Calling someone "racist" has become the default position for liberal politicians and certain members of the media who wish to deflect attention from real problems.

President Trump has (again) been called a racist for having the temerity to note that U.S. House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, seems to spend more time criticizing him and the Border Patrol than he does fixing problems in his own home district, which includes about half of the city of Baltimore.

When the president noted that parts of Cummings' district are infested with rats, the racist smears began. Why is the president a racist for pointing out what even African-American leaders in Baltimore have said about certain areas of the city?

The Washington Times resurrected a comment by former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who is African-American and was ousted from office over an investigation into corruption. Pugh commented on part of the city's abandoned row houses and alleys strewn with trash: "Whoa, you can smell the rats. Whew, Jesus. Oh, my God, you can smell the dead animals."

In 2015, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders toured West Baltimore in the company of African-American leaders and residents. The Baltimore Sun reported on Sanders' statement: "Anyone who took the walk that we took around this neighborhood would not think you're in a wealthy nation. You would think that you were in a Third World country." Those with him nodded approvingly.

Are Pugh and Sanders racists for stating the obvious?

Baltimore has averaged 300 murders per year for several years. In 2015, it set a record with 344 homicides, according to the Sun. The newspaper, which has been highly critical of Trump's remarks about Cummings, reported last September on FBI statistics that showed "Baltimore had the worst homicide rate among the nation's 50 largest cities last year and the second-highest violent crime rate overall." Is it racist to point that out, or is it only racist when a white politician says it?

Instead of listening to politicians talk about Baltimore, elected officials and the media should be talking to people who have been trapped in these squalid areas. They might ask Democrats who have run the city (and other cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit and Flint, Michigan, where homelessness, crime and filth abound) why they have done nothing to improve these neighborhoods. Many American cities with similar problems have been run by Democrats for decades. Why do voters keep returning them to office when their misery only deepens?

What would Democrats do if the poor and minority voters, who are their base, tried a different party and a different attitude? Democrats have promised much and delivered little to their base, at least since the 1930s when the federal government began to dispense welfare benefits, benefits that have fueled an addiction to entitlement programs and created an allegiance to the party most dedicated to keeping the checks coming in exchange for votes.

Democrats, like Rep. Cummings, also have opposed school choice. The ability to choose a better public, or private school for poor and minority children (with vouchers to pay for them) is an opportunity to improve their prospects and break out of the poverty cycle that for some families has been repeated for several generations.

Kimberly Klacik, who occasionally appears on Fox News, says she is a journalist and lives in Baltimore. She interviewed a local African-American woman named "Michelle," who said: "What (President Trump) said was definitely true. (Cummings) hasn't done anything for us. He's worried more about (caring for illegal aliens at the border) than his own people. Trump is not racist. ... I'm glad he put (Cummings) on blast. The rats just didn't come. These houses just didn't get torn down, they've been like this."

Given these facts, to whom should the "racist" label be more accurately applied?

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This year marks Cal Thomas' 35th year as a syndicated columnist. Readers can email him at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

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