Trump’s Saudi Arabia Speech, Rape Kit Revelations, Gap Between Renters And Homeowners

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New documents released by the Wisconsin Department of Justice shed more light on the state’s backlog of untested rape kits. We hear what new information was found and why thousands of kits have yet to be analyzed. We also break down what was said in President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia yesterday about Islam and terrorism. Tax incentives and other benefits for homeowners have expanded in the last 50 years, but renters haven’t seen similar gains. Our guest explains why he thinks this creates one of the biggest gaps in society today.

Featured in this Show

  • President Trump's Saudi Arabia Speech On Islam

    President Trump’s first trip abroad began in Saudi Arabia, where he gave a much-anticipated speech on Islam and the global fight against terror. We look at what was and wasn’t said, and what implications the address may have.

  • Documents Give Insight Into State's Untested Rape Kits

    New documents obtained from the Wisconsin Department of Justice shed more light on the state’s untested sexual assault evidence, also known as rape kits. They reveal reluctance from local law enforcement to submitting kits for DNA testing and mixed messages from the state on the timeline for reducing the backlog. An investigative reporter is with us to bring us up to speed.

  • One Of Society's Biggest Gaps Is Between Renters And Homeowners

    Tax incentives and other benefits that homeowners receive have grown to apply to many more people in the past 50 years. Our guest says that those programs give a leg up to some who may need it the least, and increase the gap between owners and renters.

  • Author: Tax Benefits Of Homeownership Tend To Help White, Affluent Americans

    In his 2017 Pulitzer prize-winning book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” author Matthew Desmond exposed the tenuous and often invisible lives of poor residents in Milwaukee.

    In a recent piece for The New York Times Magazine, Desmond compares the experiences of renters and homeowners across the country, and examines the policies that have made the gulf between those who own and those who rent one of the greatest divides in the United States, exacerbating racial and economic inequities.

    But there are significant differences even within the home-owning group.

    One factor of the divide is the seemingly innocuous mortgage interest deduction homeowners are able to access. Interest paid on a mortgage for a first or second home, or for a home equity line of credit based on that home’s value, can be deducted on loans of up to $1 million in many cases.

    Especially early in the life of a loan, when more interest than principle tends to be paid each month, that can be a significant benefit to homeowners.

    The MID has different beginnings than what it has become, Desmond said.

    “It wasn’t intended to be an enormous entitlement, (and that) is what it became,” he said.

    When it was put into place in 1913, it was aimed at businesses to be able to deduct interest paid. That’s because at the time, most individuals didn’t pay income tax, nor did they own their own homes, so there was no way to use a deduction.

    “As that changed over the 20th century, the mortgage interest deduction became one of the biggest, most generous deductions in the tax code. And the most recent data suggests that it cost us about $71 billion last year. And if you add that up to other homeowner subsidies, the price tag for this benefit is about $134 billion,” he said. “So it started as something of an accident, but became something that’s just fundamental to the American welfare state.”

    But rates of home ownership differ between racial and ethnic groups, so those benefits are not shared equally.

    According to the United States Census Bureau, the overall rate of home ownership nationally in the first quarter of 2017 was 63.6 percent.

    Non-Hispanic whites were the only group to exceed the average, with a rate of 71.8 percent. All other racial and ethnic groups were below average, with Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders the next highest at 56.8 percent; Hispanic households at 46.6 percent; and African-Americans coming in the lowest at 42.7 percent.

    In addition, Desmond pointed out, people who buy more expensive homes get a larger deduction.

    “You can claim a bigger deduction if you have a bigger mortgage, and obviously you can get a bigger mortgage if you have a bigger income. So the folks that benefit the most form this entitlement are affluent families, you know,” Desmond said. “And so about four-fifths of the entire deduction, for the mortgage interest deduction, go to families with six-figure incomes. That’s a big, big benefit going to upper income families.”

    Desmond added that while reform of the system might seem to make sense economically, that there is very little political will to do so.

    “It’s been seen for years and years as this kind of ‘third-rail’ of politics, kind of this untouchable benefit that is just going to lose you a bunch of political points if you try to take it on,” he said. “So it’s become something like Medicaid in its ability to withstand all kind of political transitions and it was only altered once in its entire history.”

    The neutral or positive view of this particular entitlement program is a far cry from how the supposed “welfare queens” were vilified as taking advantage of the system during the Reagan years. Desmond thinks all aspects of the welfare state need to be examined and assessed equally and fairly.

    “A 15-story public housing complex and a mortgaged suburban home, they’re both government subsidized housing, but only one looks that way,” he said. “You know, and we tend to benefit middle class and upper class Americans through the tax code, and we tend to benefit Americans of modest means by writing checks or building buildings.”

Episode Credits

  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Haleema Shah Producer
  • Ishaan Tharoor Guest
  • Keegan Kyle Guest
  • Matthew Desmond Guest

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