Baltimore Indicts the Welfare State

In a speech on Monday at Lehman College in the Bronx, President Obama blasted the media for focusing on “looters and rioters” in the recent race riots in Baltimore and Ferguson before it, and said that they should instead be focusing on “those who are trying to solve the complex problems plaguing America’s cities.”

What are those problems?  Well, chief among them might be that hordes of black mobs regularly erupt in frenzies of thievery, arson, and violence in a pack-mentality response to perceived injustices and without knowledge or consideration of facts.  But that’s just the symptom, the president suggests, of the “root causes of the tension in urban areas.”

We should take a moment to remind the president that thievery, arson, and violence are serious crimes, not a logical result of social “tension” in a civilized society.  And his expecting the media to do something other than steadily report a mass crime wave is made all the more disgusting by his attempt to divert blame for the criminals’ actions by wheeling out all the usual villains as responsible for their behavior.

It’s not the “looters and rioters” destroying businesses that we should be focusing on, or the violent reprisals against police officers and the white people being targeted, or the communities where innocent people live in fear of racial powder kegs exploding.  No, what we should be considering is how we can improve the lives of “blacks and Latinos” who suffer a deficit of opportunity and are “trapped in failing schools.”  More investment in these communities is what is needed.  That’s the theme -- the same unending, one-note dirge we should be accustomed to hearing by now

And it’s a theme being cultivated in some pretty sinister ways.  One way is the nonsensical yet often parroted suggestion that teens in Baltimore are worse off than teens in Nigerian slums.  To actually believe this takes an otherworldly ignorance, and that this even needs to be refuted is sad beyond measure.  But in another way, it serves as an argument against Barack Obama’s call for increased subsidization of urban communities.

First of all, the study claiming Nigerian levels of poverty focuses on “low-income residents near the Johns Hopkins medical campus,” most of whom happen to be black.  But to only consider levels of income and suggest that this equates to a standard of living among “low-income” demographics in other countries is disingenuous in the extreme.  The black teen in Baltimore and his or her parent (given the lack of two parent households in such communities, the singular is appropriate) are undoubtedly recipients of subsidized benefits, both federal and local, which elevate their standard of living, via food stamps, public housing, and welfare and disability payments that are neither reportable as income nor taxable, far beyond what their meager incomes provide.  This is not something that Nigerian families enjoy to nearly any such extent. 

This is not to suggest that poor families in Baltimore have in made in the shade.  Not by any means.  But they are certainly not faced with the same threats faced by poverty-stricken Nigerian teens.  Their basic needs are, generally, tended to by the government.

It is no wonder that such considerations are not addressed in the study, or if they are, they appear to have been lost in translation from the study’s details to accepted talking points and conclusions.  The real focus appears to be on teens’ “poor perceptions of their physical environments, their sense of social cohesion, and their sense of safety within their neighborhoods.”  In a Washington Post report by Kristin Mmari, Robert W. Blum, and Beth Marshall, it is suggested that the youth feel this way due to “economic discrimination.”  The report continues:

It’s important to provide the social support that can end the cycle of hopelessness.  Simply living in a wealthy country doesn’t give young people the opportunity they need to feel optimistic about their futures.  If we want to end the perpetual uprisings in our urban communities, we must stop turning a blind eye to the injustice right in front of us.

With this last statement, I can agree.  But it’s important that we identify the nature of the injustice, and do more than simply regurgitate talking points about the benefits of a redistributive welfare state.

Again, the facts in this study inherently disavow the very conclusion that its orchestrators have drawn.  The conclusion appears to be aligned with the president’s assessment -- that a lack of social and financial investment is the basis for “economic discrimination” that causes cultural, moral, and social decay among urban youth.  How does one reconcile that assumption with the fact that children in other nations, with far less social and economic support from their governments, actually suffer less from cultural, moral, and social decay than the youth of Baltimore, who have been the subjects of Democrat social engineering and wealth redistribution experiments since the 1960s?

It can be expected that Baltimore having been under uninterrupted Democrat control since 1967 will not stop Barack Obama and the bleating sheep like Baltimore’s current mayor (who suggests that the wealth just hasn’t been spread around properly yet) from demanding that more and more government redistribution.  They will continue doing the only thing they know how: peddling grievance fallacies to vilify opposition and expand government authority on the grounds of the necessity of government benevolence.  And toward those ends, they’ll continue condemning police officers (without proof of their guilt) and stoking racial tensions wherever possible because it provides them political currency to do so.  They will continue blaming some underlying societal antipathy toward black people and the racism of Republicans for not buying into the redistribution schemes.  And as the president continues these indictments against his enemies, he will feign a devotion to help cure the cultural, moral, and social decay among urban youth by carrying forward and expanding upon the very policies that have left them thus crippled.

The indictment of the welfare state is long overdue, and it’s high time we force its engineers and defenders to take the stand to account for their crimes.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.