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BOOK REVIEW: Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make it Harder for Blacks to Succeed by Jason L. Riley

StopHelpingUs5 of 5 Stars

Recommended for: Every conservative in America especially those that are interested in education.

Up until this year, I had never heard of Jason Riley. I listen to Benjamin Weingarten’s TheBlaze Books podcast (If you are a political and book nerd like me, then you need to be listening to this podcast!), and he had him on as a guest back in July. Weingarten had him on again in mid-August, on that episode they discussed Ferguson, Missouri.

I was incredibly impressed with Riley, and somehow or another, I ended up with an email and an offer to review the book. Time has gotten away from me, and I should have had this review done sooner.

I have always been fascinated at how the left has been able to capitalize and utilize black voters to their advantage. While they get their vote, they continue to promote policies that do nothing but harm black people. Put that in context of the fact that they were the party of slavery and Jim Crow, it is probably the most successful hoodwink in the history of our Republic.

Please Stop Helping Us is short in length, but long in implication and importance. In 175 pages and six short chapters, Riley tears apart the lunacy that is liberal special interest politics. Well-cited, and filled with personal stories to contextualize his topic, Riley presents an engaging read that challenges so many stereotypes and fictions that Americans wrongfully believe.

Riley states in the introduction:

This book examines the track record of the political left’s serial altruism over the past half century. Have popular government policies and programs that are aimed at helping blacks worked as intended? And where the black advancement has occurred, do these government efforts deserve the credit that they so often receive?…In theory these efforts [welfare, minimum wage, affirmative action, soft on crime laws, and a mistaken belief school choice is harmful] are meant to help. In practice they become barriers to moving forward. Please Stop Helping Us lays bare these counterproductive results.

Chapter one, Black Man in the White House, takes a look at the implication of Barack Obama’s election as President in the historical context of black political history.

Chapter two, Culture Matters, is a brave chapter. Riley uses his own personal narrative to approach the issue of black culture. Riley first discusses absentee fathers within the black community. While his mother and father did not remain together, Riley had a father that was present and involved in his life.

“And though they couldn’t save their marriage, my parents were resolved to save their kids. What this meant in practice was that they tried, with mixed results, to minimize the impact of America’s black subculture on their children.”

Riley was the only one of four siblings to escape this culture. Sadly, Riley lost two of his siblings to drugs and his older sister became a single mom.

Riley enjoyed school, and the byproduct of this was that Riley was picked on by other blacks and members of his own family. He tells a story of his nine-year-old niece attacking his proper speech, “Why you talk white, Uncle Jason?” Turning to her friend, she continued, “Don’t my uncle sound white? Why he trying to sound so smart?” Somehow black culture has equated white with being intelligent and learned.

Riley moves on from his personal narrative to a discussion of the impact of black culture on the educational performance of black people. Pulling heavily from educational studies, Riley paints a picture of black culture that is ignorant to the importance of education and destroying itself from the inside out.

“Black cultural attitudes toward work, authority, dress, sex, and violence have also proven counterproductive, inhibiting the development of the kind of human capital that has lead to socioeconomic advancement for other groups…A culture that takes pride in ignorance and mocks learnedness has a dim future.

Black culture today not only condones delinquency and thuggery but celebrates it to the point where black youths have adopted jail fashion in the form of baggy, low-slung pants and oversize T-shirts. Hip-hop music immortalizes drug dealers and murderers.”

Chapter three, The Enemy Within, takes a look at the issues of crime inside of the black community. Riley once again starts out with personal anecdotes about encounters with law enforcement. While frustrating, Riley once again courageously puts the blame on the reality of the situation. In this case, we are referring to high black crime rates. Riley states, “The black inmate population reflects black criminality, not a racist criminal justice system.” The chapter is full of statistical evidence that bolsters Riley’s position. As Riley says in his conclusion of the chapter, “The stark racial differences in crime rates undoubtedly impact black-white relations in America. So long as they persist, young black men will make people nervous. Discussions about the problem can be useful if they are honest, which is rare.”

Chapter four, Mandating Unemployment, is a brilliant look at the issue of minimum wage in the context of racial history in America. I never knew the link between unions, racism, and minimum wage laws. This chapter is damning to one of the most successful myths the left has managed to perpetrate in this country. Survey research continues to show Americans support additional increases in the minimum wage. Minimum wage laws are incredibly harmful to the poor, and as Riley demonstrates, they are significantly harmful to black Americans. This is probably my favorite chapter in the whole book.

Chapter five, Educational Freedom, takes a look at the education system and its effects on black Americans. Riley looks at how successful choice programs (vouchers and charters) despite union opposition, are making a difference in some of the poorest communities in New York City. Riley closes this chapter with a brief look at historically black colleges and universities.

The final chapter of the book examines the left’s sacred cow, affirmative action. Not only must liberals help, they must social engineer to right all wrongs. Consistent in form, Riley equipped with research destroys the myth of affirmative action. I’ve always suspected this practice has done little to better minorities in our society, and this chapter reinforced that belief. Since 1960 the black middle class has failed to grow any more rapid than prior to 1960. In 1970, 33.5% of blacks were below the poverty line and in 1990 that number was still at 31.9%. Riley also discusses the effect of affirmative action on colleges in this chapter.

This review has gone on a bit long than I like to make them, but I loved this book and wanted you to get a feel of what was inside it. This is one of those books that make liberals incredibly angry because it presents the truth of their ugly manipulation of a special interest group. Go get a copy of his book and read it for yourself!

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INCOME INEQUALITY AND EDUCATION (Hint: Blame the left!)

John Mauldin

John Mauldin

I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I think it will be worth your time.

I have mentioned before that I am a huge fan of John Mauldin. Mauldin is an investment analyst/economist from Texas. (You can check out my review of his newest book, Code Red.) I think he’s one of the most brilliant guys I have ever read.

He publishes a free weekly newsletter called Thoughts from the Frontline. There are close to a million people that read it. It’s basically Mauldin’s attempt to explain the world as he sees it. No matter whether you care about investing or not, I think Mauldin does an exponentially better job of reporting what is really going on in the world today. He is incredibly well read, and has quite a knack for the written word. Much of his analysis is done through the lens of economics.

Recentlym he had a three part series on income inequality (“The Problem with Keynesianism“, March 9, 2014; “Inequality and Opportunity“, March 16, 2014; and “When Inequality Isn’t“, March 29, 2014). The whole series is worth your time, but I thought I’d dish out the stuff I found most interesting and appropriate for our purposes here. I’m going to underline the parts I found most important.

Equality of Opportunity

In one of the most far-reaching studies I’ve seen, a group of Harvard economists have compared upward mobility – the ability to rise from lower to higher income groups – among US metropolitan areas, as well as among developed nations. Their rather remarkable website and database can be found here. Their one-paragraph summary is:

In two recent studies, we find that: (1) Upward income mobility varies substantially within the U.S. [summary][paperAreas with greater mobility tend to have five characteristics: less segregation, less income inequality, better schools, greater social capital, and more stable families. (2) Contrary to popular perception, economic mobility has not changed significantly over time; however, it is consistently lower in the U.S. than in most developed countries. [summary][paper].

Silence of the Left

Conveniently for the discussion of our topic, John Goodman posted a brief article on Townhall.com this week called “Silence of the Left”:

The topic du jour on the left these days is inequality. But why does the left care about inequality? Do they really want to lift those at the bottom of the income ladder? Or are they just looking for one more reason to increase the power of government? If you care about those at the bottom then you are wasting your time and everyone else’s time unless you focus on one and only one phenomenon: the inequality of educational opportunity. Poor kids are almost always enrolled in bad schools. Rich kids are almost always in good schools.

It turns out that homes cost roughly 20% more in areas with good schools. School choice is already in effect because people with more money buy homes in areas with better public schools. Children of families with less money on average tend to be stuck in lower-performing public schools.

Goodman cites a Brookings Institution study that investigated the same phenomenon nationwide:

  • Across the 100 largest metropolitan areas, housing costs an average of 2.4 times as much, or nearly $11,000 more per year, near a high-scoring public school than near a low-scoring public school.
  • This housing cost gap reflects that home values are $205,000 higher on average in the neighborhoods of high-scoring versus low-scoring schools. Near high-scoring schools, typical homes have 1.5 additional rooms and the share of housing units that are rented is roughly 30 percentage points lower than in neighborhoods near low-scoring schools.

Goodman continues:

You almost never see anything written by left-of-center folks on reforming the public schools. And I have noticed on TV talk shows that it’s almost impossible to get liberals to agree to the most modest of all reform ideas: getting rid of bad teachers and making sure we keep the good ones.

Here is the uncomfortable reality:

1. Our system of public education is one of the most regressive features of American society.

2. There is almost nothing we could do that would be more impactful in reducing inequality of educational opportunity and inequality overall than to do what Sweden has done: give every child a voucher and let them select a school of choice.

3. Yet on the left there is almost uniform resistance to this idea or any other idea that challenges the power of the teachers’ unions.

That “socialist” bastion of income equality and mobility – Sweden – uses vouchers for education.

Krugman argues against school vouchers because they might reduce support for public schools. And then he actually writes, “And – dare we say it? – we should in general oppose privatization plans if they are likely to destroy public sector unions.”

We have total academic, bureaucratic, and teachers’-union capture of public education. We are subjecting our children to an education system that that was designed for and that worked remarkably well during the first two industrial revolutions but that is now utterly inadequate for the coming Age of Transformation. The new New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, is working to shut down many of the best-performing schools in his city – charter schools – which are hated by teachers’ unions. Rather than ask what is good for the children, he and many others simply want to expand the power of the unions.

If we want to do something about income inequality, perhaps we should think about the data that shows the remarkable correlation between education, educational opportunity, and income.

report from the American Enterprise Institute gives us a good summary. Notice in the chart below that while the income of the highest fifth of the US population is almost 18 times that of the lowest fifth, there is only a 3.5x differential when it comes to the average earnings of the people actually working and making money in the household. It is just that high-income households have more than four times as many wage earners (on average) as poor households.

And married and thus two-earner households make more than single-person households. That seems obvious, of course, but it is a significant factor in income inequality. That doesn’t make the plight of the single working mom any better or easier, but it does help explain the statistical difference. And it does make a difference in lifestyle. Marriage drops the probability of childhood poverty by 82%.

The AEI report ends on this positive note:

Bottom Line: Household demographics, including the average number of earners per household and the marital status, age, and education of householders are all very highly correlated with household income. Specifically, high-income households have a greater average number of income-earners than households in lower-income quintiles, and individuals in high income households are far more likely than individuals in low-income households to be well-educated, married, working full-time, and in their prime earning years. In contrast, individuals in lower-income households are far more likely than their counterparts in higher-income households to be less-educated, working part-time, either very young (under 35 years) or very old (over 65 years), and living in single-parent households.

Take a look at this chart below. It looks at spending by households on various items split out by quintile. It goes back to 1986 because that was when pretty significant changes to the tax law occurred. Noticed specifically the differences in spending on education and reading.

annualexpenditure

At the beginning of this letter I promised you a “solution” to income inequality. Let me offer this one tongue-in-cheek, as an argumentum ad absurdum.

We simply need to penalize the incomes of older people, take away any advantage there is from being married, reduce opportunities for education, penalize people for working more than 35 hours per week, and of course levy a significant tax on any accumulated savings. This will quickly reduce inequalities of income. It has the slight disadvantage that it will also destroy the economy and create a massive depression; but if the goal is equal outcomes for all, then communist Russia might be the model you are looking for. Except that even there the bureaucrats and other insiders did quite well.

If you’re really serious about dealing with income inequality, you need to worry about equality of opportunity in education, and specifically about making sure that the education system is radically reformed by taking it out of the hands of bureaucrats and unions. We need to make sure the economic and legal playing field is level by getting government favoritism and bureaucratic meddling out of the way and making the pie larger for everyone. However, as I demonstrated a few weeks ago, a natural outcome of doubling the size of the economic pie over the coming 15 years will be that there is an even greater differential between those who have next to nothing and those who have accumulated the most. The only way to prevent such an outcome is to keep the total economic pie from growing, and that doesn’t seem like a very good economic policy.

If we truly want to do something about income inequality, we must stop listening to the left talk about it. They are completely and utterly uniformed on the topic. And more then anything else, they probably are the most to blame. They have destroyed our families socially and culturally, and they have destroyed our schools through unionization and bureaucratization.

Andrew Palmer is co-founder and editor of Conservative Teachers of America. You may reach him at [email protected]

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12/1/2013 #QuoteOfTheDay #education #RonaldReagan

“Education is not the means of showing people how to get what they want. Education is an exercise by means of which enough men, it is hoped, will learn to want what is worth having.”

-Ronald Reagan

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by | December 1, 2013 · 10:00 AM