Baltimore’s Real Problems & the Solution

Baltimore is now outwardly calmed, although reports from the ground say that there remains a simmering anger. Some of that has been assuaged by the news that charges are being brought against the six police who were somehow involved with the arrest of Freddie Gray. It’s interesting to note, though, that three of those six are African American, one an African American woman whose last name is White. Irony of ironies.

Let’s be honest here. None of what occurred with Freddie Gray was racial. What the news reports don’t say is that Gray had been arrested something like eighteen times, mostly for dealing drugs. He had served a two-year prison sentence for those activities. He was not exactly a model citizen.

The investigation was cut short by the announcement of the upcoming charges against the police. Those doing the investigating were caught off guard by it, as what appears to be an overzealous prosecutor (who is married to a city councilman who was behind the “stand down” order to police). Many are saying these charges will be dismissed because they are over the top. Many are also saying the only reason these charges were brought so quickly, before the official investigation could be concluded, was to stem the violence, a violence that has no real basis in what happened to Gray, but was merely the opportunity to run wild.

Tell Me Again

I will say again what I said a week ago. What we see in Baltimore is the Great Society in operation. Baltimore has not been neglected by the government; money has flowed into the city. The real question is where has it gone? It seems to disappear, as it goes primarily to politicians and their supporters. It enriches those who are already at the top at the expense of those who are at the bottom. They are kept at the bottom by the handouts they do receive, and the promises of more.

This is the perfect welfare state that keeps people in poverty. I will also mention again, as I did last week, that this city has been run, and is currently run, by those with a “progressive” vision. The last Republican mayor stepped down in the 1960s. You can’t blame them.

Neither can anyone legitimately blame some kind of “white power structure.” The mayor is black, the police commissioner is black, the city council has a majority black representation, and the police force is approximately 50/50 racially (as indicated by the police who have been charged). Baltimore is a corrupt city run by corrupt politicians who have had their way for decades. It’s way past time to be honest about the source of oppression in the city.

Oppressed

Real help for the people of Baltimore will never come from its government. Real help will come from those inspired by their Christian faith to minister to those in need. You know, like the Baptist church that had just completed building a senior citizens’ assisted living center. Only one problem: the rioters burned it to the ground.

Let’s look at the real problems in Baltimore and other cities like it. Let’s look at the real solutions, not the empty promises offered by liberal/progressives who are more adept at lining their own pockets than offering real aid.

I forgot to mention something else at the root of the problem: all these government programs that started in the 1960s have decimated the black family in America. That’s why there are few fathers available to hold the rioting teenagers accountable. The mess we have created can only be solved through a bedrock Christian faith operating through our churches and within families. Without that spiritual rebuilding, there will be more of what we saw in Baltimore. This may be only the beginning of a long hot summer . . . and beyond.

Income Inequality, Faulty Reasoning, & Bad Policy

Barack ObamaWe’re hearing a lot of talk again lately about income inequality. President Obama, in what I believe is an attempt to take the focus off the failure of his signature healthcare law, has come out swinging against those who succeed too much. The impression he wishes to leave is that the reason some are doing poorly is because others are too successful.

This is an old ploy. It goes back to Karl Marx, at least, who theorized that the rich would get richer and the poor get poorer over time, with the rich achieving their high status on the backs of the poor. Marx, by the way, was a terrible prognosticator. He predicted all wealth would end up in the hands of a few, that the workers’ situation would get worse, and then there would be an uprising of workers to throw off the capitalists. In fact, entrepreneurship thrived, with small businesses doing most of the hiring yet today; workers’ standard of living steadily rose through the decades, and no mass uprising occurred. He was flat-out wrong. It’s amazing he still gets any favorable press.

Others took up the same theme, while not as starkly. The New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society programs of the 1960s were extensions of the idea that the government had to step in to provide enough to ensure success for everyone. Think about that: what happens to the definition of success when you don’t allow failure? Well, no need to worry; the War on Poverty has been a complete bust, at least for the poor:

Improving Lives

Good intentions are not enough. Good policy must follow in the wake of those intentions. When all you do is trap people in welfare dependency, what have you really done to help them? You can count on one thing, though, if you criticize the welfare state: you will be accused of not caring for the poor. You will be be labeled as hardhearted and callous:

Really Mean

And don’t mention the national debt; we’re not supposed to notice it has ballooned more in the Obama administration than in all other administrations combined. Neither are we supposed to bring up the embarrassing fact that on Obama’s watch, that income inequality he says he’s so concerned about has gotten worse. Could it be the fault of his policies? No, of course not; he’s not to blame for anything.

Bottom line: Obama operates with a faulty economic vision that sees our economy as a pie that has to be cut and distributed properly. His “pie” is static, never growing. The reality, if he would humble himself enough to recognize it, is that an economy is a dynamic thing that can grow and benefit everyone at all income levels. But to ensure that happens, policies need to allow growth without penalizing those who are the engineers of that growth.

President Obama either doesn’t believe that or he has an unstated goal of suppressing real growth as an excuse for more government control. Either way, his path forward is full of pitfalls and speed bumps. We’ll never turn the corner to genuine prosperity again until he and his cronies are no longer calling the shots.

Dismal Education: The Head Start Failure

Whenever government takes on a task for which it is ill-suited, failure ensues. Nowhere is this failure more evident than in the realm of education. I always begin with a Biblical analysis, and in this case I find no basis in Scripture for civil government to be in charge of education. That is primarily the responsibility of parents. Historically in America—prior to the development of the public school system—parents, churches, private academies, and local townships dominated education, and we were probably the most literate nation on earth.

Then we decided to mess up the system by getting the government deeply involved. There are a lot of examples I could give, but today I just want to mention the Head Start program that began in the 1960s as part of LBJ’s Great Society—one of the greatest misnomers in history.

The stated goal of Head Start was to provide comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parental involvement services to low-income children and their families. Sounds good, right? It has continued to expand over the years, always getting reauthorized with even more funding, because presumably all these problems can be solved by spending as much money as possible. At least that’s the theory.

Studies, though, even those conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, are revealing a rather dismal showing for all the dollars being thrown at these children. Although they seem to be helping them at the ages of three and four, by the time they have completed first grade, there is no discernible difference in their performance or emotional stability than the children who were not in the program. Spending those billions of dollars yielded little in return. No amount of funding can compensate for the fact that 70% of inner-city children grow up without a father in the home. The destruction of the family structure has more of a negative impact on these children than anything government can do to balance that loss. Yet those who are responsible for the program have a hard time facing reality.

The cartoon captures an important fact about how liberals/progressives operate: it’s more about feeling good about doing something they believe is beneficial than it is about being really effective. They live for the government program and cannot handle the truth. In fact, they are very skilled at fixing the blame elsewhere:

Head Start is only one small example of government-sponsored education’s spiritual, moral, and intellectual poverty. Even more pernicious are the emphases on trendy causes such as diversity, multiculturalism, environmentalism, radical feminism, and the immorality of most sex education. If we want to examine the roots of our cultural rot, a major factor would have to be the deterioration of education. That’s probably sufficient reason for a series of posts in the near future.

A Historian’s Perspective on Bad Times in American History

I don’t think there’s really any disagreement about how pessimistic the majority of Americans are about the future. Currently, all the polls reveal that pessimism.  As I survey the scene—the spiritual/moral, political, and cultural aspects [what does that leave?]—I have grave concerns as well. I plan to expound on those concerns in tomorrow’s post. But for now, I’d like to offer a historian’s perspective.

Since I teach American history, I have a more in-depth knowledge of what has transpired previously. I can imagine myself transported back into earlier eras and think about how I might have felt about current events at those times. Bad moral climates, disunity, and devastating government policies have cropped up throughout our history.

If my life had spanned the late colonial and revolutionary era, for instance, I would probably have been quite distressed over the state of affairs. The colonies had declared independence, and it was a thrilling prospect, but the progress of the war was anything but thrilling. George Washington was often near despair over the inability of the Congress to pay his troops or provide for their needs. Thousands deserted during events such as Valley Forge. There was talk of meekly bowing to the British because all hopes for the future now appeared to be delusional. Even after achieving independence, the new states didn’t seem to want to work together; the entire national governmental structure was on the verge of collapse.

If I had experienced the 1790s, I would have been shocked by the vitriol that spewed forth daily in the newspapers, particularly those who accused Washington of wanting to set himself up as king. The French Revolution, which took place at that time, was one of the bloodiest episodes in all of history, and many in America were hailing it as a magnificant development. I would begin to question the wisdom of the electorate and wonder if this fledgling country could survive its first decade after the Constitution.

Later, during the War of 1812, our military defenses were so disorganized that the British actually burned Washington, DC, including the president’s house and the Capitol. Their troops were ravaging the countryside, destroying everything in their path without any effective countermeasures. What a low point for a nation.

Then there’s the Civil War and the decade that led to it. Passions were so heated in Congress that representatives started bringing their weapons with them into the House and Senate for protection. Slavery, by this time, had become entrenched. The Founding Fathers had hoped to eliminate it, but now the South was proclaiming it to be a positive good from God. The nation split; more than 620,000 died in the war that followed, the highest tally for any American war. Bitterness remained for years afterward [you can still see its remnants today].

The Progressive Movement, after the turn of the twentieth century, introduced more government involvement in people’s lives and decided that the Constitution was an outdated document that had to be reinterpreted. Woodrow Wilson, a racist and a eugenicist, took the presidency. The eugenics movement sought to limit who could have children; only the “best” should reproduce. This movement formed the cornerstone of Nazi policies in Germany later.

Wilson moved the country down the path that led to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s—the fulfillment of progressive dreams as the government took charge of getting the nation out of the Great Depression. FDR’s policies were so dismally foolish that the Depression continued until WWII. If I had lived during those decades, I would have mourned the loss of Biblical principles and constitutional limitations. The reigning ideology tossed out the concept of the rule of law. Now, anything could happen.

I did live during the 1960s and 1970s. It was not pleasant. First was LBJ’s Great Society, which could be described as the New Deal on steroids, followed by the rancor of the Vietnam War, then Nixon’s Watergate fiasco, and finally, the debilitated presidencies of Ford and Carter. The economy was in the tank, the worst since the Great Depression. Along the way, we also concluded that innocent children in the womb could be murdered.

I say all of this to make this point: there have always been bad times. Quite often, those who believe in Biblical morality and constitutionalism have come to the edge of despair. Yet we are still here. There is still hope to turn things around. We survived the disunity of the Revolution and the Civil War. We overcame the disgrace of the burning of the nation’s capital. Calvin Coolidge reversed Woodrow Wilson’s policies and Jimmy Carter brought forth Ronald Reagan.

Will the disaster that is the Obama administration become a footnote in our history or have we turned a corner and lost our way forever? That page in our history has yet to be written. We are the ones who will write it. If we take our responsibility seriously, hope remains.

Battles in the Budget [and Philosophical] War

The budget battle has only begun, and one very important part of that will be the debt ceiling. House Republicans had their first vote on it last week, denying the Obama administration its desire to raise the limit.

It was only the first shot in this war. More will be forthcoming.

Then there’s the ongoing fight to repeal Obamacare. It’s really quite amazing how something that was billed as great for everyone has become the focal point of many groups wanting waivers from its requirements—and the administration doesn’t seem reluctant to give them.

Businesses see disaster approaching, so they naturally want to avoid it. Of course, the best way to avoid it is to throw it out completely.

Also on the health front is the problem with Medicare—its bankruptcy. Yet one political party doesn’t even want to think about it until much much later.

On Medicare, I take a position different from both liberals and most conservatives: I don’t think it should even exist. First, there is no constitutional authority for it; second, it is driving the nation into greater financial chaos; finally, it is program Karl Marx would have loved. Here we are getting all exercised [rightly] about Obamacare, yet we act like Medicare is wonderful. Philosophically, there’s little difference. Medicare was the brainchild of LBJ’s Great Society.

Well, I don’t expect my position to get anywhere at this point. If we can at least get it closer to a free-market solution, we will be headed in the right direction. I’ll take small steps in the right direction anytime; they can lead to bigger steps.

Party of Which People?

I’ve always found it somewhat comical that the Democratic party refers to itself as the party of the people. Historically, it has been the Democrats who have pushed the idea that the government, not individuals, knows best.

It started with Woodrow Wilson. He was devoted to the idea that the Constitution was a “living” document that politicians and judges could alter at will. During WWI, Wilson took almost complete control of the American economy, even to the point of nationalizing the railroads. He had little patience with anyone who disagreed with him, surrounding himself with “yes men” who would always do what he said. 

FDR, in the 1930s, had the golden opportunity to put progressive policies into action during the Great Depression. On the surface, they were carried out for the “common man,” but in reality, they stifled economic recovery, thereby hurting everyone, including all the “little people.”

LBJ, after the assassination of JFK, had a Congress that would do almost anything he asked. Again, in the name of the people, he embarked upon what he termed the “Great Society.” Its greatest accomplishment was the creation of a permanent dependent class. Of course, for some, that is the goal: if people depend on the government for their subsistence, they will continue to vote the party in power that promises to keep the goodies flowing.

FDR and JFK were independently wealthy. They never worked a day in their lives. Wilson was part of the intellectual elite, having served as president of Princeton. LBJ practically ran the state of Texas. All politics was subservient to him. These are hardly men who are part of any proletarian revolution. They were the privileged.

Nothing has changed. Democratic senators like Jay Rockefeller and Herb Kohl are the wealthiest of the wealthy. The media always connects the Republicans with Wall Street, but in fact, Wall Streeters donate more to the Democrats than Republicans.

Party of the people?

The Tea Party movement gains strength, and the so-called party of the people doesn’t know what to do with the people. As they sit in their seats of power, looking down on the rabble, what do they think?

In the space of a little more than 200 years, perceptions have changed tremendously.

If they are the party of the people, someone should ask just which people they mean.