'Our Kids' are 'Coming Apart' Because Liberals

Back in 2012 Charles Murray came out with Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010. He argued that in Obama's America the top 20 percent was doing fine. Top 20 percenters get educated, get careers, get married, stay married; they live in wealthy suburbs like Belmont in Massachusetts. The middle 50 percent isn't doing too good. But the bottom 30 percent of whites that live in places like Philadelphia's Fishtown, isn't doing very well at all. The women don't get married and the men -- about 30 percent of them -- don't work.

Now comes Robert D. Putnam with Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. Returning to his hometown of Port Clinton, Ohio, Putnam tells the story of today's kids, like these two black kids. One's the child of married, educated parents and he's doing fine. The other's a child of the black working class, and he complains that his parents “couldn't live together for nothing” and loves beating people up.

To the New York Times' Jason DeParle it's all about “income inequality.” And Putnam just proposes more of the same, according to W. Bradford Wilcox in the Wall Street Journal: more government, and of course, the ignis fatuus of Obama-era liberals, universal pre-school.

Putnam, you may recall, wrote Bowling Alone back in 2000. In it he mourned that Americans didn't seem to be joining organizations (e.g., bowling leagues) any more. Golly, I wonder why that might be?

Here's a clue. Back in the early 1970s I belonged to a couple of Toastmasters Clubs. They were great: you learned how to do public speaking and think on your feet. But even then, members were worrying that it was hard to get kids to join Toastmasters because it was easier to take a speech class at the local community college. Hello liberals!

Okay, so the liberal welfare state is to blame for everything. But what about that bottom 30 percent? We have to do something.

It happens that I am confronting this issue at this very moment in the writing of “An American Manifesto.” I call for a “culture of involvement” and I sketch typical life trajectories, including a poor family that, with minimal skills, still manages to make it with hard work and get their kids out of the nest with a decent education. But, I realize, what happens if things go wrong? Do we just let that poor family starve?

I went downstairs and got out The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger, a book about life in England in the year 1000. On a page comfortably talking about the fact that Bristol and Dublin were major slave ports back then, they address the question of what happened to a poor person down on his luck.

[I]n the year 1000 the starving man had no other resort but to kneel before his lord or lady and place his head in their hands. No legal document was involved, and the new bondsman would be handed a bill-hook or ox-goad in token of his fresh start in servitude.

The idea was that you gave up to your lord your “head for food.”

Really, what has changed? Today the starving man gives up his vote to the Democratic Party and his local community organizer in return for SNAP, TANF, Section 8, and Medicaid, and he doesn't have to work for his food, like the bondsman of old.

I will tell you what else has changed, and it has changed for the worse. In the old days the local lord was the economic, political, and cultural lord of all he surveyed. If he accepted the head of a new bondsman and got the benefit of his work and his loyalty, he also took on the cost of feeding that bondsman.

In our age the economic, political, and cultural sectors are nominally separate, and the political class, assisted by the cultural class in the media, relieves the poor without taking on the responsibility of actually paying to feed the poor. The powerful political magnate receives the heads of the poor in his hands, and then pays for the benefits for its bondsmen not from his own estates, as of old, but from tax monies taken from the economic sector, from businesses and wage earners, by force.

The politician does not tell the poor that, if they want to know who to thank, it's businessmen and wage earners. Not at all. They didn't build that, and but for us community organizers the employers and the one percenters would let the poor starve.

So here is the challenge for the new age. How do we prevent “our kids” from “coming apart.” And how do we stop the political class from using their bondsmen as pawns in their contemptible power politics?

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, usgovernmentspending.com. Also see his American Manifesto and get his Road to the Middle Class.