Last week the Washington Post called on nine progressive public policy "experts" to tell us how to fix the "staggering" problem of income inequality. To no one's surprise, the "solutions" were all some variety of government "programs" and handouts of one sort or another and spending vast sums of money from the infinite federal pile of loot. This week the New York Times weighs in with a couple of efforts on related topics, namely disparate results by race in maternity and childhood poverty.
Once again the proposed solutions are the usual variants of new government "programs" and spending and collective coercion. I guess that's understandable -- that's as far as their imaginations stretch; it's all they know. But there are several aspects of this that I can't understand. One is the high moral dudgeon and condescension that pervades these things. Society is guilty! You are guilty! How could anyone (it must be the Republicans!) be so evil and heartless to oppose the programs and spending that will so obviously provide an immediate fix to these grave problems? A second thing I can't understand is the unquestioning attribution of the persistence of the problems to the two official universal causes, namely white racism and failure to spend enough government money, without ever citing any data or asking whether these explanations make any sense. And the third thing I can't understand is the total unwillingness to recognize that vast numbers of programs and vast amounts of spending already exist to address these problems, none of which works or ameliorates the problems at all. Aren't we owed at least a few words on why we should believe that it will somehow be different this time?
The article on disparate results by race in maternity was authored by Linda Villarosa, and appeared in the Times Magazine on Sunday, with the title "Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis"; sub-title: "The answer to the disparity in death rates has everything to do with the lived experience of being a black woman in America." Heavy. Tell us more about that "life-or-death crisis" Linda:
Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants — 11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data — a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were considered chattel. In one year, that racial gap adds up to more than 4,000 lost black babies. . . . This tragedy of black infant mortality is intimately intertwined with another tragedy: a crisis of death and near death in black mothers themselves.
We are introduced to the main subject of the story, Simone Landrum of New Orleans, now 23. Simone is pictured with her two sons, who appear to be in the range of about 4 or 5 years old. She had a third pregnancy in 2016 that had severe complications and ended in stillbirth of the infant, and then another pregnancy in 2017 that ended successfully. Although she had extensive pre-natal care by doctors during the 2016 pregnancy, the article implies (without proving) that the doctors may have paid insufficient attention to Simone's very high blood pressure.
Well, in order to try to solve the problem of disparate results by race in maternity, we're going to have to identify the cause. What can you tell us about that, Linda?
[R]ecently there has been growing acceptance of what has largely been, for the medical establishment, a shocking idea: For black women in America, an inescapable atmosphere of societal and systemic racism can create a kind of toxic physiological stress, resulting in conditions — including hypertension and pre-eclampsia — that lead directly to higher rates of infant and maternal death. And that societal racism is further expressed in a pervasive, longstanding racial bias in health care — including the dismissal of legitimate concerns and symptoms — that can help explain poor birth outcomes even in the case of black women with the most advantages.
I knew it! It's racism! "Societal" and "systemic" racism! Your racism! Can you offer any evidence for that, Linda? None is offered in this article, beyond the mere fact of differential results by race in pregnancy and childbirth. Can we consider any other factors that might play into this? For example, as to Simone, we learn that after the stillbirth Simone's "boyfriend" attacked her violently:
Her boyfriend blamed her for what happened to their baby and grew more abusive. Around Christmas 2016, in a rage, he attacked her, choking her so hard that she urinated on herself. “He said to me, ‘Do you want to die in front of your kids?’ ” Landrum said, her hands shaking with the memory.
So after the stillbirth he grew "more abusive." Clearly that means that he had previously been "abusive" to at least some degree. Had that abusiveness involved comparable violence to Simone during the pregnancy? There is no information on that here beyond the one tantalizing clue. Here are some other things that any intelligent reader might well want to know about:
- Was Simone taking drugs during the pregnancy? Which drugs and how much? There is no information on that here.
- Was any man/father around to help even a little with the two young kids or earning money to support the family during pregnancies three and four? Lack of any such help might cause some serious "stress," wouldn't it? Clearly, from the reference to a "boyfriend" as the father of the stillborn child, Simone is not married. Were there multiple "boyfriends" coming and going? How many "boyfriends" for the four pregnancies? There is this as to the 2017 pregnancy: "Landrum had a brief relationship with another man and found out in March 2017 that she was pregnant again and due in December." Looks like that guy's not sticking around either.
- What other high-risk behaviors did Simone engage in? Again, the long article contains just one tantalizing clue: At a March 2018 meeting with the article's author, Simone stated that "the new baby had motivated her to put her life in order." OK, something about her life had not been "in order" -- but what? Sorry, you are not allowed to know -- that might disrupt the politically correct narrative.
The bottom line is that, as to causation, the only permissible answer is white racism, and any effort by you to get any relevant information that might contradict that answer is just refusal to accept your guilt and need for atonement. So, Linda, if racism is established as the cause of the problem, what is the solution? Get ready for this: black women need support during and after their pregnancies from "doulas" -- some kind of paid personal assistants who can help them navigate their way through the medical system and teach them how to avoid screwing up. Oh, all to be paid for by some combination of government and insurance companies:
“We need to recognize that there is actual medical benefit to having doula support — and make the argument that insurance should pay for it,” says Williams, the Bay Area OB-GYN. “It is a job. People do have to be paid for that work.” Insurance would mean some standardization; Williams notes that many programs securing public funding or grants to provide doula support to lower-income women can’t match the kind of money that private doulas can command.
How much might that fully-funded doula program cost for some million or so annual pregnancies among black women in the U.S.? Please, do not be so tacky as to ask about costs -- this is basic morality we are talking about.
My favorite part of the whole thing is the casual, unquestioning acceptance of the basic concept that black women are just not capable of taking personal responsibility for their lives or providing for themselves. That's what I would call racism, but what do I know?
And now it's time to move on to article number 2, dealing with childhood poverty. This one was written by one Mark Rank of Washington University, has the headline "The Cost of Keeping Children Poor," and appeared in Monday's print edition. What? -- we are "keeping" children poor? What does that even mean? It must be the evil Republicans!
This past week, President Trump and House Republicanstook initial steps to cut back the social safety net. Both have argued that such spending is counterproductive and wasteful, and that eligibility must be tightened for programs including food stamps and Medicaid. Mr. Trump and House Republicans have also asserted that welfare benefits are far too generous, and work requirements much too lax.
Rank claims that he and a colleague have done the cutting-edge research to determine what child poverty is "costing" the U.S. And the answer is -- drumroll!!! -- $1.03 trillion per year. I like the ".03" on the end there to give it a ring of precision. No methodology is given, of course. But obviously, this is a problem that must be solved! What's the answer, Mark? You'll never guess. Here it is: "we" must "invest" in "programs" that reduce childhood poverty!
The bottom line is that reducing poverty is justified not only from a social justice perspective, but from a cost-benefit perspective as well. Investing in programs that reduce childhood poverty is both smart and efficient economic policy.
Wow, Mark! Brilliant insight!
You really have to wonder, as to these guys who are given op-ed slots at Pravda, do they have any clue at all as to the basic facts that you need to know to offer non-ignorant opinion in this area? Like for example, that "we" already "invest" hundreds of billions of dollars per year in "programs" supposedly designed to reduce childhood poverty, all of it with no effect whatsoever on poverty as measured by the government? Or that essentially none of the money spent by the government on these childhood poverty "programs" counts as "income", such that none of it can ever reduce the poverty (which is measured as a function of "income") by even a little, even it were to be doubled or tripled or quadrupled? Or that the only meaningful reduction in childhood poverty that has taken place in our lifetimes is the reduction that accompanied the 1996 welfare reform, when welfare benefits were substantially reduced and limited (leading many former recipients to go out and earn "income" and thereby remove themselves from poverty as measured)? Rank is obviously completely unaware of any of this.
Pitiful! I offer him a free subscription to the Manhattan Contrarian!