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Exclusions in the Social Contract: Eduardo Porter

“You're basically building a poor nation with many of these policies.”

Eduardo Porter is a journalist at The New York Times and the author of American Poison: How Racial Hostility Destroyed Our Promise. We discuss the intersection of public policy and racism as well as the long-term negative outcomes of exclusionary policies in our society, regardless of race.

Eduardo Porter is a journalist at The New York Times and the author of American Poison: How Racial Hostility Destroyed Our PromiseWe discuss the intersection of public policy and racism as well as the long-term negative outcomes of exclusionary policies in our society, regardless of race.

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Racism Bites Everybody

Creating racist policies and ideologies is short-sighted. In the long run, these practices affect everyone, including white people. In 1978, older white voters in California decided they didn’t want their tax dollars going towards the funding of education for children who were increasingly non-white. To reflect this, Prop 13 capped property taxes and essentially led to a defunding of public education in the state, which families of every race and ethnicity rely on.

Intersectionality

History has shown that when the American social safety net becomes beneficial for people of color, support for the policies and programs diminish. For example, criminal justice started to be used more and more as a tool for social management after poverty programs in the 1960s allowed Black Americans to access it. Today these relationships between race and a social safety affect our entire society, across the landscape of labor, education outcomes, and incarceration.

Abstract Fears

Abstract fears are based on something people believe to be true, even though it is not part of their lived experience. For example, if someone believes that immigrants abuse Medicaid, they will fight against Medicaid as a whole, even if the program would be beneficial for them. Abstract fears and prejudices that are not rooted in reason erode the social contract because they block citizens from making decisions that benefit both their own lives and society at large.

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Eduardo Porter is an economics reporter for The New York Times, where he was a member of the editorial board from 2007 to 2012 and the Economic Scene columnist from 2012 to 2018. He began his career in journalism as a financial reporter for Notimex, a Mexican news agency, in Mexico City. He was a correspondent in Tokyo and London, and in 1996 moved to São Paulo, Brazil, as editor of América Economía, a business magazine. In 2000, he went to work at The Wall Street Journal in Los Angeles to cover the growing Hispanic population. 

Porter is the author of The Price of Everything (2011), an exploration of the cost-benefit analyses that underpin human behaviors and institutions. His latest book is American Poison: How Racial Hostility Destroyed Our Promise (2020).

You can follow Eduardo Porter on Twitter at @PorterEduardo

Eduardo Porter Transcript

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