By Rev. Dr. Tommy Davis
The recent justification by black clergy of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s uncomplimentary utterances of America that forced presidential candidate Barack Obama to shift tactics in his quest for the White House require some contrary attention.
While Our U. S. Constitution allows protection for certain free speech in our criticisms of government, clerics should be attentive regarding the content and the subsequent effects of racially charged homilies. Far too often the black clergy of contemporary times have involved themselves in post traumatic theology fashioned after the Civil Rights movement of the mid-twentieth century that exhumes cultural tension.
Any informed citizen do recognize the need for improved ethnic and gender relations in our economy; and that was the objective of what African-Americans termed “liberation theology” that had its beginning with the Africans’ experience after the Middle Passage upon their conversion to Christianity. Within the context of this historical phrase was the psychosocial consciousness that the oppressed women and our forebears in slavery were equally important in the eyes of the living God as discovered in the revealed Scriptures. The aim was egalitarianism in regards to the human race and liberty without compulsory subjugation. Progressive liberation theology also included the sociopolitical, the participation in civic life that promoted the interest of America as a republic by honoring our civil duties, thereby benefiting the residents within who were subject to its jurisdiction.
Unfortunately, it seems that some ministers of the minority order have lost ground and have produced pews of parishioners of the separatism with children of aggression in the community who are committing crimes and going off to prison by the hundreds of thousands. This is the offspring of deficient learning. Only smoke is left of the once inferno of religious devotion in the African-American church that was forced upon her by white separatists. We scream and shout from the pulpit, not from high blood pressure and lack of amplified audio, but from the emulation of custom that had substance long ago when black clergy were truly devout and serious about their commitment to Christ and family. The Christian’s God will never speak through sermons in contrast with His declared Word —the Bible. God has no black church or white church or any other label we insert in our religious journey that seeks to exclude others while inflating our personal worth.
My homiletical instruction in Bible college taught me that every sermon must serve two purposes —-repentance and inspiration. An oration that generates a contrite heart and arouses in the hearers a need to change is what sodium is to chlorine that produces salt. Without the combination of these two elements there can be no valued substance that would serve as a seasoning or a product that prevents bacteria from rising.
Thus, acceptable biblical hermeneutics would have, as its goal, the herald advocating a communal liberation whereas the public would live in harmony and share the earth’s resources through collective contribution in producing wealth rather than the suppression of one group for the benefit of the other.
The liberation theology that has affected me most was the spiritual freedom that released me from the mindset of a juvenile delinquent to that of a productive member of society. Through its educational component I’ve learned to recognize the possibilities before me and the ability to proceed to fulfill my spiritual and economic purpose in this ever changing world. Thus, if I am to liberate others spiritually, economically, and educationally, I must be the outcome of that way of life, or else, as the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, that if he preached to others while in unbelief: “I myself would be disqualified.” I conclude that Rev. Wright’s proclamations exhibit personal grievances that lack biblical confirmation when considering the whole counsel of God.
Global Warming Policies Cool Minority Economic Engines
By Deneen Borelli
March 27, 2008
For someone once considered “our first black president,” Bill Clinton seems to have particular disregard for the economic well-being of minorities when it comes to energy.
At a recent rally, the former Man from Hope said: “We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ’cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.”
Slowing down the economy won’t hurt Clinton and Al Gore – his former vice president and self-appointed global warming czar – it will hurt lower-income families, especially minorities. With all the panic over indications the economy may already be slowing, why purposely make things worse?
But Bill Clinton is not alone. The leading presidential candidates for both parties right now want more global warming regulation. While claiming to be for the little guy, they ignore the dire consequences of increased unemployment and higher consumer prices for those already struggling.
In the Senate, the “America’s Climate Security Act” (S. 2191), introduced by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA), penalizes companies that emit greenhouse gases. Called a “cap-and-trade” program, it’s basically a tax on fossil fuels.
According to Charles River Associates International (CRAI), S. 2191 would cost up to $6 trillion over 40 years. Minority staffers with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee report Senator Lieberman himself admits it would be “hard to imagine” his bill wouldn’t cost industry and power companies “hundreds of billions of dollars to comply” with it.
That’s not all. CRAI also estimates up to 3.4 millions jobs may disappear by 2020 if global warming regulations are enacted.
Rising fossil fuel costs are already driving jobs overseas. Dow Chemical Company recently announced plans to build plants in Saudi Arabia and China that could someday rival petrochemical facilities on our Gulf Coast. It’s part of Dow’s “asset-light” strategy of expanding its manufacturing capacity by partnering with overseas production partners with greater access to cheaper energy and fast-growing markets.
Then there’s the fact that high energy prices disproportionately harm low- and fixed-income consumers. A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on cap-and-trade states “… most of the cost of meeting a cap on CO2 emissions would be borne by consumers, who would face persistently higher prices for products such as electricity and gasoline.” The report adds “… poorer households would bear a larger burden relative to their income than wealthier households would.”
A Duke Energy analysis of S. 2191 predicts “power bills could increase by up to 53 percent when the legislation [becomes] effective in 2012.” That’s an average. In a coal-dependent state such as Indiana, customers could see up to a 94.9 percent increase in utility bills.
CRAI estimates the average American household living under S. 2191 will pay between $800 and $1,300 more per year to heat, cool and otherwise power their homes. Bill Clinton can cover that much, but what about those living in poverty? Those living below the poverty line are 24.3 percent black and 20.6 percent Hispanic – a figure higher than their percentages of the overall population.
Don’t forget that higher fuel prices will affect other things, such as the cost of transporting food and other staples to market. The price will be borne by consumers.
Affordable, plentiful and reliable energy is the foundation of our economy. Rising energy costs will lower a standard of living that shouldn’t be surrendered to unsubstantiated theories about climate change.
If Bill Clinton’s rhetoric about wanting to “slow down our economy” is realized, it will be painful to the most vulnerable. This time, however, Bill won’t be feeling their pain.
Deneen Borelli is a fellow with the Project 21 black leadership network. Comments may be sent to DBorelli@nationalcenter.org. Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.
In the United States, the two groups that most ardently support Israel are Jews and evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. Jewish support is easy to explain, but why should certain Christians, most of them politically quite conservative, be so devoted to Israel? There is a second puzzle: despite their support for a Jewish state, evangelical and fundamentalist Christians are disliked by many Jews. And a third: a large fraction of African-Americans are hostile to Israel and critical of Jews, yet Jewish voters regard blacks as their natural allies.
The evidence about evangelical attitudes is clear. In 2006, a Pew survey found that evangelical Christians were more favorable toward Israel than the average American was—and much more sympathetic than either mainline Protestants or secularists. In another survey, evangelical Christians proved much likelier than Catholics, Protestants, or secular types to back Israeli control of Jerusalem, endorse Israeli settlements on the West Bank, and take Israel’s side in a Middle Eastern dispute. (Among every religious group, those who are most traditional are most supportive of Israel. The most orthodox Catholics and Protestants, for instance, support Israel more than their modernist colleagues do.)
Evangelical Christians have a high opinion not just of the Jewish state but of Jews as people. That Jewish voters are overwhelmingly liberal doesn’t seem to bother evangelicals, despite their own conservative politics. Yet Jews don’t return the favor: in one Pew survey, 42 percent of Jewish respondents expressed hostility to evangelicals and fundamentalists. As two scholars from Baruch College have shown, a much smaller fraction—about 16 percent—of the American public has similarly antagonistic feelings toward Christian fundamentalists.
The reason that conservative Christians—opposed to abortion and gay marriage and critical of political liberalism—can feel kindly toward Jewish liberals and support Israel so fervently is rooted in theology. One finds among fundamentalist Protestants a doctrine called dispensationalism. The dispensationalist outlook, which began in early-nineteenth-century England, sees human history as a series of seven periods, or dispensations, in each of which God deals with man in a distinctive way. The first, before Adam’s fall, was the era of innocence; the second, from Adam to Noah, the era of conscience; the third, from Noah to Abraham, of government; the fourth, from Abraham to Moses, of patriarchy; the fifth, from Moses to Jesus, of Mosaic law; and the sixth, from Jesus until today, of grace. The seventh and final dispensation, yet to come, will be the Millennium, an earthly paradise.
For dispensationalists, the Jews are God’s chosen people. For the Millennium to come, they must be living in Israel, whose capital is Jerusalem; there, the Temple will rise again at the time of Armageddon. On the eve of that final battle, the Antichrist will appear—probably in the form of a seeming peacemaker. Fundamentalists differ over who the Antichrist will be (at one time he was thought to be Nero, at another time the papacy, and today a few have suggested the secretary-general of the United Nations), but dispensationalists agree that he will deceive the people, occupy the Temple, rule in the name of God, and ultimately be defeated by the Messiah. Many dispensationalists believe that how a person treats Israel will profoundly influence his eternal destiny.
Christian dispensationalists were early Zionists and continue to support Israel today, for it is there that they believe Christ will return. In 1878, William Blackstone, a well-known dispensationalist and the author of Jesus Is Coming, wrote a document that argued for a Jewish state in Palestine. It appeared in 1891, five years before Theodor Herzl called for a Jewish state and six years before the first Zionist Congress. Blackstone got more than 400 dignitaries to sign his document, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the Speaker of the House, John D. Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan, and several other prominent Americans, almost all of them Christians. After President Benjamin Harrison ignored the petition, Blackstone tried again in 1916 with President Woodrow Wilson, who was more sympathetic—and who supported the British foreign minister, Arthur Balfour, a devout Protestant, when in 1917 he issued his famous declaration calling for a Jewish home in Palestine.
Evangelical and fundamentalist Christian preachers enthusiastically promote this pro-Israel vision. In a study of preachers in 19 denominations, political scientist James Guth of Furman University found that evangelicals were much likelier to back Israel in their sermons than mainline Protestants or Catholics were, a difference that persisted after controlling for age, sex, party identification, and type of media used to reach congregations. Guth also showed that self-described evangelicals who attended church regularly, and thus heard their ministers’ sermons, were much more inclined to support Israel than were believers who did not attend regularly.
Evangelical preachers are reinforced by popular Christian books. In 1970, Hal Lindsey published The Late Great Planet Earth; in 1995, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins followed with Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days, and went on to write 11 more volumes on the same theme. Lindsey can claim more than 35 million sales, and the Left Behind books have sold 60 million. These bestsellers tell the dispensationalist story, discuss Armageddon, and argue for the protection of Jews and of Israel. Lindsey argues that, based on the book of Revelations and related biblical sources, “some time in the future,” there will be “a seven-year period climaxed by the visible return of Jesus Christ” but that this will not happen until the Jewish people have reestablished their nation in their ancient homeland.
Whatever one makes of his prediction, Lindsey is unambiguous about the importance of Israel to him—and, by extension, to his millions of readers. Reinforcing the preachers and writers are various pro-Israel evangelical organizations, including Bridges for Peace, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, and the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel.
Mainstream Protestant groups, such as the National Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches, have a very different attitude toward Israel. The NCC, for example, refused to support Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967, and immediately afterward began to protest victorious Israel’s expansion of its territory. From that point on, the NCC’s positions ran closely with Arab opinion, urging American contact with the Palestine Liberation Organization, for instance, and denouncing the Camp David Accords because they supposedly ignored the Palestinians’ national ambitions. In 2004, the Presbyterian Church decided to study a proposal to divert its investments from firms doing business with Israel. Within a year, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and parts of the Methodist Church followed suit. As Paul Charles Merkley sums up in his book about Christian Zionism, mainline Protestant churches’ “respectable leadership had backed away from Israel; all of her constant friends were seated below the salt.”
Why do mainline Protestant leaders oppose Israel? That question becomes harder to answer when one recalls that Israel is a democratic nation with vigorously independent courts that has not only survived brutal attacks by its Arab neighbors but provided a prosperous home for the children of many Holocaust survivors. As with any other nation, Israel has pursued policies that one can challenge. Some may criticize its management of the West Bank, for example, or its attacks on Hamas leaders. But these concerns are trivial compared with Iran’s announced desire to wipe Israel off the map by using every weapon at its disposal, including (eventually) a nuclear one.
The answer, I think, is that many Christian liberals see Israel as blocking the aspirations of the oppressed—who, they have decided, include the Palestinians. Never mind that the Palestinians support suicide bombers and rocket attacks against Israel; never mind that the Palestinians cannot form a competent government; never mind that they wish to occupy Israel “from the sea to the river.” It is enough that they seem oppressed, even though much of the oppression is self-inflicted.
After the Marxist claims about the proletariat proved false and capitalism was vindicated as the best way to achieve economic affluence, leftists had to stop pretending that they could accomplish much with state-owned factories and national economic plans. As a result, the oppressed replaced the proletariat as the Left’s object of affection. The enemy became, not capitalists, but successful nations.
That shift in focus has received encouragement from certain American academics, such as Noam Chomsky, and from the European press, including the BBC, the Guardian, the Evening Standard, and Le Monde. All tend to denounce Israel in the most unrestrained terms. When Israeli ground forces sought to root out terrorists hiding in a Jenin refugee camp, they lost 23 soldiers and killed 52 Palestinians. Among other press critics, the British writer A. N. Wilson, uninterested in the facts, called the episode a “massacre” and a “genocide.” The Left will always have its enemies; Israel has merely replaced John D. Rockefeller at the top of the list.
But why do so many Jewish groups and voters abhor their Christian evangelical allies? To answer that question carefully, we would need data that distinguish among Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and secular Jews. It is quite possible that Orthodox Jews welcome evangelical support while Reform and secular ones oppose it, but I could find no data on which to base a firm conclusion. Most Jews are political liberals, devoted to the Democratic Party and liberal causes generally. As Milton Himmelfarb once put it, “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” Such voting habits are not hard to explain in a population that historically includes victims of discrimination, oppression, and mass murder. By contrast, evangelicals tend to be conservatives to whom politics seems less important than their dispensationalist beliefs.
That liberal politics trumps other considerations—including worries about anti-Semitism—for many American Jews becomes clearer in light of other data. The most anti-Semitic group in America is African-Americans. This wasn’t always the case. Many early black leaders, including W. E. B. Du Bois and Ralph Bunche, were quite supportive of American Jews. Du Bois even criticized Bunche for being “insufficiently pro-Zionist.” The NAACP endorsed the creation of Israel in 1948, and the Jewish state received continued support from Paul Robeson, Bayard Rustin, and Martin Luther King, Jr. But by the time of the 1967 war, much of that leadership had left the scene. Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, James Forman, Malcolm X, and Shirley Du Bois (widow of W. E. B. Du Bois) were critical of Israel. At a New Left convention in the late 1960s, black delegates insisted on passing a resolution condemning the “imperialist Zionist war.” Nowadays, according to several polls, about one-third of U.S. blacks have very anti-Semitic attitudes, and this hasn’t changed since at least 1964, when the first such poll was conducted. And it has been African-American leaders, not white evangelicals, who have made anti-Semitic remarks most conspicuously. Everyone recalls Jesse Jackson’s reference to New York as “Hymietown,” to say nothing of Louis Farrakhan, a great admirer of Hitler, who has called Jews “bloodsuckers.”
Yet African-American voters are liberals, and so often get a pass from their Jewish allies. To Jews, blacks are friends and evangelicals enemies, whatever their respective dispositions toward Jews and Israel.
But another reason, deeper than Jewish and evangelical differences over abortion, school prayer, and gay marriage, may underlie Jewish dislike of Christian fundamentalists. Though evangelical Protestants are supportive of Israel and tolerant of Jews, in the eyes of their liberal critics they are hostile to the essential elements of a democratic regime. They believe that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and worry about the decay of morality; they must wish, therefore, to impose a conservative moral code, alter the direction of the country so that it conforms to God’s will, require public schools to teach Christian beliefs, and crush the rights of minorities.
Christian Smith, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, analyzed four surveys of self-identified evangelicals and found that, while they do think that America was founded as a Christian nation and fear that the country has lost its moral bearings, these views are almost exactly the same as those held by non-evangelical Americans. Evangelicals, like other Americans, oppose having public schools teach Christian values, oppose having public school teachers lead students in vocal prayers, and oppose a constitutional amendment declaring the country a Christian nation. Evangelicals deny that there is one correct Christian view on most political issues, deny that Jews must answer for allegedly killing Christ, deny that laws protecting free speech go too far, and reject the idea that whites should be able to keep blacks out of their neighborhoods. They overwhelmingly agree that Jews and Christians share the same values and can live together in harmony. Evangelicals strongly oppose abortion and gay marriage, but in almost every other respect are like other Americans.
Whatever the reason for Jewish distrust of evangelicals, it may be a high price to pay when Israel’s future, its very existence, is in question. Half of all Protestants in the country describe themselves as evangelical, or born-again, Christians, making up about one-quarter of all Americans (though they constitute only 16 percent of white Christian voters in the Northeast). Jews, by contrast, make up less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, and that percentage will shrink: as many as half of all Jews marry non-Jews. When it comes to helping secure Israel’s survival, the tiny Jewish minority in America should not reject the help offered by a group that is ten times larger and whose views on the central propositions of a democratic society are much like everybody else’s. No good can come from repeating the 1926 assertion of H. L. Mencken that fundamentalist Christians are “yokels” and “morons.”
James Q. Wilson, formerly a professor at Harvard and at UCLA, now lectures at Pepperdine University. In 2003 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. His article is adapted from a Manhattan Institute lecture.
At one point in his speech, for instance, Obama suggested that some black poverty today can be attributed to the “legalized discrimination” that existed in America prior to the civil rights laws of the 1960s, which, in his telling, prevented black families from accumulating “wealth to bequeath to future generations.” Obama seemed to suggest that families in America escape poverty by patiently accumulating wealth and passing it on to future generations—when in fact millions of Americans of all races leap out of poverty within a single lifetime through their own initiative, not their inheritances. We are long past the time when the legacy of Jim Crow laws and other forms of official discrimination can explain black poverty rates.
Reading Obama’s speech prompted me to look at his larger economic policy proposals, especially those aimed at combating poverty. Clearly, he believes that our economy is failing many Americans, and to help the impoverished, he proposes everything from tax credits for the working poor to a higher minimum wage. In fairness, on these issues, he’s not much different than his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Yet both candidates are largely missing the point. While they insist that strengthening labor unions or protecting homeowners from foreclosures will alleviate the hardships of the poor, the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census remind us that the breakdown of the traditional two-parent, married family is a far greater contributor to poverty in America than many of the supposed shortcomings of our economy. It’s hard to imagine that America will make much more headway on reducing persistent poverty until it halts this long-term trend.
The Census Bureau’s study on the living arrangements of American children appeared in mid-February. The data show that the number of children now living in two-parent families has dipped just below the 70 percent mark for the first time since the Census began collecting data on family formation nearly 130 years ago. After peaking in the 1950s—when about 87 percent of all children lived with two parents—the traditional family went through a rapid decline beginning in the 1970s and has continued to shrink over the last three decades, though the rate of decline has slowed somewhat. As part of this sweeping change, the percentage of children living with married parents has fallen more rapidly, down more than two full percentage points, to 66.6 percent of all kids, in the last 10 years alone. Consistent with these decreases has been a sharp rise in the number of children living with single parents and with unmarried parents.
The economic impact of this breakdown has been profound. Researchers estimate that the entire rise in poverty in America since the late 1970s can be attributed to “changes in family formation,” a euphemism for the decline of families headed by two married parents. The latest Census data illustrate the problem. Only one out of ten American kids living in two-married-parent families is in poverty—and about one-third of these families are recent immigrants whose poverty is temporary. By contrast, 37 percent of children living with single mothers are impoverished.
Marriage seems to be the defining characteristic of economically successful families. With out-of-wedlock birth rates in America soaring, so that many traditional families aren’t so much breaking up as never getting started, the percentage of children living with cohabiting parents is growing. Yet these kids are three times more likely to be in poverty than the children of married parents. The data actually demonstrate that poverty rates for families headed by two unmarried parents more closely resemble the poverty rates of single-parent families than those of two-married-parent ones.
Part of this shocking difference owes to what City Journal contributing editor Kay S. Hymowitz has called the “marriage gap” in America (“Marriage and Caste,” Winter 2006). Hymowitz describes how better-educated, higher-income men and women are now more likely to delay having children until they’re married, while lower-income, less-educated men and women are more likely to cohabit and have children out of wedlock.
But even these demographic facts don’t completely explain the widely varying poverty rate between married and cohabiting parents. Studies that adjust for parents’ educational levels still find that a family headed by two unmarried parents is twice as likely to wind up in poverty as one that married parents head. Something about the marriage certificate—a sense of long-term commitment, family stability, perhaps—makes an economic difference. Research shows that married workers exhibit more job stability and make greater wage gains than cohabiting parents, a sort of “marriage wage premium,” as some economists dub it.
Such factors also help to illuminate economic disparities along racial lines in America. As the latest Census statistics illustrate, family formation differs widely by race. Nearly nine in ten Asian children, for instance, live with two parents, as do 78 percent of white kids. By contrast, 68 percent of Hispanic children and only 38 percent of black children in America reside in two-parent families. A black child living with a single mother is nearly three times more likely to live in poverty than a black child living with two parents, the Census data show, yet 50 percent more black children are living with single mothers than in two-parent married families.
Given that a significant body of research now shows that children raised in two-parent, married families do better in school, are less likely to wind up in jail, and are less likely to end up on welfare, the startling racial divide in marriage tells us that a new generation of children, especially blacks, are growing up destined to struggle academically, in the job market, and in forming their own families. And policy prescriptions like a higher minimum wage or tax credits are unlikely to help many of these kids. What they mostly need is another parent—usually a father.
While government can’t give them that, candidates can at least give us some straight talk on poverty. But it’s easier, it seems, to blame the woes of the poor on the “excessive” profits of greedy corporations, or on so-called underhanded mortgage brokers taking advantage of low-income borrowers. Obama did briefly mention absent black fathers in his Philadelphia speech, but he blamed the breakup of the black family in part on the “shame and frustration” that black men felt when they were unable to provide for their families. Yet back in the 1930s, when Jim Crow laws were in full force and opportunity was truly absent for black men, the two-parent black family was stronger than it is today; in fact, the continuing rise of black out-of-wedlock rates since the 1960s has occurred even as black economic advancement has proceeded.
Ignoring the obvious stress that family breakdown has inflicted on children, Obama seems like he’s stepped out of a time warp, offering new proposals to increase spending on a range of dubious social programs. To combat poverty, for instance, he would “fully fund” the persistently troubled, fraud-plagued Community Development Block Grant program, which dates back to the Nixon presidency and has expended more than $100 billion in federal money since its inception, to little apparent effect. Neither Obama nor other advocates of such programs have explained why extra spending would accomplish what hundreds of billions of dollars so far have not.
Still, Obama isn’t alone in ignoring the cultural issues that underpin poverty. Hillary Clinton’s agenda for combating poverty includes hiking the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, although fewer than 20 percent of families in poverty are headed by someone working full time—meaning at least 80 percent of families would derive no significant benefit from the policy. And workers in the remaining 20 percent of impoverished families might be worse off, considering that eight in 10 economists believe that raising the minimum wage increases unemployment among the unskilled.
Even Republican presidential nominee John McCain—whose economic agenda focuses on pro-growth policies, like corporate tax cuts—has little to say about the family, though the children of many fractured poor families will be in no position to take advantage of such tax cuts.
Comparing the rhetoric of the presidential candidates with the latest stark data on families is a reminder that, until we can at least begin to discuss in the political sphere one of the major causes of economic woes in America today, we can’t begin to take the necessary steps to reduce long-term poverty.
Steven Malanga is senior editor of City Journal and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He is a coauthor of The Immigration Solution.
Public Schools Have Flunked Out
by James Ervin Norwood
Public schools are brain dead and on life support; so let’s pull the plug on them, give them a decent funeral, and let better alternatives take root and flourish. Education is what we must save and regenerate, not an obsolete proven flop that has been in a persistent counterproductive condition for decades. The time has come to slaughter a sacred cow. Public schools are failing and will continue to fail, for the following reasons:
Central planners of public schools cannot get adequate information to make plans that fit students.
No one owns public schools. No one has any capital at risk in them or a brand name to protect; so no one running them has an incentive to cut costs to avoid losses and to increase revenues by maximizing customer satisfaction.
Public schools have stayed in business, in spite of their bad results. Their failures have not been punished by bankruptcy or loss of jobs. Their failures have been rewarded with more money, which has operated as a perverse incentive to fail again and again.
Public schools can ignore parents, since parents do not directly fund them. Educrats cannot ignore legislatures, judges, school boards, or pressure groups and their political agenda. So politics rules the roost, not parents; and politics has destroyed public schools.
Force-feeding children the state’s prescription for education is more about creating jobs for teachers than about educating students. In any event, no one can be forced to learn anything.
Compulsory-attendance laws, which aim at enlarging demand for administrators and staff and at keeping students out of the labor market, generate resistance and disruption by captive students, who are not interested in ordering from the state’s menu. Such students should be free to find other ways to learn how to fend for themselves, including going to work. The prisoners should be released.
Putting more money into a bad plan that won’t work will not make it work. That will only produce more of the same bad results. We have doubled, tripled, and quadrupled funds per student and have gotten increasingly worse results for our money.
Many good teachers in state schools are being frustrated by an unrealistic system that is based on false premises that make it inherently unsound.
A free market in education
We should close the public day jails and go to a free market in educational goods and services. Owners of schools would produce results that please customers or would go out of business. Competitors would scramble to produce the best results at the least cost for the most customers.
With volume up and unit costs down, tuition for private education would drop sharply to affordable ranges, which would create a mass market. Private scholarships would expand to help students who really want to learn but who cannot afford even reduced prices. Nonprofits could carry the ball.
With state monopolies that block innovations out of the way, educational entrepreneurs would innovate and produce good education. For example, commercial outfits that are now producing K–8 reading and math programs might expand to produce full K–12 curricula, and would adjust programs and content to meet demand. Entrepreneurs would organize instruction and interactive computer programs to enhance learning. New educational enterprises would emerge to compete with existing programs and entrepreneurs for the dollars of customers.
Who knows what would develop, as the market worked its magic? Perhaps some low-cost Internet schools with high volume would arise. They would put courses by the best educators on computer discs; and customer service would connect students who have questions on particular points, to home-based teachers across the land. Maybe a discount chain of All Smart schools would spread across the country. Franchises of McEd schools could develop.
Just as the telephone monopoly prevented creation of cheaper and more-efficient alternatives and diversity in telecommunications, so the public-school monopoly has prevented creation of cheaper and more-efficient alternatives and diversity in education. One brand cannot serve all. So let’s clear the way for entrepreneurs to meet the educational needs of students with all sorts of talents and ambitions.
In the free market, people of all races, creeds, political stripes, ideological stances, and ethnicities would get along, as they independently contract for and use a variety of educational goods and services; and they would not have to fight each other, join the PTA, petition, form pressure groups, vote, file lawsuits, or run for political office to get what they want. Educators would be accountable to cash customers, who would get what they want for their children or shop elsewhere.
Vouchers and subsidies for private schools should be avoided like the plague, since they would put politicians in a position to wipe out private schools. When the god-state funds any kind of education (lower, higher, or religious), politicians, judges, and bureaucrats control or strongly influence what is taught, who teaches what, methods and times of instruction, who studies with whom and where, and other conditions of eligibility for subsidies. Education is always lost in the shuffle to stuff ballot boxes.
Also, vouchers could be milked by fraudulent operators, as cash cows.
We have been paying two, three, and four prices for “education” and have been getting political battlegrounds and bureaucracies that have precluded education. If we want education, the public school system must be junked and replaced with private schools, many of which would be nonprofits that would be tax-exempt and that would attract tax-deductible contributions.
Even were public schools (and colleges) adequately teaching communications, calculations, and science, they would still reduce us to third-world conditions by selling another generation of students socialist swamplands that consume capital and thus induce mass poverty. Such pink propaganda mills are destroying civilization.
What is needed to regenerate education is complete separation of school and state. Nothing else will result in optimum education. We should kick the states and the federal government out of education and let parents gain control of education with the power of their own money.
Several wheels that are missing from the public school junker are indicated below.
Customers of private schools can fire managers and teachers, by withdrawing their children and taking them and their money elsewhere. So managers and teachers in private schools are immediately accountable to parents and have incentives to produce.
The alleged accountability reports by public schools are largely irrelevant whitewash to divert attention from and to make excuses for incompetence and failure. Without executive power to fire incompetent teachers and without the parents having power to withdraw their children, there is no accountability in public schools. Also, when public schools fail, the people who are running them do not suffer the loss. Such personnel are therefore inherently unaccountable.
Heavy school taxes keep the victims trapped in public schools, so that few students can afford to escape to private schools. Also, private schools are backed into charging high tuition, because they are precluded by school taxes from developing a mass market and thereby reducing unit costs.
Another problem with politically managed schools is in various “education” plans that arise from state judiciaries, legislatures, and bureaucracies and from the federal judiciary, the White House, Congress, and federal bureaucracies. The dreamers who grind such sausage to get ballots in the box and to project their egalitarian mirages into practice cannot fit their delusions to the educational needs of children. Their captive “customers” are forced to pay for their fantastic designs that won’t fly; and school administrators, teachers, and students without parachutes are compelled to wear regulatory straitjackets to the inevitable crash. Teachers would have the opportunity to fly in the free market.
How would private educational businesses in a free market (without the subsidized public-school monopoly’s blocking access) work? The only way that private businesses in a free market can legitimately get money from customers into their cash registers is to fit their goods and services to the needs and demands of sovereign consumers. Private businesses must cut their costs and keep their prices as low as possible without losing money, to meet competition and to generate a mass market and high volume. Customers win in a free market.
If we want optimum education at the least cost, we must close public schools and go to a free market in educational goods and services. Parents would rule the roost, with each customer’s money guiding production by entrepreneurs. Resources would be organized by entrepreneurs to meet the educational needs of students, just as resources are organized in the rest of the market to meet the needs of billions of people for automobiles, computers, recreation, locomotives, appliances, shelter, information, furniture, food, clothing, wristwatches, aircraft, firearms, tractors, training, and whatever else there is sufficient demand for to cover costs of production.
The public-school monopoly is a dead drag on education, is blocking progress in education, and should be shut down now.
James Erwin Norwood is a freelance writer residing in Texarkana, Texas.
This article originally appeared in the June 2006 edition of Freedom Daily. Subscribe to the print or email version of Freedom Daily.
1999 No. 1
Table of Contents
The Loneliness of the “Black Conservative”
Hoover fellow Shelby Steele on the price of his convictions.
I realized that I was a black conservative when I found myself standing on stages being shamed in public. I had written a book that said, among many other things, that black American leaders were practicing a politics that drew the group into a victim-focused racial identity that, in turn, stifled black advancement more than racism itself did. For reasons that I will discuss shortly, this was heresy in many quarters. And, as I traveled around from one little Puritan village (read “university”) to another, a common scene would unfold.Whenever my talk was finished, though sometimes before, a virtual militia of angry black students would rush to the microphones and begin to scream. At first I thought of them as Mau Maus but decided this was unfair to the real Mau Maus, who, though ruthless terrorists, had helped bring independence to Kenya in the 1950s.
My confronters were not freedom fighters; they were Carrie Nation–like enforcers, racial bluenoses who lived in terror of certain words. Repression was their game, not liberation, and they said as much. “You can’t say that in front of the white man.” “Your words will be used against us.” “Why did you write this book?” “You should only print that in a black magazine.” Their outrage brought to light an ironic and unnoticed transformation in the nature of black American anger from the sixties to the nineties: a shift in focus from protest to suppression, from blowing the lid off to tightening it down. And, short of terrorism, shame is the best instrument of repression.
Of course, most black students did not behave in this way. But the very decency of the majority, black and white, often made the shaming of the minority more effective. So I learned what it was like to stand before a crowd in which a coterie of one’s enemies had the license to shame, while a mixture of decorum and fear silenced the decent people who might have come to one’s aid. I was as vulnerable to the decency as to the shaming since together they amounted to shame. And it is never fun to be called “an opportunist,” “a house slave,” and so on while university presidents sit in the front row and avert their eyes. But this really is the point: The goal of shaming was never to win an argument with me; it was to make a display of shame that would make others afraid for themselves, that would cause eyes to avert. I was more the vehicle than the object, and what I did was almost irrelevant. Shame’s victory was in the averted eyes, the cowering of decency.
Today a public “black conservative” will surely meet a stunning amount of animus, demonization, misunderstanding, and flat-out, undifferentiated contempt. And there is a kind of licensing process involved here in which the black leadership—normally protective even of people like Marion Barry and O. J. Simpson—licenses blacks and whites to have contempt for the black conservative. It is a part of the group’s manipulation of shame to let certain of its members languish outside the perimeter of group protection where even politically correct whites (who normally repress criticism of blacks) can show contempt for them.
Not long ago I heard a white female professional at a racially mixed dinner table call Clarence Thomas an incompetent beneficiary of affirmative action—the same woman whom I had heard on another occasion sneer at the idea that affirmative action stigmatized women and minorities as incompetent. Feminists who happily vote for Bill Clinton are free to loathe Clarence Thomas. In a sense Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Ward Connerly, Stanley Crouch, myself, and many, many others represent a new class of “unprotected” blacks. By my lights there is something a little avant-garde in this. But, as with any avant-garde, the greater freedom is paid for in a greater exposure to contempt and shame.
The Czech writer Milan Kundera—a man whose experience under the hegemony of the Communist Party taught him much about the shaming power of groups over the individual—says that shame transforms a person “from a subject to an object,” causes shamed persons to lose their “status as individuals.” And to suffer this fate means that the group—at least symbolically—has determined to annihilate you. Of course we have no gulags in black America, but black group authority—like any group authority—defines itself as much by whom it annihilates as by whom it celebrates. Thus it not only defines group, it also defines grouplessness. And here, on this negative terrain, where his or her exclusion sharpens the group identity, the black conservative lingers as a kind of antithesis.
But is this loneliness? I’m not sure.
The problem for the black conservative is more his separation from the authority of his racial group than from the actual group. He stands outside a group authority so sharply defined and monolithic that it routinely delivers more than 90 percent of the black vote to whatever Democrat runs for president. The black conservative may console himself with the idea that he is on the side of truth, but even truth is cold comfort against group authority (which very often has no special regard for truth). White supremacy focused white America’s group authority for three centuries before truth could even begin to catch up. Group authority is just as likely to be an expression of collective ignorance as of truth; but it is always, in a given era, more powerful than truth.
All of this is made worse by the fact that black Americans have been a despised minority surrounded by indifference and open hatred. An individual’s failure of group love is a far greater infraction among blacks because it virtually allies that individual with the enemy all around. An Uncle Tom is someone whose failure to love his own people makes him an accessory to their oppression. So group love (in one form or another) is a preoccupation in black life because of the protective function it serves, because we want to use the matter of love as a weapon of shame and thus as an enforcer of conformity. Love adds the seriousness and risk to nonconformity.
If this gives black America the means to enforce its group authority—and its explanation of its fate—it also plagues us with a repressive, one-party politics. Because of historic vulnerability and the resulting insistence on conformity around a single strategic explanation of group fate, black America has not yet achieved a two-party politics. Thus black conservatives do not yet constitute a loyal opposition; they are, instead, classic dissenters. This differentiates them from white conservatives, who work out of a two-party group. In his dissent from a one-party–one-explanation group politics, the black conservative lives the life of a dissenter, a life too conspicuously gambled on belief, a life openly subversive to his own group and often impractical for himself—a life at odds.
What, in fact, is a black conservative?
Well, he is not necessarily a Republican or free-market libertarian or religious fundamentalist, pro-lifer, trickle-down economist, or neocon. I have met blacks in all these categories who are not considered conservatives.
The liberal-conservative axis is a bit different for blacks than for Americans generally. Under his American identity a black Republican is conservative, but under his racial identity he may be quite liberal. Many black Republicans, for example, are intense supporters of preferential affirmative action and thus liberal in terms of their group identity. (Colin Powell is a case in point, as is Arthur Fletcher, a black Republican who helped President Nixon introduce America’s first racial preference in the famous “Philadelphia Plan.”) But the “new” black conservatives—the ones who have recently become so controversial—may even be liberal by their American identity but are definitely conservative by the terms of their group identity. It is their dissent from the explanation of black group authority that brings them the “black conservative” imprimatur. Without this dissent we may have a black Republican but not a “black conservative,” as the term has come to be used.
And what is this explanation of black group authority? In a word it is victimization. Not only is victimization made to explain the hard fate of blacks in American history, but it is also asked to explain the current inequalities between blacks and whites and the difficulties blacks have in overcoming them. Certainly no explanation of black difficulties would be remotely accurate were it to ignore racial victimization. On the other hand, victimization does not in fact explain the entire fate of blacks in America, nor does it entirely explain their difficulties today. It was also imagination, courage, the exercise of free will, and a very definite genius that enabled blacks not only to survive victimization but also to create a great literature, utterly transform Western music, help shape the American language, expand and deepen the world’s concept of democracy, influence popular culture around the globe, and so on. No people with this kind of talent, ingenuity, and self-inventiveness would allow victimization so singularly to explain their fate unless it had become a primary source of power. And this is precisely what happened after the sixties. Victimization became so rich a vein of black power—even if it was only the power to “extract” reforms (with their illusion of deliverance) from the larger society—that it was allowed not only to explain black fate but to explain it totally.
A black woman journalist I met recently for lunch said, “I don’t think we can tell the story of our victimization enough.” We were talking about an article she was writing. She was young, Ivy League educated, and, sitting across from me in the patio restaurant, she might have been an advertisement for any number of blessings—good health, good upbringing, good fortune. Politely we argued about how much victimization blacks were still subjected to. I said it was number three or four on the list of things that held blacks back. She said it was number one. And here we had arrived at one of the most telling impasses two black Americans can reach. Her number-one ranking aligned her with the explanation of black fate on which black group authority rests. For her, victimization was not a fact of black life, it was the fact. It was a totalism—an ultratruth that not only supersedes but that makes a taboo of all other truths. My lower ranking of racism as a barrier violated this taboo, put me at odds with black group authority, and made me, alas, a “black conservative.”
Very simply, then, a black conservative is a black who dissents from the victimization explanation of black fate when it is offered as a totalism—when it is made the main theme of group identity and the raison d’être of a group politics.
The young journalist was a liberal and in harmony with black group authority because of a predetermined willingness, even commitment, to seeing two things: that black difficulty in America was the result of ongoing racial victimization and that white America was responsible for bringing change. The only time she transgressed her natural politeness was when she smugly said, “Well, obviously we have a different time schedule as to when white people ought to be let off the hook.” Certainly even a black conservative would not want to let white people off the hook. And yet, as time marches on, I can’t help but feel that a far greater danger for blacks is the belief that doing so makes a difference. What is clear is that a group politics devoted to keeping whites on the hook also requires that victimization be a totalism in black life—that it define group identity, become a part of the self-image of individual blacks, and keep in play a permanently contentious relationship with whites.
I said to her that when victimization is treated as a totalism, it keeps us from understanding the true nature of our suffering. It leads us to believe that all suffering is victimization and that all relief comes from the guilty good-heartedness of others. But people can suffer from bad ideas, from ignorance, fear, a poor assessment of reality, and from a politics that commits them to the idea of themselves as victims, among other things. When black group authority covers up these other causes of suffering just so whites will feel more responsible—and stay on the hook—then that authority actually encourages helplessness in its own people so that they might be helped by whites. It tries to make black weakness profitable by selling it as the white man’s burden.
“But isn’t it really about power? And if victimization brings power, it’s the power that counts.” She surprised me. I hadn’t realized she was even listening. “I mean, you could say that whites got power by killing the Indians and enslaving the blacks. That’s worse than using your history of victimization to get power. People get power all sorts of ways.”
We were outside the restaurant now, and she was hurrying to cover the few blocks to her rented car to make her next appointment. Working to keep pace, I suddenly felt a familiar doubt. Let’s call it the black conservative doubt—the feeling that one is talking into a void, that one might be right, might even have a compelling piece of truth, but that it is a truth unattached to any necessity, a truth with no means of enforcing itself. Often people don’t listen as much for the truth as for the necessity that will hold them accountable to the truth. Failing to hear any such necessity, they can conclude that the truth itself has no relevance.
The great problem for the black conservative is that the necessity of his or her truth is hidden so that it seems irrelevant, academic. What keeps it hidden is the symbiosis between whites and blacks by which they agree to let victimization totally explain black difficulty. Whites agree to stay on this hook for an illusion of redemption, and blacks agree to keep them there for an illusion of power. I can say that these investments are illusions, that whites have no real redemption, and that blacks have no real power, but then what do I have? That’s really what the young journalist was saying to me as we walked to her car. Government, corporate America, universities, foundations—they were all in the business of seeing blacks as victims, of trading an illusion of power for an illusion of redemption. Everybody was practiced in these negotiations, so the fact that they encouraged helplessness in blacks, kept them mired in a victim-focused identity, gave them a disinvestment in success and an investment in failure . . . well. The black conservative is at odds with a very cozy and very functional symbiosis, and there is always something to be said for function. He may believe that there are bodies under the floorboards, but until that truth is more widely understood, there is not much necessity in what he says.
I was not surprised when we turned a corner and came upon the journalist’s rental car. It was a huge, white Lincoln Towncar with plush leather upholstery, and it sat so regally on the street that the smaller cars around it seemed to compose its court. I thought she might apologize for it, as people often do with their ostentations, but she said only that she had a “good” expense account. After quickly shaking my hand good-bye, she swung open the driver’s door and all but plunged in. In a moment the white boat was floating down the street.
A Dream Deferred, by Shelby Steele, was recently published by HarperCollins. For ordering information, visit the HarperCollins web site at www.harpercollins.com. Available from the Hoover Press is the Hoover Essay Race, Culture, and Equality, by Thomas Sowell. To order, call 800-935-2882.
Shelby Steele is the Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He specializes in the study of race relations, multiculturalism, and affirmative action. He was appointed a Hoover fellow in 1994.
Downward Dollar Delivers Blow to Outsourcing
Now, with India widely outperforming America in economic growth, more Indian college grads prefer to find work at home. The Indian currency has appreciated 13% since 2005, trading at approximately 39 rupees per dollar — 13% less pay as far as Indian specialists contemplating work in America are concerned. The dollar depreciation is a long-term trend forecasted by many economists and investors. Jay Bryson, an economist at Wachovia, is convinced that the US dollar may decline at least another 10 percent by the end of 2008. This prognosis, if realized, will certainly reduce US job appeal among Indian college graduates provided that the Indian economy is not weakened.
While US work experience is still coveted in India today, this attitude is not set in stone as more good paying jobs are created at home. Sachin Thareja, an Indian software developer and NYU graduate student, recalls how, in the late 1990s, students back in India joked that a fellow college graduate had one foot in India and another on Air India — on a one-way flight to the USA. After a recent visit to India, he says that this sentiment is no longer prevalent on Indian campuses. “Less people are willing to work in the US, and around 10% of those already here choose to return home.”
|“Less people are willing to work in the US, and around 10% of those already here choose to return home.”|
The latest available data from US Citizenship and Immigration services (USCIS) indicate that there were 78,200 new H1B visas issued to professionals in Fiscal Year 2008 — a 40% drop from the 130,497 visas issued in FY 2004. Granted, there are many more candidates than there are visas available, but so far US companies are able to choose from the list of best qualified candidates. Fast-growing foreign economies with appreciating currencies will certainly make this list shorter.
Vicrant Dogra, a fellow Indian programmer, draws a line in the sand at a 20 rupees per dollar exchange rate — an additional 49% rupee rise. “At that rate most professionals will stop coming to America if the Indian economy is growing at the current level”, he declares. This is a bit dramatic, but even a small decrease in foreign labor supply will leave employers scrambling to find appropriate replacements, as it takes time to fill a shortage of skilled laborers. US health care may be affected in the long run because a substantial number of doctors hail from India and a weak dollar can, at the very least, discourage new doctors from coming here.
Fewer skilled professionals are coming to America from Russia. The current exchange rate is 24 rubles per 1 US dollar. Compared with a 2002 benchmark of 32 rubles, it is a staggering 25% rise. Kirill Levin, alumni of PhysTech (a flagship Russian research institute) and a senior quantitative analyst, says that fresh graduates from his alma mater who are looking to pursue academic careers still favor US universities and research centers. He admits, however, that fewer Russian professionals are coming to the United States than any time since the fall of the iron curtain. “It has to do more with the growing Russian economy than with the weak dollar,” he argues. “Many professionals are making decent money in Moscow.” Carolina Friedman, a quality manager at Transprefect Translations, who deals with South American companies, agrees. “In Argentina less people are looking to work abroad than before. We know several people who returned home from the US. Lately, Argentina’s economy has improved.”
The depreciating dollar may prove lethal to outsourcing. Employees hired by US companies based in foreign countries usually convert earned US dollars into their national currencies. A worker based in a country with an appreciating currency will get less money when paid the same amount of dollars. Serge Lubensky, CTO of Service Channel, a procurement, validation and electronic settlement platform for multilocation facilities maintenance transactions, notices the change in attitudes that the falling dollar is causing. “People ask for raises claiming that the cost of living is going up as their salaries (fixed in US dollars) are going down. They now prefer working for European companies because the strong euro yields them more of their currency. If the dollar keeps falling like that, at some point outsourcing will make no sense.”
Stas Holodnak is a graduate student in New York, completing his MBA in finance.