we have heard alternative interpretations and arguments to each of these as well.) Alongside social definitions, costs, and benefits, the legal question of marriage also invokes the issues of states' rights; income inequality; lifestyle mobility, stability, and flexibility.

Given the attention that many of the Republican candidates pay to marriage and marital status, and the rarity of Graham's comment toward single Americans, we asked

How much of the voting public is single? And, ultimately, where?

O'Malley Advocates for Alternative Energy Jobs

“We need to invent an American jobs agenda that is a match for the climate challenge. […] There’s the potential to bring forward that sort of power—clean energy, renewable energy—and I believe that it is rural America and America’s city centers that will lead the way to this cleaner, greener, safer, and yes, more prosperous energy future. […] This isn’t about the end of the world. It’s about imagining a new beginning and realizing that there are jobs to be created."

On Saturday, June 11, 2015 in Iowa City, Iowa
Sources: Martin O'Malley YouTube, Politico (including similar remarks from O'Malley at other times), O'Malley campaign website (including his position on renewable energy)

The Context: During their travels through Iowa, an all-important early primary state, the candidates have approached the topic of energy with care—the one-fifth of Iowans working in agriculture and related industries have a lot at stake when it comes to alternative energy subsidies. Here, O’Malley joins those who support investing in a future of alternative energy, starting with celebrating Iowa as "the leading producer of wind [energy]." He stresses that “we know the science” behind this issue, but that the Left's goals can be misunderstood when speaking about climate change in an apocalyptic manner. O’Malley equates alternative energy investment to job growth, envisioning a “new economy” with opportunities for employment in green design and retrofitting, two examples of subsectors complementing the actual production of clean energy.

The topic of (alternative) energy can be understood through countless metrics. After looking at the state-by-state patterns of overall energy production and consumption, we wondered how the energy sector contributes to employment across the country today. Investment in our energy industries will include creating jobs throughout several occupations, specialties, and subsectors as O'Malley mentioned. Knowing that the early rounds of these jobs will likely build upon the workforce already in place, we asked 

Where are our current energy-related jobs? And how do their earnings compare to others?

Pataki Talks Simpler & Fairer Taxes (Part 2)

"I would essentially throw out the entire tax code, along the lines of the Bowles-Simpson recommendation. Get rid of the vast majority of the exemptions, credits, and loopholes. I would keep things like the home mortgage interest deduction, the charitable credit and the [research and development] credit. But simplify it and dramatically lower the rates. I think we'd have a far fairer system."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015, Interview with US News & World Report
Sources: US News & World Report, Also, Pataki's stance on tax policy is summarized at OnTheIssues

The Context: In an interview with US News, Pataki covered a variety of topics including laying out his stance on the American tax code. In addition to this short list of credits and deductions he would like to maintain, he would "suggest that we have a tax rate on manufacturing that is the lowest in the developed world" and implied a similarly substantial cut to the overall corporate tax rate. 

Part 2 of 2

This entry is a continuation of yesterday's Part 1, in which we looked at how much money is claimed in tax returns across the country as mortgage interest paid.

So, mortgage interest—as a basis for supporting housing and middle-class economic stability and upward mobility—varies greatly across the country tied to a variety of several other fluctuating variables. The wide range of interest payment amounts is the result of the housing market and the financial markets. It is affected by variations in homeownership rates and property values (which in turn affect local school funding). It is affected by the types of mortgages and their interest structure which historically are offered on both case-by-case and neighborhood-by-neighborhood bases, as banks determine both the risks of the borrower and the property. (Redlining was outlawed decades ago, but last decade's foreclosure crisis carried with it indications of a more sophisticated 21st-century version.) Interest rates also change over time, and thus newer neighborhoods and gentrifying cities will see different average rates than areas with an established population and little population change. Consider cross-referencing yesterday's maps with the atlas entries on housing affordability, homeownership and renting, and population density (these links will take you to the atlas entries, click the maps below to enlarge).

As a result, the interest deduction is a difficult policy to construct as one that supports homeowners evenly across the board. In other words, as each of these contributing factors affects the value of the deduction and as household incomes also vary, understanding the popularity and value of the deduction means asking

Which parts of the country stand to benefit the most and the least from the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction?

Answering the question requires two sets of maps. First, we need to examine the regional distribution of the deduction itself and ask what percentage of tax returns claim mortgage interest payments in an effort to understand which communities rely more heavily on receiving that deduction.

Next, we should compare this to the value of the deduction relative to local incomes. Zooming out beyond the scope of individual household costs or ownership, we can think about what this deduction also means to communities and local area and regional economies. Receiving this deduction means greater amounts of money for other spending, saving, and investing. Where interest amounts are relatively low compared to income levels, this impact is minimal. On the other hand, where interest amounts are relatively high compared to income, its effects could be substantial.