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The Left Fails to Recognize True Causes of Poverty

By Paul DaSilva
On March 25, 2014

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is the latest Republican to make a racially-charged comment, the latest one to sound the "dog-whistle" to score some political points from all those bigoted conservatives. Or so the media and the political left alleges.

The left-wing blogosphere lit up two weeks ago when Ryan went on Bill Bennett's talk show "Morning in America." A few moments into the interview, Ryan was asked what the Republican's plan is for lifting people out of poverty. "Getting people to work" was how he began his reply, and went on to say how there is 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 hard work. So there's a cultural problem that has to be dealt with."

Ryan himself admitted the next day that his comments were "inarticulate." But he generally stood by the essence of his argument, which is that when fathers elect to abandon their children, and choose to not actively engage in a diligent effort to seek employment, they are essentially doing everything within their power to ensure that their child will be severely disadvantaged in life.

It may be an inconvenient fact to liberals, but the trend of single-parent households and children born to unwed parents has borne negative social consequences. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 41 percent of American children in 2012 were born out of wedlock; among blacks, the figure is 72 percent, compared to 54 percent for Hispanics and 29 percent for whites. All of these figures are alarming; however, it is clear that the problem is even more pronounced in the black and Hispanic communities.

As then-Senator Barack Obama admitted himself in his Father's Day remarks in 2008, children have an enormous burden inflicted upon them before they even have a chance to breathe. Obama said, according to a transcript published by The New York Times, "that children who grow up without a father are [five] times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; [nine] times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves." He followed this by boldly asserting the obvious (that liberals including Obama since he has become President have been unfortunately pusillanimous to say): "And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it."

Those statistics are tremendously disquieting, and I wish that people in politics and the media did more to stigmatize both men who make the profoundly selfish decision to relinquish their duties as a father, and women who make the downright imprudent decision to establish the conditions for the birth of a baby in circumstances wholly antithetical to those fit for a child. As it was prior to the sexual revolution in the 1960s, it must be deemed unacceptable for a woman to give birth without being married, or at the very least, lacking a high degree of surety that her man will remain with her. It should also be expected that the parents together have the financial means to support a dependent.

Paul Ryan was trying to get at this very fundamental issue, focusing on the idea that there is a culture of apathy towards working, how this has yielded negative consequences for families and communities, and how this has been, at least in part, due to government policies that more or less allow for this type of behavior. Ryan, in the interview, spoke about the success of welfare reform in the late 1990s, but how this reform was incomplete.

In his statement walking back the phraseology of his original comments, he said, "The broader point I was trying to make is that we cannot settle for this status quo and that government and families have to do more and rethink our approach to fighting poverty." It is his objective that government does its part in reforming its current anti-poverty law. For instance, he and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) have looked at the Earned Income Tax Credit, a wage supplement for struggling families. They have proposed replacing it with a low-income wage subsidy that would more directly lift the wages for those whose salaries are low.

Liberal outrage toward Ryan over his recent comments is not at all surprising and is characteristic of their unfettered urge to partake in racial politics. It's really easy calling your opponents racist, or claiming they're playing to racial sentiments present in their base. It's another to truthfully analyze the causes of intergenerational poverty.

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