On the confluence of political and economic division in America

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The idea that an increasing sense of material precariousness can lead to cultural retreat from liberalizing “self-expression” values can help us understand why low-density white America turned out to support a populist leader with disturbingly illiberal tendencies. But this idea can also help us understand why our larger national culture seems to be growing apart in a way that has made it seem harder and harder to communicate constructively across the gap.

pub. 02/2017

Okay, this one is a bit of a challenging read. It’s an interesting analysis, though, and from a libertarian rather than liberal source. And there’s fun with data visualization.

Labor in America: The blue past and red present of West Virginia

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Blair Mountain is the closest thing to Gettysburg that the American labor movement has. Its historic significance is immense. It also happens to sit in the poorest region of a state that is in desperate need of tourism dollars and economic development. Drive on Route 17 to the speck of a town called Blair, though, and all that you will find is a single historic marker for the battle, along with a trailer-sized post office, two churches, and a handful of houses. There is no museum. There is no trail. You cannot even wander up Blair Mountain yourself, because it is private property, owned by coal companies and patrolled by their private security. In fact, those coal companies have, since 2009, been waging a legal battle to prevent the Blair Mountain site from being added to the National Register of Historic Places, so that they can strip mine it instead of preserve it.

pub. 05/2017

Some of the top comments add other context not mentioned in the article, like talking about the deep racism in West Virginia and its effects on the election.

An easy-to-digest listicle version of smart guy Umberto Eco’s “Ur-Fascism”

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6. Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration.

That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups. In our time, when the old “proletarians” are becoming petty bourgeois (and the lumpen are largely excluded from the political scene), the fascism of tomorrow will find its audience in this new majority.

Excerpts pub. 11/1995, orig. pub. 06/1995

Myths about people who use SNAP and food stamps

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“There seems to be this idea that just because you’re receiving food assistance benefits, you stop having cravings,” says Marissa Evans, who covers health and human services policy for the Texas Tribune…

…If you’re going to make judgments about what SNAP beneficiaries are eating, be prepared to make the same judgments about everyone else. For example, if you think the government should be acting to limit what people who receive SNAP can eat, consider whether you’d be in favor of similar government intervention for other households—like, for example, a junk food tax. These aren’t necessarily bad ideas, but class prejudices may influence how we think about them.

pub. 02/2017

A history of housing segregation

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Robbie Herndon, who retired from HUD in 2006 as regional fair housing director based in Kansas, saw the issue from the other side of the table. Development officials in the department, she said, “would tell recipients they didn’t have to comply with fair housing regulations — I know this because some of the recipients were bold enough to tell us.”

pub. 06/2015