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J. E. Clark

Baltimore Notes; Real Poverty Issues
By Jerry E. Clark
April 30, 2015 -

The events surrounding the explosion of anger in Baltimore this past week remind us of how much additional 'work' needs to be done addressing poverty and its associated patterns of distrust, frustration, and hopelessness.

Our friends on the left continue to opine that we haven't spent enough money combating poverty. They maintain that if we just spend more public resources on this problem, all will be okay.

I couldn't disagree more.

Those with low incomes may now get rent, fuel, food, child maintenance, and many other forms of assistance. All free. They also qualify for what is, in effect, a negative income tax: the earned income tax credit, which often yields them a nice, yearly check for being poor. Of course, being poor isn't a great lifestyle at all - nobody claims this. But there is no lack of public resources being devoted to fighting poverty.

But there is a severe lack of basic common sense that is NOT being employed in the fight against poverty. The statistics of poverty are well-known and may help us all see what needs to be done to fight it effectively, not just with words, but action.

The number one cause of poverty is lack of education. The number two cause of poverty is the breakdown of the American family. Single parents have just one income (if that). They cannot earn their income and also take proper care of their offspring without a nearly super-human effort. Thus, not enough do make that very difficult effort.

Many fathers of low-income families have disappeared, taking zero responsibility for the raising and funding of their children. In this age of DNA analysis availability, this is crazy. Step one in the REAL fight against poverty must deal with poor women becoming impregnated by irresponsible males. These fathers must be dealt with and made to own up to their responsibilities - whatever it takes to get a system in place to get this accomplished should be done.

Low-income families also suffer from a lack of education. Inner-city schools have huge and mounting discipline problems and few schools have effectively dealt with this. Inner-city kids aren't going to get educated if bullies, troublemakers, and bums rule the roost. Getting hold of key educational facilities problems, including classroom control, teacher security and pay, and a wide range of issues in this realm need urgent attention.

As we watch the pitiful events unfold in many major U. S. cities, we're told that it's over-the-top police behavior that's the problem.

That, statistically is not true. What we most often see, however, is the most egregious cases of poor police judgment.

Shooting a guy six times for trying to grab your weapon, suffocating another guy for resisting arrest, shooting a subject in the back whose crime was not paying child support, and injuring a guy's spinal cord after an arrest are among the many cases that anti-police sources cite to back up the claim of over-aggressive law enforcement.

What is being left out of consideration is the sheer volume of repeat offenders, violent crooks, and the massive number of violent crimes that inner-city officers have to deal with every day of the year.

While some claim that blacks are being 'targeted' by police, the crime statistics show that this same group is responsible for a disproportionate share of crime.

Law enforcement authorities must weed out those among them who are not properly trained or lack the emotional ability to handle the massive problems each officer must confront as part of his or her job. Law enforcement is a very tough job, no doubt about it, but that still does not give these individuals the right to take away citizen liberties and rights.

But back to poverty.

Raising the minimum wage won't stop poverty. Building new apartment projects won't either. Giving poor people free cell phones won't do it and neither will violent outbursts provide the way towards more 'understanding.'

In the end, the leadership in poor communities must stick to the facts, promote peace and harmony and adopt a zero tolerance stance against those who favor rioting instead of dealing with the real reasons their lives are not better.

Education takes time. There is no quick fix.

Making sure that fathers meet their responsibilities is another key factor. I suspect if any given male knew for sure that when his DNA is identified with a birth that he will never escape financial responsibility, via deductions from a tax refund, a payroll check, any public benefit he might enjoy, etc, etc, he may well think twice about his activities. There is no system in place to deal with this now, but there should be.

Right now, people may sign up for public assistance of many kinds with little responsibility on their end. At some point, benefits need to be tied to a change in behavior or we'll never get a handle on the most difficult aspects of their conditions.

Some on the left side of the political spectrum opine that a solution of taking from the so-called 'rich' and redistributing those proceeds to the poor, is the solution. Right-minded Americans should recognize this for what it is: nonsense. What is needed is the enabling of the poor to raise themselves up. Few are ever better off when others are made less so. This is not a zero sum game: there is no limit to prosperity and it's available to all. Getting the tools to join the better-off crowd is the key.

Many of us saw the inner-city Baltimore mom smacking her youthful son repeatedly because she found him amongst the troublemakers who burned buildings and pelted police officers with rocks. I'm not suggesting that this is a 'solution' to this problem; but I'm also not saying I disagree with her outrage.

Inner-city, poor people need leadership, as we all do. They need to know that there is a way out of their condition, but that the real way 'out' is a difficult one, loaded with hard work, personal responsibility, and more.

I believe the time will come when the vast majority of our poor, black population will finally get sick and tired of putting up with the destruction of their neighborhoods by rioters, thugs, and thieves. They'll become completely fed up with drug dealers and those advocating violence.

Inner city kids can't get the many scholarships available because many can't meet the minimum educational standards. OK, let's do whatever it takes to fix this.

How to make education 'cool' is not my forte, nor is social engineering. What I do know is that proper incentives work for the mass majority of young people. That involves leadership, a safe place for all this to occur, and a minimal amount of public investment.

So, let's get on with this right now. Let's root out incompetent school systems and incompetent politicians who support them. Let's make sure that repeat crooks aren't let back into neighborhoods to continue their irresponsibility. Let's clearly show young women that associating with guys who are members of gangs and violent groups is not a smart life strategy.

All this is a long road, but begins with a single step of dealing with the FACTS of poverty, not the emotional whims of race-baiters like Al Sharpton.

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