Tag Archives: Great Society

What is the root cause of the problems facing the black community?

Welfare spending allows women to choose irresponsible bad boys instead of husbands
Welfare spending lets women to choose “hot” bad boys, instead of husbands

All my regular readers know that black economist Thomas Sowell is my favorite economist, but that’s only because he writes so many USEFUL books on so many topics. I probably agree more with my other favorite economist, who also happens to be black, Walter Williams. Williams is the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, which is – in my opinion – the top school for economics in the country.

His biography is right on his web site.

Excerpt:

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Walter E. Williams holds a B.A. in economics from California State University, Los Angeles, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from UCLA. He also holds a Doctor of Humane Letters from Virginia Union University and Grove City College, Doctor of Laws from Washington and Jefferson College and Doctor Honoris Causa en Ciencias Sociales from Universidad Francisco Marroquin, in Guatemala, where he is also Professor Honorario.

Dr. Williams has served on the faculty of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, since 1980; from 1995 to 2001, he served as department chairman. He has also served on the faculties of Los Angeles City College, California State University Los Angeles, and Temple University in Philadelphia, and Grove City College, Grove City, Pa.

Dr. Williams is the author of over 150 publications.

Here is a recent column written by Williams on the situation facing the black community in America. The whole thing is worth reading, and should be seen as “the antidote” to the poison being spread about blacks in the predominantly white mainstream media.

Excerpt:

That the problems of today’s black Americans are a result of a legacy of slavery, racial discrimination and poverty has achieved an axiomatic status, thought to be self-evident and beyond question. This is what academics and the civil rights establishment have taught. But as with so much of what’s claimed by leftists, there is little evidence to support it.

The No. 1 problem among blacks is the effects stemming from a very weak family structure. Children from fatherless homes are likelier to drop out of high school, die by suicide, have behavioral disorders, join gangs, commit crimes and end up in prison. They are also likelier to live in poverty-stricken households. But is the weak black family a legacy of slavery? In 1960, just 22 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families. Fifty years later, more than 70 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families. Here’s my question: Was the increase in single-parent black families after 1960 a legacy of slavery, or might it be a legacy of the welfare state ushered in by the War on Poverty?

According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers. Today about 75 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers. Is that supposed to be a delayed response to the legacy of slavery? The bottom line is that the black family was stronger the first 100 years after slavery than during what will be the second 100 years.

At one time, almost all black families were poor, regardless of whether one or both parents were present. Today roughly 30 percent of blacks are poor. However, two-parent black families are rarely poor. Only 8 percent of black married-couple families live in poverty. Among black families in which both the husband and wife work full time, the poverty rate is under 5 percent. Poverty in black families headed by single women is 37 percent. The undeniable truth is that neither slavery nor Jim Crow nor the harshest racism has decimated the black family the way the welfare state has.

There’s more, but if you are looking for a quick, simple overview of what REALLY holds blacks down, then this article repays the investment to read it. I think it’s important to listen to the perspective of a self-made man.

I think the solution to the problem is a combination of school choice, and changing the incentives facing young blacks by rewarding success, instead of failure. We should be paying for performance. That way, we’ll get more performance. People always do what there is an incentive to do, and that’s across all races, all times, all places.

This longer article by Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation has more analysis, with more statistics. It’s also worth reading.

If you care about the poor, must you vote for bigger government?

Here’s an article on the Daily Signal that traces the history of big government “solutions” to poverty, and argues that big government has not been able to solve the poverty problem no matter how much money they’ve taken from taxpayers.

Excerpt:

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau will release its annual report on poverty. This report is noteworthy because this year marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s launch of the War on Poverty. Liberals claim that the War on Poverty has failed because we didn’t spend enough money. Their answer is just to spend more. But the facts show otherwise.

[…]Over 100 million people, about one third of the U.S. population, received aid from at least one welfare program at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient in 2013. If converted into cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the U.S.

But today the Census will almost certainly proclaim that around 14 percent of Americans are still poor. The present poverty rate is almost exactly the same as it was in 1967 a few years after the War on Poverty started. Census data actually shows that poverty has gotten worse over the last 40 years.

How is this possible? How can the taxpayers spend $22 trillion on welfare while poverty gets worse?

The answer is it isn’t possible.  Census counts a family as poor if its income falls below specified thresholds. But in counting family “income,” Census ignores nearly the entire $943 billion welfare state.

For most Americans, the word “poverty” means significant material deprivation, an inability to provide a family with adequate nutritious food, reasonable shelter and clothing. But only a small portion of the more than 40 million people labelled as poor by Census fit that description.

[…]According to government surveys, the typical family that Census identifies as poor has air conditioning, cable or satellite TV, and a computer in his home. Forty percent have a wide screen HDTV and another 40 percent have internet access. Three quarters of the poor own a car and roughly a third have two or more cars. (These numbers are not the result of the current bad economy pushing middle class families into poverty; instead, they reflect a steady improvement in living conditions among the poor for many decades.)

The intake of protein, vitamins and minerals by poor children is virtually identical with upper middle class kids. According to surveys by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the overwhelming majority of poor people report they were not hungry even for a single day during the prior year.

The article goes on t make the point that if the purpose of government social programs is to make people more independent so they can get off the welfare, then the government has failed to achieve that goal. In fact, they’ve made even more people dependent on government since they started to try to make them independent of government.

According to a Congressional Research Service study, we spend more on welfare per year (1.03 trillion) than we do on Social Security (725 billion) or Medicare (480 billion) or non-war defense (540 billion). And what do we get? More dependency on government, not less.

Christians and social justice: is redistribution of wealth good for the poor?

Discovery Institute fellow Jonathan Witt pens this article in the American Spectator on the Gospel, business and social justice.

Excerpt:

The third term, social justice, is unlike the other two in its having a justifiable raison d’être. It stretches back to 19th century Catholic social thought and was used in the context of nuanced explorations of law, ethics, and justice. Unfortunately, this nuance and precision usually falls away in popular usage, and the term has been co-opted by the left to imply that ordinary justice is a mere tool of the ruling elite, with the real deal being “social justice.”

This impoverished meaning needs to be addressed. If a society extends justice to the rich and well-connected but allows the poor to be bullied and swindled by corrupt players inside and outside of the government, the problem isn’t unsocial justice but a lack of justice. If the poor in many developing nations can’t get access to credit or the courts because they can’t register their businesses, and they can’t register their businesses because they don’t have the bribe money and connections to navigate a byzantine regulatory maze, the problem is injustice, plain and simple. Such a society doesn’t need a social brand of justice any more than a poor neighborhood without stores needs a social grocery store. The neighborhood needs an ordinary grocery store, and the unjust society needs basic justice. Grocery stores and justice are already intrinsically social.

More than accurate semantics is at stake here. Often the popular call for “social justice” boils down to an ill-conceived call for coercive wealth transfers — for instance, getting rich countries to transfer more of their tax revenues to the governments of poor countries as foreign aid. It’d be nice if this approach actually helped the poor, since we’ve been using it for the past 60 years. Unfortunately, the statistical and narrative testimony on this strategy hovers between mixed and scandalous.

The reasons for this are complex but not so complex as to excuse the status quo. Much of the aid money gets quietly funneled into the pockets of corrupt politicians. In other cases the aid money reaches its intended target but, since the aid money is fungible, it still supports bad actors. It does so by freeing a regime of the political necessity of paying for the schools, road projects and emergency relief already covered by the foreign assistance. This, in turn, allows the regimes to spend more of their tax revenues for enhancing their own wealth and power.

Worse, the small fraction of aid money that actually reaches its intended destination often puts indigenous producers out of business, since it’s difficult to compete against free goods from abroad. Haiti’s rice farmers, for instance, once exported rice, but today their livelihoods have been all but wiped out by subsidized U.S. rice dumped on the country as foreign aid.

Add to all of this international “social justice” the devastating cultural effects of America’s welfare state. The neighborhoods flooded with 50 years of this domestic “social justice” now face far higher levels of criminal injustice and anti-social behavior than before the justice arrived.

Much of the problem stems from welfare’s effect on the institution of the family. The percentage of children being raised by both of their biological parents in America’s poorest neighborhoods used to be low and fairly comparable to what was found in middle and upper class neighborhoods, but the Great Society programs of the 1960s changed that.

As George Gilder put it in Wealth and Poverty, the underclass husband and father was “cuckolded by the compassionate state,” a violation which has incited “that very combination of resignation and rage, escapism and violence, short horizons and promiscuous sexuality that characterizes everywhere the life of the poor.”

Yale University sociologist Elijah Anderson put it almost as bluntly in a 1989 journal article: “It has become increasingly socially acceptable for a young woman to have children out of wedlock — significantly, with the help of a regular welfare check.”

The plain testimony of history is that the left’s strategy for saving the poor has been a tragic failure. It has stifled development in poor countries, bred a fatherless underclass in the United States, and all but bankrupted the European Union. Cloaking all of this in the guise of “social justice” serves only to perpetuate the tragedy.

It turns out that the very people who cry the loudest about wanting to help the poor – by redistributing wealth from those who produce to those who don’t – are the ones who incentivize people to make decisions that will make them poorer and expose them to more violence. Sure, there is a certain amount of uncertainty in life, but when you reward failure and punish success, you get more takers and fewer makers. The alternative to taxation and redistribution is to leave wealth in the hands of the individuals and businesses and trust them to make the decision about sharing. When businesses pay less in taxes, they expand – and more people start up new businesses, because they are attracted by the chance to make higher profits. Although letting individuals and business keep their own money is frowned on by the secular left, that’s because they themselves project their tendency not to give to charity and create jobs onto everyone else. They don’t understand charity and entrepreneurialism, that’s why they take money away from people who work and who create wealth.

I do want to say one other thing. I find it troubling when Christians present themselves to me as being social conservative, and fiscally liberal. There is no such thing as a social conservative and a fiscal liberal. If a person demands that the state provide cheese sandwiches to the children of single mothers in public schools, then  it creates more of an incentive to become a single mother, and less of an incentive to marry. That redistribution lowers the cost of single motherhood and raises the cost of marriage. It has been shown that single motherhood is the leading cause of child poverty – so why would we put into place incentives that encourage people to not make good decisions about sex? Why subsidize people who refuse to exercise self-control in sexual matters? Why make it encourage people to inflict fatherlessness on their own innocent children? Marriage is correlated with increased safety for women and children. Lowering the moral standards and paying people to make mistakes isn’t good for them. And it’s not good for their children.

The more you tax those who produce, the fewer of them you get. And the more you subsidize those who collect, the more of them you get. When men see themselves as slaves of the state – working only to be plundered – they stop working and they stop marrying. Why would a man work to feed the children of someone who could not even bother to get married before having babies? Why would a man get married knowing that half of what he earns will go to the state? Let families keep more of their own money, so that families are empowered – and not government. Let families keep their own money so they decide how to spend it, instead of depending on government. Let single mothers have to face the cost of their decisions. Let them ask charities for help, not the government. When people have to ask their neighbors for help, they know that they have done wrong, and that the money they get came from someone who worked for it. That is not there when government taxes and writes them a no-guilt check. Then it’s an entitlement, and they don’t learn their lesson.

Instead, let individuals and businesses make the decision to help those who they think are truly willing to try to improve their lot in life. Those are the ones who need support. When you leave wealth distribution to the government, no one is there to make those moral judgments. And it’s worse than that. When government takes over industries like health care, they are often supported by naive pro-lifers who think that wealth redistribution is compassion. But a secular government has no interest in women who stay home to raise their children – they want women to get out into the work force and pay income taxes. A single-payer health care system is always going to be pro-abortion for that reason. And any pro-lifer who votes “with their heart” for single-payer health care is a fool. They are, in effect, pro-abortion. Think before you vote.

Should Christians support social justice? Is wealth redistribution good for the poor?

Discovery Institute fellow Jonathan Witt pens this article in the American Spectator on the Gospel, business and social justice.

Excerpt:

The third term, social justice, is unlike the other two in its having a justifiable raison d’être. It stretches back to 19th century Catholic social thought and was used in the context of nuanced explorations of law, ethics, and justice. Unfortunately, this nuance and precision usually falls away in popular usage, and the term has been co-opted by the left to imply that ordinary justice is a mere tool of the ruling elite, with the real deal being “social justice.”

This impoverished meaning needs to be addressed. If a society extends justice to the rich and well-connected but allows the poor to be bullied and swindled by corrupt players inside and outside of the government, the problem isn’t unsocial justice but a lack of justice. If the poor in many developing nations can’t get access to credit or the courts because they can’t register their businesses, and they can’t register their businesses because they don’t have the bribe money and connections to navigate a byzantine regulatory maze, the problem is injustice, plain and simple. Such a society doesn’t need a social brand of justice any more than a poor neighborhood without stores needs a social grocery store. The neighborhood needs an ordinary grocery store, and the unjust society needs basic justice. Grocery stores and justice are already intrinsically social.

More than accurate semantics is at stake here. Often the popular call for “social justice” boils down to an ill-conceived call for coercive wealth transfers — for instance, getting rich countries to transfer more of their tax revenues to the governments of poor countries as foreign aid. It’d be nice if this approach actually helped the poor, since we’ve been using it for the past 60 years. Unfortunately, the statistical and narrative testimony on this strategy hovers between mixed and scandalous.

The reasons for this are complex but not so complex as to excuse the status quo. Much of the aid money gets quietly funneled into the pockets of corrupt politicians. In other cases the aid money reaches its intended target but, since the aid money is fungible, it still supports bad actors. It does so by freeing a regime of the political necessity of paying for the schools, road projects and emergency relief already covered by the foreign assistance. This, in turn, allows the regimes to spend more of their tax revenues for enhancing their own wealth and power.

Worse, the small fraction of aid money that actually reaches its intended destination often puts indigenous producers out of business, since it’s difficult to compete against free goods from abroad. Haiti’s rice farmers, for instance, once exported rice, but today their livelihoods have been all but wiped out by subsidized U.S. rice dumped on the country as foreign aid.

Add to all of this international “social justice” the devastating cultural effects of America’s welfare state. The neighborhoods flooded with 50 years of this domestic “social justice” now face far higher levels of criminal injustice and anti-social behavior than before the justice arrived.

Much of the problem stems from welfare’s effect on the institution of the family. The percentage of children being raised by both of their biological parents in America’s poorest neighborhoods used to be low and fairly comparable to what was found in middle and upper class neighborhoods, but the Great Society programs of the 1960s changed that.

As George Gilder put it in Wealth and Poverty, the underclass husband and father was “cuckolded by the compassionate state,” a violation which has incited “that very combination of resignation and rage, escapism and violence, short horizons and promiscuous sexuality that characterizes everywhere the life of the poor.”

Yale University sociologist Elijah Anderson put it almost as bluntly in a 1989 journal article: “It has become increasingly socially acceptable for a young woman to have children out of wedlock — significantly, with the help of a regular welfare check.”

The plain testimony of history is that the left’s strategy for saving the poor has been a tragic failure. It has stifled development in poor countries, bred a fatherless underclass in the United States, and all but bankrupted the European Union. Cloaking all of this in the guise of “social justice” serves only to perpetuate the tragedy.

It turns out that the very people who cry the loudest about wanting to help the poor – by redistributing wealth from those who produce to those who don’t – are the ones who incentivize people to make decisions that will make them poorer and expose them to more violence. Sure, there is a certain amount of uncertainty in life, but when you reward failure and punish success, you get more takers and fewer makers. The alternative to taxation and redistribution is to leave wealth in the hands of the individuals and businesses and trust them to make the decision about sharing. When businesses pay less in taxes, they expand – and more people start up new businesses, because they are attracted by the chance to make higher profits. Although letting individuals and business keep their own money is frowned on by the secular left, that’s because they themselves project their tendency not to give to charity and create jobs onto everyone else. They don’t understand charity and entrepreneurialism, that’s why they take money away from people who work and who create wealth.

I do want to say one other thing. I find it troubling when Christians present themselves to me as being social conservative, and fiscally liberal. There is no such thing as a social conservative and a fiscal liberal. If a person demands that the state provide cheese sandwiches to the children of single mothers in public schools, then  it creates more of an incentive to become a single mother, and less of an incentive to marry. That redistribution lowers the cost of single motherhood and raises the cost of marriage. It has been shown that single motherhood is the leading cause of child poverty – so why would we put into place incentives that encourage people to not make good decisions about sex? Why subsidize people who refuse to exercise self-control in sexual matters? Why make it encourage people to inflict fatherlessness on their own innocent children? Marriage is correlated with increased safety for women and children. Lowering the moral standards and paying people to make mistakes isn’t good for them. And it’s not good for their children.

The more you tax those who produce, the fewer of them you get. And the more you subsidize those who collect, the more of them you get. When men see themselves as slaves of the state – working only to be plundered – they stop working and they stop marrying. Why would a man work to feed the children of someone who could not even bother to get married before having babies? Why would a man get married knowing that half of what he earns will go to the state? Let families keep more of their own money, so that families are empowered – and not government. Let families keep their own money so they decide how to spend it, instead of depending on government. Let single mothers have to face the cost of their decisions. Let them ask charities for help, not the government. When people have to ask their neighbors for help, they know that they have done wrong, and that the money they get came from someone who worked for it. That is not there when government taxes and writes them a no-guilt check. Then it’s an entitlement, and they don’t learn their lesson.

Instead, let individuals and businesses make the decision to help those who they think are truly willing to try to improve their lot in life. Those are the ones who need support. When you leave wealth distribution to the government, no one is there to make those moral judgments. And it’s worse than that. When government takes over industries like health care, they are often supported by naive pro-lifers who think that wealth redistribution is compassion. But a secular government has no interest in women who stay home to raise their children – they want women to get out into the work force and pay income taxes. A single-payer health care system is always going to be pro-abortion for that reason. And any pro-lifer who votes “with their heart” for single-payer health care is a fool. They are, in effect, pro-abortion. Think before you vote.

Should government promote marriage to lower-income communities?

Marriage and Poverty
Marriage and Poverty

I found this article by Robert Rector on the The Heritage Foundation web site. It is part of their Poverty and Marriage project.

Excerpt:

The Census data presented so far demonstrate that married couples have dramatically lower poverty rates than single parents. These substantial differences in poverty remain even when married couples are compared to single parents of the same race and level of education. The pattern is almost exactly the same in all 50 states.

However, in the Census comparisons, the married couples and single parents are obviously different (albeit similar) persons. It is therefore possible that much of the difference in poverty between married families and single-parent families might be due to hidden differences between married and single parents as individuals rather than to marriage per se. For example, it is possible that unmarried fathers might have substantially lower earnings than married fathers with the same racial and educational backgrounds. If this were the case, then marriage, for these men, would have a reduced anti-poverty effect.

Fortunately, we have other direct data on poverty and unmarried parents that corroborate the Census analysis. These data are provided by the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Survey conducted jointly by Princeton and Columbia universities.[16] The Fragile Families survey is a representative national sample of parents at the time of a child’s birth, with a heavy emphasis on lower-income unmarried couples. The survey is unusual in collecting information not only on single mothers, but on non-married fathers as well, including (critically) the actual employment and earnings of the father in the year prior to birth.

Because the Fragile Families Survey reports both the mothers’ and fathers’ earnings, it is simple to calculate the poverty rate if the non-married mothers remain single and if each unmarried mother married her child’s father (thereby pooling both parents’ income into a joint family income). The Fragile Families data show that if unmarried mothers remain single, over half (56 percent) of them will be poor. (This high level of poverty will persist for years: Half of all unwed mothers will be poor five years after the child is born.[17]) By contrast, if the single mothers married the actual biological fathers of their children, only 18 percent would remain poor.[18] Thus, marriage would reduce the expected poverty rate of the children by two-thirds.

It is important to note that these results are based on the actual earnings of the biological fathers of the children and not on assumed or hypothetical earnings. Moreover, the non-married fathers in the sample are relatively young. Over time, their earnings will increase and the poverty rate for the married couples will decline farther.

[…]Census data and the Fragile Families survey show that marriage can be extremely effective in reducing child poverty. But the positive effects of married fathers are not limited to income alone. Children raised by married parents have substantially better life outcomes compared to similar children raised in single-parent homes.

When compared to children in intact married homes, children raised by single parents are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; be expelled from school; and drop out of high school.[19] Many of these negative outcomes are associated with the higher poverty rates of single mothers. In many cases, however, the improvements in child well-being that are associated with marriage persist even after adjusting for differences in family income. This indicates that the father brings more to his home than just a paycheck.

The effect of married fathers on child outcomes can be quite pronounced. For example, examination of families with the same race and same parental education shows that, when compared to intact married families, children from single-parent homes are:

  • More than twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime;[20]
  • Twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems;[21]
  • Roughly twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school;[22] and
  • A third more likely to drop out before completing high school.[23]

The effects of being raised in a single-parent home continue into adulthood. Comparing families of the same race and similar incomes, children from broken and single-parent homes are three times more likely to end up in jail by the time they reach age 30 than are children raised in intact married families. [24] Compared to girls raised in similar married families, girls from single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to have a child without being married, thereby repeating the negative cycle for another generation.[25]

Finally, the decline of marriage generates poverty in future generations. Children living in single-parent homes are 50 percent more likely to experience poverty as adults when compared to children from intact married homes. This intergenerational poverty effect persists even after adjusting for the original differences in family income and poverty during childhood.[26]

You should definitely click through the article and view all the colorful charts and diagrams. This article should be printed out and used to explain the connection between fiscal conservatism and social conservatism.

I also want to point out that two notable groups on the left act to destroy marriage. First of all, there are the feminists, who oppose the unequal gender roles in marriage. They lobby for feminist policies that destroy marriage, like no-fault divorce. Second, there are the socialists, who favor redistribution of wealth from productive to non-productive people. They lobby for increased welfare for single mothers, causing more single-mother households. Either way, marriage is under attack by the left. I have not even mentioned things like sex education and state-run day care.

What should the government do?

I think that government does have a role in providing financial incentives in the form of tax breaks to married couples who have children and stay married. The government should give bigger and bigger tax breaks as marriages last longer and longer, and have more children. And the biggest tax breaks of all should be given to families where one parent stays at home while the children are not yet in school, during the crucial early years. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But if research agrees that marriage is good for children, good for married couples, and good for society, then why aren’t we doing more to inform people about the benefits of marriage, and providing them with financial incentives to marry for the long-term?