Monday, November 21, 2011

Welfare and the War on Drugs

It's starting to make some sense to me why liberals talk about institutional racism against blacks. People I know don't regard blacks as inferior or evil by race. But people do recognize that blacks as a group have more social problems relative to other races. Higher incarceration rates. Higher broken family rates. Lower educational attainment rates. Lower family income. This is all true. Why? I think when you fail to recognize the institutional factors that contribute to this while laying the blame at the racial group as a whole, that's what a liberal means with institutional racism. And I think it's fair to call it racism.

In my view one of the major reasons for social problems in the black community is the war on drugs. Glenn Greenwald recently debated the war on drugs, and you can watch here. His opening statement is quite powerful. You might be shocked at just how unfair drug policy is to African Americans. I was taken aback. There's some great info here. That source indicates that drug use is actually higher among whites. Blacks are 14% of all illicit drug users, yet they are over half of the prison population. The war on drugs was crafted as a racist policy by design. It was based on the presumption that black were inferior and dangerous.

What are the consequences? By 1991 29% of all black males had spent time in prison. Compare to 4.4% of whites. It's pretty tough to be married when the father is in prison. It's tough to get a job when you have a criminal record. Even if you are a law abiding black citizen and you live in a black community this will affect your home's value. It affects your ability to get a loan on favorable terms. The result is that for every dollar of wealth white people have black people have 8 cents.

The one thing that can alleviate suffering a bit for black children is welfare for dependent mothers. This is your lifeline. So what might you think if you were a black person and you knew that your lifeline was being pointed to as the cause of the social problems in the black community? You'd wonder if these people were racist.

Thomas Sowell loves to blame welfare for black social problems. He does so in this hour long program on PBS. Gosh, black families weren't broken prior to 1962 when welfare legislation was passed. I guess welfare is the cause.

In my view Sowell isn't so great when it comes to allowing facts to inform your theory. I haven't seen him provide plots of the number of children headed by single parent families through the years. Did it take off in 1962? I'm not sure. I'm trying to find some data myself. Here's what I was able to find, via this link.


This of course doesn't break it down by race, but there's no noticeable downturn in 1962. In fact it looks bad just after 1970, right about the time the war on drugs began. I found another chart that does break down single parenting by race. Unfortunately data for black families only goes back to 1970.

I think what you can conclude here is that much of the spike in single parenting that you see around 1970 is the spike due to the increase in black families. That makes good sense. When you lock up a large proportion of black males you'd expect the number of single parent black families to rise.

With regards to Sowell's theories that welfare is to blame, take a look at this plot of the amount of welfare going to families and children. Doesn't it take off right about the time the war on drugs started?



If I were black I could see getting pretty ticked listening to the Tea Party object to welfare because it is unconstitutional. Where is your outrage about the war on drugs? Where does the Constitution say you can craft laws that provide extra punishment to people that use a drug more common amongst one racial group and less punishment to people that use a virtually identical drug more common amongst another racial group? You crush the black family with an unconstitutional law, but you only object to the unconstitutional law that provides the black family with a little bit of assistance in light of the devastation imposed on him. Are you a racist? I can sympathize with a black person that thinks that way.

However I don't think my tea partying friends are racist. What I think is that the corporate pressure is working to emphasize the evils of government growth that harms profits while downplaying the government growth that helps profits. So the prison industrial complex and weapons manufacturers profit greatly from the drug war. So the tea party doesn't emphasize that. The corporate elements within the tea party like that unconstitutional behavior.

Principled tea partyers need to recognize that they are being played. They can join forces with OWS and object to the drug war. It is unconstitutional. And it is destructive to minorities.

7 comments:

HispanicPundit said...

Jon writes: Where does the Constitution say you can craft laws that provide extra punishment to people that use a drug more common amongst one racial group and less punishment to people that use a virtually identical drug more common amongst another racial group?

I used to believe this line. But digging a little more into the history of it shows a different story. See here.

Jon said...

Are you saying it's not true that drug laws are crafted such that they punish different racial groups differently?

I don't think it matters that some black Congressman didn't object to the crack/cocaine distinctions in the law. Sowell is black and he is guilty of institutional racism as I'm defining it here. The net effect of our drug laws is that blacks are 14% of users and over 50% of the prison population convicted of drug offenses. The breakdown of the black family coincides with the drug war. The tea party objects to some unconstitutional laws and not others. Those statements I made are all true.

HispanicPundit said...

It's not that they didn't object to it...it's that they aggressively pushed it. Black leaders. They wanted to get ahead of the crack epidemic and thereby pushed HARD aggressive laws against it. Of course, they didn't get ahead of it,and we have the laws on the books now.

But the idea that it was some racist group of congressmen conspiring against the Black man behind closed doors is completely wrong. If anything, at the time, you would have been branded a racist by NOT going with the suggestive harsh laws.

With that said, I generally agree with your overall post though....drug laws suck. Legalize it all, I say. Seriously.

Jon said...

Whew!! I was thinking if we can't get a little agreement here we're in trouble. Anyway:

But the idea that it was some racist group of congressmen conspiring against the Black man behind closed doors is completely wrong.

Well, check my source if you like. He quotes Nixon and others on the subject to the effect that Nixon devised a strategy to target blacks without appearing to. That's according to Nixon's Chief of Staff. Doesn't mean black Congressman can't be made to go along.

M. Simon said...

"Well, check my source if you like."

Uh. Which one?

Jon said...

Looks like my link above is not working, but the material I referred to is still available here:

http://tremblethedevil.com/?p=2310&page=2

Here's the quote:

”Nixon emphasized that you have to face the fact the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognises this while not appearing to.”

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