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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 14, New Delhi, March 20, 2021

Education, Religion and Poverty: Politics of Religious Extremism | Nagender Madavaram

Friday 19 March 2021

by Dr. Nagender Madavaram *

The world has been passing through a critical phase. Conservative governments around the world are targeting constitutional institutions, human rights, and the basic foundations of democracy. The governments are enriching few cronies at the cost of majority people, rewriting history, and harassing minorities. China replaced Marxism with Han Chauvinism after the Tiananmen Square massacre to achieve its dream of establishing the Middle Kingdom to dominate the world. China has erected concentration camps for the Hanification of 2 million Uighurs Muslims in Xinjiang province [1] In the Islamophobic era, Western governments did not object to the actions of China. President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro permitted the beef industry to occupy the forest land of native Indians [2]. Amazon forest, around size of Nagaland, was burnt to raise cattle for the beef industry and displaced native people who lived in Amazon for centuries.

Former President Donald Trump changed the political discourse in the US. Trump is an entrepreneur, neither a church-goer nor a conservative until he became the President. He was not part of the Republican Party (GOP) establishment. He took a radical stand on immigrants, minorities, Palestinians, Hispanics, human rights, foreign affairs, social and religious issues to consolidate his position in the GOP. First time in the US, controversial religious groups got patronization from the White House ignoring the established traditions. Trump has become a demigod of radical conservatives, confederates, and white supremacists. An invisible robust mechanism of billionaires is working to unite all these groups. The mechanism plays a vital role in the selection of candidates in the primaries by energizing and mobilizing resources. Trump’s policies polarized the nation vertically. Executive orders empowered agencies to encircle undocumented immigrants and pushed them into prisons. Mothers were separated from children and their human rights were violated.

Trump implemented radical conservative agenda in its true spirit. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 paved a way for 1.9 trillion tax cuts to rich people and empty promises to common citizens [3] Capital gains, corporate taxes were reduced and tax exemptions for the middle class were eliminated. The act proponents promised exponential growth of the economy and increase the average family an extra $4,000 in wages. It didn’t improve either the economy or family income. New York Times analyzed that the act will increase economic inequality because the top 1% receives approximately 70% of the pass-through income, which will be subject to much lower taxes. Rolling back the estate tax benefits $150 billion for the top 0.2% rich people4 [4]. The act gave incentives to stockholders but the bottom 80% population holds just 7% of stocks. Tax Policy Center found the average tax cut for the richest 1% is $51,000 and for the bottom, 80% is $800 [5]]. The US experience indicates that rightist parties lose control over the educated people and the upper-middle-class section. New York Times survey found that Trump received 55% support of Whites without college degree whereas Biden secured 53% of Whites with a college degree. There are strong reasons for GOP to oppose universal education, tuition-free education, interest-free loans to students, waiving of students’ loans schemes. The rightist party vehemently opposed any incentive for promoting university education to poor people. GOP always opposes universal health care, food stamps to poor people, low mortgage interest rates to unaffordable people, welfare programs, and subsidized public transport system but at the same, they give trillions of dollars tax benefits to rich people. The party always ignores poor people though the vast majority of the White poor vote for the party in the name of religion. Churches are successfully motivating the poor to vote on the basis of social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, immigration, gun ownership, affirmation action, and voting rights. Media and religious groups effectively override financial, poverty, unemployment, education, healthcare, and other basic essential topics in the elections. Trump inspired rightist leaders worldwide to make bold decisions against poor people. There is immense interest in religious extremist parties in poverty and illiteracy for advancing their agenda.

Statewide Votes Polled in 2020 US Presidential Elections, Per Capita Income and Education

States Democratic Party % of Votes [6] GOP % of Votes[6] Per Capita $ [7] Bachelor Degree Holders % [8]
Wyoming 26.6 69.9 62,189 26.9
West Virginia 29.7 68.6 42,315 20.3
Oklahoma 32.3 65.4 47,341 25.2
North Dakota 31.8 65.1 57,232 29.5
Idaho 33.1 63.8 45,968 26.9
Arkansas 34.8 62.4 44,629 22.6
Kentucky 36.2 62.1 43,770 23.6
Alabama 36.6 62 44,145 24.9
South Dakota 35.6 61.8 53,962 28.5
Tennessee 37.4 60.7 48,684 26.6
Louisiana 39.9 58.5 47,460 23.7
Nebraska 39.3 58.5 54,515 31.3
Utah 37.6 58.1 48,939 33.3
Mississippi 41 57.5 38,914 21.8
Indiana 41 57 48,678 25.9
Missouri 41.4 56.7 48,656 28.6
Montana 40.4 56.7 49,747 31.2
Kansas 41.3 56.4 53,426 32.9
South Carolina 43.4 55.1 45,438 27.4
Ohio 45.2 53.3 50,199 27.8
Iowa 44.9 53.2 51,865 28.2
Alaska 42.8 52.8 62,806 29.2
Texas 46.5 52 52,813 29.3
Florida 47.9 51.2 52,426 29.2
North Carolina 48.6 49.9 47,766 30.5
Georgia 49.5 49.3 48,236 30.7
Arizona 49.4 49.1 46,058 28.9
Pennsylvania 50 48.8 58,032 30.8
Wisconsin 49.5 48.8 53,227 29.5
Michigan 50.6 47.8 49,228 28.6
Nevada 50.1 47.7 51,161 24.2
New Hampshire 52.8 45.5 63,502 36.5
Minnesota 52.4 45.3 58,834 35.4
Maine 52.8 44.1 50,634 30.9
Virginia 54.1 44 59,657 38.2
New Mexico 54.3 43.5 43,326 27.1
Colorado 55.4 41.9 61,157 40.1
New York 57 41.5 71,717 35.9
New Jersey 57.1 41.2 70,471 38.9
Illinois 57.5 40.5 58,764 34.1
Oregon 56.5 40.4 53,191 32.9
Delaware 58.8 39.8 54,485 31.4
Connecticut 59.2 39.2 77,289 38.9
Washington 58.4 39 64,758 35.3
Rhode Island 59.4 38.6 56,361 33.3
California 63.5 34.3 66,619 33.3
Hawaii 63.7 34.3 57,015 32.5
Maryland 65.7 32.3 64,640 39.6
Massachusetts 65.6 32.1 74,187 42.9
Vermont 66.1 30.7 55,293 37.3
District of Columbia 92.1 5.4 83,406 57.6

In the 2020 Presidential elections, mainly conservative southern states supported Trump. The average per capita income and college education of these states are $49,756 and 27% respectively. Biden secured majority votes from wealthy states, their average per capita income and college education are 59,663 and 36% respectively. Nevada is only the state which has less percent of college graduates than the average percent of GOP states. The main reason for the low percentage of college graduates is the state has 28.5 % of low-skilled Hispanic population migrated from Latin American countries. In 2012 elections, GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that 47% of people do not pay taxes and he doesn’t win their vote. Romney felt that group of income-tax-free Americans as being entitled to health care, to food stamps, to housing, and other welfare programs. Statistically, 47% of low-income people should not vote for GOP and Democrats should need only 4% to win the elections. Interestingly, in spite of insults to low-income persons, under influence of religion, a considerable number of low-income persons support GOP against their own economic interests. Small farmers are in low-income group and they did not have health insurance until Obama provided them. All rural counties are under the influence of GOP as the party has a strong hold on the farmers who attend churches regularly. Donald Trump received the majority of votes in 2,497 counties whereas Biden got the majority of votes only in 477 counties. US experience indicates that poverty and low-level education are important factors for strengthening the conservative party.

India’s Prime Minister is following Trump’s model to keep his control over the country. Demonetization vacuumed the money from common people and GST weakened small-scale industry. Imports from China are increasing rapidly as the manufacturing sector is damaged by GST. Rich people are getting tax benefits and middle-class people are taking the burden of the nation. Corporate tax and capital gains tax are reduced. Non-Performance Assets (NPA) are increasing. The RBI data shows that new gross NPAs of Public Sector Banks from 2014-15 to 2019-20 stood at nearly Rs 18.28 lakh crore, up from nearly Rs 5 lakh crore from 2008-09 to 2013-14 in the UPA rule [9]. The government is not at all concerned about common citizens. During the Covid pandemic, migrants died on the roads while walking to their homes for thousands of miles. No democratically elected government behaved in such an irresponsible way in modern times. People lost purchasing power to meet their essentials. The government intentionally pushed millions of people into poverty. Modi government is not following the law for transferring GST taxes to states. Developmental and welfare schemes of the states are suffering nationwide due to lack of funds. BJP ruled states are getting funds as special grants. If industrialists do not repay loans then the government is waiving the loans whereas PSUs are in trouble due to government policies then the government is giving PSUs to private persons. Even profit-making insurance companies are placed in the category of privatization. Either way, taxpayers are losing national wealth. Under Modi’s regime, Adani’s wealth has grown from $7.1 billion to $32 billion, and Ambani from $23.6 billion to $83 billion. The two industrialists accumulated Rs. 62 lakh cores in six years. The current year budgets of all states together are around 42 lakh crores. Top rich people are receiving tax benefits to the extent of 1.45 lakh cores per year. Instead of using the money for speeding up economic recovery, Modi added to the bank balance of rich people. Modi’s policies are enriching few and incapacitating the common people. The government is favoring industrialists to grab the land and control the price of agricultural produce. Indian farmers are protesting for their rights in cold weather. In fact, consumers should fight against the laws as the price of agricultural produce affects their family budget.

Leaders of India’s cow-belt and America’s Bible-belt have common interests in keeping people in poverty and ignorance. History and facts are their biggest enemies. They used a storm of propaganda to tell lies constantly until the truth is buried. Benefited crony capitalists funded enormously a propaganda war. Washington Post said Trump lied 30,573 times in his term [10]. Indian media does not dare to count Modi’s lies. A major part of the Indian media is under the control of his cronies. Modi’s public relations budget is many rates higher than Trump’s. It is not accidental but government policies are raising petrol price, unemployment rate, and prices of commodities. The government is implementing the elimination of the poor instead of eradication of poverty.

Turkmenistan dictator, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov built his own 69-foot statue riding a golden horse. Modi removed Vallabhbhai Patel’s name and baptized his name for the world’s largest cricket stadium. Personality cult overshadowed national leaders. The original BJP is no more in existence. India may witness the erection of more statues to hail Modi.

References:

[1] Stephanie Nebehay 2018, accessed 3 March 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/10/world/asia/china-xinjiang-un-uighurs.html

[2] Barbara Corbellini Duarte and Nisha Stickles 2019, accessed 2 March 2021, https://www.businessinsider.com/meat-consumption-linked-to-the-amazon-fires-2019-8

[3] National Association of Tax Professionals (2018), Tax Cuts and Jobs Act 2017, Appleton, WI USA

[4] Accessed 5 March 2021 https://worddisk.com/wiki/Economic_policy_of_Donald_Trump/

[5] Accessed 6 March 2021 https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxvox/three-numbers-know-about-tcja-2018

[6] Accessed 5 March 2021 https://www.politico.com/2020-election/results/president/

[7] Accessed 1 March 2021 https://apps.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?reqid=99&step=1#reqid=99&step=1&isuri=1

[8] Accessed 1 March 2021 https://www.indexmundi.com/facts/united-states/quick-facts/all-states/percent-of-people-25-years-and-over-with-bachelors-degree-or-higher#table

[9] Accessed 2 March 2021 https://www.newindianexpress.com/business/2021/jan/11/gross-npas-more-than-threetimes-up-in-nda-rule-says-rbi-data-2248365.html

[10] Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly 2021, Accessed 8 March 2021 https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/01/24/trumps-false-or-misleading-claims-total-30573-over-four-years/

*(Author: Dr. Nagender Rao Madavaram, worked in the Department of Political Science, Osmania University, Hyderabad. Currently, he is based in the US.)

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