Sunday, August 2, 2015



I’m almost in total agreement with you on your latest, “These Black Lives Also Matter.”

It seems to me we are like the blind men and the elephant each diagnosing one small aspect of a very large issue. I agree, teen pregnancy and violence are important; I tend to focus on the war on drugs and monopolization of  education by the state as key issues; others focus on family structure; others on lack of economic opportunity. All of these are important and it’s probably impossible to say which is THE key. We (as a society) shout past each other because we all know our pet answer is the answer.

I think this is another issue where the attitude that “the science is settled” is harming more than helping. If you think maybe doing nothing is better than something you are a racist (or denier).

But think about the model(s). The dependent variable is improving poverty. In your model the independent variables are teen pregnancy and violence. Reduce both and poverty is reduced. How is your model performing? A link to an HHS study on teen pregnancy from your link to the NY Times story on Colorado’s birth control program states, “The teen birth rate has declined almost continuously over the past 20 years. In 1991, the U.S. teen birth rate was 61.8 births for every 1,000 adolescent females, compared with 26.5 births for every 1,000 adolescent females in 2013.” According to your model there should have been a reduction in poverty. Was there? Your model says effective control of violence is a key element also. Yet you admit violence has declined, but what about poverty? Are you sure your model is valid? And calling me a racist if I don’t agree with your model doesn’t change the model’s results. (Just like calling me a denier doesn’t change the results of a tragically failed model on global warming).

I wonder if the issue might be exacerbated instead of mitigated by our solutions. For instance, those in poverty receive benefits from local, state and national governments. Families get more support. Families with a single parent even more support. That sounds fair and compassionate to everyone, including me. But is it? From an economic perspective it creates an incentive for single parent households. (And taking umbrage at pointing out the obvious doesn’t help). Another “solution” is raising the minimum wage. We’ll just legislate the way out of poverty. However, increasing the minimum wage can result in losing the benefits of the welfare state. A great exploration of this is Andrea Louise Campbell’s, “Trapped in America’s Safety Net: One Family’s Struggle.” But look at this, and this and this (trust me, I didn't need to look too hard to find these) as well. It supports my first point and begs the question if our first solution was flawed, what is flawed about our second solution?

I know comparing the experience of blacks in America to the experience of the Irish, Italians, Jews and Chinese is dangerous, and in many ways not apt. But in others ways it seems quite relevant. If government aid is good and lack of it bad how do we explain the rise of the Irish and Italians and those other groups out of poverty when government actively discriminated against them? I don’t think blacks are any different than the other ethnic groups in terms of ability. What is the difference then? I look at one big difference and that is the active role of government in crafting a solution and certainly it warrants asking if maybe the solution is the problem.


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