Has Any Democrat-Controlled City Come Up With A Good Solution For African-American Poverty?

Last week — after President Trump via Twitter had accused Representative Elijah Cummings of Baltimore of “incompetent leadership” and making a “mess” of his very-high-crime, high-poverty district, and after numerous media critics had responded by hurling the charge of “racism” at Trump — I weighed in with a post titled “It’s About Time That Someone Pushed Back About The Disaster Of Democrat-Controlled Cities.” The post made what I think is the obvious point that when a group of people have for decades promoted certain government spending programs as the appropriate solution to low incomes and poverty in African American communities, and when after decades of time and trillions of dollars of spending the problems of low income and poverty persist and indeed worsen, it is entirely appropriate to hold the promoters of these spending programs accountable for their failure.

On July 30, the often-creative Kevin Williamson of National Review offered his own even more contrarian view on the subject, in a piece titled “Which Party Can We Blame For Poverty And Crime?” (More contrarian than the Manhattan Contrarian? How is that even possible?) Williamson points out that Census data from around the U.S. give no clear correlation between poverty and crime on the one hand, and Republican versus Democratic governance on the other. He notes that the very poorest county in the whole country is Owsley County, Kentucky — a place with almost entire white demographics (98+%) and very strongly Republican politics. Meanwhile, there are numerous examples of Democrat-run cities that Williamson says are “very good places to live,” with relatively low-ish rates of crime and poverty. He cites Austin and Denver as prime examples.

Fair enough. But with all due respect, I think that Williamson is asking the wrong question here. The important question is, what (if anything) can be done by a governmental entity to facilitate bringing African Americans to higher levels of income and wealth, and to reduced levels of crime commission and victimization? Unfortunately, the examples cited by Williamson, including Owsley County, Austin and Denver, teach almost nothing to answer this question. The examples (not discussed by Williamson) of heavily black and Democrat-controlled cities like Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, and many others have enormous amounts to teach on this important question. And what those places have to teach is that the suites of massive in-kind handout programs — promoted by Democrat politicians for my entire lifetime, and still promoted today by Democrats all the way from local jurisdictions up to presidential candidates — don’t work. Indeed, for these programs it’s far worse than that they merely don’t work. They promote dependency, idleness and resentment, and trap the supposed beneficiaries in unproductive lives from which it is extremely difficult to escape. . . .

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It's About Time Someone Pushed Back About The Disaster Of Democrat-Controlled Cities

On Sunday, after taking some criticism from Representative Elijah Cummings of Baltimore about conditions on the Southern border, President Trump unleashed a series of tweets excoriating Cummings about conditions in his own district. Some excerpts:

If racist Elijah Cummings would focus more of his energy on helping the good people of his district, and Baltimore itself, perhaps progress could be made in fixing the mess that he has helped to create over many years of incompetent leadership. His radical “oversight” is a joke! . . . Baltimore’s numbers are the worst in the United States on Crime and the Economy. Billions of dollars have been pumped in over the years, but to no avail. The money was stolen or wasted. Ask Elijah Cummings where it went. He should investigate himself with his Oversight Committee!

All I can say is, I can’t believe that it has taken so long to get some serious push-back going about the abject failure of any Democrat-controlled city to alleviate poverty and improve the lives of its citizens. Although in these tweets President Trump focused on Baltimore, it’s not just Baltimore. Other examples include Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Gary, Camden, and even Chicago and Philadelphia. And there are many others. All share the characteristics of massive spending by governments at all levels on “programs” to alleviate poverty — welfare, food stamps, housing, Medicaid, clothing assistance, phones, energy assistance, and on and on. (One list has some 76 categories of federal “anti-poverty” programs.) All those cities also share the characteristic of unbroken rule by Democrats for decades on end. And poverty that only worsens, particularly relative to what is going on in the rest of the country.

Rather than reinventing the wheel today, I just want to point out that the Manhattan Contrarian was way ahead of the world on this issue, with two posts on April 28 and 29, 2015, titled “Do You Think That The Government Can Fix Poverty? Look At Baltimore” and “Can The Government Fix Poverty? — Part II.” . . .

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Who Are The Racists Here?

You can be forgiven if you have the impression that the entire argument of the Democratic party to voters at this point in time consists of yelling at the opposition, “You’re racists!” Or maybe sometimes it’s “You’re white supremacists!” But is there any substance to these charges?

The last few days have seen a near total meltdown, after President Trump tweeted (on July 14):

Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

No mention of race there, of course. Sounds to me like an invitation to the radical Congresswomen to start behaving like grown-ups and taking some responsibility for the absurd policy proposals that they throw around so recklessly. The Green New Deal for Somalia? I can only think it would take the impoverished Somalis from mere poverty to total destitution and starvation. But the “squad” thinks the Green New Deal is imperative for the U.S. Then why shouldn’t it also be the right policy path for Somalia? And if this plan is the route to a perfected world, what’s wrong with suggesting that its leading advocates bring some influence to bear on Somalia (or Palestine or Mexico) to implement their prescriptions? The backdrop of proposing Somalia for the GND seems to me like an excellent basis for an intelligent conversation about what policies might actually work in the real world.

So let’s get the reaction of Ilhan Omar . . .

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On The Prevalence Of "Extreme Poverty" In The United States

The World Bank has a definition of “extreme poverty,” which, in their formulation, means “living on less than $1.90 per day.” I have no idea how they picked the figure of $1.90 for the cutoff, but that certainly is a very low figure. Parsing the definition a little, notice that they use the term “living on” as the standard, rather than saying, for example, that a person has less than $1.90 per day in “income.” As you will see, the difference is significant. Anyway, the WB in its most recent (April 2019) report on this subject gives a figure of about 10% of the world’s population, or 736 million people, as “living on” resources below that very low $1.90 per day level per capita. That actually represents a large decline in the percent of people in this “extreme poverty” condition over the past couple of decades; but it still comes to a very large number of people. Whether that 10% figure is accurate or even substantially exaggerated, I have no doubt that there are still many, many people in the world who have less than $1.90 per day in resources to “live on,” and who therefore live in what could only be called deep, grinding poverty.

But the question for today is, is there any substantial number of people in the United States who live in conditions meeting this World Bank test of “extreme poverty”? And if so, how could that be, and how could such a thing be allowed to persist? Some call this the most important question out there in the field of poverty studies.

Driving this debate has been a pair of well-known researchers who have for many years been making a career pushing large numbers as being the supposed count of those in the U.S. in this “deep poverty” condition. The researchers are sociologist Kathryn Edin of Princeton and social policy guru Luke Shaefer of the University of Michigan. In 2015, Edin and Shaefer published a book titled “$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.” The $2.00 per day was an arbitrary rounding up of the World Bank’s equally arbitrary $1.90 per day “extreme poverty” cutoff, although besides doing that rounding the authors also switched the definition of the measurement metric from “living on” that amount or less, to having “cash income” of that amount or less. The book famously came up with a figure of some 1.2 million households with children in the United States, and 3.6 million households total, supposedly meeting the test of having cash income less than the $2 per day per capita figure.

You will not be surprised that Edin and Shaefer’s 2015 book drew excited praise — and a notable dearth of skepticism — from the usual progressive suspects. (Example — William Junius Wilson in the New York Times: “This essential book is a call to action, and one hopes it will accomplish what Michael Harrington’s “The Other America” achieved in the 1960s — arousing both the nation’s consciousness and conscience about the plight of a growing number of invisible citizens.”) Less excited was the Manhattan Contrarian, who, in a post on May 26, 2016, had this to say:

This book is completely preposterous. . . .

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April Fools Day Hoax Roundup

Does it seem to you that there have been a lot of big-time hoaxes lately? In late February the most widely-publicized alleged “hate crime” in years — the Jussie Smollett caper — was revealed as a hoax; and then just a few weeks after that the Mueller Report was completed, and it turned out that the single most intensely covered news event of my entire lifetime — the “Trump/Russia collusion” story — was also a hoax.

These were not minor or insignificant hoaxes. Both were a huge focus of mainstream press and media coverage and commentary, in the first case for several weeks, and in the second for over two years. Both fed the dominant media narrative of opposition to President Trump and hatred of him and his supporters. Both hoaxes were accepted uncritically and without a hint of skepticism by essentially all of the progressive press and media, who repeated and amplified them at great extent right up until they suddenly unraveled.

But with the extreme focus on these two hoaxes, perhaps you are losing track of the fact that these are just two of some dozens of similar hoaxes perpetrated by the same press and media players in recent years. Today, in honor of April Fools Day, the Manhattan Contrarian performs the public service of reminding you of the extent to which you are subject to a constant barrage of hoaxes originating from the mainstream press, media (including social media), and often also the government; hoaxes that are then endlessly repeated and amplified, all in the service of increased political power for the left.

Hate Crime Hoaxes

If you search the recesses of your memory, you will likely be able to come up with at least a few prior hate crime hoaxes that got big media play before the truth came out. One of the biggest was the University of Virginia fraternity gang rape hoax of 2014, originally perpetrated upon the world by Rolling Stone magazine. Going back several more years, there was the Duke lacrosse team gang rape hoax of 2006. If you follow this issue, you may also remember some others, . . .

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We've Driven Amazon Out Of New York!

It’s official! Earlier today, Amazon announced that it was pulling out of the deal to build a “second headquarters” in Queens (part of New York City) and hire some 25,000 people there. The New York Times is on top of the story:

Amazon on Thursday canceled its plans to build an expansive corporate campus in New York City after facing an unexpectedly fierce backlash from some lawmakers and union leaders, . . . The company, as part of its extensive search for a new headquarters, had chosen Long Island City, Queens, as one of two winning sites, saying that it would create more than 25,000 jobs in the city.

Leading progressives immediately took a victory lap. For example, there was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (tweet quoted in the Times article):

Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.

(Note: the proposed Amazon HQ is not actually within AOC’s district, but about 1 mile or so away.) And Elizabeth Warren:

@amazon – one of the wealthiest companies on the planet – just walked away from billions in taxpayer bribes, all because some elected officials in New York aren't sucking up to them enough. How long will we allow giant corporations to hold our democracy hostage?

You’re probably wondering about the Manhattan Contrarian’s take on this situation. . . .

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