Friday, September 16, 2005

NEA Today Factoid, And It's Relation to New Orleans Looting

Yes, I got my September 205 Issue of the NEA Today. Yes, there's plenty of post material in there for me :)

But for this post I want to comment on only one small piece of information, contained in a box at the lower left corner of page 10. Set aside in a colored box so as to draw attention to it, it says

That's how many kids live in poverty in America--the same now as 30 years ago, according to the 2004 Kids Count report put out by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Is that adequate yearly progress?

I'll leave aside for a moment the fact that my union, the one that legally gets my money in spite of my personal wishes, should be looking after me, not looking after every child in the United States. I'll leave aside for a moment the fact that the income level of children's parents is the responsibility of those parents, not the federal government. I'll leave aside for a moment the fact that I've never before heard of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. I'll leave aside for a moment that we have a much larger population now than we did 30 years ago, so if the same number of children are in poverty, that would be a smaller percentage (although one could read that 1 in 6 is the same number as 30 years ago).

What seems amazing to me is the fact that the NEA mentions this fact in such a way as to indict the federal government. If in fact this statistic is true, and I have no reason to believe that it isn't, it truly is an indictment all right--against the welfare state of the left. How many hundreds of billions of dollars or more have been spent on the War on Poverty and Johnson's Great Society--apparently to no avail?

These policies, and not racism or the Republican Party or big business or illegal aliens, have created a permanent underclass. Why? Because they rob people of the basic human drive to improve oneself. Recognizing this fact with welfare reform was one of the Clinton administration's greatest achievements--not because it lowered the cost of welfare payments to the American public, but because it brought dignity to people who previously had known none by encouraging them to work and giving them opportunities to learn skills so they could work. It was truly a hand up, not a handout, to steal a phrase.

The left would have us believe that welfare and food stamps and Medicare and The Projects are good for people. In the long term, they rot the soul. The excuses we heard for the looting in New Orleans after the hurricane deny that fact.

Jonathan Alter of Newsweek (of all places) wrote an exceptional article for the September 19th issue in which he seems to admit this. Anyone can find something he/she likes in this article--it see-saws back and forth between conservative and liberal talking points so much that, when aggregated, it makes sense. I disagree with the statement about New Orleans' looting and poverty, "But this was a case where the poor were clearly not at fault", but can't help but agree with "His (President Bush's) main involvement with poverty issues has been on education, where he sharply increased aid to poor schools as part of his No Child Left Behind initiative. Democrats have offered little on education beyond opposition to NCLB." How about this synthesis: "Liberals say the problem (poverty) is an economic system that's tilted to the rich; conservatives blame a debilitating culture of poverty. Clearly, it's both--a tangle of financial and personal pain that often goes beyond insufficient resources and lack of training. Family issues are critical." Anyone who's ever heard black kids taunted for "acting white" for doing well in school understands the effect of culture on poverty. Bottom line: I liked Alter's article. It didn't offer any solutions, but it gave a reasoned starting point for identifying the problems in need of solutions.

This post is a little more right-leaning, pointing out:

No one has really reported this story, as far as I can tell. In fact, some are already actively distorting it, blaming President Bush, for example, for failing to personally ensure that the Mayor of New Orleans had drafted an adequate evacuation plan. The worst example is an execrable piece from the Toronto Globe and Mail, by a supercilious Canadian who blames the chaos on American "individualism." But the truth is precisely the opposite: the chaos was caused by a system that was the exact opposite of individualism.

What Hurricane Katrina exposed was the psychological consequences of the welfare state. What we consider "normal" behavior in an emergency is behavior that is normal for people who have values and take the responsibility to pursue and protect them. People with values respond to a disaster by fighting against it and doing whatever it takes to overcome the difficulties they face. They don't sit around and complain that the government hasn't taken care of them. And they don't use the chaos of a disaster as an opportunity to prey on their fellow men.

Fortunately, there's light at the end of this tunnel. ABC News reporters seemed a little stunned after the President's speech last night when Astrodome tenants blamed the New Orleans mayor, and not President Bush, for their predicament. But I can't disagree with the closing comment from RealClearPolitics:

The welfare state—and the brutish, uncivilized mentality it sustains and encourages—is the man-made disaster that explains the moral ugliness that has swamped New Orleans. And that is the story that no one is reporting.

And I'll go a step further. This is the welfare state that the NEA repeatedly endorses, encourages, and lobbies for--with my money.

And now lets go to Barbara Bush's infamous comment. I first heard about it from a Democrat former-lobbyist and current something-along-those-lines. It sounds very Marie Antoinette-esque, and I'm not going to defend Mrs. Bush because I don't know exactly which meaning she meant. But Gerard Baker of the Times Online (UK) has some interesting comments about it:

“What I’m hearing is that many of them want to stay in Texas,” the former First Lady said. “The hospitality has been so overwhelming. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.”

Not since Louis XVI’s missus puzzled about the dietary choices of indigent Parisians has there been such an appalling display of aristocratic ignorance. How dare she? How could she? Even the White House winced.

But in the disgust that greeted her remarks in Highgate and the Upper West Side no one stopped to consider the possibility that Mrs Bush was, in fact, dead right.

Anyone who has visited the most deprived parts of America’s cities, rather than merely empathised with them from afar, would have no difficulty whatsoever with the proposition that the inhabitants would prefer an air-conditioned sports stadium with all the food they can eat, the country’s best medical attention and the benign security of National Guard protection to the hunger, sickness and lawlessness in which many of them live.....

But Mrs Bush touched on a larger truth, almost wholly obscured in the rush to judgment. Most of the attention has focused on how the Government failed in responding to the disaster. I have done it myself. Grand conclusions have been drawn about the (flawed) nature of American society. I’ve done a bit of that too. But little has been said about what the response of ordinary Americans — not mayors or governors or presidents — tells us about the strengths of that same American society.

Hunger, sickness, and lawlessness. Apparently our Great Society programs are working miracles. But what about those evil capitalists?

Forty-two local businesses participated in a job fair for the new homeless at the Armoury on Tuesday; more wanted to take part but couldn’t because there was limited space. Twenty of the 150 or so evacuees were hired on the spot. An official at the District of Columbia government involved in organising the event said that more were expected to be offered jobs in the next few days. The exercise was such a success that employers are demanding another one. If there’s anyone left still to hire it will take place in the next couple of weeks.

The story is being replicated across the country. The victims of Katrina are getting new opportunities. Some of it comes from an immense outpouring of compassion by Americans in the form of hundreds of millions of dollars in charitable contributions and unquantifiable help in housing families and schooling children. Some of it comes from the unsentimental compassion of the free market: the unerring capacity of the capitalist system to match those who have something with those who need it, whether it be labour, capital, goods or services.

Both tell us far more about the way this country works, the strengths of its values and people, than the bureaucratic bungling in Baton Rouge and Washington.

Of course you will almost certainly not have read or seen much about this, especially outside the US. The world has indicted America once again on charges of ineptitude and racism and has moved on to more important matters such as Britney Spears’s baby. For a variety of reasons this good news about the response of ordinary Americans is of little interest to the media. First, no self-respecting reporter wants to waste his time with insights into the better angels of human nature. No one ever won a Pulitzer or a Bafta recounting banal tales of man’s humanity to man. [emphasis mine--Darren]

Up with capitalism.

Here's the most brilliant part of an already brilliant essay:

But the main reason I think these recovery efforts by millions of people attract insufficient attention is that most people have become conditioned to thinking solely in terms of government’s responsibility. Of course, the bulk of the recovery effort must be paid from public funds as President Bush announced yesterday but most Europeans and — despite decades of a so-called conservative revolution — a large number of Americans, can’t think beyond the government.

Something bad happens: it’s government’s fault for not preventing it. It’s government’s responsibility for cleaning up the mess. And if the mess gets bigger, that’s government’s fault too.

The irony is that New Orleans is one of those cities where government-dependency had reached such levels that a kind of economic and social anomie had set in.

Remember, the NEA wants the federal government to pay for everything--but doesn't expect results. Pay for schools, but don't test those kids to ensure they're learning something. Give money to poor people so we can show what a kind and moral society we are, but decades later the percentage of kids in poverty hasn't changed. Then, when we as a society reap what we have sown, often with NEA's full blessing, the "union" seeks to point the finger elsewhere.

1 comment:

Darren said...

To whoever posted a comment: I responded and then caught an egregious grammar error. Deleted both our comments by mistake. I apologize.