Time for the Welfare State to Stand Trial

In his speech on Monday in New York, President Obama referenced “the ideals we’re built on” as a reason for providing more government investment to address poverty in our inner cities.  But he’s certainly not talking about our founding principles.  These might be better described as Ben Franklin once did:

I am for doing good for the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means.  I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.  In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and thus became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less that was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.

The wisdom with which our Founder concludes is that, of the poor, “more will be done for their happiness by insuring them to provide for themselves, than could be done by dividing all your estates among them.”

Clearly, this was not the “ideals we’re built on” that Obama referenced, and Franklin’s wisdom could go a long way to explain the unhappiness observed among poor teens in Baltimore.  More likely, Obama was referencing the glory days of the modern progressive as the “ideals we’re built on,” such as the redistributionist policies of FDR’s New Deal, and the firm foundations of the welfare state laid by LBJ’s Great Society.

That we can pinpoint the latter as the precise moment in history where the black family began its “calamitous breakdown” that continues today should not only be telling, but damning in its glaring implications.  As of 1950, “only 9% of black families with children were headed by a single parent.”  Between 1940 and 1960, “the black poverty rate had been cut in half.” 

“During the nine decades between the Emancipation Proclamation and the 1950s, the black family remained a strong, stable institution,” write David Horowitz and John Perrazzo at Discover the Networks.  Discussing the black family, they continue:

Its cataclysmic destruction was subsequently set in motion by the anti-marriage incentives built into the welfare system… As George Mason University Professor Walter E. Williams puts it: “The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn’t do, what Jim Crow couldn’t do, what the harshest racism couldn’t do.  And that is to destroy the black family.”  Hoover Institution Fellow Thomas Sowell concurs: “The black family, which had survived centuries of racism and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.”

By 2012, the black illegitimacy rate was at 73%, starkly high in contrast to other demographic segments.  And the moral decay that came with this trend is not obscure.  “According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, 60% of rapists, 72% of adolescent murderers, and 70% of long-term prison inmates are men who grew up in fatherless homes.”  In light of these facts, these statistics may be less surprising:

In 2010, blacks (approximately 13% of the population) accounted for 48.7% of all arrests for homicide, 31.8% of all arrests for forcible rape, 33.5% for aggravated assault, and 55% of arrests for robbery. 

It was by design that the social structure provided by government supplanted the social structure of the family.  And the end result of that endeavor was on display in Ferguson as it is in Baltimore today.

Frederick Douglass once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”  The welfare state’s greatest crime, for which it must be held accountable, is that it builds broken children who will later become broken men as the likeliest of outcomes. 

Why should a child of the welfare state cultivate ambition toward self-determination when government dependence is the norm in his surroundings?  Why aspire toward more academic aims when the public educational institutions he attends are far better teaching racial grievance mythology than reading, writing, or arithmetic?  Why get a job if he’s convinced that institutional racism means that he will not be paid what he’s worth?  Even more to the quick, how can an unskilled teen even get a job when the government has priced him out of the market with arbitrary minimum wage pricing which business owners may find prohibitive of hiring said teen?  Lacking any on-the-job skill development or community networking and often semi-illiterate, what reason might a child have to be optimistic about his chances at success in any lawful endeavors?  And speaking of laws, why respect the law or trust cops when he’s told all his life that the law discriminates against him, and that cops will kill him for having done nothing at all? 

Without a father, without a job, without meaningful education, yet in search for purpose and identity.  Again, the results are on the streets of Baltimore expressing their rage.  All they know is that they blame society for their circumstances, but they love Barack Obama and the Democrats who promise to give them more. 

Can you think of anything more tragic than this misguided devotion to the elements that have created their circumstances?  And not only among these poor children, but among the deluded progressives that share this devotion to horrible ideas?

It was the very policies that Barack Obama supports that absolved black men of caring for their children, supplanted by Big Daddy government who supplied the checks, leading to rampant fatherlessness among blacks.  Democrats and their union muscle have spent more taxpayer money on education than any civilization in human history on the grounds of improving education in inner cities, and though they’ve failed miserably in the task, they are roundly applauded when they propose throwing more taxpayer money at the problem.  Each Democrat-spearheaded initiative to raise minimum wage has come with the news that youth unemployment rises, yet still millions beg Democrats for minimum wage hikes.

And most importantly, if black lives truly mattered, these problems would not go unaddressed.  The vast majority of murdered black men are murdered by other black men, due to these same economic and demographic realities created by the welfare state.

Amending Franklin, Democrats and the welfare state have done more evil by dividing our estates among the poor than the evilest non-interventionist Republican could ever have done.

Tavis Smiley suggests in TIME that these riots “aren’t a black or white thing -- they’re a humanity thing, a dignity thing.” But what these riots reflect actually just the opposite: a lack of humanity thing, a lack of dignity thing.

A civilized human being does not, loosely on the basis of perceived injustices toward a person of his particular skin color, direct his violent impulses toward innocent people of another skin color, nor does he brush under the rug instances where such reprisal occurs as the result of racial grievance.  The rioters and looters are guilty of the former.  The president and the other bulwarks of the welfare state are clearly guilty of the latter.  And it’s certainly time they be held accountable, if we wish to preserve a civilized culture, for all the evils they have wrought.

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