When Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., went off on Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for his remarks that “We have got a tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work,” the wrong part of what she had to say got all the attention.
The big buzz that Congressional Black Caucus member Lee generated was her accusation that Ryan’s remarks were a “thinly veiled racial attack.”
But the part of her remarks I found most interesting was: “… Mr. Ryan should step up and produce some legitimate proposals on how to tackle poverty and racial discrimination in America.”
Paul Ryan has been one of the most creative and courageous policy thinkers in Washington in recent years.
Ryan sat down with me for an interview shortly before he ran for vice president in 2012 (the interview is on my organization’s website, www.urbancure.org). His thoughtfulness and compassion came through loud and clear, and he zeroed in on the core of a problem I have been talking and writing about for more than 20 years – government programs that not only do not solve problems but make problems worse.
I stepped into this whole business of public policy from my own experience with welfare. I saw that the welfare program that operated in this country from the 1960s until it was reformed in 1996, that required women to not work, not save and not get married in order to qualify for their welfare checks, was a most efficient mechanism to destroy family and perpetuate poverty.
So it should come as no surprise that single-parent black households tripled as a percentage of all black households from the 1960s to today.
Where Barbara Lee is right is that this is not about race. What it is about is liberalism.
The racial aspect comes into play in that black political leaders, like Congresswoman Lee, overwhelmingly embrace liberalism, progressivism, welfare statism – whatever you want to call it – that has failed and caused untold damage in the very communities they claim to want to help. And they refuse to ever learn. Their answer to every problem, despite prior experience, is more government, more taxpayer dollars.
When real reformers like Paul Ryan come along, they get branded racist.
In a column I wrote a couple years ago, I pointed out that the 41-member Congressional Black Caucus were uniformly Democrats, had a 100 percent re-election rates, and the average poverty rate in these Congressional Black Caucus districts was 20.3 percent and the average child poverty rate 28.8 percent – both well above national averages.
Economist Walter Williams has pointed out that, in America’s top-10 poorest cities with populations more than 250,000, “… for decades, all of them have been run by Democratic and presumably liberal administrations. Some of them – such as Detroit (now the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation’s history), Buffalo, Newark and Philadelphia, haven’t elected a Republican mayor for more than half a century. What’s more is that, in some cases for decades, the mayors of six of these high-poverty cities have been black Americans.”
Again, the point is not that the mayors of these cities are black. It is that they are liberals. And black politicians, like Congresswoman Barbara Lee, overwhelmingly are liberals, and they remain liberals, despite a long and consistent track record of failure.
When welfare was reformed, liberals like Barbara Lee fought it.
It is pure self-absorption for any interest group to think it is all about them. America is in real trouble today, and we’re all in this together.
Ms. Lee talks about “code words.” Her code word is “racist,” which means someone, like Paul Ryan, who wants to make Americans of all backgrounds better off by giving them more freedom, more choice, more responsibility and less government.