The Other 1%

That would be the black Republican primary voter in South Carolina. Here’s the FOX Noise exit poll from yesterday:

Screen shot 2012-01-21 at 8.13.42 PM


Absorb that. Blacks are 28% of South Carolina’s population, but are 1% (or less) of Republicans in the state.

How does a national party alienate an ethnic demographic in a state so completely?

Oh, I see.


To prick the bubble of self-righteous rectitude and feigned “bravery” in Newt Gingrich’s comment—and expose his racism—simply trope, for food stamps and NAACP convention, two terms near-and-dear to the hearts (and wallets) of white farmers in the Midwest: ethanol and ethanol convention. Gingrich has not only supported federal ethanol subsidies—ethanol welfare—but lobbied for them (himself thus enjoying remuneration around the taxpayer supported ethanol trough).

Gingrich should get off the government tit and earn his money honestly, don’t you think?

And I eagerly await the day that Gingrich bravely takes on, not the black “welfare mom,” but the white “ethanol mom.” But do you think that day will ever come, or that he would frame and drive the ethanol issue at rural white voters with such an inflammatory, personal, and alienating term?

Why, then, is it perfectly acceptable, within the 2012 Republican Party, to direct, nonchalantly, such rhetorical moves toward blacks? Do a lot of Republicans really believe that the black race in America is the enemy and a substantial source for the federal government’s deficit spending?

You betcha.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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13 Responses to The Other 1%

  1. andrewclunn says:

    Newt was dead on in that first video. Some stats:

    Apparently even referencing the issues with blacks and welfare is ‘racist’ now. What a load of bullshit.

    • Santi Tafarella says:


      How come you don’t count Midwest rural white communities dependent on, say, ethanol subsidies as part of the federal welfare rolls? And what about predominantly white communities whose representatives score lucrative (and wasteful) military projects for their districts?

      If federal subsidies ended across the board, a lot of whites in a lot of communities, rich and poor, would find themselves in a fix and have to move to different parts of the country in search of work (or find themselves on assistance rolls of some sort).

      So let’s cut to the chase: why are you, a self-professed libertarian, so casually papering over white privilege and the incestuous mix of public and private in this country? Why applaud Gingrich for decontextualizing the role welfare and subsidy play in our society in so blatantly a racist fashion?

      Are a lot of blacks on the dole? Yes. But so are most white people, at some level, in the United States. Some whites are blatantly and fully on the dole. Others just conceal it from themselves in a way that makes them feel good about themselves. It’s why we’ve got a 16 trillion dollar federal deficit that we’ve run up over the past decade. A lot of people are unjustly taking a lot more out of the government than they put back in. And they look the other way if the jobs the government finances happen to land in their congressional district (even if they know they’re not really economically productive or necessary to the country’s defense). They’ll take what the government sends their way, regardless.

      There’s a lot of workfare in this country. A lot more than outright welfare. And there are outright bailouts of the rich. And laws, skewed by the influence of lobbies, favor some forms of economic behavior against others. Imagine, for example, if car companies, to play in the American market, had to maintain the nation’s roads. That would add one hell of a premium to the price of every car, wouldn’t it? And every road would be a toll road. People would discover exactly how expensive their car transportation really is. They’d have to pay it, or not drive. The costs wouldn’t be concealed from them. They’d get exactly what they paid for. Not a penny more or less. They might even decide they want to move to the city and use rail more frequently.

      But let this libertarian idea be suggested and watch the auto industry lobby go into high gear, defending its forms of welfare.

      And what if BP had to pay in full for the oil it spilled? The dole-issue is so much bigger than the small minority of poor black women with children and the meager federal assistance they receive.

      Blacks function as an easy scapegoat for (misplaced) white resentment. Pretend that’s not true.


      • andrewclunn says:

        False analogy. Gingrich was saying that he supported the ethanol subsidies for environmental reasons, not as a mechanism of job creation. That doesn’t mean I agree with him, but that’s why conflating these two issues the way you have doesn’t work.

        So now by not shouting, “RACIST!” at Gingrich I’m applauding white privilege? Do I think Gingrich is hypocritical in his opposition to individual welfare, while not opposing corporate welfare on the basis of economic stimulation? Yes, but two things:

        1) You failed to show that hypocrisy with the two videos you selected.
        2) That does not make him a racist.

        My issues are that your argument regarding his hypocrisy only works if we allow you to contextualize his arguments for him, as the videos you’ve selected deal with very different goals, as well as the, “crying bigotry,” BS that seems to substitute for a good argument these days.

      • Santi Tafarella says:


        I think you give Gingrich too much credit for sincerity in argumentation. ANY argument that keeps the federal money flowing to ethanol serves his purpose, and would, therefore, be used by him. He obviously cannot just speak the truth: I support ethanol because it is in my economic interests to do so—I’m being paid to support ethanol—and it’s in the economic interests of the rural whites that I’m in solidarity with.

        So, if you think Gingrich supports ethanol on principle—especially an environmental principle—you’re being rather naive about the modus operandi of the Newtster (which is, “Money talks”).

        And the hypocrisy is not individual vs. corporate welfare. That’s too polite. Gingrich is calling out black welfare behavior—baiting blacks—even as he ignores white welfare behavior, which is pervasive throughout the nation. Ever heard, for example, of Social Security or the obscenely bloated military budget? Ever heard of cutting taxes through deficit spending to win votes among the white middle and upper classes? These are all forms of systemic welfare and workfare and they disproportionately benefit white communities. It’s a way of buying votes and channeling resources to voting blocks.

        So Gingrich is playing racial politics, not speaking truth to a powerful constituency. Poor black people don’t have much of a voice in either the corporate or governmental spheres. To my knowledge, not a single U.S. senator, at the moment, is black (for example). And, because of the sheer hatred racist Republicans are directing at Obama, and their single minded determination to humiliate and drive the first African American president from the White House, he may well be gone in 2013 as well.

        I’m still shocked a right winger hasn’t shot him. I think it’s still a daily danger for this president. The hatred on the right is intense, and, if Obama manages win in November, the right is going to melt down psychologically. Obama will have to remain extremely closely guarded at public appearances.

        And what if, for example, Gingrich went down to Florida and baited Jews the way he baits blacks?

        Let’s say Gingrich called Obama the “matzo ball president” because matzo ball soup consumption has gone up since he was elected, and the dough used in a matzo ball is cheaper than it should be because flour gets certain government farm subsidies. Wouldn’t it be obvious that Jews aren’t the only ones to benefit from farm subsidies, and to bring them to the forefront of this particular form of welfare subsidy would be to target them gratuitously? Why not go after, for example, Italians for their use of farm subsidy dough in pizza? Why single out the Jews? We would all recognize antisemitic baiting were it to happen, but when blacks get baited, Republicans suddenly act as though they are clueless to the nuances of insult and racial hostility.


      • andrewclunn says:

        Oh please Santi. Did I say that I trust Gingrich? No. I said that the videos you used of him in this post do not illustrate what you are claiming that they do. Your argument requires that the person reading already assume as a premise that Gingrich is being dishonest, which means it will convince no one.

      • Santi Tafarella says:


        Newt Gingrich “Willie Horton’d” Obama in the first video. It’s obviously a racist reference. How he talks about other forms of welfare—such as ethanol—illustrates by contrast just how blatantly and gratuitously racist the first video is.

        Conservatives of the past couple of years have crossed a rhetorical and moral rubicon. They’re so used to the talk radio ethos and defending the Bush torture regime—these things have so saturated their souls—that they can no longer hear how they sound to outsiders anymore. The coarsening is decadent and harbors ill will and an embrace of death. It’s why it’s so easy to talk about bombing Iran or excluding gays from the military. Republicans are becoming ever more hard, narrow, authoritarian, militaristic. Empathy is a bad word. Gingrich is the most resonant mouthpiece for the 2012 Republican Party. Think about the decadence underlying that fact.


  2. Paradigm says:

    Public spending on welfare in America, according to Wiki, was 727 billion dollars. According to the stats Andrew offered it seems like Black people cost about 5.8 times as much as Whites on welfare. The extra cost of this overrepresentation is 220 billions or 1.5 percent of GDP. As a comparison the defense budget for 2010 was 848 billions. Then there is the cost of crime which some say is about 1700 billions. And like welfare, blacks make up slightly less than 40 percent of the prison population. The difference between blacks and whites here would make up an extra cost of some 500 billions or in total 720 billion. Health care (federal spending 600 billions) probably adds another 100 billions making the cost thus far roughly the same as the defense budget. There are most likely other costs too, but 720 billion dollars is reason for concern don’t you think? It’s something like 5 percent of the GDP.

    This should not be blamed on Blacks of course. It’s the government that does this.

    (Ethanol subsidies cost 6 billion dollars annually.)

    • Santi Tafarella says:


      The numbers you offer are depressing, and I don’t, for the most part, dispute them. Forbes, which I would trust as a reliable numbers source, supports your general welfare figure from Wikipedia, but it should be noted that it includes Medicaid:

      But let’s posit that what you say is true: that about a third of federal and state welfare and law enforcement spending goes to blacks (housing, feeding, imprisoning them, etc.), and this spending amounts to about 700 billion dollars a year. Let’s say your number is accurate and that it does indeed cost this much to manage the crime and poverty associated with African American communities in America. I would then ask a follow-up question (which I don’t know the specific answer to at the moment): how much does the black community, as a whole, contribute to American GDP each year? If blacks are 13% of the nation’s population, and contribute, say, 10% to the country’s overall GDP, that’s still 10% of 15 trillion (1.5 trillion dollars). That’s double the amount you posit they directly cost the system. And that extra 800 billion in productivity is equal to the nation’s (ridiculously bloated) “defense” budget.

      My bottom line: African Americans are very, very far from a net economic negative on American society as a whole. Our country would be poorer if they were somehow absent, even on your numbers.

      As for the food stamp program proper, that’s about 75 billion a year, a third of which goes to blacks (25 billion), a third to whites, and a third to Hispanics.


  3. Santi Tafarella says:

    Here’s an interesting statistical summary from 2007 of minority contributions to GDP (from the University of Georgia’s business school):

    The buying power of Hispanics — now the nation’s largest minority group — will exceed $860 billion in 2007 and is whizzing its way to more than $1.2 trillion five years from now, according to an annual report on minority buying power released Tuesday by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business.

    Tracking a similar course, African American buying power will total $845 billion in 2007 and is projected to top $1.1 trillion by 2012 — a 34 percent increase over the five-year period.

    Americans of Asian ancestry, representing the third largest minority group, will see their purchasing power grow almost as fast as Hispanics over the next five years. Asian buying power is forecast to grow 45.9 percent, versus 46.3 percent for Hispanics. In dollars, Asian buying power will total $459 billion in 2007, rising to $670 billion by 2012.


    The link to the full article is here:

    The African American contribution to GDP may be less robust than I assumed, but doesn’t dismantle my main point if it is, indeed, more than a trillion dollars a year.

    And here’s another link:


  4. Paradigm says:

    I may have been vague here. My figures refer to the elevated costs Blacks have in comparison to Whites. This means that the total costs is larger by 20 percent, which means it will be around a trillion dollars. The report from 2007 that you link to has been updated in 2010 (there is a link at the top of the article) which claims that buying power for Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans combined was 1.6 trillion in 2010. But one trillion was Hispanics, and Natives, if equal to African Americans in this respect, take 50 billion, leaving 550 billion for the Black population.

    I’m not sure how much this tells us about the contribution to the GDP. I can’t find anything about it on the web. But they have 550 billion in purchase power and cost about the double, in fact half of that power is from welfare. And that is a conservative estimate. There are probably other costs. According to Wikipedia Federal Housing costed 140 billions in 2008. If we assume 40 percent here too that’s another 50 billion right there. Social Services, accidents (often caused by substance abusers) etc – who knows?

    I’m no economist but it does look as though they are a cost similar to the defense budget.
    On the bright side, Hispanics are looking much more promising and they constitute a growing part of the American population.

    • Santi Tafarella says:


      I’d like to see a reliable data source. There are about 42 million African Americans and their per capita income is about 18,000 dollars. That’s about half the white average.

      And, if I’m doing the math correctly in my head, that puts the community at about 750-800 billion dollars a year. If that’s the case, it’s definitely a depressing figure. I hope the numbers are, in fact, better than that.

      Gingrich’s narrative is that the African American community, economically, underperforms Asians, whites, and Hispanics per capita because it has a culture of dependency on the federal government and unstable family arrangements.

      It’s tempting to share the critique, but, even if it is conceded that these are the two big factors at work in the problem, what’s the policy implications?

      My guess is that if you simply removed the rug out from under programs like food stamps and public housing that a lot of poor people would wash ashore on the doorsteps of churches and schools (public and private, seeking food and shelter from organized religious groups and community oriented liberals). A lot of people would be seriously up-in-arms. It would feel like an outrage to see so many jobless and homeless wash out onto the streets in an industrialized society. The stratification between rich and poor would become so glaring that we would conclude that we’re Brazil, not the United States.

      Capitalism, to function smoothly and not be threatened by revolution, seems to me to have to throw some sort of social contract bone to the masses who wash out in the economic game. Republicans who get their wishes would certainly find themselves with dilemmas of what to do about the poor. “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” (Scrooge.)

      It will be very enlightening and informative to see how a Gingrich presidency actually plays out (if he gets that far). Bush didn’t even try to cut spending. He just ran the credit card. But if Republicans are genuinely determined to drive programs like food stamps into extinction, it will be quite a social experiment. My bet is that cold feet will set in and it will be business-as-usual. The rhetoric will win Republicans elections, but when they look into the abyss, they’ll blink.

      I don’t say this to gloat. Something needs to be done about excess federal spending. But Gingrich’s race baiting is not the way to get it done.


  5. Paradigm says:

    I’m not sure what data is reliable, to be honest. For welfare I used Andrews link which in turn references a government publication, admittedly from 1994. The cost of crime was based on incarceration rates taken from Wikipedia, as was the Federal Housing budget. The buying power came from you own source, only I clicked the link to the 2010 report instead of the 2007 projections (which were overly optimistic).

    As for the income per capita, is that including all 42 millions or is it for those who work? Black unemployment is around 15 percent and then you have children, housewives, retirees. Even if 750-800 billion is correct you would at least have to deduct something for taxes and possibly loan costs and then you end up with an estimate similar to 500 billions. If we guesstimate 40 percent on food stamps that’s another 30 billions.

    I don’t know what the solution is. Cutting these programs will be devestating but continuing them could be equally devestating. And I think Gingrich and others are right in that politicians have helped foster a culture of dependance. Doesn’t matter if he is racist or not if he is right. The problem needs to be fixed. That’s why I feel a bit worried about the racist accusations, they seem like a way to avoid talking about the real problem.

    As a lefty, I would switch from welfare programs to social enterprises. That way people would get work skills and stay out of trouble. It would be a better help and probably cost a lot less than just handing out money.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Per capita income translating into GDP is a straightforward calculation: multiply 42 million times 18,000 dollars. That’s not household income or just the employed; that’s the average.

      Half of all blacks in the United States are middle class or rich. It’s the half that isn’t middle class that drives down the average per capita number to half that of whites. A lot of the black poor in the U.S. are young single women with children; unemployed males with no college education living in places where there is little job growth; and, of course, the elderly who may be living solely on their social security check. Humanity has always been, as a whole, a contingent and struggling lot, not the healthy and goal directed Apollos of Ayn Rand novels, mastering destiny. Until a genius—some Atlas—figures out how to make energy as abundant and cheap as tap water, this fact about humanity as a whole is not likely to change all that much. It’s thinkable that it won’t change dramatically even after the next century’s wave of technological innovation.

      So I like John Rawls’s solution to the social contract problem (the veil of ignorance): try to get together with others and make laws blind to where you, personally, might end up one day on the social ladder. If you lose control of your destiny at some point in your life—and even the rich sometimes do—what, at minimum, would you hope society would aspire to offer you as a safety net? And, if you find yourself rich, what would you hope society’s laws would guarantee you in terms of your own self determination (the right to own your property, will it to whomever you wish, not subject your wealth to excessive taxation, etc.)?

      Deficit spending is an indication that society has not properly had this blind justice conversation: we stuff the problem by (temporarily) having our cake and eating it too. That’s ending now.

      Then again, maybe a technological fix in which energy is abundant and free and turns life into a largely zero sum game will save us in the near future.

      I still think, over the next thirty years, that there will be a scientific fix to scarcity—an invention that harnesses energy so efficiently (chemical or solar) that general poverty—first in industrial countries, then globally—will be vastly dissipated by it. Imagine a world where per capita income is something like 100,000 a year and where the poor still have annual access to resources equivalent to somebody making 50,000 a year today. Barring plague or nuclear war, that’s where the world is headed for everybody over the next century, I believe.

      Looking back from the year 2050, the deficit crises from our time may be known as artifacts of the Scarcity Age. 2050 will be the dawning of the Nonzero Age—the non-zero sum game age. Humanity has been, by fits and starts, moving toward it for millenia and I think it’s almost here.

      But, until that new day dawns, I’d be reluctant to scrap the food stamps program.


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