Triage. A proposed first-step solution for the nation’s “Baltimores.” But is it a conservative solution?
If we look at the utter mess that is Baltimore, and the total failure of decades of liberal policies that have all but destroyed the black family in this country, and given rise to dozens of “Baltimores” in other urban city areas (see: Detroit, Philadelphia, Newark, Atlanta, Chicago, etc…) at first glance, it seems an all-but-impossible situation to solve. There’s an inclination among some, if not many conservatives, to throw up their hands, and tell Democrats “you created it, you made it, you broke it, you own it, now you live with it..” but of course that’s not an option. Because they can’t fix it, they don’t know how; they’ll just propose more of the same old tired, failed “solutions.”
So next, we are faced with the almost impossible question: “OK, we want to fix it, but where the hell do we start?”
Daniel Moynihan foresaw this FIFTY YEARS ago. He accurately predicted that the rise in single-mother families in the black community would yield the many “Baltimores” in America today.
The esteemed Thomas Sowell sums it up in his latest column, The Inconvenient Truth about Ghetto Communities’ Social Breakdown. It’s a must read, but here, IMO, is the money quote from Sowell:
“One key fact that keeps getting ignored is that the poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits every year since 1994.”
We know the litany of problems facing these “Baltimores.” Bad schools, drugs, gangs, poverty, the collapse of the family..80% of children borne out of wedlock, (the vast majority to teenage girls), shabby housing, a lack of opportunity; and the sense of hopelessness it engenders, and perpetuates.
We also know that money is not the problem. Some $1.8 billion has disappeared down the rat-hole of a few Baltimore neighborhoods, with almost nothing to show for it. So more funds are not the answer.
In any disaster situation (which aptly describes “Baltimores”) first responders immediately institute a triage regimen, to make sure that available resources are best deployed to those who will most likely benefit from them.
To begin to turn around “Baltimores” we have to institute a triage program. We must, to use liberalism’s own vernacular, “break the cycle of poverty and despair.”
But again, where to begin?
Moynihan and Sowell strongly suggest that we must begin to reconstitute the black family. It’s not that the other issues aren’t important; rather it is here that we can begin to immediately have an impact that will show positive results in later years.
We have to use free-market solutions to incentivize young, single black girls to NOT have children.
If a 13,14, 15 year old girl gets pregnant, she likely drops out of school, and end up on welfare. The total cost, in terms of rent assistance, food stamps, medical care, and the myriad of other programs, is likely in the area of at least $20k per year. We’re
spending er, wasting, this money now, we are perpetuating the cycle of “children having children.”
And far worse, we’re completely wasting, throwing away, another generation. The boys borne into fatherless “homes” will turn to the streets; the girls will replicate their mothers’ example, and have kids themselves in 13-15 years. Study after study has shown the generation progression of this pattern of behavior.
But suppose we turn it around. Offer any young girl, over age 12, under age 18 ( or perhaps 21-23, if they attend college and are academically on track?) who stays in school, has no criminal record, and does not give birth to a child, say, $10k for each yearly accomplishment.
I would split up the $10k/year as follows. Pay about half, say $300-400/month to the parent or guardian of the young girl. Yes, some of that money might be wasted or squandered, and not used for the child’s benefit, but at the very least the parent or guardian would have a financial incentive to see that the child remains in school, and hopefully provide enough guidance to encourage the girl to not become pregnant, either by celibacy or use of birth control. Liberals have told us for decades that if we only teach sex-ed to very young children, they won’t get pregnant. Well, that hasn’t worked out, so maybe let’s see if the caretakers can have an unfluence.
The remaining balance would accrue in a savings account, with half the sum to be paid to girl when she attains majority age (18) and the rest, plus sums that would continue to be paid in, if they attend college, given to them at the age of 21.
The girl now has a real incentive; a future payment of perhaps as much as $30-40k. That’s 99.9% MORE money than she’s ever likely now to accumulate in her lifetime.
Yes, many will waste or squander the funds, and not use it for the opportunities it can create. But some, hopefully many, will use it to their advantage, and give themselves the chance for a better future.
We are spending these funds now, and it’s all going to waste. So, there’s no downside fiscally. At best, it would help a lot a girls to a better life. At worst it would delay the birth of another generation of kids already doomed to a life of failure by 3-10 years.
And that would give the infrastructure a chance to recover, and rebuild. We’d have years with a significantly lesser number of kids in the school system. That would let us begin to remake it, both in the public system, and also in the charter schools. And we could devote more resources to the kids already in the system, giving them the chance for a better future.
Watching all the interviews on the streets of Baltimore, listening to all the young people complain about no jobs, no opportunity, what is also obvious is that if the jobs were there, these people severely lack the skills to fill them. Jobs, or even as Obama likes to reiterate ad nauseam, “good paying jobs” won’t do a damn thing if the applicants are functionally illiterate, and can barely speak intelligible English. But nobody will dare to state the obvious.
We’ve seen many incentive type programs succeed. The best example is when some individual or philanthropy tells a class of youngsters: “finish school, stay out of trouble, and I guarantee to pay for your college education.” These type of programs WORK; it’s been proven time and again.
OK, now let’s deal with the problems this solution presents, at least the ones I’ve already identified, and which admittedly trouble me to varying extents.
1. It “discriminates” against young males. Yes, it does, and in a perfect world it wouldn’t be necessary to go this route. But I believe it’s constitutional; heck we’ve already done worse to shred our governing document.
2. It “discriminates” against other parts of the country, who may be dealing with different, though equally troubling issues. Again, yes, it does. But we have for decades established, and funded programs targeted at specific geographical, and demographic parts of the nation. This would be no different. We’d establish eligibility criteria, for those who reside in certain zip codes that “satisfy” certain unfortunate criteria. We have the statistics to do this.
OK, last but most definitely least; here’s the real biggie.
A program of this type runs the strong risk of “incentivizing ” abortions.
A young girls gets pregnant, her family doesn’t want to lose the monthly stipend, the girl doesn’t want to lose the big pay out in a few years, so, immediately it’s off to Planned Parenthood.
And as one who is strongly pro-life, I’m not going to make light of that concern. It troubles me. But I think there are some ways that we can solve the problem.
First, remember it’s 100% voluntary. No compulsion here. The girl, and her family, can decide to sign up for it, or not. Some will oppose this, saying that the girl lacks the ability to make an informed decision; she will be influenced by her family (who just want the monthly check) That may be true, but liberals and Maryland law, also tell us that a minor child, any age, can have an abortion WITHOUT parental consent; so why should it be such a big deal to ask her if she’s willing to either remain celibate or promise to use birth control? And since we’re already teaching them sex-ed, in elementary school, none of this will come off as a surprise, so that argument fails.
And what if she still does get pregnant, and go off and have an abortion, then attempt to continue in the program as though nothing happened?
This too is troubling to me, but there is a possible solution.
If you sign up, again, voluntarily, for the program, you consent to having a nurse’s physical every six months. This will show if a) you are pregnant, and b) if you’ve had an abortion.
But I’d go further still. Should the child find herself pregnant, she can remain in the program IF she agrees to place the child for adoption. She will be better off, as will the child.
Yes, this smacks to some extent of Big-Brotherism; but again, it’s voluntary. And while it relies on free-market incentives, some aspects may upset social conservatives. I understand, and sympathize with that concern. What I’ve proposed here is the beginning of a possible solution to what by all appearances seems now to be insurmountable.
Again, if we look at the many problems of our “Baltimores” we have to start somewhere to fix the mess. This is a simple, and possibly elegant, free-market solution that can begin to change the culture that has given rise to many “Baltimores.”