Can We Do More to Help Blacks Improve Their Lot?

 

Nebraska is a progressive state in many respects.  Last fall we raised our state minimum wage.   The Nebraska Legislature is now on the verge of eliminating the death penalty.  Seven years ago the Legislature established the Learning Community in metro Omaha, whose purpose is to eliminate the academic achievement gap between children from the middle class and those living in low-income families.
CaptureI am an elected member of the Learning Community Coordinating Council which oversees the work of the LC.  As such I give a lot of thought to the plight of the low-income black community in north Omaha.  My own answer to the question in the title is yes, of course, there is more we can do but it needs to be carefully directed.  I have written several previous posts on this topic. Here and here.
For example, the Hamilton Project has an excellent program, ”Policies to Address Poverty in America,”  which calls for a highly focused effort along the lines of:

  • Promoting Early Childhood Development
  • Supporting Disadvantaged Youth
  • Building Skills
  • Improving the Safety Net and Work Support

Mr. Robert Balfanz, the Director of the Everyone Graduates Center at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, suggests focusing on the toughest 660 out of 12,600 high schools in the U.S. which fully one-half of non-graduating students attend.  More specifically:

  • Refocus these high poverty high schools in order to identify by the middle of the ninth grade the students most likely to drop out.
  • Set up early warning systems so that adults can step in at the first sign that a student is in trouble.
  • Employ additional adults to support students who need daily nagging to succeed, especially during the key transitional years in the sixth and ninth grades.

These two programs have lots of similarities and are focused on at-risk inner-city youth.  Massive black underachievement is a huge social problem, and ultimately a huge drain on our entire economy as well.  More than just good intentions are necessary for effective intervention.  An intelligent and focused approach as described here would be a good way to proceed.

The Republican Budgets Focus on Entitlement Savings

 

Last week, both the House and the Senate passed ten year budget plans which would bring the federal budget into balance by 2025.  I have devoted several recent blog posts to discussing these budget proposals and how they address our very serious debt and deficit problems.
CaptureThere are several important points to make:

  • Under both of these Republican plans, overall spending will continue to increase by an average of 3.3% per year, from $3.8 trillion in 2016 to just over $5 trillion in 2015. The President’s budget would increase spending to $6.17 trillion by 2025 and would achieve no balance between spending and revenue.
  • Most of the savings in the Republican budgets, as indicated in the above chart, come from the mandatory (entitlement) programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare would be transformed into a subsidy program along the lines of the exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid would be turned into a block grant program administered by the states. Social Security would be studied by a bipartisan commission to recommend operating efficiencies.
  • Other social welfare programs would be affected to a much smaller extent. For example, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or Food Stamps, has seen a growth of recipients of 69% between 2008 and 2013 while the poverty rate increased by just 16.5% during the same period. The Republican budgets would block grant Food Stamps to the states in order to achieve operating efficiencies.
  • It is true that both the House and Senate budgets would increase military spending by about 10%. But so would the President’s budget and we live in a very dangerous world. Military defense is one of the most very basic functions of our federal government.

Our country is in dire fiscal condition with large annual deficits projected indefinitely into the future, contributing to an exploding national debt.  It is heartening that our political system is responding to this threat to our future security and prosperity.  Let’s hope that House and Senate majorities continue to keep a sharp focus on the urgent task of fiscal restraint.

When Liberals Blew It

 

“It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges.”
                                                                       Booker T. Washington, 1856 – 1915

My last two posts have discussed the theme of a new book by Dennis Prager, “Still the Best Hope: why the world needs American values to triumph.” Mr. Prager’s thesis is that there are three competing ideologies for the allegiance of humankind, namely Islamism, Leftism and Americanism and, furthermore, that these three ideologies are incompatible.  Any one of them succeeds at the expense of the other two.
As I said on March 8, Mr. Prager’s broad framework helps me place my own ideological views into perspective.  Here is one example of this. As everyone knows, 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the March from Selma to Montgomery.  But it is also the 50th anniversary of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.”  Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed in today’s New York Times, “When Liberals Blew It” reminds us how prescient Moynihan was about a breakdown in family structure and how reviled he was by liberals when he issued his report.  Mr. Kristof points out that:

  • In 2013, 71% of black children were born to an unwed mother (compared to 53% of Hispanic children and 36% of white children), far more than in 1965.
  • Growing up with just one biological parent reduces the chance that a child will graduate from high school by 40%.
  • A father’s absence from the home increases antisocial behavior especially for boys.

CaptureA column by the black author, Jason Riley, in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, “Drawing the Wrong Lessons from Selma about America today,” points out that the main problem for blacks today is not racial discrimination but rather:

  • A lack of preparation for many jobs which are now available.
  • A black subculture which rejects attitudes and behaviors conducive to upward mobility.
  • That too few blacks are taking advantage of the opportunities now available to them.

In other words, more and more spending on welfare and public services is not what blacks need for further advancement.  Rather it is to stop thinking of themselves as victims and to develop a greater sense of personal responsibility.  This is the American way to get ahead!

How Not to Help Black Americans

 

“It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges.”                                                                  Booker T. Washington, 1856 – 1915

How do we lift up the black underclass, the school dropouts, gang members, and drug dealers who become criminals and spend their lives as a drag on society?  The Wall Street Journal’s (black) editorial writer, Jason Riley, addresses this question in today’s paper, “How Not to Help Black Americans”.  As he says “Upward mobility depends on work and family.  Government policies which undermine the work ethic – open-ended welfare benefits, for example – help keep poor people poor.  Why study hard in school if you will be held to a lower academic standard?  Why change antisocial behavior when people are willing to reward it or make excuses for it?”
A few days ago, Robert Balfanz, the Director of the Everyone Graduates Center at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, wrote in the New York Times, “Stop Holding Us Back”, that even though 80% of Americans now graduate from high school, 33% of the nation’s African-American and Latino young men will not graduate.  Half of these non-graduates go to a total of just 660 high schools out of a total of 12,600 high schools in the country.  He suggests the following:

  • Refocus such high-poverty high schools in order to identify by the middle of ninth grade the students most likely to drop out.
  • Set up early warning systems so that adults can step in at the first sign that a student is in trouble.
  • Employ additional adults to support students who need daily nagging to succeed, especially during the key transitional years in sixth and ninth grade.

Capture Such a plan has been instituted in the Chicago Public Schools as described in “Preventable Failure”.  As the above chart shows, it has led to dramatic improvement in the on-track rate of at-risk ninth graders in CPS.
These two school programs, in Baltimore and Chicago, represent what we should be doing to help all minorities, especially blacks, succeed in life.  Resources provided for such programs will do much more to eliminate poverty than expanding conventional welfare.