Altruism Today

A Social Enterprise-Supported Nonprofit Faces the Challenge of COVID-19

May 31st, 2020  |  Source: Boston Business Journal

May 27, 2020; Boston Business Journal
A 15-year-old nonprofit with a noble mission had, until COVID-19 entered the scene, been happily humming along. It was successfully mixing a traditional fundraising program with a profitable used-book business to support its youth services program. Suddenly, like most non-essential small businesses, it had to shut down. Boston’s More Than Words was left with almost half of its budget unfunded while the need for its work grew more intense, in that it had to adapt. Reconfiguring its service system was the more immediate challenge; deciding on a model with a good chance of being viable and robust in a still unfolding post-pandemic environment is one that looms larger, and one upon which the organization’s long-term survival depends.
Founded in 2004, More Than Words set out to make life better for at-risk youth, those who are caught up in “the foster care system, court-involved, homeless, or out of school.” To break a vicious systemic cycle that traps young people in poverty and the penal system, MTW developed a service model and embedded it in the operation of an ongoing, revenue-producing business that’s is run by the youth it serves. MTW’s bookstores provide real world opportunities to acquire the job and personal skills needed to succeed in the larger job market while getting the support needed to navigate a way through the legal and youth services bureaucracies.
And the business really can support the organization. By the end of its last fiscal year, MTW has grown to serve more than 300 youth through an enterprise that sold more than $3 million worth of used books. These revenues, which comprised 47 percent of the organization’s annual budget, had been growing year by year until COVID-19 forced them to close. Their revenue stream was broken, but the need for their services was not.
Like many similar nonprofits, the leadership of MTW quickly reconfigured their services to meet the immediate impact of Massachusetts’s stay-at-home orders. According to a recent profile in the Boston Business Journal:
When the pandemic slammed into Massachusetts in March…staff quickly drew up lists of young people, noting who had housing issues, who needed computer access, and who needed food. Staff bought food from Costco, dropped off “care kits” and provided laptops…they turned to working remotely.
Workshops continue, with some classes on cooking, nutrition and studying for a driver’s permit. The nonprofit, which has approximately 100 youth on the payroll, is still providing $100,000 a month in youth stipends, tied to meeting and workshop engagement.
As hard as that pivot may have been, a much harder challenge awaits MTW and every other nonprofit that depends on a similar hybrid business model. Will that model be viable in the uncertain future that will emerge after the weeks of crisis pass? What modifications or bridge funding will be needed to keep it viable, or even make it soar?
For organizations like MTW, these are difficult questions to answer. MTW CEO Jodi Rosenbaum, who founded the organization in 2004, believes that the mixed-revenue model gives them a leg up in these uncertain times: “I’d like to believe long haul, big picture, our hybrid model is going to be what makes us thrive and weather through this, and stand up strong, but there’s a lot of really small nonprofits that don’t have runway in the bank, and literally had immediate decisions to make about their solvency and whether they could keep their doors open.”
Despite the lack of a good road map, organizations can’t wait for the smoke to clear to begin deciding how they’ll emerge. Rosenbaum says her organization is deep into that effort. “We’re already thinking about scenarios, about a smaller storefront where people could come in, and really repurpose our storefront space for more online retail. Everything in the Boston store is right now listed online. Until we are sure we can drive the revenue in that store in retail sales, it behooves us to keep it online.”
MTW’s current business model doesn’t just depend on financial donors. They also need a continuous stream of donated books to provide inventory. Rosenbaum feels that uncertainty, too. “A lot of people’s personal wealth has been affected. A lot of corporations have been hit hard, so we just don’t know if we can drive that. So we, like other nonprofits, are reducing what we believe is potential for next year, to be conservative.”
Even as the current service system is shored up by reducing costs and keeping budgets balanced, it becomes essential to start building the future from the bottom up. More Than Words will need to be as creative and innovative today as they were when they began in 2004. Converting to more of an online operation isn’t just a matter of a new means to bring sales and revenue; MTW will need to be ensure the new business model gives the youth it serves opportunities to grow and learn.
The strength of a hybrid like MTW is in their merger of revenue and service models. It has allowed them to serve and earn with a single effort. To survive, they’ll keep that duality as a key element. We look forward to learning with them over the coming months.


Nonprofits Join Together to Call for Stronger Gun Control

August 21st, 2019  |  Source: NPQ

In 2017, NPQ’s Steve Dubb asked, “Can Nonprofits Learn from the Vegas Massacre and Make a Difference?” He discussed several different areas in which nonprofits help their communities during and in the aftermath of a mass shooting. He also said something that is still unfortunately relevant now: “Today, the ability of such horrors to shock is much diminished, although the deaths and injuries that continue to accumulate are no less tragic for their familiarity.” Since the Las Vegas shooting, the United States has continued to mourn the loss of its citizens to gun violence. Gun Violence Archive keeps a running database for gun violence, and in 2019 alone, there have been 262 mass shootings—too many to list in one article. At the start of this month, Steve Dubb covered another shooting, this one at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. There, a nonprofit was, as Dubb noted, “literally on the front lines.” In the two years between the two, mass shootings have been on the rise. And only two weeks later, Dubb wrote about a community’s resilience following yet another mass shooting—one at a Walmart that targeted a Latinx community in El Paso. Guns Down America—itself formed in 2016 in response to a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, has, according to USA Today, called on Color of Change, MoveOn, Orange Ribbons for Gun Safety, and the American Federation of Teachers to join them in a weekend action to pressure Walmart to cease its gun sales and demand legislative action. (They want Walmart to publicly support gun buyback programs and a ban on military style weapons.) Walmart is standing behind its gun sales stance, but Guns Down America and its coalition hopes their campaign will go viral and they can use their #WalmartMustAct challenge to push the megacorporation to budge.


A Massive Big Donor “Giving Circle” Breaks the Mold

October 24th, 2017  |  Source: NPQ

Source; New York Times

In philanthropy, we often celebrate the lone individual philanthropist, be that person Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, Henry Ford, or modern-day equivalents like Mark Zuckerberg. Love them or hate them, the vision of the great philanthropist with a singular vision looms large.

But there is another model of giving that is more group-oriented—one in which individual philanthropists subordinate their egos for common benefit. Such is the model profiled by Paul Sullivan in the New York Timeswho writes about some of the inner workings of Blue Meridian Partners, a billion-dollar-plus fund created by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.

Blue Meridian was capitalized by a dozen very large donors who each contributed between $50 and $250 million. The fund itself provides very large grants (up to $200 million) to nonprofit organizations that work on issues affecting poor children.

With the ante level set at a cool $50 million, this is clearly not your neighborhood lending circle, but the principles of mutual support and consensus-building still obtain.

One member of Blue Meridian Partners is hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller, who has an estimated net worth of $4.7 billion. Druckenmiller, who has been a longtime donor to the Harlem Children’s Zone, a group well known for its work with poor children and families in New York, decided that he would be more effective in his giving—and his goal of disrupting patterns of generational poverty—if he joined with others. Says Druckenmiler “I’m not rich enough to do it alone. If I was worth $50 billion or $60 billion, I’d go this alone, but I’m not.”

Steven Ballmer, the former chief executive of Microsoft, and his wife Connie have an even larger net worth of $34 billion and do run their own foundation. But they also decided to ante up $50 million for Meridian as a way “to team up with others to have a greater impact.”

Part of the attraction of joining with others isn’t just the pooling of funds, but the access to greater expertise. “People don’t want to hear this from me,” Connie Ballmer says, “but it’s really hard to give money away [to organizations seeking to reduce childhood poverty]. It’s not as easy as picking a university or hospital to give to. You have to do a lot of research.”

Nancy Roob is chief executive of Blue Meridian Partners and the president of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation which took the lead on the effort. She explains the philosophy behind the fund:

We start with the belief that it’s actually possible to solve significant social problems confronting the children and youth living in poverty today. What brings people together and what makes it work are the opportunities to invest in leaders and strategies. It’s the opportunity to together solve problems that none of us would be able to do on our own.

For Druckenmiller, what makes this approach work is the role the Meridian team plays in vetting organizations:

They’re the stock pickers. They bring the ideas and the organizations. We all talk together about the potential and evaluate them. So far there’s been a remarkable consensus.

Connie Ballmer notes that she greatly values this process of sharing opinions:

If you’re going to make bets, it’s nice to be surrounded by those individuals at the table. They present the organizations that are in the pipeline. They present the upsides, downsides and the risks.

Of course, like any group process, the upside of accessing the wisdom of experts and that of fellow partners does come with the common potential downside of group conflict. It is important, notes Sullivan, to be sure the group works in a cohesive way.

“There’s a limit not to the amount of capital we can bring in, but there is a limit to what makes an effective decision-making body,” Roob observes.

But all strategies have roots. In a way, the program has taken a familiar model used by some community foundations to address critical community issues and brought that to a far higher scale.


This may be the biggest year in history for American philanthropy

October 20th, 2017

This may be the biggest year in history for American philanthropy, Kim Laughton, president of Schwab Charitable, said in a statement this week on the release the donor-advised-fund sponsor’s 2017 giving report.

Laughton pointed to three factors she said advisors should discuss with their clients about why now is an ideal time to embrace charitable giving.

One is the improving economy and strong market performance. She noted that the S&P 500 has risen by 80% in the last five years, and because of healthy investment gains, many investors now face higher tax bills.

Donors who contribute appreciated assets they have held for more than one year to charity can help offset these taxes and increase charitable giving by as much as 20%, she said.

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Another factor is possible tax reform legislation. Laughton said the value of charitable deductions increased in 2013 when income tax and capital gains tax rates went up for most high-income earners.

Although the itemized charitable deduction will likely be protected in some way in legislation resulting from the current tax-reform push, she said, any reduction in income or capital gains tax rates could lower the value of charitable deductions.

Finally, there is the huge level of disaster relief support needed across the U.S. In the past few months, hundreds of thousands of people have been hit by hurricanes, floods and fires, and are in desperate need of food, emergency shelter, clean water, electricity and access to critical medical care.

Laughton said that as of the beginning of October, Schwab Charitable donors had recommended upward of $12 million in grants for hurricane and earthquake relief, and this number continued to grow.


How activists have already scored victories against Trump's policies

March 7th, 2017  |  Source: The Guardian

Through marches and dogged pursuit of elected officials, people across the US have helped to block some of the administration’s most anti-progressive policies

Despite Donald Trump’s claim that his administration is running like a “fine-tuned machine”, activists have already managed to score victories against some of the most anti-progressive policies of the president and his Republican allies.

Through rallies, marches and dogged pursuit of elected officials, people across the country have helped to block some of Trump’s initiatives, and draw attention to government missteps.

Here are some of activists’ most dramatic wins so far:

Puzder withdraws from labor secretary consideration

Andrew Puzder, the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, was Trump’s first choice to run the Department of Labor, but he withdrew himself from the running in February after complaints from Democrats and labor groups.

Hundreds of activists protested at Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s restaurants – owned by CKE Restaurants – on 12 January. They sought to draw attention to Puzder’s vocal opposition to minimum wage increases and his controversial business record.

In Washington Democrats held press conferences denouncing Puzder’s record. Under his leadership CKE restaurants ran sexualized advertising campaigns, and Puzder himself wrote in 2011 that “we believe in putting hot models in our commercials because ugly ones don’t sell burgers”.

Republicans back off effort to sell 3.3m acres of public land

In early February, Congressman Jason Chaffetz withdrew a bill that would have ordered the incoming secretary of the interior to sell off 3.3m acres of national land, after hundreds of protesters and 20 outdoor industry groups criticised the law.

People gathered at statehouses in New Mexico and Montana to demonstrate against House bill 621, which would have seen land in 10 states available for sale.

#GrabYourWallet sees companies dump Trump

The campaign was launched in October 2016, in response to Donald Trump’s infamous boasts that his fame allowed him to sexually assault women; specifically, to “grab them by the pussy”.

GrabYourWallet lists dozens of companies which have ties to the president – either by selling his or his family’s products, or by endorsing him during the election campaign.

Since the campaign started a number of companies have dropped Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, including Shoes.com, Shopstyle and most recently Nordstrom. In addition to delivering a financial hit to Ivanka Trump, the campaign succeeded in upsetting the president, who tweeted that his daughter had been “treated so unfairly” by Nordstrom.

Temporarily blocking the immigration executive order

Trump’s 27 January executive order suspending immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries sparked protests across the country. Thousands of people gathered at airports in New York City, LA, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Ohio, Orlando and elsewhere as travellers were detained.

At the same time groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and National Immigration Law Center filed lawsuits against the executive order.

On 3 February a federal judge ordered a temporary halt on the ban, restoring travel for refugees and people from the excluded countries, and on 9 February the ninth circuit court of appeals upheld that ruling. Trump on Monday issued a new executive order, which contained a number of revisions.

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 Crowds gather at US airports to protest Trump’s immigration ban

Overwhelming attendance at town halls

The congressional recess is traditionally a time for elected officials to hold town halls for their constituents. People took advantage of this to turn out in droves to events, questioning both Republicans and Democrats about their commitment to Obamacare, to the environment and more.

The actions were successful in two ways. Many congressmen and women decided not to host events, enabling activists to draw attention to their lack of interaction with voters. Even Republicans, including New Jersey governor Chris Christie, criticized their colleagues for not facing their constituents.

Separately, elected officials said that the attendance and tough questioning at town halls and other events was having an effect. Representative Mo Brooks, from Alabama’s fifth congressional district, was among those to note the impact.

“In my opinion, the massive obstructionist nature of the protests, particularly the disruption of town hall meetings, is having an effect on a good number of our more liberal, big government, weak-kneed, squishy-spined Republican senators and House members,” Brooks said. He predicted that the constituent opposition might even stop Republicans from repealing Obamacare.

#DeleteUber leads to people deleting Uber

More than 200,000 people reportedly deleted their Uber accounts after the company did not participate in a taxi drivers’ strike at JFK airport. The strike had been called in response to Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.

As well as continuing to run cars to and from the airport, Uber tweeted that it had “turned off” surge pricing during the strike, seemingly taking advantage of the taxi drivers’ action.

Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, had joined Trump’s economic advisory council in December 2016, but decided to step down following the furore.

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Abdul Sattar Edhi: Why Google honours him today

February 28th, 2017  |  Source: Al Jazeera.com

Edhi, who founded the world's largest volunteer ambulance network, would have been 89 on Tuesday.

Abdul Sattar Edhi founded the world's  largest volunteer ambulance network in Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation.

Unlike wealthy individuals that fund charities in their names, Edhi dedicated his life to the poor from the age of 20, when he himself was penniless in Karachi.

The reach of Edhi's foundation grew internationally, and in 2005 the organisation raised $100,000 in aid relief for the victims of  Hurricane Katrina.

Edhi was born before partition in Bantva, Gujarat, India on February 28, 1928.

He died last year in Karachi of renal failure.  He was offered treatment abroad,  but insisted on being treated in a government hospital at home.

The Edhi Foundation's slogan is: "Live and help live".

Today would have been his 89th birthday.

In his honour, Google changed its logo in the United States; Iceland; Portugal; Australia; New Zealand; Japan; Estonia; the UK; Denmark; Ireland and Pakistan to a doodle, or illustration, of Edhi.

Google hailed Edhi's "super-efficient" ambulance service.

"In celebration of Abdul Sattar Edhi, let's all lend a hand to someone in need today," it said.

The technology giant's team has created more than 2,000 doodles for homepages around the world. Among those recently celebrated are  Pramoedya Ananta Toer,  Fred Korematsu and Edmonia Lewis.

"The doodle selection process aims to celebrate interesting events and anniversaries that reflect Google's personality and love for innovation," the company says.

'No religion higher than humanity'

With more than 1,800 ambulances stationed across Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation is Pakistan's  largest welfare organisation.  In 1997, the foundation entered the Guinness World Records as the "largest volunteer ambulance organisation".


Resistance to Targeting of Immigrants Becomes a Self-Organized System

February 24th, 2017  |  Source: NPQ

 

Amid a wave of ICE detentions across the country, reports of new draft guidelines that would significantly increase the detention and deportations of immigrants lacking legal status, and a promise from President Trump that he will release a new executive order to “comprehensively protect our country” against undocumented immigrants, refugees, and travelers, localities, schools, and other entities are progressing with their own efforts at protecting refugees to the greatest extent possible. In many cases, these initiatives require high levels of coordination between local government, law enforcement agencies, and nonprofits. Even in the major suits filed that have worked to stay the original Muslim ban, there has been a combination of plaintiffs, including governments, nonprofits (both national and local) and business interests involved.

But many efforts are more local. In Palo Alto, for instance, a three-hour study session held Wednesday of last week brought together law enforcement, legal advocates, and immigrant advocacy and support groups for a discussion of how to strengthen protections for their local residents who are immigrants. Around two-thirds of all the city’s residents are Latino or Pacific Islander, according to the nonprofit group Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto. This session looked to reexamine the strength and comprehensiveness of three resolutions that the city approved between 2007 and 2012.

The first, in 2007, directs all city departments, including police, to refrain from acting as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “agents” in any program or operation targeting individuals solely based on their immigration status. It also calls for ICE to stop displaying the word “police” on their uniforms, which has confused residents and caused fear of actual local police officers.

The 2010 and 2012 resolutions called upon the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors to direct its departments against cooperating with the Secure Communities Program and to refrain from using county funds to help federal immigration officials. The 2012 resolution also asked the county probation department to refrain from reporting juveniles to ICE or honoring juvenile ICE detainer requests.

The agencies reiterated their commitments to those resolutions and acknowledged the limitations of the protections provided. The integration of the services provided by local nonprofits was reviewed and an additional legal fund was discussed. Council members also wanted to know how the executive order on withholding federal funding from sanctuary cities might affect East Palo Alto, which has never formally declared itself a sanctuary city but clearly has many aspects of one.

Councilman Carlos Romero emphasized that even if federal funding were threatened, he would not back away from doing the right thing. Still, he said, “we [should] go into it with our eyes open.”

At least two other sanctuary jurisdictions, San Francisco and Santa Clara, have sued the federal government this month, claiming that the order violates the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it coerces state and local governments into assisting with federal immigration enforcement.

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández writes for NACLA that legal representation is critically important to establishing extra protections in sanctuary jurisdictions, taking real protections beyond rhetoric:

Before the number of people caught up in the immigration detention and deportation pipeline grows, cities could immediately agree to create an immigrant legal defense fund. Currently there is no federal right to government-funded attorneys in immigration proceedings. This is an enormous moral failing embedded into existing immigration law.

But cities can correct this moral shortcoming without opening themselves up to any legal trouble. Cities and states already employ attorneys to represent their residents. In the criminal context, government-funded legal counsel is the norm. It’s time for elected officials to expand access to counsel to immigration cases. Cities could partner with state public defenders’ offices or use their own municipal public defender corps, where those exist, to add lawyers who are ready to go into immigration courts alongside city residents.

He cites the examples of Austin, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and New York City, where special funds have been developed to ensure counsel for those threatened with detention and deportation. These, he says, do not need to be composed only of public money but could perhaps include donor dollars as well.

Behind all of the legal efforts, however, there are other practical supports in place or being developed by local residents anxious not just resist but to welcome newcomers in ways that are practical and involve building new institutions together. In Garden City, Kansas, volunteers have established a new clinic to provide health care to local refugees. The clinic operates out of an apartment in an area where many refugees live.

“Sometimes there are barriers that prevent a refugee individual from really getting the healthcare that they need,” said John Birky, the CEO of the nonprofit clinic, New Hope Together.

The physicians staffing the effort are volunteers who understand that health delivery in this circumstance requires more than medical care. “A lot of people don’t know how insurance works,” said Gareth Bridge, one of the clinic’s physicians. “They don’t know why we do preventative medicine. These are foreign concepts in many countries.”

Ifrah Ahmed, who will be acting as a volunteer language mentor at New Hope Together, says the clinic reflects a strengthened relationship between refugees and the rest of Garden City, which developed in the wake of a bombing plot targeting refugees there last year. “Instead of taking us apart and making people flee from Garden City,” she said, “it made us more united. It made us stronger, and it made us more family now.”

All this is taking place even as protests continue across the country and Trump’s justifications for getting tough on immigration and refugees wear ever thinner. Over the weekend, in an impassioned talk about the link between crime and refugees, he referred to a purported attack he said had happened in Sweden on Friday. Later, the president clarified his statement, which was he said was based on an interview with a filmmaker he had seen on Fox News. No attack, of course, had occurred. Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former prime minister, tweeted “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.”

This is, of course, not the first time that key Trump staff have alluded to terrorist attacks that did not occur. Kellyanne Conway’s “Bowling Green Massacre” references and Sean Spicer’s to Atlanta when he presumably meant Orlando suggest a larger cultural issue in the administration—a vagueness and disregard for the truth in the fright mongering that would indeed be funny if it weren’t so frightening itself. Finally, the link the president has made between violent crime rates and immigration is both backward and entirely unsupported. These weaknesses must be used to highlight the faulty as much as anything else of course, but they cannot be counted upon necessarily

In the face of this, the multiple nodes of activism—service and resettlement-oriented, sanctuary organizing, legal defense and litigation, and protest—are all critical. At the very least, it’s apparent that coordination is moving nicely into position where it is needed, responses are being shared across localities and fields and types of organizations, and the whole has acted with the intelligence and skill inherent in the parts. No doubt these alliances will at times be difficult, but the stakes are very high.


Starbucks Plans to Hire 10,000 Refugees After Trump Action

January 30th, 2017  |  Source: Bloomberg

Starbucks Corp. Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz, who wrote he had a “heavy heart” over U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration order, said the company plans to hire 10,000 refugees over five years around the world.

Trump issued an order on Jan. 27 suspending the admission of refugees into the U.S. for 120 days and banning citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days. The directive has been criticized by U.S. allies Canada and Germany.

Starbucks is in direct contact with employees affected by the immigration ban and will do “everything possible to support and help them to navigate through this confusing period,” Schultz said in a letter to employees posted on the coffee chain’s website. Schultz also said that he and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Johnson, who is due to take over the CEO role this year, will begin communicating with workers more frequently.

“I am hearing the alarm you all are sounding that the civility and human rights we have all taken for granted for so long are under attack, and want to use a faster, more immediate form of communication to engage with you on matters that concern us all as partners,” Schultz wrote.

Schultz said he strongly supported the “Dreamers” program, designed to help immigrants who arrive in the U.S. as children.

Boycott Threat

In posting the letter, Schultz delivered one of corporate America’s fiercest rebukes against Trump’s immigration order. The message also brought a backlash from some Americans. The hashtag #BoycottStarbucks was trending in the U.S. on Monday morning. But Schultz wasn’t alone in criticizing Trump’s move. Google CEO Sundar Pichai, an immigrant from India, called the policy “painful,” and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said it’s “not a policy we support.”


Sanctuary Cities and Trump

January 27th, 2017  |  Source: Reuters

Cracks are appearing in President Trump’s executive order to take funding away from U.S. cities that don’t follow immigration law, as questions arise about exactly how funds are spent.

https://www.reuters.tv/v/4Mp/2017/01/27/cracks-in-trump-s-crackdown-on-sanctuary-cities


Trying to Make Sense of the Trump Administration

January 27th, 2017  |  Source: NPQ

Source: BBC News

Over the past few days, we’ve all watched a number of situations where accounts of what’s occurring inside the Beltway conflict. The resignation of four highly placed state department officials reported yesterday has been characterized by major media sources as 1) a firing, 2) a resignation in advance of Tillerson’s assuming the lead and in protest of the tone being set, or 3) just normal turnover. So the fact that for a while it was somewhat unclear who cancelled the meeting next week between Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is no surprise.

It seems that the media is, as with some other issues, trying valiantly to get a straight story out of the administration as one set of assertions quickly supplants another. In the case of Mexico, it’s something of a who-broke-up-with-whom scenario, but with about $600 billion a year’s worth of stakes. (That is the annual value of trade between the two countries.) Whoever cancelled did so after Trump continued to declare that not only would a $12–15 billion border wall be built, but that the Mexican government would pay for it. Trump told Republican lawmakers who were on retreat in Philadelphia yesterday that the meeting cancelation was by mutual agreement, but he had already declared the meeting would be “fruitless” unless Mexico treated the U.S. “with respect” by paying for the border wall. Peña Nieto had a slightly different story, saying that he only cancelled the visit after Trump pretty much forced his hand with a full-on campaign of public posturing. “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting,” the U.S. president wrote on Twitter Thursday morning.

Peña Nieto, for his part, says, “I’ve said time and again: Mexico won’t pay for any wall.” Indeed, he cannot agree to such a proposal; many Mexicans were outraged when Candidate Trump described Mexican migrants as murderers and rapists (though he said that some, he assumed, were good people) and disapproved of a previous meeting between Peña Nieto and Trump. They see the wall proposal as divisive, unnecessary, inhumane, expensive, and ineffective. By most accounts, they disapprove of any political kowtowing to Trump on their behalf, so, in the context of Trump’s public goading, it would have been next to politically impossible for Peña Nieto to travel to D.C. to meet with Trump.

Meanwhile, Sean Spicer made it known that one of the president’s proposed plans to pay for the “big, beautiful” wall was a 20 percent tariff on Mexican goods. Vanity Fair pointed out the apparent consequence of this: Americans, not Mexicans, would end up paying. After that, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told reporters that a border tax is just one of a “buffet of options” to pay for the wall. (Mexico, by the way, Is the U.S.’s third-largest trade partner.)




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