George Will shows that Paul Ryan was right to contend that a “tailspin of culture, in our inner cities” plays a huge role in the persistence of poverty. Will finds the liberal outrage at Ryan’s unexceptionable remarks to be the product of “malice, ignorance, and intellectual sloth.”
I find them to be the product of ideological necessity. Ryan’s analysis is inconsistent with both the left’s narrative and its prescriptions. Therefore it must be denounced as racist.
Ryan’s analysis undermines the left’s indictment of American society. For example, the left insists that our criminal justice system is horribly stacked against young black men. As proof, it cites — even touts — the high rate of incarceration of this cohort. But if the breakdown of the African-American family in our cities is contributing to high rates of criminal behavior therein, then the left’s indictment of our justice system loses much of its force.
The left’s latest crusade is against public school discipline policies that produce much more punishment of black than white students. But if the breakdown of the family in inner cities, coupled with related pathologies, has resulted in significantly more serious classroom misconduct by African-American students, then the racial disparities in school discipline meted out do not show discrimination, and there is no sound basis for reform. After all, the policies under attack promote the right of students of all races to a safe and stable learning environment.
For years, the left has condemned America for its comparatively high infant mortality rates. How many times have you heard that we are the wealthiest large nation in the world, yet are close to the bottom among industrial democracies when it comes to infant mortality?
But if cultural factors are, to a disproportionate degree, causing young American mothers not to take care of themselves during pregnancy and not to take advantage of prenatal care that is readily available to them, then high American infant mortality rates lose much of their utility as a basis for bashing America. Individuals are to blame, not “America,” if they abuse drugs and/or fail to seek medical attention during pregnancy.
The left doesn’t just use problems stemming from cultural tailspin to denounce America with relish. They also cite these problems as the basis for demanding more government programs and more transfer of income.
Consider the left’s latest big idea for reform, “regionalism,” an effort to redistribute money from the suburbs to the cities and inner-ring suburbs, and to impose racial and income balance in every neighborhood. The implementation of this idea is proceeding apace in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area, fueled by the notion that suburban zoning and use practices are denying economic opportunity to, and creating barriers for, low-income and minority individuals.
However, as Katherine Kersten has shown, citing the analysis of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council, residents of “racially concentrated areas of poverty” in the Twin Cities actually have better access to jobs, services, and amenities than do residents of supposed “opportunity clusters.”
What, then, do the residents of “racially concentrated areas of poverty” lack? They lack of stable family structure. In Hennepin County, Kersten notes, the out-of-wedlock birth rate for U.S. born blacks is 84 percent. The white rate is 18 percent.
These sorts of truth are inconvenient for the left, so inconvenient that those who point them out must be denounced as racist.