Sunday, January 31, 2016

How race reductionists minimize poverty

The point of Who Benefits From the Safety Net - The New York Times is in its opening paragraphs:
A new analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities underscores that the poor are no longer the primary beneficiaries of the government safety net. 
Terms like entitlements, government benefits and safety net often conjure images of tax dollars sliding from the hands of the wealthy into the pockets of the poor. But as we reported Sunday, that image is badly outdated. Benefits now flow primarily to the middle class.
Most of the rest of the short article shows how the benefits flow. But @SeanMcElwee tweeted,
Study: African-Americans make up 22% of the poor, but get only 14% of government benefits.
and included a pic with the article's last two paragraphs:
Another finding of the study is that the distribution of benefits no longer aligns with the demography of poverty. African-Americans, who make up 22 percent of the poor, receive 14 percent of government benefits, close to their 12 percent population share. 
White non-Hispanics, who make up 42 percent of the poor, receive 69 percent of government benefits – again, much closer to their 64 percent population share. 
I tweeted back:
You missed the lede: regardless of race, most of that money is going to the middle class. The racial distribution reflects it.
Which is to say, the black middle class is disproportionately benefitting just as much as the white middle class is. 
The article has nothing to suggest that poor whites are getting more than poor blacks or that middle-class whites are benefitting more than middle-class blacks. But to people who focus on race and ignore class, what's outrageous about poverty is its disproportionality rather than its existence.

Which gives me a fine excuse to share yet again the Martin Luther King quote everyone should know:
"In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike. ... I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective—the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income." —Martin Luther King