Politicians and pundits have expressed concern that civil unrest will be the byproduct of a decision by a federal judge to lift the restraining order on Michigan’s plan to end welfare benefits to nearly 41,000 families and children.

“Michigan will be a point of crisis,” claimed the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

“It gives us cause for great concern,” said Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee who fears crime in the nation’s deadliest city could escalate.

Sowing the seeds of a social revolt may just be scare mongering, intended to get the Legislature to reverse its edict placing a 48-month lifetime cap on cash assistance. But if these initial cuts signal a new era of personal responsibility, and I suspect they do, doomsday predictions could become a self-fulfilling prophecy for all the wrong reasons.

k9710544To suggest that Detroit, and other urban areas, are on the verge of an explosion of civil unrest projects images of rampaging youth and frantic parents taking to the streets to participate in hit-and-run skirmishes with residents and police; the have-nots taking from “them that got.”

In reality, this pandering to the welfare poor is reckless feel-your pain populism that stimulates their self-pity. It paints a picture of callous, insensitive politicians turning a blind eye to the truly needy. Its premise is that government is the ultimate destroyer and savior.

Granted, a myriad of economic dilemmas exist throughout the state, which makes assessing the long-term plight of recipients difficult. A deluge of high-quality, innovative products from China and other Third World countries that mass-produce goods using inexpensive labor and technological advances, contributed to the bleeding of jobs from urban areas.

Unemployment is also a powerful testimony to the failure of education. As evidenced by virtually every measure of academic performance, the system of public education has arrested the intellectual development of generation of children in welfare families. Deprived of basic reading, math skills and the confidence to compete in today’s workplace that requires a higher level of learning and competence, many of these children may never take that first step up the economic ladder.

But what role does the government have in extricating the poor from welfare rolls and into jobs? Can government substantially alter the behavior of adults and adolescents living under conditions found among welfare recipients? Maybe not. The core of poverty tends to transcend joblessness or government intervention.

The welfare state both encouraged and financed dependency among those mired in learned behavior that is generally void of the work ethic. Current strategies –extensive welfare-to-work programs — wasted energies and squandered taxpayer dollars.

For black Americans, particularly black men, unemployment rates have remained twice that of the general population for several decades – in good times and bad — and for a number of reasons. In some cases, the unemployed did not qualify for, or refused to accept the low-income jobs best suited to their skills. These disparities existed before welfare cuts came into play and will likely continue.

Those welfare recipients willing to work must now compete directly with legal and illegal immigrants at the margins of society for low-wage, low-skill jobs. But can they?

Most taxpayers would agree that those addicted to dependency must demonstrate more of a willingness to escape from the shackles that rob them of individual initiatives. If they have a future with a job, self-help initiatives will need to shift toward encouraging a hardened underclass to change behavior, not by continuing to drip-feed more handouts without accountability.

In the short-term, it is irresponsible for welfare activists to sound the alarm that cuts to cash assistance will create conditions so hopeless that mayhem is the only available option. Under the guise of compassion, these advocates of the status quo only promote cynicism. And to suggest that social disorder is imminent, inevitable and even understandable is inexcusable. It completely dismisses the obligation to work.

 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I do not think activists are stating people do not have the obligation to work. I believe the issue is that the welfare to work activites in the past have not worked. Before the government should remove individuals from their safety net a plan to move them permanently should be in place.

  2. Bill,

    Do you have a monkey to start your car? You cannot say these things out loud and retain your race membership card! But it’s all well said and God bless you for saying it.

    I have been a board member of a charity that has successfully been transforming the lives of abused and neglected girls. Our two charter schools produce high school graduates of children who, when on the streets or in their communities, rarely attended school. Sad to say, all of the girls – white and black – share the same story. They were “raised” by single mothers (usually only 15 or 16 years older than the daughter) and the only males in their lives were their brothers and the serial “uncles” who bedded mom and, nearly as frequently, sexually assaulted them. NO ONE they knew in their communities had ever held a job for more than a day or two.

    It’s hard to imagine the brutish life these girls have lived by the time they reach us: Our org. is the last resort. On average, the girls have had 8 prior failed “placements” before they come to us. We have a proven track record and studies show we make a real difference.

    My point isn’t to crow about the org. but to affirm the essential point of your article: government has created the conditions that have bred the vicious cycle of self-inoculating poverty and it has very little efficacy in dealing with the byproduct of its failed policies. The race politicians – including Cornell West – see the current economic turmoil as an opportunity to reestablish the racial Mau Mau that had fallen on deaf ears in recent years. In this they join with the anarchists, socialists and others who see this as a time to steal a march against the more conservative trend in our society.

    In the meantime, under the failed policies that brought us welfare dependency and genocidal public schools, thousands of our children will fall further behind in our economy and society. I fear that we are developing for the first time in our country’s history a genuine, permanent underclass. To the West’s of the world that will be a satisfying self-fulfilling prophesy. The rest of us will try (as with my org.) to save those we can.

  3. I am a bootstrapper Bill. There is no question that generations of welfare breed generations of welfare. And it isn’t so much that people in certain situation don’t need it! It is the assumption of welfare by many making poor choices (whether generational or not) that is painful to watch and know of. Americans have to get back to taking care of their families. Although I am African American, I purposefully say “Americans” because the absolute number of welfare recipients are not Black although Blacks on welfare are most likely a higher percentage of the Black population than are White recipients to their population–this statement of course assumes that a “Black” person is visibly Black–a whole other discussion and American sociological phenomenon inasmuch as much of the world is rooted in an African origin it seems. from a non-native Detroiter who care about All God’s Children

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