Why Is the Democratic Base Eroding?

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  • Income Inequality and Test Scores
  • Helping Kids Thrive With Full WIC Funding

Credit…Illustration by Sam Whitney/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Democrats Are Their Own Worst Enemies,” by Pamela Paul (column, Nov. 3), about why polls are showing a loss of support for the party among minorities and the working class:

Ms. Paul writes that “the Democratic Party cannot win and America cannot flourish if it doesn’t prioritize the economic well-being of the American majority over the financial interests and cultural fixations of an elite minority.”

That, she says, is the reason that “the Democratic Party’s reliable base — the working class, middle-class families, even Black and Latino Americans and other ethnic minorities — have veered toward the G.O.P.”

Is she talking about the same G.O.P. that, under the former president, passed legislation that gave enormous tax breaks to the wealthiest in the country? Is she referring to G.O.P. legislators who now want to reduce funding for the I.R.S., an agency that serves as a watchdog against unfair tax manipulation that leaves the middle class with a proportionately greater tax burden than the richest?

If so, it is hard to imagine that the G.O.P., as opposed to the Democratic Party, is prioritizing the economic well-being of the American majority.

Sheila Terman Cohen
Madison, Wis.

To the Editor:

OMG! I had no idea how crazy the Democrats really are! As Pamela Paul reminds us, they are out of touch with the “broadly shared beliefs within the electorate.”

Democrats support legal immigration and care for refugees. They think Social Security is a good idea. They think everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. They think that people who want to impose their religion on this country are just wrong. They think that people are entitled to autonomy over their own bodies and health care. They recognize the rule of law.

And the worst part is they are right up front about it. Thank you, Pamela, for helping me feel better about how I plan to vote.

Richard W. Poeton
Lenox, Mass.

To the Editor:

Pamela Paul is correct that there is room for robust debate about what policies the Democrats should adopt to better help most Americans, but she misses the bigger problem. The Republican Party is full of one-issue voters who will vote to promote racist policies, misogyny or guns regardless of whether most Republican policies are good for America or not.

Many Democratic voters have been quick to say they won’t vote for a Democratic candidate since that candidate promises to do only seven of the 10 things they want. Especially with the Electoral College and gerrymandering favoring minority rule, everyone who recognizes the danger that the current Republican Party poses to our freedoms must vote for the Democratic candidate, even if they want some different policies.

Until the current Republican Party is out of power, any debate within the Democratic Party must take a back seat to saving our country from election deniers.

Richard Dine
Silver Spring, Md.

Income Inequality and Test Scores

New SAT Data Highlights the Deep Inequality at the Heart of American Education

The differences in how rich and poor children are educated start very early.

To the Editor:

Re “‘18 Years Too Late’ to Solve SAT Gap” (The Upshot, Oct. 30):

It is unsurprising that SAT scores correlate strongly to family income. A huge portion of top scorers come from the richest families. Only 0.6 percent of all students from the bottom 20 percent of family income score above 1300 out of 1600.

This data dispels the myth that the SAT boosts access to higher education by identifying “diamonds in the rough” from historically underrepresented populations. They are far outnumbered by students from wealthy families taking full socioeconomic advantage to achieve higher scores. The “rough” — in the form of under-resourced public education and family poverty — completely obscures the diamonds.

Furthermore, the SAT is a veryweak predictor of undergraduate performance. Grades work better. The test is a strong measure of accumulated opportunity rather than college readiness. Relying on SAT results to prejudge future educational performance locks in inequity.

That is one reason that nearly 90 percent of U.S. four-year colleges and universities now have SAT/ACT-optional or test-blind policies.

Of course, such policies alone will not solve the college access problem. Admissions offices need to scrutinize other determinative factors. A fair process should not provide the greatest opportunities to teenagers who have already had the most advantages in life.

Harry Feder
The writer is the executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest).

To the Editor:

Again and again, research has shown that poverty and income inequality are the most powerful influence on school performance. How could it be otherwise in a country without a real safety net, with parents working two gig jobs and juggling which bills to pay, with no secure access to health care, rampant evictions and parking lots for employed people who have to live in their cars? Yet the public refuses to believe this, and at best seeks to bolster schools in the hopes that they will make up for fundamental deprivation.

It is deeply distressing to see how many reader comments declare that wealth reflects genetic superiority and other “virtues.” In an era of barely taxed billionaires building self-perpetuating stock market fortunes on the labor of warehouse workers and A.I., that view is not only undemocratic and ahistorical. It’s also dangerously complacent.

Nina Bernstein
New York
The writer is a former New York Times reporter.

Helping Kids Thrive With Full WIC Funding

To the Editor:

Re “Infant Mortality Up for 1st Time in Two Decades” (front page, Nov. 2):

The increase in America’s infant mortality rate is a deeply alarming sign that policymakers do not adequately prioritize children’s health and well-being.

Sadly, it is not the only sign.

The child poverty rate more than doubled last year. Nearly 9 percent of households with children were food insecure in 2022, up from 6.2 percent the year before. Children’s reading and math scores have plummeted since the pandemic.

No single program can fix all of this. But the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which serves about half of all infants born in the United States, should be considered our first line of defense.

A 2019 study found that WIC participation is directly attributable to a 16 percent reduction in the risk of infant mortality. WIC participation also lowers the risk of poverty, reduces food insecurity, improves nutritional intake and strengthens kids’ cognitive development.

Yet new data from the Department of Agriculture finds a significant gap between WIC eligibility and coverage. For instance, only 25 percent of 4-year-olds eligible for WIC are actually enrolled.

All children deserve to grow up healthy and thrive. Full funding for WIC is an essential step toward that goal.

Georgia Machell
The writer is interim president and C.E.O. of the National WIC Association.

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