Tuesday, May 5, 2015

"The Great Society" and America's "War on Poverty" From Appalachia to Baltimore ... Race, Poverty, Government 'Help' and 50 Years of Equal-Opportunity Failure

President Lyndon Johnson declared the 'War on Poverty' in the 1960's. Well intentioned, it consisted of federal government programs intended to end poverty in America.

Based on the facts accumulated during the past half century, however, we're losing the war. In fact, as a nation we have failed miserably to achieve the intended purpose.

In 2015 Baltimore and the problems of the inner cities, race relations and poverty are very much in the news. While the issues are presented by the media and politicians as inseparable, they're not.

Help is definitely needed for our citizens in Baltimore and similar cities. How best to deliver that help is the question in need of an answer. Sometimes knowing what not to do is more important than knowing what to do. This is one of those times.

Government wants to continue to provide that 'help' by pouring more money into more government assistance and generating even more dependency on government programs. That's a very bad idea.

Baltimore Is Not About Race is subtitled 'Government-induced dependency is the problem, and it's one with a long history.' The editorial addresses the issues in Baltimore, race and government 'help' in a straightforward fact based historical manner:

"For those who see the rioting in Baltimore as primarily about race, two broad reactions dominate.

One group sees rampaging young men fouling their own neighborhoods and concludes nothing can be done because the social pathologies are so overwhelming. In some cities, this view manifests itself in the unspoken but cynical policing that effectively cedes whole neighborhoods to the thugs.

The other group tut-tuts about root causes. Take your pick: inequality, poverty, injustice. Or, as President Obama intimated in an ugly aside on the rioting, a Republican Congress that will never agree to the “massive investments” (in other words, billions more in federal spending) required “if we are serious about solving this problem.”

There is another view. In this view, the disaster of inner cities isn’t primarily about race at all. It’s about the consequences of 50 years of progressive misrule—which on race has proved an equal-opportunity failure.

Baltimore is but the latest liberal-blue city where government has failed to do the one thing it ought—i.e., put the cops on the side of the vulnerable and law-abiding—while pursuing “solutions” that in practice enfeeble families and social institutions and local economies.

These supposed solutions do this by substituting federal transfers for fathers and families. They do it by favoring community organizing and government projects over private investment. And they do it by propping up failing public-school systems that operate as jobs programs for the teachers unions instead of centers of learning.

If our inner-city African-American communities suffer disproportionately from crippling social pathologies that make upward mobility difficult—and they do—it is in large part because they have disproportionately been on the receiving end of this five-decade-long progressive experiment in government beneficence.

How do we know? Because when we look at a slice of white America that was showered with the same Great Society good intentions—Appalachia—we find the same dysfunctions: greater dependency, more single-parent families and the absence of the good, private-sector jobs that only a growing economy can create.

Remember, in the mid-1960s when President Johnson put a face on America’s “war on poverty,” he didn’t do it from an urban ghetto. He did it from the front porch of a shack in eastern Kentucky’s Martin County, where a white family of 10 eked out a subsistence living on an income of $400 a year.

In many ways, rural Martin County and urban Baltimore could not be more different. Martin County is 92% white while Baltimore is two-thirds black. Each has seen important sources of good-paying jobs dry up—Martin County in coal mining, Baltimore in manufacturing. In the last presidential election, Martin Country voted 6 to 1 for Mitt Romney while Baltimore went 9 to 1 for Barack Obama.

Yet the Great Society’s legacy has been depressingly similar. In a remarkable dispatch two years ago, the Lexington Herald-Leader’s John Cheves noted that the war on poverty sent $2.1 billion to Martin County alone (pop. 12,537) through programs including “welfare, food stamps, jobless benefits, disability compensation, school subsidies, affordable housing, worker training, economic development incentives, Head Start for poor children and expanded Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

The result? “The problem facing Appalachia today isn’t Third World poverty,” writes Mr. Cheves. “It’s dependence on government assistance.” Just one example: When Congress imposed work requirements and lifetime caps for welfare during the Clinton administration, claims of disability jumped.

Mr. Cheves quotes a former grade-school principal who says this of Martin County’s children: “Instead of talking about a future of work, or a profession, they talk about getting a check.”

Yes, Washington’s largess has done some good. Even the federal government can’t spend billions of dollars without building a decent road or bridge here or there. But it all came at a high human cost....

Meanwhile, President Obama says the rioting in Baltimore means “we as a country have to do some soul-searching.” He’s right about that . . . .

Because to look at urban black Baltimore and rural white Martin County and conclude that the answer is more cradle-to-grave . . . isn’t soul searching. It’s denial."

Summing Up

If we're doing the wrong thing, we're probably doing it poorly.

And we've been doing the wrong thing to address the issues of poverty, education, effort and self-reliance in America for more than fifty years now.

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

What we've been doing in both the inner cities and rural Appalachia hasn't worked, isn't working and won't work. Yet the insanity of government to the rescue continues.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Thanks. Bob.

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