Baltimore and Never Enough Money

A feature article in the Sunday Washington Post, headlined: “Why couldn’t $130 million transform one of Baltimore’s poorest places?” Well, why can’t $260 million or $520 million transform Baltimore’s poor places – or places in Newark or Philadelphia or Cleveland or East St. Louis or Detroit?

The Post article refers to philanthropic money. But that $130 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the $22 trillion (that’s right, trillion) that has been spent to “end” poverty since the Great Society’s inception in the mid 1960s. Not all of that money has gone to poor black communities, but blacks have hardly been stinted. 

The problems of America’s inner cities aren’t chiefly about money. The problems are much deeper. They go to fatherless homes and single, teenage welfare mothers. They go to kids running on mean streets, too many in gangs. They go to churches with empty pews. They go to failures to instill virtues and values that have historically lifted people out of poverty. They go to big city political machines populated by incompetents, cynics, and profiteers. And they go to a white liberal establishment. White liberals, through federally financed welfare statism, have made inner cities virtual reservations. Much black poverty is generational.       

All the government money spent on poverty and urban problems can’t paper over the utter shatteredness of poor black communities. Government didn’t create many of the pathologies in poor black inner cities, but it most certainly has exacerbated them.     

Reflecting on the Great Society following its 50th anniversary last year, Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield wrote for The Heritage Foundation:

In the 50 years since that time, U.S. taxpayers have spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs. Adjusted for inflation, this spending (which does not include Social Security or Medicare) is three times the cost of all U.S. military wars since the American Revolution. Yet progress against poverty, as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau, has been minimal, and in terms of President Johnson’s main goal of reducing the “causes” rather than the mere “consequences” of poverty, the War on Poverty has failed completely. In fact, a significant portion of the population is now less capable of self-sufficiency than it was when the War on Poverty began. [Italics added]

That’s damning, but in the wake of the Baltimore riots, what are we hearing from Barack Obama and Democrats?  Spend more taxpayer dollars on inner cities -- or, to use the buzz word, make more “investments.”

Said the president as reported by the Guardian:

“I’m under no illusion, that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities,” Obama said. “So we’ve got to find areas where we can make a difference.”  

After preemptively blaming Congress for not wanting to dump billions more in taxpayer money in inner cities, Obama, through inference, went on to blame predominantly white America. Reported by the Guardian in the same article:

Obama said that the country had left behind impoverished communities that had been “stripped of opportunity”, in which children born into poverty are given little chance to obtain an education or to make a living outside the drug trade.

The president’s comment is morally grotesque. The transfers of wealth from working America (again, largely white) to poor minority communities (particularly black) since the Great Society are historic. Opportunities haven’t been stripped -- they’ve been squandered.     

As to education, the failures of inner city public schools are manifold, but the central problem is lack of family formation (two-parent households) that nurture children to value education as a principal means to escape poverty; parents who hold schools accountable and insist on the highest possible standards in performance.    

Detroit public schools are a case in point. Last autumn there was bellyaching in Detroit that the city’s public schools were being shortchanged. Reported Michigan Capitol Confidential:

Overall, Detroit Public Schools received $13,825 per student in 2012-13 which includes local, state and federal funding, the most recent year released by the Michigan Department of Education. Meanwhile, Wyandotte Public Schools, just 17 miles away, received $8,242 per student, or $5,583 less per student than Detroit Public Schools. If DPS is being neglected, it’s not via the checkbook.

Urban schools -- particularly in poor communities -- are run more as patronage for school administrations and teachers (via their powerful unions). Too many of these education professionals are incompetent, lazy, and in some cases, corrupt. Schools merely warehouse kids -- that is, if they even bother to show up. Per the Washington Post, the truancy rate for DC public high schools is a staggering 50% plus. That’s not occasionally truant; that’s “chronically truant.”        

The recent Atlanta public schools’ tests scandal is a prime example of corruption. The test-fixing may have begun in 2001, though from 2005-09 cheating by administrators and teachers was most flagrant.

Reported CNN in April about former Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers’ investigation of the tests scandal:

During his [Bowers’] investigation, he heard that educators cheated out of pride, to earn bonuses, to enhance their careers or to keep their jobs, he said. 

As of 2012, the average teacher’s salary in Atlanta city schools was $94,058.90 plus bonuses.    

Atlanta public school students are overwhelming black (80.8%), as are school officials, administrators, and teachers. The tests’ scadanal was black-on-black crime at its worst, involving the exploitation of children. Still, CNN related that teachers convicted of racketeering (subject to maximums of 20 years behind bars but given lenient alternative sentencing) still refused to take responsibility for their actions at their sentencing hearings.      

The president knows better. It’s not good intentions, delusion, or blinkeredness that drives him to make the statements he makes about race relations and the plight of underclass blacks. Its politics that are aimed at maintaining the failed system of welfare statism for the benefit of the left, the Democratic Party, and city political machines run by blacks. 

In Philadelphia, blacks dominate, and the ability of the Democratic machine there to organize and turn out black votes is a big driver in keeping Pennsylvania reliably blue in presidential elections and competitive in statewide contests. Detroit and Cleveland are similar, as are Democratic machine-run cities across the country. Its power, control, and money that dictate the president’s veiled denunciations and attempts at shaming white America. 

That would account for “The Message,” which is being parroted by Democrats, high and low. In the wake of the Baltimore riots, Democrats have lost no time getting the message out: “Blacks are the victims of ongoing ‘injustice.’”

Speaking of a parrot, there’s Hillary Rodham Clinton, who deviated not an iota from “The Message” in a speech before an audience gathered to honor former New York mayor, David Dinkins.  Said Hillary: “We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America.” Yes, indeed, but not as Hillary wants to guilt us into believing.