Other Reports in Review
Women’s Greater Economic Hardship
Using data compiled by the Rockefeller Foundation’s American Worker Survey, this report presents the unsurprising news that women, and in particularwomen of color, are struck hardest by economic downturns.
Much of the report reads as a psychological study: women worry more about their economic security, they’re “jittery” about the impact ofinflation, and they’re anxious about lacking health insurance and pensions. But with reason: “Women’s unease about their finances is not simply a greater propensity to worry; it reflects their experiences of material hardship.” Women are twice as likely as men to make less than $19,000, and almost twice as likely to have found themselves unable to pay for food or prescription medication. While more educated women fared better than their less fortunate female counterparts, they still suffered more in comparison to men of the same education bracket.
In addition, women are twice as likely to be single parents, putting an additional strain on their already limited resources. Motherhood is a precarious economic situation: Mothers have far less job security than men or single women, but have more mouths dependant on their paycheck. Women were twice as likely as men to have passed up taking their child to the doctor because they did not have enough money or insurance.
Women of color are hit hardest. Almost half ofAfrican-American women and 40 percent of Hispanics have been unable to pay a bill on time, as compared to 26 percent of White women. Asked about their employment status over the past year, almost twice as many women of color reported having been involuntarily unemployed.
Republicans Less Likely to Believe in Global Warming
Republicans are growing increasingly skeptical that global warming is actually happening, even as Americans as a whole are more likely to accept the idea. Six percent more Americans in 2008 believe evidence points toward the existence of global warming compared to last year, bringing the total to 77 percent;13 percent fewer Republicans believe in global warming since 2007.
This survey report provides a useful overview of the demographics ofglobal warming believers and dissenters without analyzing why the trends are happening. For instance, college-educated Democrats are more likely to accept human causes for global warming, but Republicans with college degrees are less likely to agree that global warming has human causes—an intriguing finding that leaves further questions about the grounds for their beliefs. The report also notes a generation gap regarding perspectives on global warming, with young people under thirty much more likely to believe it is caused by human activity (54 percent versus 37 percent).
Immigration as a Global Agenda
As long as people are suffering from an abysmal quality oflife in their home countries, migrants without documents will continue to come to the United States. From this simple insight, Sarah Anderson argues policymaking on immigration must take a global perspective.
Taking Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico as case studies, Anderson argues that debt cancellation by the World Bank and IMF, protections ofworkers rights, reparations for “odious” debts contracted under U.S. supported dictators, and waivers of NAFTA requirements for these countries would go a long way toward improving economic conditions there. This, in turn, would reduce the root cause of desperate immigration to the United States.
Not only are undocumented immigrants criminals who act as a massive drain upon the United States’ economy, they also are causing an outbreak of leprosy. Well, at least according to cable commentators like Lou Dobbs, who uses his prime time show Lou Dobbs Tonight to launch anti-immigration screeds and to propagate myths. Dobbs and other cable hosts, most notably Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, devote an astonishing proportion of their air time (70 percent, in Dobbs’ case, according to a new report) to championing the cause against undocumented immigrants.
Dobbs and his ilk will air coverage of one crime perpetrated by an undocumented immigrant over and over and over again, to give the illusion of rampant crime. Dobbs fabricated the statistic that “just about a third ofthe prison population in this country is estimated to be illegal aliens”; in fact, noncitizens comprise barely six percent of the overall prison population.
And while Dobbs, O’Reilly, and Beck bemoan the impact of immigrants “leeches,” undocumented immigrants, while not contributing as much on the state and local level, pay into federal programs (like social security) from which they are ineligible to receive benefits. Overall, they’re paying more into the system than they’re getting back.
The report also takes on Dobbs’ & Co.’s conspiracism, most notably the fabricated elite plan to merge the U.S., Mexico, and Canada into one “North American Union.” Depending on their mood, they might also warn that illegal immigrants are committing voter fraud in droves.
African-American and LGBT Rights
A large proportion of the Black community is annoyed by efforts to equate the LGBT rights movement with the civil rights movement, says author C. Nichole Mason. Nearly 75 percent ofAfrican Americans believe that homosexuality is always wrong; 65 percent oppose marriage equality and, in contrast to the trend toward LGBT-sympathy over the past 10 years, these numbers have been climbing. There is significantly more support for LGBT rights among White and Latino communities, and the report asks why, especially since prominent religious leaders such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights leaders such as Coretta Scott King advocate marriage equality.
Mason suggests the political leaders are less influential than the numerous Black churches that embrace homophobic teachings and view same-sex marriage as unholy. She adds that some Black men harbor concerns that support for LGBT rights will call into question their own sexuality, which they feel has already been degraded by racism.
However, she points out the limitations of her own sources for understanding the problem, since she drew on a mish-mash of statewide surveys in her analysis. She also suggests reframing the issue so that it becomes a natural extension of African- Americans’ struggle for civil rights and against discrimination.
Among the recent news: in March 2008 the Los Angeles Police Department issued LAPD Special Order #11, which charges its officers to create “suspicious activity reports” (SARs) compiling “information ofa criminal or non-criminal nature.” An SAR promotes racial profiling and violation of protected first amendment activity by encouraging beat cops to track those using binoculars, taking pictures or video footage “with no apparent estheticvalue,” and those taking notes. While nominally anonymous under federal standards, such SARs contain enough information that individuals can be identified once channeled to fusion centers with access to private data bases. And they violate federal law banning police from collecting information on someone unless there is “reasonable suspicion” of criminal conduct.
Far from being an isolated development, in June the departments ofJustice and Homeland Security, and the Major City Chiefs Association, recommended that other U.S. cities take up the LAPD practice.
Commercial databases accessed by fusion center staff allow them to make an end run around privacy laws preventing police from maintaining individual dossiers on people not engaged in wrongdoing. Those prohibited by state law from buying credit reports can simply ask a fusion center in another state to provide the desired information.
Despite their threat to civil liberties, the feds seem to be working to exempt the centers from state Freedom of Information laws as happened in Virginia in April 2008 by action of the state legislature.
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