Sunday, September 25, 2005

Escaping the Stranglehold of Poverty

Fire of Liberty

It seems that every minute I tune into the several news networks like FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and call in shows like C-Span's Washington Journal, I keep on hearing folks rattle on and on about the poverty that is rampant amongst inhabitants and how we can solve it by returning to a LBJ like Great Society for cities like New Orleans. Now I'm all concerned about people living in poverty and would like to find a solution to erase such conditions but I don't see how spending adding billions more to the $6.6 trillion that we have spent so far on the "War on Poverty" is going to solve the problems that propagate poverty. Instead the general excuses of poverty being due to a low minimum wage, lack of money or some silly notion of racism, the MSM needs to glance at the true villain which is the internal corruption of culture within the poor communities. Yes, the culture is the villain within New Orleans and various inner cities throughout this country. As long as you have youngsters and adults who live in areas in which having multiple children out of wedlock, dropping out of high school, single mother families and a dependency towards government entitlements rather than searching for employment, you will still continue to have the hands of poverty wrapped around their throats slowly but surely robbing them of breath. In fact, the liberals(And President Bush to a lesser extent) who have been advocating this spend, spend , spend mentality towards eliminating poverty seem to have forgotten that the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) had observed this deficit within the culture as being a chief culprit for poverty within the black community some 40 years ago.(This could be applied to society as a whole rather than one subsection). Thankfully, Detroit News columnist Thomas Bray seems to have a strong memory and noted such in his September 21, 2005 column. Take a look:

Among the pictures from New Orleans were lots of heart-rending shots of displaced mothers and children, but few of fathers and husbands. Liberal critics say Hurricane Katrina ripped aside the veil on America's extreme poverty. What it really ripped aside was the veil over the collapse of family, particularly among inner-city blacks, that lies at the heart of poverty.

The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the Harvard sociologist turned Democratic U.S. senator from New York, tried to warn of the problem four decades ago. Things were looking good then for minorities and the poor: The economy had grown, unemployment and poverty had declined by record amounts, the major barriers to equal opportunity had been stripped away by Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act, and blacks had moved into the middle class.

But Moynihan found a sharp rise in single-mother families among blacks. He spelled out the alarming implications in a Labor Department report titled "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action." As recounted by Kay Hymowitz in a recent article in City Journal, Moynihan argued that "marriage orients men and women toward the future, asking them not just to commit to each other but to plan, to earn, to save and to devote themselves to advancing their children's prospects."

Moynihan concluded that there was a "tangle of pathologies" that would undermine black progress if left unchecked.
I just hope that it's not to late for US government to think about what kind of Pandora's Box they might open by flooding massive quantities of money into a poverty zone like New Orleans without treating the main problem which is the decline of culture which lead to poverty. It sort of like a doctor being more concerned about someone's headache rather than attending to the patients severed foot. We need to develop programs that solve problems not create more. In fact it seems that when people within predominately black communities follow Moynihan's recommendations to preventing poverty: 1. Graduate from high school, 2. Don't have a baby before your married and 3. Don't marry while you are a teenager, they generally rise above the tide. According to a recent Q&A between Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Bill Steigerwald and syndicated columnist Star Parker (Whose pulled herself up from the ocean of poverty) it seems that Moynihan advice is gaining ground and folks are pulling themselves up much like Booker T. Washington recommended almost a century ago. Parker notes the effectiveness of such advice in the following exchange:
Q: What are some encouraging statistics about black families and households in the United States?

A: Where we see marriage and raising children in black America, we see health. We see financial health, we see moral health. We do not see the social pathologies. Where you see a marital household -- husband, wife, children -- the poverty rate is 8 percent. In single-headed households raising children in black America, the poverty rate is at 65 percent.

The problem for black America today is that more households are single-headed than ever in the history of black America. Today we are looking at out-of-wedlock birthrates of 69 percent in black America -- as opposed to in the 1960s, when out-of-wedlock birthrates were 22 percent. So we are diminishing our opportunities to be successful in this society.

But where blacks make sure that they are responsible with their choices, make sure that they aspire educationally, make sure that they marry before they have children, make sure that they take any job and work harder than the person above them, and make sure that they save and invest, we are seeing tremendous strides in black America. We are seeing tremendous growth.
You'd think if so many people like Washington, Moynihan, Steigerwald, Parker, Bray, George Will, Thomas Sowell and Kay Hymowitz notice such a blinking neon sign about the culture being the main cause then maybe the politicians would conclude the same. The only problem is that too many politicians are so afraid that they're going to offend some section of the American public or an interest group by revealing the truth that they prefer to just say yes to more spending rather than getting to the heart of the matter. I guess that's why I'm a strong believer in limited government and prefer faith-based and private solutions to our problems(In fact I'll bet you that a lot of America feels the same way.).

Also check out Thomas Sowell's book Black Rednecks and White Liberals to learn more about this decline in the culture within the black community and how it has led to poverty.


Vlazuvius said...

You make some interesting points. It is true that most of the blame in poverty can be traced to it's victims, unfortunately as the problem persists, children growing up in this state of affairs haven't seen outside of that poverty, haven't had the opportunity to pursue those authors or even "blog". However, money does need to be spent on this serious problem. You may not want to see more money dissapear into welfare, and I agree that currently the system has more flaws than positives, but money spent properly, on schools, on renovating some of these neighborhoods, that is vital. I may not have any degrees. In fact, I'm only a custodian. But one of the first things I was taught in my training is that if you can make an area great, just clean the hell out of it, then the people who use it are more likely to take care of it. Because they respect it. It's true. Maybe not universaly so, but then, when it comes to issues like this, what is universal?

jstarley05 said...

I realize that their is a certain section of the population, namely the disabled, elderly and the folks trying to climb out of poverty, require some form of entitlements because they can't help it and it's just the right thing to do (this is where my social conservatism shines through). Unfortunately, there's a lot of people who are perfectly able to get a job but find it so much easier to keep on collecting their checks thus re-enforcing the notion to their children that it's cool to be on welfare. You only create a greater demon by spending more. As far as putting more federal money into building schools (which conflicts with states who generally build schools), we should focus on using the funds to provide vouchers to give parents thus giving them more of an option on moving their kids out of failing schools and into better public/private/religious schools(Thanks to Milton and Rose Friedman for such good ideas). This would be a better avenue. As for rebuilding neighborhoods, most private insurance policies should cover the rebuilding. As for the government housing and Section 8 housing, I think the people would be better off if they had the oppurtunity to own their own homes would be a better solution. I always think of this in the terms of "no-one washes a rented car." As long as the government provides them a home which they do not own, they're more likely than not abuse the hell out of their home because the gov't will by them a new one. So if you apply the President's Onwership Society towards New Orleans and other poverty stricken areas then the people will be better off. No matter what programs the federal government spends on fighting poverty, the best solutions are the ones that will sprout out from one's church, family and community. This is also where these towns and communities that are mire in object poverty can start a cultural revival that teaches young men and women that premarital sex, dropping out of high school, lack of personal responsability and the lack of a structured morality is the root to their problems. I believe that the churches within New Orleans and other regions have a powerful bully pulpit to promote such ideas within the poor neighborhoods. If they don't find a way of infiltrating the seemingly inpenatrable culture bubble and promote such ideas of pulling one's self up via their bootstraps, then we will continue to see this cultural decline turn into a bigger problem making Katrina's wake look like child's play. We can clean up everything but people will return the place to hell as long as we have the cultural deficit. I understand your argument about cleaning things up but that applies more towards fighting crime.(Just look at Rudy Giuliani's "Broken Windows" policies initiated in New York City during the 90's.). So as I noted above, we need to be aware of creating a boondoggle that creates a greater problem rather than a solution. No matter how we look at it, Culture is the key area to look at.