The cruel failure of welfare reform in the Southwest

This article was first published by ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. It was co-published with the Las Vegas Sun.

As the 1960s came to their tumultuous end, California Gov. Ronald Reagan convened a summit on the topic of welfare. He was hoping to try out one of his new ideas: that poor single mothers were, in the wake of the civil rights movement, increasingly living idly and defrauding government assistance programs.

George Miller, then the welfare director in neighboring Nevada, volunteered to do a dry run for Reagan, proposing to purge his smaller state’s welfare rolls of alleged welfare cheats. It would be the first effort of its kind in the nation, he said.

Miller cut Nevada’s aid program by close to 75%, stripping thousands of moms and kids of desperately needed survival assistance.

Ruby Duncan, a self-described “welfare mother” on Las Vegas’s Westside, was incensed.

Duncan had grown up in Tallulah, Louisiana, in the 1930s, chopping and picking cotton on a plantation. When her uncles joined the Great Migration out of the South and headed to Vegas to work on New Deal projects like the Hoover Dam, she followed, becoming a maid at still-segregated casino hotels and a house cleaner for wealthy entertainers at the height of the city’s Rat Pack glory days.

She worked from sunup to sundown for decades, and only reluctantly received minimal government help after she literally broke her back on the job. (Duncan permanently injured her spine when she slipped while carrying overloaded trays of food to customers at the Sahara hotel.)

In March 1971, in response to Miller’s welfare cuts, Duncan organized a series of marches down the Las Vegas Strip, a protest movement dubbed “Operation Nevada.” Thousands of welfare mothers, children, priests and nuns, union members, students and well-known activists including Jane Fonda and Ralph Abernathy succeeded in blocking the way into Caesars Palace and other casinos, threatening the bottom line of the city’s wealthiest.

“It was very exciting,” Duncan said. “The fancy people were grabbing their furs and closing their cash registers.”

The marches received national news attention. Duncan followed them up with several “eat-ins,” in which she and her fellow organizers instructed dozens of children left hungry by the welfare cutbacks to walk into luxurious casino dining rooms, order steaks, and then walk out without paying, telling the restaurant managers to bill the state welfare department instead.

Within weeks, a federal judge ordered that the moms and kids whom Nevada had slashed from public assistance would have their benefits reinstated.

In the following years, Duncan expanded her political advocacy and won more victories, including getting Nevada to provide food stamps (it was the last state in the nation to do so) and helping to popularize the idea of a universal basic income, a guarantee of a survival level of income for all.

Other Black women nationwide had also started to do this work, connecting the words “welfare” and “rights” for the first time in American history as part of theNational Welfare Rights Organization. It seemed like Reagan’s thesis was being defeated, and that the idea had taken hold that poor single mothers do work hard and strive, and are in many ways the backbone of this country.

Today, Duncan, months away from turning 90 and now largely unable to walk due to that workplace injury from so many decades ago, is less optimistic. She’s still living in West Las Vegas, and still occasionally getting to engage with young single mothers. (She adores young people.) And she’s still holding out some hope that President Joe Biden’s child tax credit will become law in the new year and create a better safety net for Nevada’s families, though it faces a tough road to passage in the U.S. Senate.

But Duncan has a long view on the history of cash assistance in the U.S., and she has been souring on its prospects ever since Reagan reached the White House and vaulted Nevada’s revanchist attitude toward the working poor into national politics. (Miller, the Nevada welfare director whom Duncan thought she had fought and defeated, joined Reagan’s presidential transition team.)

Then, President Bill Clinton took Reagan’s notions to their apotheosis in his 1996 welfare reform law, which Clinton said would fulfill his promise to “end welfare as we know it.”

In the 25 years since, welfare as we knew it did end, but not because the reform was lifting people out of poverty as promised. Federal welfare funding, which the law froze at 1996 levels, was soon decimated by inflation and demographic shifts — with rapidly growing Nevada faring worst of all, now less able to help poor children than ever. States were also given great discretion over how to spend the money, and many have since used it less to assist families than to backfill budget holes, in turn allowing them to maintain tax breaks for the wealthy.

In the process, welfare, which the new law renamed Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, has gone from serving 4.4 million families in 1996 to just 1 million today, despite the U.S. population increasing by 60 million over the same period. Yet child poverty hasn’t budged: Just as was true when the legislation passed, today nearly one in five American children are living below the poverty line, twice the average rate in other developed countries.

“I know from young women talking to me that they’re facing practically the same thing that went on back when I first started,” said Duncan, who was so despondent and physically ailing by the time the Clinton bill was enacted that, she said, she had to go on bed rest. “Poor women throughout America,” she said, “we tried to make everything better for us, and we ended up with this.”

Welfare Reform’s Legacy in the Desert West

This year, the 25th anniversary of welfare reform, happened to coincide with a substantive debate in Congress over a new sort of welfare: the child tax credit, which has been providing low- and middle-income families nationwide with $250 to $300 per child per month during much of the pandemic, but is set to expire Friday. (Biden and most Democrats in the Senate have said they will try to get it extended permanently with a vote as soon as January.)

ProPublica has taken this moment to examine the present state of cash assistance in the U.S., focusing on the Southwest, where massive population growth and a surging cost of living for low-income parents have collided with the region’s libertarian attitude toward government help for the poor.

What ProPublica discovered is an abundance of overlooked stories of bizarre — and mean-spirited — practices on the part of state governments, which were handed near-complete responsibility for welfare under the 1996 law.

And at the root of them all was that same closefistedness toward poor Americans that Reagan conceived of 50 years ago in Nevada.

In New Mexico and other states, single mothers applying for public assistance are forced to identify the father of their child (and his eye color, and his license plate number) and recall the exact date when they got pregnant. In Utah, families seeking aid are subtly pushed to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where they’re pressured to get baptized or perform other religious activities, like reading aloud from the Book of Mormon, in order to get help. And in Arizona, poor moms who could have benefited from welfare are instead investigated, at nationally unparalleled rates, by a child services agency funded by welfare dollars.

These practices exist primarily to save money for the states, and by extension their wealthiest taxpayers. The questions that mothers in New Mexico are forced to answer about their child’s father? Those are asked so that the state can go after the dads for child support — most of which the government then pockets. (In 2020, nationally, more than $1.7 billion in child support meant to go to kids instead was taken by federal and state governments.) Utah, meanwhile, has gotten out of spending more than $75 million on public assistance over the past decade by having a private agreement with the LDS Church saying that the state can “count” much of the church’s charitable work as the state’s own. And Arizona balances its budget by diverting more than $150 million annually in welfare funding intended for low-income families — a majority of the money that the state is provided for direct aid to the poor — to its Department of Child Safety, which then uses the dollars to surveil and sometimes separate many of those same families.

Finally, ProPublica revealed, states have hit upon yet another way to skimp on welfare: simply not spending large amounts of their welfare funding at all. Across the nation, more than $5.2 billion in federal funds that are supposed to be going toward fighting poverty are instead sitting unused in state bank accounts, while the women and children whom Duncan has fought for all her life continue to struggle.

Unlike George Miller’s sudden 75% cut to welfare in Nevada in the 1970s, which prompted such immediate, dramatic collective action from the community, what has happened over the past 25 years has been a relatively slow demise.

In other words, it is precisely welfare reform’s unhurried, creeping approach that, in the end, has made it so successful in dismantling cash assistance.

The Slow Smothering of Welfare in Nevada

These failures of welfare reform, ironically, have reached a kind of end stage in Las Vegas, the capital of capitalism and arguably the birthplace of Reagan’s efforts to relegate welfare to the ash heap of history.

That’s because the 1996 law also locked in the amount of federal welfare funding provided to states at ’90s levels, regardless of inflation, population changes or economic downturns. And Nevada, due both to immigration and an overwhelming influx of tech companies and other transplants from California, has transformed demographically more than any other state, with much of that change occurring in Clark County. (Ever the landing place for newcomers, the state is now home to more adults from California than native Nevadans.)

As a result, the per-person value of Nevada’s fixed “block grant” of welfare funds has declined more than anywhere else in the country.

Between 1997 and 2015, the Silver State’s population skyrocketed, by roughly two-thirds, and its housing prices and cost of living shot up as a consequence. In turn, the number of kids living in poverty here more than doubled, from 67,852 to 143,407. That translated to a percentage decline in the actual value of the state’s welfare dollars, per poor child, that was twice the national average.

Now, Nevada gets the smallest population-adjusted grant of federal money in the nation for addressing child poverty: $63 per child, according to 2019 statistics. By comparison, California receives $409.

Former Nevada Gov. Richard Bryan, who became a U.S. senator and was in Congress during welfare reform, said in an interview with ProPublica, “I liked the idea of a block grant because it gave governors flexibility” over how to spend the welfare fund. But, he said, “it didn’t take into account differences between Nevada and slow- or no-growth states.”

The drop in value of Nevada’s federal welfare dollars has been especially devastating because the state has no income tax, which means that despite all the glitzy wealth here, the state government has little ability to provide its own funding for public assistance. Instead, the Legislature relies largely on sales taxes, much of which come from the tourism industry. As a result, state revenue varies season to season and plummets every time there’s an economic crisis, exactly when welfare is most needed.

The Legislature did increase welfare benefits in 2018 — by $3 a month.

Danielle Frolander, of Minden, Nevada, has felt the decline of TANF in a personal, almost literal way. A dental assistant, she applied for help earlier this year after leaving an abusive relationship and struggling to support her kids on her own, she said. Her rent has ballooned amid an influx of Californians that she said has jammed the town’s two-lane roads with “L.A.-type traffic.”

At first, Frolander said, she was receiving over $200 a month from the program, but the amount quickly started decreasing, just like the value of Nevada’s welfare funding overall. (The reason is that the state has a complex formula for weaning families off cash aid over time.) Now she only gets $50, and soon it will be $0.

“It’s kind of silly, these amounts,” she said. “It goes into my gas tank to get to work, and that’s about all.”

Where Welfare Goes From Here

In the final congressional debate before the 1996 law was passed, then-Sen. Joe Biden said, “We should not fool ourselves: There will be people, many of them children, who will fall through the cracks because of this bill.” But he voted for the legislation anyway, citing a “culture of welfare” that was allegedly the cause of stagnation among America’s poor. (Biden has declined to say whether the vote was a mistake; a spokesperson for his presidential campaign in 2020 told NBC News that he tried to make the bill more progressive but faced a bipartisan coalition in favor of the overhaul.)

For years, the harshness and inefficiencies of TANF were not lost on Biden and other Democrats, according to a review of their past comments on the issue, but they sidelined the problem in part because the window of what seemed possible hadn’t shifted since the Reagan era. Even mentioning welfare, for most of the past 25 years, has been a political third rail.

But the tide began to turn, on the left, starting with social science research suggesting that direct cash aid to households with low incomes is the most effective way of alleviating poverty, as seems intuitive. Studies showed that the simple fact of a family having more money leads to kids eating more nutritious food, going to the doctor more often, experiencing lower household stress (which in turn improves their brain chemistry), scoring higher on academic achievement tests, being more likely to go to college, earning more as adults, avoiding crime and living longer.

Research also revealed that the old narrative that most women receiving welfare don’t want to work is, simply, false. These single moms are typically working multiple low-wage jobs, like Duncan was in the ’60s, that don’t pay them enough to support a family.

Duncan said she would prefer welfare be replaced with universal child care, as well as jobs in communities like hers that aren’t make-work and that provide wages that match what things cost, plus an education system that actually prepares people for those jobs. Only then, she said, would the slogan of the Clinton law, “welfare to work,” become more than hollow rhetoric.

But an improved cash assistance program, she said, “would be a start.”

Last year, amid mass layoffs caused by the pandemic, Democratic politicians and members of the media seemed to latch on to all of this. Presidential candidates, including Biden, won plaudits for talking up the idea of direct cash transfers to, or even a universal basic income for, low-income parents and children bearing the brunt of hard economic times.

That conversation led to the child tax credit in Biden’s proposed Build Back Better bill, which differs from welfare mainly by going out to parents and kids with no strings attached. TANF, on the other hand, requires single moms to fill out reams of paperwork attesting to all their assets in order to prove they are poor enough to qualify, and to sit through a host of seemingly extraneous programs, often including parenting workshops and seminars on healthy relationships with men.

Many women feel they spend so much time just managing their participation on TANF that they drop off the program, because it’s not worth it for the extremely minimal amount of aid offered.

Continuing the direct tax credit to these families “would be just such a better way to do it,” said Sheila Leslie, a former Nevada state legislator who focused on TANF issues while in office. “It would take away all the tracking of the supposed ‘worthiness’ of poor families, and the stigma of being ‘on welfare’ would be gone,” she said, in part because most middle-class families, not just the poorest of the poor, would be receiving the assistance too.

According to an analysis by the Urban Institute, a left-leaning think tank, child poverty in Nevada could be reduced by 41% if the credit were made permanent. That’s 44,000 kids potentially lifted out of poverty statewide.

Yet there is a strong chance that the child tax credit will die this year, due to the resistance of Republican and some Democratic lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Those two and several others have been explicitly saying that the plan would take the country backward to the days before welfare reform — when welfare checks, they say, fostered idleness and dependency and disincentivized poor families from striving for the American Dream.

“That’s the Real Welfare”

Duncan, a Black woman, a mother and a community organizer, isn’t exactly John Wayne, a hero on horseback, alone. Yet she is the embodiment of the community building and cooperation that actually won the West.

No one could have survived this brutal desert by going it alone. Native Americans certainly didn’t. And the early European settlers made it across the Rockies not on their own but by circling their wagons, and then they engaged in collective efforts to build dams and irrigation systems so that the region could continue to grow.

But the fairy tale of “rugged individualism” still has great influence over American public policy. This time it’s the Elon Musk type claiming to reach new frontiers not as part of a community but as an individual striver, on a rocket ship, alone. (Tesla recently moved to Nevada, lured by tax incentives.)

“The guys going to the moon, thetax cheaters, that’s the real welfare,” Duncan said. “Give it back so somebody else can climb, holy Jesus.”

Musk has responded to ProPublica’s reporting on his tax avoidance by saying he pays his fair share.

There is so much money in the U.S. and in Las Vegas specifically, Duncan argued, that surely there could be a system in which the people working such long hours in those casinos and other factories of wealth could share in that prosperity.

But Duncan has also borne witness to nearly a century’s worth of deteriorating ideas about public assistance in this country. “I sit here and look through the lens of my mind,” she said, “and there is just so much we could have done differently.”

‘Strong reason to believe’ more indictments could be coming Trump Org CFO Weisselberg’s attorney tells judge

The attorney for indicted Trump Organization president and chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, told a judge Monday he believes more indictments are coming down the pipe. We have strong reason to believe there could be other indictments coming," Bryan Skarlatos, attorney for Weisselberg, told a New York State Supreme Court judge, according to CNN's Jim Sciutto. Sciutto says Skarlatos told the judge "he expects more people to be charged in criminal probe." Journalist Andrea Bernstein adds the attorney also said: "We are shooting at a moving target." Weisselberg is appearing before the judge on charges related to an alleged 15-year scheme to defraud taxpayers.

Earlier: NY Prosecutors ‘Aggressively’ Pursuing Trump Tax-Fraud Probe as Weisselberg Returns to Court: Report

Here are the ways Georgia could make it harder for residents to vote

The United States' political map changed quite a bit with the presidential election of 2020. Multiple notoriously Republican states turned blue as Democratic voters cast their ballots in an effort to ensure former President Donald Trump did not win a second term.

Now Republican lawmakers in various states are looking to implement more restrictive measures to make it far more difficult for voters to cast ballots in upcoming elections. The Brennan Center for Justice, a voting rights advocacy group, notes that since Feb. 2020, more than 165 bills in 33 states have been proposed to restrict voting practices.

According to Five Thirty-Eight, there are currently two key election bills that have been proposed in the state of Georgia: House Bill 531 and Senate Bill 241.

On Thursday, Feb. 18, lawmakers in Georgia's state House unveiled House Bill 531 only one hour before the hearing to discuss the proposed bill. The two bills have garnered lots of attention and opposition due to the lengthy list of line items they include, all of which would likely make it more difficult for residents to vote.

The publication highlighted that House Bill 531 aims to bring a number of additional voting requirements into legislation including:

    • Require absentee voters to submit their driver's license number, state ID number or a copy of their photo ID with their ballot.
    • Shorten the window in which voters can request absentee ballots; they would have to do so between 11 weeks before the election and two Fridays before the election. (Under current laws, Georgia residents have the right to request absentee ballots up to 180 days before the election and one Friday before the election.)
    • Prevent election officials from mailing absentee ballots until four weeks before the election.
    • Bar election officials from mailing unsolicited absentee-ballot applications to voters.
    • Limit the early-voting period to business hours during the three weeks preceding the election, plus the second Saturday before the election; early voting would no longer be allowed any other day, including Sundays.
    • Clarify that no one can give food or water to people standing in line to vote. (Separately, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has argued that this is already against the law, and he has announced his intention to start enforcing it more.)
    • Allow ballot drop boxes at early-voting sites only, and only when those sites are open.
    • Limit the use of mobile voting facilities, such as buses, to emergencies.
    • Throw out provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct.
    • Prohibit counties from accepting outside funding for elections.

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, Georgia state Senate lawmakers also unveiled their bill which aims to implement more voting barriers to restrict voting practices and absentee ballots. Under Senate Bill 241, Georgia residents would be required to do the following in order to vote: The latest efforts in Georgia underscore Republicans' concerns about the impact of Democratic voters and how they could change the face of American politics in the years to come.

    • Require that voters have an excuse to vote absentee — Lawmakers are demanding this change be implemented despite Georgia residents being allowed to participate in no-excuse absentee voting since 2005.
    • Require a driver's license number or state ID number to apply for an absentee ballot on paper (this is already required to apply for one online).
    • Require absentee voters to get their ballot envelope signed by a witness and enclose a copy of their photo ID with the ballot.
    • Empower the state to remove local election officials from their posts.
    • Also limit the use of mobile voting facilities to emergencies.

Since 1988, the Republican Party has only managed to win the popular vote in one presidential election, which was the 2004 re-election of former President George W. Bush. The trend in political party preference signals a long-term issue for Republicans.

Republicans are aggressively stepping up their voter suppression campaigns ahead of the 2022 midterms: report

With Democrats now in control of the White House as well as the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans are hoping to regain their majority in either or both Houses of Congress in the 2022 midterms. When Republicans cannot win on the issues, they resort to voter suppression and, in House districts, gerrymandering — and articles by Mother Jones' Ari Berman and the Washington Post's Paul Waldman outline the voter suppression extremes that Republicans are resorting to.

"After record turnout in 2020, Republican-controlled states appear to be in a race to the bottom to see who can pass the most egregious new barriers to voting," Berman reports. "Georgia is Ground Zero for the party's escalating war on voting, targeting the voting methods that were used most by Democratic voters in 2020 and which contributed to flipping the state blue and electing two Democratic senators."

Berman notes that Republican Mike Dugan, majority leader in the Georgia Senate, has introduced a bill that, if passed, would repeal no-excuse absentee voting in the Peach State.

"Under his proposal, only a small subset of voters, such as those who are out of town, disabled, or over 65 — a demographic that leans strongly Republican — will be eligible to vote by mail," Berman explains. "The small percentage of Georgians who can still cast ballots by mail will have to get a witness signature on their ballot and attach a copy of photo identification, which requires access to a copier or printer. The new law would make Georgia one of the most restrictive states in the country for mail voting."

Meanwhile, in the Georgia House of Representatives, Republicans have introduced a bill that would eliminate voting on Sunday. In other words, Georgia Republicans in both houses of the state legislature are going out of their way to make voting as difficult as possible.

In Iowa, Republicans have introduced a bill that would greatly reduce early voting and voting by mail. County officials would be forbidden to send absentee ballot request forms to voters.

Waldman, in his Washington Post column, notes that Republicans are "starting entire organizations dedicated to finding ways to keep Democrats from the polls" — for example, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has started an organization called the Election Transparency Initiative, whose goal, according to Waldman, is "to make sure election laws aren't changed to make it easier for people to vote, especially people who might vote for Democrats." And Waldman adds that former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a far-right Republican, has a voter suppression campaign of her own.

"Something tells me these aren't the last conservative organizations we'll see devoting themselves to fighting the expansion of voting rights and promoting voter suppression," Waldman warns. "The GOP's policy priorities are widely unpopular, and its most well-known elected officials are the targets of revulsion and ridicule. The Republican Party knows that it cannot win a national majority if voting is easy and smooth for everyone. So, election laws must be shaped to make it harder for some people than others. It's about the most important political project Republicans have."

George Conway accuses Lincoln Project of violating federal law as scandal grows

The Lincoln Project appears to be in a political crisis following a bombshell report on predatory behavior toward young men by co-founder John Weaver.

On Thursday, New York magazine published a report by Miranda Green titled, "The Predator in the Lincoln Project John Weaver used his power to get jobs for young men he allegedly harassed. His colleagues were warned."

Following publication, co-founder George Conway called for an independent counsel to investigate.

Later in the evening, the group raised eyebrows by posting screenshots that appeared to show private Twitter DMs of former New Hampshire Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horn.

"Lincoln Project seems to have taken down photos it posted of Jennifer Horn's Twitter account that it seems rather unlikely she gave her former colleagues permission to access, screenshot and post," New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman posted to Twitter.

Before the tweets were deleted, Conway retweeted the screenshots and suggested they were a violation of federal law.

"This looks on its face to be a violation of federal law and should be taken down immediately," Conway tweeted.

The Lincoln Project announced it would hire an outside investigator as six former employees of the organization ask to be released from non-disclosure agreements.

Emily Ramshaw, the CEO of The 19th News says the publication will not be intimidated and will continue to pursue its investigation.

Far-right social network Parler wanted to bribe Trump to join it

While in office, former Donald Trump repeatedly profited off of both the presidency and his businesses. So it isn't really surprising that Trump tried to profit off of the far-right Twitter-copycat Parler too. Spoiler alert: It didn't work.

"The Trump Organization negotiated on behalf of then-president Donald Trump to make Parler his primary social network, but it had a condition: an ownership stake in return for joining," a recent Buzzfeed News report reveals. The talks reportedly began last summer and resumed after Trump lost the 2020 election.

Parler offered the Trump Organization a 40% stake in the company for Trump to join, with the idea that it would eventually challenge both Twitter and Facebook if Trump promised to post his content there four hours before posting it anywhere else. At a June 2020 meeting at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Floria, Parler's now-former CEO John Matze and shareholders Dan Bongino and Jeffrey Wernick met with Trump's former campaign manager, accused grifter and spouse abuser Brad Parscale, as well as Trump campaign lawyer Alex Cannon.

Here's the deal's details:

"Upon completion of that deal, half of that stake would have been given immediately to the Trump Organization, while the other half would have been doled out in tranches over the 24-month period of the agreement.... Parler also asked that Trump link back to Parler when posting to other social media sites or emailing his supporters, and to allow the company to use his email lists to promote its platform. In addition, Parler wanted Trump to make introductions to any potential investors or advertisers."

Surprisingly, "the White House counsel's office soon put a stop to the talks, one person with knowledge of the discussions said, ruling that such a deal while Trump was president would violate ethics rules," Buzzfeed reports.

Then, talks completely disintegrated after the attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. After the attempted coup, Amazon, Apple, and Google all booted Parler from their services because the social network had become a hotbed for right-wingers threatening violence and insurrection.

Parler has remained offline ever since. This week, Matze was booted as its CEO by the company's board and was also stripped of his severance and equity in the company. Matze claims he was booted because he wanted the so-called "free speech" network to introduce content moderation and ban accounts associated with far-right extremists, although the company has said his claim is inaccurate.

In addition to hosting far-right conspiracy theorists and bigots, Parler has also had trouble with child pornography being posted on its network, though the company refutes this as well.

The Trump family and Trump Organization, run by his sons, have both repeatedly made international business deals that benefitted from Trump's standing as president, according to Vox, CBS News, Politico, The Los Angeles Times and other publications.

Jewish Republicans 'offended and appalled' by anti-Semitic QAnon congresswoman

The Republican Jewish Coalition issued a statement on Friday condemning Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

The statement came one day after Greene was exposed for pushing an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that the California wildfires were started by a giant laser in space.

In their statement, the Republican Jewish Coalition noted the group broke with tradition to support Greene's primary opponent, "because we found Greene's past behavior deeply offensive. She repeatedly used offensive language in long online video diatribes, promoted bizarre political conspiracy theories, and refused to admit a mistake after posing for photos with a long-time white supremacist leader. It is unfortunate that she prevailed in her election despite this terrible record."

"The RJC has never supported or endorsed Marjorie Taylor Greene. We are offended and appalled by her comments and her actions. We opposed her as a candidate and we continue to oppose her now. She is far outside the mainstream of the Republican Party, and the RJC is working closely with the House Republican leadership regarding next steps in this matter," the group wrote.

'How about a counter-argument based on fact?': Warren destroys CNBC host in wealth tax debate

"There is no evidence that anyone is going to leave this country because of a two-cent wealth tax."

That's the two cents Sen. Elizabeth Warren shared on Thursday in response to CNBC host Sara Eisen's fear-mongering about the alleged consequences of requiring the super-rich to pay their fair share in taxes.

After Eisen asserted that a wealth tax "might... chase wealthy people out of this country as we've seen has happened with...other wealth taxes," the Democratic senator from Massachusetts asked: "Can we just keep in mind, right now, in America, who's paying taxes?"

"You know the bottom 99% last year paid about 7.5% of their total wealth in taxes," said Warren. "The top 0.001%, you know how much they paid? They paid about 3.2%."

"If they added a two-cent wealth tax," Warren noted, "they'd still be paying less than most of the people in this entire nation... Someone has to pay to keep this nation going. And right now, what the 0.001%, the wealthiest people in this country, have said is: 'Let's let everyone else pay for it.'"

The reason for that, Warren explained, is because the mega-rich want to continue to increase their wealth as much and as quickly as possible.

"Can we have just a little fairness here?" the senator pleaded.

After Eisen chimed in to say she was simply playing devil's advocate, Warren retorted: "How about a counter-argument... that's based on fact?"

The fact is, Warren said, "The wealthiest in this country are paying less in taxes than everyone else."

"You're telling me that they would forfeit their American citizenship if they had to... step up and pay a little more?" the senator asked. "I'm just calling your bluff on that. That's not going to happen."

Warren's defense of a wealth tax comes as the ongoing GameStop saga has provoked renewed scrutiny of Wall Street's role in intensifying inequality, leading to calls for greater financial regulation and redistributive policies such as a financial transactions tax.

In her appearance on CNBC, Warren pointed out the stark disconnect between the stock market and the real economy. The apparent rigging of the rules to favor hedge funds over ordinary people has been exposed not only by trading app Robinhood's heavy-handed and widely-condemned crackdown on Redditors who tried to out-maneuver the masters of casino capitalism, but also by the fact that 660 billionaires have added $1.1 trillion to their collective wealth since mid-March 2020, in the midst of immense working-class suffering.

While millions of U.S. households have been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing economic meltdown, "the stock market, which has become the giant casino and the playground for the billionaires, just keeps spinning upward," said Warren.

Echoing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who on Thursday lambasted a billionaire investor for complaining about the prospect of the uber-wealthy having to pay their fair share in taxes while millions go hungry, Warren commented on the "K-shaped" nature of the anemic recovery.

"The people at the top are getting richer and richer and richer," Warren said. "And people who make less than $40,000 a year are now suffering through 20% unemployment. They're getting poorer and poorer and poorer."

Chastising Republicans for their refusal to deploy adequate funding for vaccine distribution, nutrition assistance, and the safe re-opening of child care centers and schools, Warren added that the coronavirus crisis could accelerate wealth inequality "at a rate that we had never even imagined in our worst nightmares."

Warren continued: "Tens of millions of people across this country are out of work. Tens of millions more are on the threshold of losing either their homes or their apartments. Tens of millions more have depleted their savings and don't have enough money to put food on the table."

"That is a core part of the American economy," Warren added, "and that's where Congress needs to respond and we need to respond quickly and forcefully."