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.

Why do liberals constantly talk about sexism, racism, homophobia and so on?

Here is a must-read post from Lindsay, writing at her Lindsay’s Logic blog.

She writes:

Many people don’t notice this, but liberals always speak of people by the group they belong to – African Americans, gays, whites, Hispanics, women, poor people, etc. They talk about the rights of people as a function of belonging to a group – gay rights, women’s rights, etc. They don’t speak of people as just people in general. The liberals are not color blind. Far from it. They are keenly aware of race and gender and other group statuses because they are the ones promoting separate factions and pitting groups against each other for their own ends. If you don’t believe me, just listen to them sometime. They can hardly talk about anything without making it all about special groups. And in the irony of ironies, they have somehow managed to convince a lot of people that it’s the conservatives who are racist and sexist.

Liberals don’t really care about gays or women or children or poor people. They just want votes and to be thought inclusive and tolerant. It’s all part of their image. But they don’t actually want to help anyone or stop hatred. In fact, they’re very good at promoting hatred (especially against Christianity and conservatism) and drumming it up where it doesn’t exist. They survive on the hatred and misunderstanding between groups. They want the country splintered into different groups that all have grudges against each other. That way, they can pretend to commiserate with all the separate groups and promise them help in exchange for votes and money. They need people to be riled up and upset so that they can swoop down with their promises of change and trade people a “government solution” in exchange for their freedom.

How do we know liberals don’t really want to help? Because they don’t actually help. Liberal policies don’t produce good results. They don’t cure poverty or stop racism or protect rights. Their policies are carefully crafted to look good on the surface, but not stop the evils of society, because it is the existence of those evils that keeps everyone coming back to liberals for “solutions.” To cover this failure of their policies, liberals are very good at turning the conversation away from the actual results of their policies and talking instead about all their good motives.

I recommend reading the rest, there’s more nutritious wisdom there.

But I wanted to talk about one of the ways that liberal policies hurt the poor, so we have a concrete example of what she is talking about.

Black marriage rates from 1970
Black marriage rates from 1970

This is a study from the National Center for Policy Analysis. (PDF)

Democrat president Lyndon B. Johson passed a massive program of wealth redistribution in 1964.

Here’s what happened:

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared an “unconditional war on poverty” in 1964 and followed up a year later with an avalanche of domestic social and antipoverty programs known collectively as the Great Society. Johnson persuaded Congress to support his welfare agenda — sending him more than 80 pieces of legislation to sign in a short period of time. Among the plethora of poverty-alleviating Great Society programs were food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, federal educational funding, housing assistance, increased welfare spending and other income transfer programs. The Great Society was intended not only to reduce poverty, but also to better peoples’ lives across the board. Ironically, the Great Society legislation seemed to simultaneously both ignore — and hinder — the most effective antipoverty program: marriage.

Indeed, this “War on Marriage” is a major reason for the lack of progress on poverty over the past 50 years!

[…]And President Obama’s signature piece of legislation — the Affordable Care Act — has only exacerbated federal marriage penalties. The Great Society without Marriage. Marriage has been on the decline for decades.

According to the Pew Research Center:

  • Around 1970, about 84 percent of native-born 30-to-44-year-old adults were married.
  • By 2007, this proportion had fallen by nearly one-third to 60 percent.
  • The marriage rate is even lower for men and women who lack a college degree (56 percent in 2007).

And the marriage rate is even lower still for some racial demographics.

According to Pew:

  • Only one-third of black women ages 30 to 44 were married in 2007, compared to 62 percent in 1970.
  • For black men, the corresponding rates are 44 percent (2007), down from 74 percent in 1970.

Why do more low-to-moderate income couples skip the wedding bells? The reasons are partially economic: Financial penalties in the tax code kick in when couples get married. According to research from the Brookings-Urban Institute Tax Policy Center, the combined marriage penalty is signi?cant for families earning less than $40,000.

The method used to calculate income eligibility and antipoverty programs is the primary culprit: the so-called federal poverty level (FPL). The FPL’s income thresholds are for individuals or families of various sizes, and those with incomes below the FPL are by definition in poverty. The FPL is used to determine both eligibility and the amount of benefits for many different programs.

That’s how the left “helps” the poor, by making it worse, by blaming conservatives, and by demanding higher taxes and more power to redistribute wealth.

This is not even controversial – think tanks on both sides of the political spectrum (e. g. – Brookings Institute, the Heritage Foundation) agree. Marriage is essential to stopping poverty. Period. And the left killed it by taxing it and giving welfare to single mothers by choice, as well as by passing laws like no-fault divorce, which discourage men from marrying because of the punishment they take if there is a frivolous divorce.

Advice for Christians on economics

You can’t be a Christian and just leave your Christianity at the level of Bible study, A. W. Tozer, early Church Fathers, and other spiritual stuff. A person who reads the Bible and focuses on having a “heart for God” and being “godly” and spending all their time reading devotions and doing Bible study is not going to be able to do what the Bible says. To do what the Bible says means to achieve the aims of the God of the Bible. We are supposed to care about the poor. But in order to know what to do to be obedient to that command, we have to go outside the Bible for the method – we have to study economics and understand how to achieve the good results.

I would recommend that we not be overly impressed by people who focus more on spirituality and Bible study and church over practical concerns like actually making sound financial decisions so that they can help others (charity) and not be a burden on others. The goal of a Christian is not to know the truth and feel good. The goal of the Christian is to know the truth and do good.

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.