Today’s Lesson: Give A Man A Fish…Until He Forgets How to Fish!

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I strikes me as oddly ironic, and frankly, rather depressing to come across this article from CNN today. Says the lead-in to the piece, “The Urban League urges President Obama to tackle the social and economic inequalities faced by black Americans.” It is ironic because it comes so early in the first term of President Barack. Now, I’m not one of those people who figures it’s time to start singing, “Happy Days are Here Again” because of the election of a black U.S. president. Far from it.

Actually, since I figure that politics, as practiced in the U.S. is akin to two guys who look almost identical, fighting over who will get to go first at the controls of a really-fun, one-player video game, I don’t much care who is president. Just because a brother is getting to use the blasters this time, what difference does it make? At the core of freedom is that basic human spirit, ready to take its chances, without infringement or coercion of others. Anything that is based upon coercion, even for supposedly noble goals, is destined for unintended, unexpected, and negative outcomes. Black people, among others, have for years, been the intended recipient of well-intended, yet ham-handed and poorly-conceived government-based philanthropy. That the Urban League provides a shopping list of this type shouldn’t surprise me, but it does disgust me.

Back to that Urban League report, it is depressing because I can’t figure out, for the life of me, why anyone would keep crying to the same massa for salvation when all previous cries have always eventually resulted in more whippings. (I apologize if that’s too graphic, but this is serious stuff.) Rather than further pontificate, maybe we should examine the suggestions from the report from the standpoint of plumb-line libertarianism.According to CNN, “The report lists policy recommendations in the areas of home ownership, jobs, health and education.”

Some of them, are:

  • Increased funding for underskilled workers’ job training programs.

  • Steering workforce investment dollars to construction industry jobs.
  • Funding infrastructure development for public building construction and renovations of schools, community centers, libraries, recreation centers, parks.
  • Creating temporary public service employee program.
  • Passing a homebuyers bill of rights that would protect and educate consumers and provide homebuying help.
  • Restoring a small business loan program and continue tax credit funding.
  • Implementing “a comprehensive and universal health insurance system for all Americans.”
  • Developing “a comprehensive health infrastructure for the delivery of health education, prevention and intervention initiatives” for blacks.
  • Studying health care in the criminal justice system as it relates to black inmates.
  • Examining economic, sociologic and environmental contributors to “chronic health conditions.”
  • Funding in full No Child Left Behind.
  • Guarantee access to high quality early education for 3- and 4-year-olds.

Let’s analyze a few of these, one-at-a-time.

Increased funding for underskilled workers’ job training programs. Translation: Income redistribution, but not direct income redistribution, more of an income-redistribution round robin. Here’s how it would go: Take the money from one party and pay another party to train a third party so that third party can (hopefully) become more employable, probably at a job “owned” by one of the people from whom the original money was taken. Great idea, not!

Steering workforce investment dollars to construction industry jobs. How does the government “steer workforce investment dollars” in any direction, without causing some unintended consequence or malinvestment? (Recall that the steering of money into the housing market and the steering of mortgages to those who otherwise would not qualify for them led, almost directly, to the current mortgage crisis.) Government steering is rather similar to supplying a wino with fresh shots of Jose and Jack, and then handing him the keys to a Lexus while we all get in the trunk and hope for the best. Let’s not and say we did, okay?

Funding infrastructure development for public building construction and renovations of schools, community centers, libraries, recreation centers, parks. In other words, build more inner city piece-of-crap housing and buildings. If there is one thing nobody needs, it’s more government schools! Nuff said.

Creating temporary public service employee program. Didn’t we already try slavery with negative results? Calling it something else is unlikely to change the outcome. Since when does the government do anything temporarily? If there is one stark truth about the American black experience, it is this: Becoming even more beholden to the State ain’t likely to be a good thing.

Passing a homebuyers bill of rights that would protect and educate consumers and provide homebuying help. I have already written at length about the phantom menace of “predatory lending” and how it relates to black people. About the CRA (Community Reinvestment Act), the piece of legislation most-often cited, I said:

While the CRA (and related statist meddling) did result in many people, some of them minorities, obtaining mortgages for which they otherwise could not have qualified, the meltdown included a bunch of homes bought by people who were not the target of the government’s market meddling. Ain’t that always the case? The State starts passing out free lunches and people who aren’t really hungry get to eat too. In the eventual and inevitable negative aftermath, the folks who were the object of the supposedly noble goals are tarred with the same brush as those who helped cause the catastrophe. Everyone pays for it.

Simply put, the State is incapable of specifically targeting anyone for government handouts. Even if they could, that largess would still be the result of theft. Whether or not a person who otherwise could not buy a home deserves one is a matter of philosophical debate. When the government provides that home, via policy or direct contribution, given that the government can only obtain that money via theft, it is a matter of morality.

Studying health care in the criminal justice system as it relates to black inmates. Wow. How about just decriminalizing drugs? The majority of people in prison are there for non-violent drug offenses. A majority of those people are black. Yet, as a means of “lessening the gap” the Urban League suggests that the government take better medical care of black inmates? You cannot make this stuff up.

Funding in full No Child Left Behind. The negative effects of the NCLB Act on students from lower socio-economic strata deserves a full treatment, and maybe one day I’ll get to that, but for now, I’ll just say that I agree with Alfie Kohn when he says, “Its main effect has been to sentence poor children to an endless regimen of test-preparation drills.” My suspicion is the the NCLB Act could be renamed, the “leave as many poor kids behind as possible” act without being far off base. Since I also agree with John Taylor Gatto when he calls public education a form of state-controlled consciousness, it seems to me that fully-funding yet another program of this type won’t benefit anyone, black folk included.

7:42 pm on March 25, 2009