The opioid epidemic in the US: A national health emergency

18 July 2017

The Washington Post recently published an extraordinary article on policies to address the spiraling drug epidemic in the United States. The article—“As opioid overdoses exact a higher price, communities ponder who should be saved”—did not feature calls for emergency health care or rehabilitation programs, but rather suggestions by some local officials that the state should just let drug addicts die.

The Post highlighted, among others, the proposal of Middletown, Ohio Council Member Daniel Picard that emergency responders should not use the drug naloxone to save overdose victims more than two times. The newspaper noted that the drug is often “the only thing separating whether an overdose victim goes to the hospital instead of the morgue,” and draws the conclusion that it is perfectly reasonable to adopt policies to ensure that many more go to the latter rather than the former.

That such fascistic measures—what might be called the “Duterte solution” to the drug epidemic in the US—are being treated as a rational and legitimate part of the political debate is an expression of the debased political psychology that dominates in the American ruling class. As far as the corporate and financial elite is concerned, if tens of thousands more people die from drug overdoses, this is not only acceptable, it is a positive good.

Such measures are being advanced amidst a national public health emergency on a scale not seen since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and ‘90s. In 2015, a shocking 52,000 people in the United States died from drug overdoses, including more than 30,000 from opioids alone. This compares to just under 42,000 deaths from AIDS at its peak in 1995. The figures for 2016, when finally totaled, are expected to show an increase of nearly 20 percent, rising to nearly 170 people every day of the year.

In the hardest hit regions, stories of morgues and funeral homes running at maximum capacity are commonplace. Twice already this year in Montgomery County, Ohio, the coroner’s office has been so overwhelmed with bodies that it was forced to rent extra refrigeration units.

Opioid-related deaths have jumped in states throughout the country, devastating rural areas and big cities, and affecting all races and ethnicities. In Maryland, the number of opioid-related deaths has nearly quadrupled since 2010. In Ohio, opioid related deaths jumped from 296 in 2003 to 2,590 in 2015, a 775 percent increase. In Florida in 2015, three opioids—heroin, fentanyl and oxycodone—were directly responsible for the deaths of 3,896 people.

The number of people directly impacted by the crisis—including family members, friends and colleagues, medical responders, social workers and many others—is in the millions. Many addicts have children who are forced into a resource-starved foster care system, or are left in the hands of family members who cannot provide for them. A recent study from University of Michigan estimates that one baby is born addicted to some sort of opiate every hour.

Thousands of workers who have dedicated their lives to jobs that treat drug addiction experience second-hand trauma from the hardships that come with combating the epidemic, with little to no resources. Hospital workers are forced to turn away withdrawing addicts from the emergency room without care; social workers have the task of telling children they cannot be reunited with their parents, or worse, that one or both of their parents have died; rehabilitation clinicians are expected to “cure” addicts with nothing more than additional drugs and a 12-twelve step program.

The drug epidemic is a public health crisis of incredible magnitude, and yet nowhere in the political establishment is there serious discussion on the measures needed to combat it—or who is responsible.

The underlying assumption in articles like the one in the Post is that drug abuse is a moral failing, and that those addicted deserve to face the consequence of their actions. This is a convenient explanation for those who wish to wash their hands of a problem that threatens their pocketbooks.

The drug epidemic, however, is not an individual failing but a symptom of a diseased social system. It is the product of definite actions taken by the ruling class and its political representatives, Democratic and Republican.

There are of course the pharmaceutical companies, which have for years have been given a free hand to aggressively market some of the most addictive opioids, making huge profits in the process. These drugs were recklessly misbranded as “abuse resistant” throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Prescriptions for opioids such as Percocet, Oxycontin and Vicodin skyrocketed from 76 million in 1991 to nearly 259 million in 2012, enough to supply each American adult with a bottle of pills, and some with two.

The same pharmaceutical companies continue to profit from the crisis that they helped foster. One of the reasons that cities face growing costs for using naloxone is that some companies marketing varieties of the drug have hiked up the price by as much as 500 percent.

More fundamentally, the drug epidemic is a symptom of the devastation produced by nearly forty years of social counterrevolution. Whatever the specific circumstances behind each individual tragedy, the crisis is the product of the unrelenting attack on social programs, wages, education and health care, combined with deindustrialization that has wiped out hundreds of thousands of jobs and produced levels of social inequality not seen since the 1920s.

Obama concluded his two terms in office declaring that “things have never been better” in the United States—a proclamation that applied to the ruling elite he served, but not to the great mass of the population. Now, under the Trump administration, the political establishment is engaged in a great “debate” over the future of health care, currently centered on just how much and in what way to destroy Medicaid, which funds at least eighty percent of drug abuse services.

The outcome of the new health care bill, whatever its form, will be nothing short of social murder. In this sense, Picard, the local Ohio official, is merely channeling the general outlook of the ruling class, for which the reduction in life expectancy is a basic strategic aim.

A health emergency on the scale of the drug epidemic requires an emergency response. The Socialist Equality Party insists that billions of dollars must be allocated to fund rehabilitation centers, using the most advanced scientific methods and procedures. The health care system must be equipped with detox centers and connected to institutions to help with long-term recovery. All social workers in the field must receive a decent wage and the counseling and support needed. Children must be given the highest level of care while their parents recover.

Such elementary measures and more must be connected to the reconstruction of society to ensure that everyone has the right to a high-paying job, health care, education and quality housing. Only in this way can the underlying causes of drug addiction be addressed.

None of these measures is possible without a frontal attack on wealth of the corporate and financial elite and its stranglehold on the entire economic and political system. As tens of thousands die, the ruling class conspires to spend trillions on war and conjure up new ways to amass ever greater fortunes.

The disease of which the drug epidemic is a symptom is the capitalist system. It can be cured only through the mobilization of the entire working class in the fight for socialism.

Genevieve Leigh

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/07/18/pers-j18.html

Ohio politician proposes letting overdose victims die

The policy of “social murder” behind the US health care debate

By Barry Grey
5 July 2017

At a June 20 meeting of the Middletown, Ohio City Council, Dan Picard, a council member, offered a novel proposal to contain surging costs associated with a worsening epidemic of opioid overdoses in the town. Like cities across the United States, this southwestern Ohio town of some 49,000 people is being ravaged by the explosive spread of drug addiction linked to opioid pain killers. This year it has already recorded nearly 600 overdoses, more than in all of 2016.

Picard, who is not planning to run for reelection, proposed that the City Council adopt a “three strikes” policy, under which those who make use of emergency services two times to deal with an overdose will be denied help the third time. As he told the Washington Post, “When we get a call, the [emergency services] dispatcher will ask who is the person who has overdosed. And if it’s someone who has already been provided services twice, we’ll advise them that we’re not going to provide further services—and we will not send out an ambulance.”

Defending his proposal, Picard said, “I want to send a message to the world that you don’t want to come to Middletown to overdose… We need to put a fear about overdosing in Middletown.”

This call for what amounts to state-sanctioned murder evoked an angry response from the public in Middletown and wherever else people became aware of it. Numerous health care organizations and advocacy groups involved in dealing with the drug abuse epidemic denounced Picard and his proposal.

Alexis Pleus, the founder of Truth Pharm, a nonprofit that seeks to raise awareness of the issues surrounding substance abuse, did not mince words in an open letter to Picard: “To suggest that you withhold emergency medical response to overdose patients is manslaughter at best and premeditated murder at worst.”

Most of the American population, however, never learned of the incident. This is because the establishment media, fixated on its campaign against Russia and saber-rattling against North Korea, China, Iran and Syria, along with the political warfare in Washington between the Trump administration and its ruling class opponents, did not widely report the story.

There are other political reasons for the downplaying of the story by the corporate-controlled media. Picard’s brazen suggestion that drug abuse victims be allowed to die comes uncomfortably close to lifting the lid on a basic policy question underlying the current official debate on health care “reform.”

Behind the proposals in the Republicans’ bills to cut costs and boost profits by gutting Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor, and lifting the current requirement that insurance companies cover certain “essential benefits,” lies a deliberate and calculated effort to reduce life expectancy for working people overall and send many of the old, infirm and mentally or socially disabled to an early grave.

The effort, moreover, is bipartisan. The Democrats are pleading for negotiations on a “compromise” bill to “fix” Obamacare, a euphemism for incorporating the demands of the insurance monopolies for even higher premiums, copays and deductibles and fewer restrictions on their ability to gouge the public. Obamacare itself is a mechanism for cutting costs for corporations and the government, weakening the system of employer-provided health insurance and rationing access to health care on a more openly class basis. The Republican plans build on Obamacare to accelerate the health care counterrevolution it initiated.

The corporations, banks and hedge funds that are pushing health care “reform” and the politicians and policy experts who are doing their bidding are well aware that many thousands will die needlessly as a result of the measures being proposed. Medicaid, slated to be cut under the Republican bills by some $800 billion over ten years and terminated as an open-ended entitlement program with guaranteed benefits, provides about 80 percent of funding to treat drug abuse, which overwhelmingly affects working class and poor people.

In 2015, some 1.35 million low-income Americans had an opioid use disorder. As it is, only 25 percent of those people get treated in a year.

Last year some 60,000 people in the US died from drug overdoses, 60 percent of them from opioids. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. There is no starker barometer of the failure of the capitalist system and the descent of broad masses of the population into conditions of desperate social crisis.

Of the 22 million people who will lose medical coverage under the Senate health care bill, Medicaid cuts will account for 15 million of them. Moreover, both the House and Senate bills allow insurance companies to drop coverage of care for mental health and substance abuse, among other basic services.

Can there be any doubt that many will die as a result of these cuts? Lynn Cooper, director of the Drug and Alcohol Division at Pennsylvania’s Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association, told National Public Radio last month: “It is a death epidemic all over the country. The loss of Medicaid expansion will be like the bottom dropping out for thousands of Pennsylvania citizens and their families.”

The impact is so self-evident, and public opposition so pervasive, that government officials are obliged to resort to the most brazen lying when defending their proposals. Typical was the performance of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, a notorious and longstanding opponent of basic social program such as Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, in an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. Of the Republican plan to dismantle Medicaid, he said, “We want to make certain that Medicaid is a program that can survive.”

While claiming to be committed to addressing the opioid epidemic, he declared, “We don’t need to be throwing money” at the crisis.

Ruling class strategists speak more frankly on specialized think tank web sites meant for corporate and state officials and their academic advisers. In 2013, the WSWS drew attention to two policy papers published by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on the negative consequences for American imperialism and the national security apparatus of lengthening life spans for ordinary people resulting from advances in medical science and treatment and government health programs.

As the CSIS experts explained, the human and social achievement of better health and longer life for many millions of Americans spells disaster for the American ruling class and the capitalist system. The authors of the studies insisted that action had to be taken to deal with the “crisis,” including increasing the eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security to force the “young elderly,” those aged 60-69, to forgo retirement and keep working.

One of the papers, titled “The Budget Crisis and the Civil-Military Challenge to National Security Spending,” was written by Anthony H. Cordesman, a longtime CSIS strategist who acts as a consultant for the US State and Defense departments. Denouncing the siphoning of money away from the military to pay for medical care for the elderly, Cordesman wrote, “The US does not face any foreign threat as serious as its failure to come to grips with… the rise in the cost of entitlement spending.”

Behind such discussion papers are systematic studies and actuarial tables calculating the likely effectiveness in shortening life expectancy for workers—a process that is already underway—of various proposals to “reform” the health care system.

In his immortal 1845 work The Condition of the Working Class in England, Friedrich Engels accurately characterized as “social murder” the horrific conditions imposed on workers by the capitalist class, which “placed hundreds of proletarians in such as position that they inevitably meet a too early and unnatural death…”

The present crisis-ridden and bankrupt state of American and world capitalism is once again bringing to the fore the incompatibility of the profit system and the rule of a financial aristocracy with the satisfaction of human needs such as health and longevity. The health care counterrevolution in the US is a case of “social murder” at the hands of the capitalist class.

 

WSWS

The Lords of the Flies: American Collapse’s Lesson for History and the World

My American friend Tucker stays late every night at his highly professional job every night and arrives early every morning. He’s not paid for it. He’s just expected to do it. I ask him, as someone who studies management and leadership, who tells him to. No one, he says. The expectation is just there. Lingering in the air, like an unspoken threat.

We often say that America is an experiment. But what is it an experiment in? Some will say “freedom”, but you can’t really say a country that’s been unsegregated for less than 25% of its history is an experiment in freedom. I think America is an experiment of a different kind. One that reveals a great truth about political economy to history and the world.

It is an experiment in the survival of the fittest.

America is a Darwinian organization. There are many kinds of organizations. Not all are Darwinian. Some are what I’d call Dionysian, like a nightclub. Some are Apollonion, aimed at achievement, like a great university. Only some are Darwinian — devoted to the survival of the fittest.

That phrase describes American history, don’t you think? First blacks and natives were dehumanized — they were “fit” only for hard labour, morally defective. Then immigrant whites of all kinds were too, “fit” only for menial jobs. Wherever you look at American history, you’ll see this idea of the survival of the fittest — all the way down to today, when the poor and weak are expected to simply and quite literally die in the streets, and the strong — the famous, the adored, the powerful — are rewarded by being allowed to take all. Why?

The idea behind all this — when there was a justification, that is — was that the rise of the fittest would somehow benefit everyone. It would yield superpeople: smarter, nicer maybe, stronger, better. Call it a trickle down theory of human potential. But it didn’t (that’s self-evident: every indicator of a good life is falling).

Instead, it yielded something else entirely: superpredators. What does the survival of the fittest yield in nature? It yields better and better predators. Evolution went from bacteria to jellyfish to sharks with giant teeth. The same is true in society. America has bred a new class of people: superpredators. They are congressmen who can throw tens of millions off healthcare without any moral concern. They are the super rich who watch a nation’s life expectancy fall and laugh. I’m not really judging them — OK, maybe a little. But mostly, I’m observing. And here’s what I see.

Remember my friend Tucker? America is a land ruled by little bullies now. Just think about it with me before you react patriotically. Americans are told by screaming bullies on the news what to think. They are hounded by bullying debt collectors owned by bullying banks. Their politicians who don’t represent them bully them into cowed submission, though they live the poorest lives in the rich world. They are bullied by bosses into overwork for little pay and almost no leisure time. It goes on and on and on.

The bullies, in turn, are ruled by bigger and bigger bullies. Until we get to the biggest bullies of them all — and right now, it’s painfully self-evident who they are. The biggest bullies. Superpredators. It’s not a coincidence. The experiment worked. But not in the way its architects intended. It didn’t end in superpeople.

Superpredators are what social survival of the fittest yields. Just as natural evolution yields sharks with bigger teeth. And when we look carefully, America is a society that prizes an evolutionary paradigm above all. People should “adapt” to “changes” in their “environment”. “Innovation”, “change”, “transformation” are all ways that the economy “evolves”. The result is a society that produces stronger, crueller, meaner predators.

But better predators are not people who are better human beings. So a “fitness criterion”, as biologists call it, some measure of selfish success, whether it is profit or baronial titles, isn’t sufficient to evoke human potential. Why not?

Do you remember William Golding’s Lord of the Flies? It’s one of my favourite books. And while you might think it’s about being kids being abandoned, I think there’s more to it. I think it’s a parable about the survival of the fittest. The boys kill Piggy — and that is when they lose their moral souls. Their little society, too, is Darwinian. Yet it doesn’t lead them anywhere but into the abyss.

Golding knew something that we have forgotten. Civilization, a process, a project, must — must — reject the Nietzschean idea of the survival of the fittest. It must prize greater things in human beings. The ability to dream, defy, love, forgive, create, rebel. That is where real human breakthroughs come from, whether in art, literature, science, or politics. That is where peace and prosperity, lie. To genuinely value human potential, life, possibility, is the opposite of the survival of the fittest.

Evolution is not a good answer to the questions of social organization and human potential. It can go in many directions. It can make dinosaurs, sharks, and only sometimes human beings with moral concerns. And even then the moral concerns of human beings must go against their evolutionary prerogatives, their animal spirits. Thus, when a quest for “fitness” makes carnivores of men, then society must be protected from it — not harnessed toit.

To apply the rule of the survival of the fittest to a society, to let evolution blinfly take its course, will naturally end in America. A land ruled by superpredators, where the average life has no hope left of fully living. The sharks, now that they have been bred, feast on the fish.

That is American collapse’s real lesson for history and the world.

Umair
June 2017

View story at Medium.com

How to beat perfectionism

Percussionist Patti Niemi talks about enduring anxiety, rejection and how to handle failure and not fall apart

LISTEN: How to beat perfectionism

When you have lots of conversations with women like I do, a few themes start to emerge. One that comes up again and again is the pursuit of perfection.

Anxiety is the drumbeat to perfection, and according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, women are twice as likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder than men, so perhaps it’s appropriate that I got explore its rhythms with Patti Niemi, a world-class musician and percussionist for the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.

She’s written a memoir about her experiences, called “Sticking It Out: From Juilliard to the Orchestra Pit,” and she spoke to me about how even now, after 25 years with the same orchestra — that’s 25 years without needing to audition, which is a major anxiety trigger for her — that perfectionism is still alive and well.

Niemi had been at Juilliard for two years when she sat down at a rehearsal and suddenly realized she had no control over her hands. She had been playing percussion since the age of ten, had participated in hundreds of rehearsals and countless performances, but had never experienced something like this before.

“Physically, what it feels like is you’re just going off the rails, and about to lose your mind,” she says, looking back on her old panic.

A painful inner monologue kept the engine going. It went like this: “I need to be perfect, I can’t be perfect, therefore what am I going to do?” And then, “Back to, I need to be perfect. It’s a long hard dialogue,” she says.

She says her anxiety got really bad at Juilliard because she suddenly realized how high the stakes were. “I felt like I suddenly had something to lose.”

She ended up using Inderal, a beta blocker, to calm her nerves so she could focus during an auditions and move forward.

During her last year there, an older male professor told Niemi that he had fallen in love with her. She was deeply uncomfortable and says it was “the perfect storm” of imbalanced power dynamics — and a sense of feeling trapped.

Listen to our conversation:
https://embed.radiopublic.com/e?if=inflection-point-with-lauren-schiller-6NkYz8&ge=s1!7a4126191ee956161c1af5eeac2ce277adb68f8c

“Here you have a very powerful mentor an hour a week alone, and they have this power over you,” she says. “A teacher can recommend you for a certain audition if you weren’t able to get in to the audition,” at first. “I mean, they still have a lot of power as far as jobs go.”

Like Anita Hill did with Clarence Thomas, Niemi continued to work with her professor, and even go out to dinner with him. “It didn’t occur to me not to,” she says now. “I need to manage it, “ she thought at the time — and attempted to control the situation by asking her professor lots of questions about percussion and avoiding talking about anything else. “I just thought if I made him mad he would retaliate.”

Niemi says she’s heartened to see that things are different for women in universities now. Back then, in the late ’80s, she says there was no mechanism at the school for her to share what was going on. “It just wasn’t talked about,” she says.

“It still happens but now you’re told very clearly these are the lines you can’t cross. This is what you can’t do. And to be fair to him, he wasn’t told that, how it worked at the time.”

Niemi’s anxiety appeared well before the period her professor told her he was in love with her, but his “confession” did nothing to ease it.

“It had a pretty strong effect on me physically,” she says. Eventually she developed an ulcer. That anxiety came out most of all during her auditions.

In spite of her uncomfortable relationship with her professor, Niemi decided to stay on at Juilliard in their graduate program. “I started a master’s program mostly because living in New York and not having a place to practice for production is very difficult,” she told me. But after a few weeks, being around her teacher became overwhelming.

A few months in she braved another audition and succeeded in landing a position with the then-new New World Symphony, which accomplished two things for her: she was able to get away from her professor and she finally accomplished what she had set out to do from the age of 10 — live and work as a professional musician. But her professional aspirations were not yet complete. The New World Symphony is a training ensemble, and the participants are expected to continue to audition for permanent positions elsewhere.

In spite of the great lengths Niemi went to manage her anxiety and perfectionist standards, after a number of auditions she almost won but didn’t, she finally lost it. “My room got messy,” she writes in her memoir. “I didn’t care enough to clean it. While I was practicing for the Boston audition, it had been filled with instruments. Now the floor space was covered with dirty clothes. I let dishes sit in the sink until the silverware rusted, and a little white mouse appeared from behind my bookcase one day. I had been sitting at my table so immobile he probably assumed I was one of the chairs. He darted away only when I screamed.”

Niemi says it’s important to talk publicly about anxiety so that others don’t have to struggle as much as she did and because she says there is still stigma. “When I was in school it was so painful to me. I thought, I’m the only one doing this. Everybody else manages anxiety no problem.”

Twenty-five years ago she earned a spot with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and has played with them ever since.

During complicated performances, the old feelings return sometimes. Here’s how she described awaiting her moment in the orchestra pit for a cymbal crash: “Sitting there, trying to keep track, watching the singers up on stage, and it’s getting closer and closer. Finally, I’m counting down, I’m listening to the music. I’m waiting for my moment. I stand up I take these big hunks of metal I’m about to fling at one another and I wait for the moment and the conductor lowers the baton.”

Even after two and a half decades, “I know I have to be perfect in this moment and it has to happen.”

Niemi has tempered her anxiety with wisdom. She’s accepted that to do anything in life truly meaningful, failure comes with the territory. “Rejection is a gift,” she says.

“You are going to fail. It’s how you handle the failure to be perfect that you have to manage.”

When I asked Niemi if she has ever had a moment where she asked herself why she stays in a field that makes her feel this anxious, she said, “I always wanted to do it. It was so hard. But I never questioned whether I was going to do it. I worried about that in the book because I put so much emphasis on the hard parts of it that I would that come off sounding like I was ungrateful or I didn’t appreciate this opportunity I had. I’ve never felt ungrateful. I loved music. I love it. And I was really lucky to fall into this opportunity. I wanted to write about what was hard about it.”

Lauren Schiller is the Executive Producer of Audio for Salon.com and the creator and host of Inflection Point, a public radio show and podcast about how women rise up.

US Senate health care bill guts Medicaid, slashes taxes for the wealthy

 

By Kate Randall
23 June 2017

US Senate Republicans unveiled on Thursday the Better Care Reconciliation Act, their version of a plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Obama administration’s signature domestic legislation. The US House passed its own version, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), early last month.

Like the House plan, the Senate version guts Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor and disabled jointly administered by the federal government and the states, slashing its funding by hundreds of billions of dollars. It would mark the effective end of the program, which currently covers 75 million Americans, as a guaranteed program based on need.

Better Care also repeals virtually all of the ACA’s taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations, effecting one of the largest redistributions of wealth from the poor to rich in US history. These tax cuts would be paid for by slashing health care coverage and raising costs for the vast majority of ordinary Americans, in particular targeting the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and those with preexisting conditions and disabilities.

The plan was drafted in secrecy by a “working group” of 13 senators, a process drawing criticism from both Republican and Democratic senators. As of Thursday evening, a group of four ultra-right Republican senators said they would not sign on to the bill, as it was not draconian enough, while other more moderate Senate Republicans said they needed to study the bill before making a decision.

However, it is likely that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be able to garner the votes of 50 out of 52 Republican senators to pass the legislation with a simple majority, counting on the vote of Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie. The bill would then be sent to a conference with the House, where a final version would be agreed, before being sent to President Trump to sign. Senate leaders hope to receive a scoring on the bill from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) early next week and vote on it before the July 4 recess.

Medicaid

The Senate bill would convert Medicaid to a “per capita cap” funding system, in which states would get a lump sum from the federal government for each enrollee. States could also choose to receive a block grant instead, not tied to the number of Medicaid enrollees. This would effectively end Medicaid as an “entitlement” program, so-called because the funding is expanded automatically as people qualify on the basis of need.

The legislation would also change the way federal payments to Medicaid are calculated. The Senate bill would tether funding growth to the Medical Consumer Price Index plus 1 percentage point through 2025, then change over to the urban Consumer Price Index (CPI). This would amount to a funding cut to Medicaid, as the cost of health care typically goes up faster than the CPI.

The bill would also end the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare by 2021. This extended coverage to an estimated 14 million people, mainly low-income adults earning below 138 percent of the poverty line (about $15,000 for an individual), in the 31 states plus the District of Columbia that opted to participate in the expansion.

Better Care defunds Planned Parenthood for one year, meaning Medicaid patients could no longer seek treatment of any kind at the nonprofit organization’s clinics. This will result in forgone screenings, less access to contraceptive and abortion services, and more unintended pregnancies, as well as maternal and infant deaths.

CBO scoring of the House bill, which makes similar cuts, estimated it would slash overall funding to Medicaid by $880 billion over a decade. The cutbacks would force states to remove people from Medicaid, reduce the range of services covered, and cut reimbursements to doctors, hospitals and drug companies.

Tax cuts

The Senate bill cuts taxes on net investment income for wealthy people, repeals an ACA Medicare tax on wealthy people, and eliminates taxes on health insurers, medical device companies and tanning salons.

Better Care repeals a 3.8 percent tax on net investment income (capital gains, dividends, etc.) for individuals making more than $200,000 a year or for couples making more than $250,000. In one of the bill’s most brazen giveaways to the rich, this repeal is not only immediate, but retroactive to capital gains made earlier this year.

The Tax Policy Center estimates that around 90 percent of the tax cuts will go to households with more than $700,000 in annual income, the top 1 percent, who will be freed from the 3.8 percent tax, along with a 0.9 percent payroll surtax on their salaries.

Smaller subsidies, skimpier coverage

The bill would make much less generous subsidies available to low- and middle-income people to purchase health insurance (people earning less than 350 percent of the poverty line, compared to the ACA’s 400 percent cutoff). Individuals earning less than $41,580 and families of four making less than $85,050 would be covered. However, the size of the tax credits would be tied to what it takes to purchase insurance with poorer coverage.

Insurance companies would be able to charge older adults not yet eligible for Medicare five times more than younger people, compared to three times more under Obamacare. The bill would also change the definition of “affordable” insurance. For example, a 60-year-old who earns $35,640 a year would be required to spend 16.2 percent of annual income, or $5,773, before receiving any assistance from the government. Overall, working-class families would pay higher premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for health insurance that covers much less.

Essential benefits and preexisting conditions

The Senate bill would allow states to seek a waiver from ACA requirements for insurers to cover essential benefits, such as maternity care, prescription drugs, substance abuse and mental health services, emergency care, and other vital services.

While Senate Republicans claim their legislation keeps in place protections for those with preexisting conditions, in practice insurers would be able to skirt these protections by simply offering plans that don’t cover a range of preconditions, such as diabetes, cancer, prenatal care, etc.

Such waivers could also affect those with employer-sponsored insurance. For example, large employers in a waiver state could restrict services, impose lifetime limits on health care costs and eliminate out-of-pocket caps from their plans.

Better Care eliminates the individual mandate, which requires those without coverage from their employer or from a government program to purchase insurance or pay a tax penalty. Due to the “reconciliation” process, the bill cannot eliminate the mandate, but it reduces the penalty to zero. Employers with 50 or more employers would also not be penalized if they fail to provide insurance to their workers.

While gutting the mandates, the Senate plan keeps the insurance marketplaces set up under the ACA intact, but insurance will be more expensive and cover less.

While Republicans in both the Senate and House, as well as the Trump administration, have set as their goal repealing and replacing Obamacare, both the AHCA and the Better Care Reconciliation Act keep the ACA’s basic structure in place—all while repealing taxes for the wealthy, gutting Medicaid and raising costs and cutting services for working and middle-class people.

This is in part the result of the procedure chosen for repeal. Lacking the 60 votes to overcome a Senate filibuster, the Republican leadership chose to employ “reconciliation,” which is limited to a single bill each year, and requires only a simple majority. The rules governing reconciliation are arcane, and prevent changes in policy that have no fiscal impact, such as a ban on insurance companies covering abortion, which was dropped from the Senate bill.

But in the final analysis, there was no need to repeal Obamacare outright, since it accomplishes many of the goals agreed on by both capitalist parties. As the WSWS has maintained from the start, Obamacare was aimed at cutting costs for the government and corporations while rationing health care for the vast majority. Whatever version of “Trumpcare” eventually emerges from Congress for the president to sign will take the tendencies already present in the Affordable Care Act, then strip off the limited concessions it offered in the way of Medicaid expansion, essential services and other inadequate protections.

Obamacare took as its starting point the entrenched for-profit system of health care delivery in America, which is based on enriching the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies and the giant hospital chains.

With this as its basis, the ACA had as its aim the development of an even more openly class-based health care system than what previously existed, in which workers and their families are left with rising costs, cut-rate care, or no coverage at all, and the super-rich and privileged upper-middle-class layer avail themselves of the best medical care that money can buy.

As we wrote last year, through its tax credit system and marketplace exchanges, “[T]he ACA essentially establishes a voucher system, whereby minimal government subsidies are given to individuals to purchase private health insurance. It thereby serves as a model for the future privatization of the key government programs, Medicare and Medicaid, wrenched from the ruling class through bitter working class struggles in the last century.”

The Democrats have predictably denounced the Senate plan as a boondoggle for the rich, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer railing against the tax breaks for the rich and the millions who stand to lose coverage.

But they have little to offer in way of an alternative, except the maintenance of the Obamacare status quo, or “working with” the Republicans to fix it. That is because they believe in the underlying premise that health care in America must remain at the mercy of the for-profit health care industry, and that the provision of health care must conform to the interests of the capitalist market.

As the WSWS wrote in July 2009, more than six months before the ACA became law, the Obama administration’s “drive for an overhaul of the health care system, far from representing a reform designed to provide universal coverage and increased access to quality care, marks an unprecedented attack on health care for the working population. It is an effort to roll back social gains associated with the enactment of Medicare in 1965.”

The Republicans’ attack on Medicaid, embodied in both the AHCA and the Better Care bill, marks a further step in this direction.

The techie is the new hipster — but what is tech culture?

The archetype of the “techie” has become commonplace in the past decade in art and in real life. But what is it?

The techie is the new hipster — but what is tech culture even?
(Credit: Getty/Geber86)

If you live in any major city in the world, you probably know the type: they roam the clean parts of town, lattes in hand, wearing American Apparel hoodies emblazoned with logos of vowel-deficient startups. Somehow, in the past decade, a profession turned into a lifestyle and a culture, with its own customs, habits and even lingo. In film, television and literature, the techie archetype is mocked, recycled, reduced to a stereotype (as in Mike Judge’s sitcom “Silicon Valley”), a radical hero (as in “Mr. Robot”), or both (as in “The Circle”).

If, as many claim, the hipster died at the end of the 2000s, the techie seems to have taken its place in the 2010s — not quite an offshoot, but rather a mutation. Consider the similarities: Like hipsters, techies are privy to esoteric knowledge, though of obscure code rather than obscure bands. They both seem to love kale. They tend to rove in packs, are associated with gentrification, and are overwhelmingly male. There are some fashion similarities: the tight jeans, the hoodie fetish, the predilection for modernist Scandinavian furniture. And like “hipster,” the term “techie” is often considered a slur, a pejorative that you lob at someone you want to depict as out of touch, rarefied and elite — not a fellow prole, in other words.

Yet there are differences, too: The techie often brings with him or her a certain worldview and language that attempts to describe the world in computational terms; the transformation of the word “hack” into an everyday verb attests to this. Some techies view their own bodies as merely machines that require food the way computers need electricity, a belief system exemplified by the popularity of powdered foods like Soylent. This happens in exercise, too — the rush to gamify health and wellness by tracking steps, calories and heartbeats turns the body into a spreadsheet.

How does a profession mutate into a culture? David Golumbia, an associate professor of digital studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of “The Cultural Logic of Computation,” suggests that some of the cultural beliefs common to those in the tech industry about the utopian promise of computers trickle down into what we may think of as tech culture at large. Golumbia describes the basic idea, “computationalism,” as “the philosophical idea that the brain is a computer” as well as “a broader worldview according to which people or society are seen as computers, or that we might be living inside of a simulation.”

“You frequently find people who avoid formal education for some reason or another and then educate themselves through reading a variety of online resources that talk about this, and they subscribe to it as quasi-religious truth, that everything is a computer,” Golumbia said. “It’s appealing to people who find the messiness of the social and human world unappealing and difficult to manage. There’s frustration . . . expressed when parts of the world don’t appear to be computational, by which I mean, when their actions can’t be represented by algorithms that can be clearly defined.”

“It’s very reductive,” Golumbia added.

Mapping the social world onto the algorithmic world seems to be where tech culture goes astray. “This is part of my deep worry about it — we are heading in a direction where people who really identify with the computer are those who have a lot of trouble dealing with other people directly. People who find the social world difficult to manage often see the computer as the solution to their problems,” Golumbia said.

But tech culture isn’t confined to screen time anymore. It’s become part of everyday life, argues Jan English-Lueck, a professor of anthropology of San Jose State University and a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future. English-Lueck wrote an ethnographic account of Silicon Valley culture, “Cultures@SiliconValley,” and studies the people and culture of the region.

“We start to see our civic life in a very technical way. My favorite example of that is people going to a picnic and looking at some food and asking if that’s ‘open source’ [available to all]. So people use those technological metaphors to think about everyday things in life,” she said.

English-Lueck says the rapid pace of the tech field trickles down into tech culture, too. “People are fascinated with speed and efficiency, they’re enthusiastic and optimistic about what technology can accomplish.”

Golumbia saw the aspects of tech culture firsthand: Prior to being a professor, he worked in information technology for a software company on Wall Street. His convictions about computationalism were borne out in his colleagues. “What I saw was that there were at least two kinds of employees — there was a programmer type, who was very rigid but able to do the tasks that you put in front of them, and there were the managerial types who were much more flexible in their thinking.”

“My intuition in talking to [the] programmer types [was that] they had this very black-and-white mindset, that everything was or should be a computer,” he said. “And the managers, who tended to have taken at least a few liberal arts classes in college, and were interested in history of thought, understood you can’t manage people the way you manage machines.”

Yet the former worldview — that everything is a computer — seems to have won out. “When I started, I thought it was this minor small subgroup of society” that believed that, he told Salon. “But nowadays I think many executives in Silicon Valley have some version of this belief.”

For evidence that the metaphor of the human body as a computer has gone mainstream, look no further than our gadgetry. Devices like the Fitbit and the Apple Watch monitor a the wearer’s movement and activity constantly, producing data that they can obsess over or study. “There is a small group of people who become obsessed with quantification,” Golumbia told Salon. “Not just about exercise, but like, about intimate details of their life — how much time spent with one’s kids, how many orgasms you have — most people aren’t like that; they do counting for a while [and] then they get tired of counting. The counting part seems oppressive.”

But this counting obsession, a trickle-down ideology from tech culture, is no longer optional: In many gadgets, it is now imposed from above. My iPhone counts my steps whether I like it or not. And other industries and agencies love the idea that we should willingly be tracked and monitored constantly, including the NSA and social media companies who profit off knowing the intimate details of our lives and selling ads to us based on it. “Insurers are trying to get us to do this all the time as part of wellness programs,” Golumbia said. “It’s a booming top-down control thing that’s being sold to us as the opposite.”

Golumbia marvels at a recent ad for the Apple Watch that features the Beyoncé song “Freedom” blaring in the background. “How did we get to this world where freedom means having a device on your that measures what you do at all times?”

Keith A. Spencer is a cover editor at Salon.

Kids Are Quoting Trump To Bully Their Classmates And Teachers Don’t Know What To Do About It

 

BuzzFeed News reviewed more than 50 reports of school bullying since the election and found that kids nationwide are using Trump’s words to taunt their classmates. If the president can say those things, why can’t they?

Posted on June 6, 2017, at 8:55 a.m.

Donald Trump’s campaign and election have added an alarming twist to school bullying, with white students using the president’s words and slogans to bully Latino, Middle Eastern, black, Asian, and Jewish classmates. In the first comprehensive review of post-election bullying, BuzzFeed News has confirmed more than 50 incidents, across 26 states, in which a K-12 student invoked Trump’s name or message in an apparent effort to harass a classmate during the past school year.

In the parking lot of a high school in Shakopee, Minnesota, boys in Donald Trump shirts gathered around a black teenage girl and sang a portion of “The Star Spangled Banner,” replacing the closing line with “and the home of the slaves.” On a playground at an elementary school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, third-graders surrounded a boy and chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!”

On a school bus in San Antonio, Texas, a white eighth-grader said to a Filipino classmate, “You are going to be deported.” In a classroom in Brea, California, a white eighth-grader told a black classmate, “Now that Trump won, you’re going to have to go back to Africa, where you belong.” In the hallway of a high school in San Carlos, California, a white student told two biracial girls to “go back home to whatever country you’re from.” In Louisville, Kentucky, a third-grade boy chased a Latina girl around the classroom shouting “build the wall!” In a stadium parking lot in Jacksonville, Florida, after a high school football game, white students chanted at black students from the opposing school: “Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!”

Today’s high schoolers will be eligible to vote in 2020, and today’s fifth graders will be eligible to vote in 2024.

The first school year of the Donald Trump presidency left educators struggling to navigate a climate where misogyny, religious intolerance, name-calling, and racial exclusion have become part of mainstream political speech.

These budding political beliefs among some students carry consequences beyond the schoolyard. Today’s high schoolers will be eligible to vote in 2020, and today’s fifth-graders will be eligible to vote in 2024. But even if the wave of Trump-related bullying doesn’t reflect some widespread political awakening among young people, it indicates a more troubling reality: the extent to which racial and religious intolerance has shaped how kids talk, joke, and bully.

“It’s unacceptable and it reflects a wider climate of hate that we’re seeing,” Antonio Lopez, an assistant school superintendent in Portland, Oregon, told BuzzFeed News. Lopez in March announced a plan to personally track racist bullying in his district, citing the importance of snubbing out hateful speech as early as possible.

Lopez said the hate incidents in his district were on his mind when he heard that white supremacist Jeremy Joseph Christian had stabbed three people, two of them fatally, on a Portland train after they intervened to stop his racist rant against two teenage girls, one of them a Muslim wearing a headscarf.

While there are no quantitative studies examining the election’s impact on school bullying, BuzzFeed News conducted the first large-scale nationwide analysis of bullying incidents linked to Trump, reviewing hundreds of reports submitted to the Documenting Hate project, a database of tips about hate crimes and bias incidents set up by ProPublica and shared with other news organizations.

BuzzFeed News reviewed every alleged incident, from early October to late May. The reports spanned 149 schools. Of those, BuzzFeed News was able to follow up on 54 cases through interviews, public statements from school officials, and local news reports. (BuzzFeed News has not heard back from the people who filed the other 95 tips.)

For teachers and principals, the first school year of the Trump presidency brought a new test.

“This is my 21st year in education and I’ve never seen a situation like this before,” said Brent Emmons, principal of Hood River Middle School in Oregon. “It’s a delicate tightrope to walk. It’s not my role to tell people how to think about political policies, but it is my role to make sure every kid feels safe at the school.”

At a time of thick political and racial tensions, and of heightened worries among people of color, what is a teacher to say when a student asks: Why can the president say it but I can’t?

BuzzFeed News

Teachers, like everybody else in the United States, realized at some point in 2016 that this election was very different.

Over her 10 years as a middle school English teacher in Spokane Valley, Washington, Amanda Mead liked to shift her curriculum based on current events. She assigned readings from the civil rights era when protests roiled Ferguson in 2014. In 2012 and 2008, her classroom discussions often turned to the presidential election.

“We’d talk about Bush, Obama, McCain, et cetera, and the kids would just nod their heads,” Mead said. “But as the campaign heated up last year, I started to notice a pretty significant change among my kids. They would say things that I have never heard kids in my school district say. Far more vitriolic.”

She caught a group of white students following a Latino student in the hallway, taunting him with chants of “the wall’s coming!” and “Trump! Trump! Trump!” She overheard kids repeating insults Trump had aimed at Hillary Clinton.

For the kids, there was no escaping Trump. His speeches played on television nearly every night. Every adult seemed to be talking about him — at dinner tables, on social media. He was the central figure of the cultural moment, and he talked like a playground bully.

“As the campaign heated up last year, I started to notice a pretty significant change among my kids.”

“It’s a daily occurrence that they hear this language,” said Dorothy Espelage, an education psychology professor at the University of Florida who has researched school bullying. “They’re just parroting back what they hear” — from parents, from Trump, from raucous crowds on televised campaign rallies.

Emmons, the middle school principal in Oregon, didn’t realize how much kids had latched on to Trump’s message until dozens of his students chanted “Build that wall!” during a Halloween assembly after two teachers performing in a skit entered the stage wearing masks of Trump and Clinton. A third of the school’s students are Latino.

“That was the first time that I knew it was going to be a problem at my school,” Emmons said. “Many of our students felt unsafe and disrespected. These words are hateful and scary for them.”

When Emmons talked to some of kids who had chanted, he said he found that “some students had no idea what it meant.” They were simply joining in with the mob. “It’s middle school; it’s what you do because you’re right next to them,” Emmons said. “I really don’t believe that 99% of the kids who were chanting it had any malice or hate in their hearts.”

Recalling an incident he witnessed in which some white students harassed minority students with the usual lines about walls and deportation, Dylan Henderson, a high school sophomore in Atlanta, said, “Maybe a few of them truly were passionate about those beliefs, but the others seemed to just be doing it to incite a response, to see what will happen.”

Kids, like the president, tend to enjoy a good troll.

To Emmons and other educators, activities and discussions that once seemed innocently enriching had suddenly become fraught. Teachers grappled with how to talk to students about the election — or whether to talk about it at all. One fifth-grade teacher in North Carolina, who requested anonymity, said her school told teachers to avoid discussion about the candidates and focus on the political process when talking about the election. “I don’t think anyone has known how to handle it or approach it,” the teacher said.

Parents were similarly caught off guard by the racist bullying, which many had not encountered.

A week before the election, students at a high school in Florien, Louisiana, held a mock election in the lunchroom. Nearly all of the 200 or so students voted for Trump. When the vote count was read out, some students began asking who had voted for Clinton. One boy, a Latino 10th-grader, raised his hand. “Go back home!” somebody shouted. “Do you have your working papers?” somebody else said. A “build a wall!” chant broke out.

“He didn’t want to go back to school,” said the boy’s mother, who requested anonymity. “He said he didn’t feel safe.”

Having lived in the small town all his life, the boy had gone to school with the same classmates since kindergarten. Most of them are white, yet “this was the first time he felt his race was an issue,” his mother said. “I had to explain to him that this is how some people see the world.”

In suburban Dallas, one mother said her sixth-grade son came home from school on Election Day and told her that some classmates had taunted him and two friends on the playground that morning: “Heil Hitlary,” one boy said; another said, “one million of your lives is worth less than 30,000 deleted emails.” After the boy recalled the incident, he asked his mother, “How did they know we’re Jewish?”

The bullying in schools is part of a larger wave of hate speech, vandalism, and violence that has occurred across the country within the past year. In the four months following the election, Jewish cemeteries were defaced in at least three states, and at least three mosques were set on fire. In Kansas and Washington, white men shot brown men because they thought they were Muslim, killing one and wounding two more. In New York City, a white man who fatally stabbed a black man said he was on a mission to kill many more. A BuzzFeed News investigation earlier this year tallied at least 18 hate crimes and bias incidents from November to March in Oregon alone.

 “I don’t think anyone has known how to handle it or approach it.”

With so many recent examples of racist beliefs leading to violence, the verbal abuse in schools stands out not just as an example of kids testing boundaries, but as a possible window into a disturbing future.

On Election Day in Silverton, Oregon, around three dozen students gathered in their high school’s parking lot, holding Trump signs and waving American flags. When Latino students passed by, teens in the crowd shouted “Pack your bags, you’re leaving tomorrow!” and “Tell your family goodbye!”

At a Philadelphia prep school, four white students posed for a photo while holding pictures of the Confederate flag and Donald Trump. In the weeks after the election, pro-Trump messages, alongside racist pejoratives and symbols, were spray-painted on walls at schools in Newtown, Pennsylvania; Suwanee, Georgia; and Brookline, Massachusetts.

In Millersburg, Pennsylvania, a Latina high school student broke into tears when more than 30 classmates chanted “Trump!” at her. In York County, Pennsylvania, a group of high school students holding Trump signs marched through the halls; one shouted “white power.” In Coppell, Texas, a Latino high school student found on his desk a goodbye card with a note suggesting he would be deported and ending, “Make America Great Again! Adios!”

On a school bus in a suburb of St. Louis, a white teen said to a black teen, “Are you ready to get back on the boat now that Trump is president?” In a fifth-grade classroom in Greensboro, North Carolina, a Latino boy cried after another student told him, “Donald Trump wants to send you guys away. He doesn’t want you here.” At a high school volleyball game in Archer City, Texas, and at high school basketball games in Jefferson Township, New Jersey, and San Diego, white students chanted “build the wall” at Latino students on the other team. In Nebraska, at baseball games against Schuyler High School, which is 80% Latino, opposing students brought Trump signs and shouted taunts about deportation and building a wall.

The known incidents of Trump-related school harassment form an incomplete list. Missing are the cases that adults never hear about, the ones lost to the closed ecosystem of adolescent social life.

One Los Angeles County seventh-grader begged his mom not to tell the principal about the anti-Semitic harassment he was getting from a Trump supporter in his class. The bully was a popular kid. “My son didn’t want to deal with the social consequences,” his mother said. “He was really adamant that we didn’t out this boy.”

Another mother, from the San Francisco Bay Area, learned of a post-election bullying incident when her teenage daughter mentioned it in passing. “She didn’t want to talk about it,” the mother said. “She didn’t want to make a big deal. I was upset. I wanted to go to the principal. But she didn’t want that.” The girl, a 10th-grader, was new at her school and feared making trouble.

President Trump holds up the coloring sheet he wrote on while joining children at a craft table during the 139th Easter Egg Roll on the White House's South Lawn on April 17, 2017.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President Trump holds up the coloring sheet he wrote on while joining children at a craft table during the 139th Easter Egg Roll on the White House’s South Lawn on April 17, 2017.

When reports did make it up the chain, many principals and superintendents, including in Archer City and Philadelphia, responded swiftly, with public statements or district-wide emails condemning the bullying — stands that drew praise from parents. In Warrensburg, Missouri, after a white student held a Donald Trump sign at a high school basketball game against a team whose players were mostly black, the superintendent issued an apology, calling the act “inappropriate and insensitive toward our opponents.” The school board in Highland Park, Texas, formed a committee to look into the reports of racist harassment after the election. In San Diego County, the school board passed a resolution vowing to maintain a safe climate for students of all races. In a few cases, such as in Silverton, Oregon, and Millersburg, Pennsylvania, students were suspended.

Often, kids themselves have made efforts to counter hate incidents at their schools. High schoolers in Atlanta started a group aimed at promoting tolerance. Two middle schoolers in Oregon put together a video showing dozens of classmates stating what they “believe in” — “respect” and “equal rights” were among the more popular lines. In New Albany, Ohio, students took to social media to pressure administrators to remove graffiti of racist words and Trump’s name at their high school. When the Latino boy from Florien, Louisiana, returned to school the day after the mock election, “his friends banded around him and the other children who were bullied,” his mother said.

But, at a time when the line between political speech and racist hate seems increasingly faint, responses to bullying sometimes brought a backlash.

After a white third-grade boy chanted “build the wall” at a Latina classmate at a Louisville elementary school, the teacher and principal gathered the class and told them the boy’s actions had been racist. Not everybody was pleased with this lecture.

“Parents got mad that the school said it was racist,” said the mother of another boy in the class.

“Parents got mad that the school said it was racist.”

Indeed, as some educators learned this past school year, “build the wall” is not an easy phrase to police. It is, after all, a campaign slogan of a major party candidate, chanted by millions of Americans at rallies across the country, and a primary policy objective of the person elected president. How does a teacher explain to a student why the phrase is unacceptable in the classroom without being accused of political partisanship?

After the chant at the Hood River Middle School Halloween assembly, Principal Emmons put it this way in a letter to students: “This statement makes many of your fellow students feel badly because it has been used by politicians to threaten deportation of immigrants and threaten Americans of Mexican heritage. Many students at our school are from families of recent immigrants and these words are hurtful and scary for them.”

He called a school-wide assembly to address the incident, ordered a school-wide writing assignment about it, and organized a festival on campus that showcased games and food from around the world.

Several parents complained that the school’s response was heavy-handed. They accused the principal of suppressing political speech. Recalling those meetings, Emmons said, “We discussed whether a public school has the ability to limit speech that’s used in the national arena. Their viewpoint was: If you thought this way, it didn’t make you a bad person; that it was just about improved border security.”

The same argument emerged in May when a high school in North Carolina confiscated yearbooks after administrators discovered that one student’s senior quote was “Build that wall.” A message on the district’s Facebook page called the quote “inappropriate.” Hundreds of people left comments, mostly criticizing the decision:

“This is a violation of the student’s rights!!!”

“What is so ‘racist’ about the quote?”

“Quoting the POTUS is never inappropriate!”

For some families, the end of the school year brings hard choices. One mother from a suburb outside Richmond, Virginia, said that she and her husband, both US citizens born in Mexico, sent their son and daughter to a local Catholic school “thinking we’ll have the same values as the families there.” Things were smooth for years, until November, when their son was 12 and their daughter 14. “After Trump won, we tried to tell our kids not to worry, but then we started hearing a lot of hate,” she said. A classmate at the school, which is predominantly white, called her son a “Mexican churro.” When her son scored a goal at a soccer game at recess, another classmate said, “Don’t worry, he’s going to be deported pretty soon.” There were frequent “build the wall” jokes.

She informed the principal and the parish priest, she said, but they took no action. When she went to the mother of one of the boys who had targeted her son, the woman defended the comments, saying that the boy was merely “expressing his political point of view.”

The mother and father are now considering transferring their kids to a public school. ●


Have you been the victim of a hate crime?Tell usabout it.

Albert Samaha is the criminal justice reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Albert Samaha at albert.samaha@buzzfeed.com.

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