Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Change America Really Needs

As a retired college professor I may live in a bubble of comfort, but I realize full well that millions of Americans live in poverty and hopelessness. It is truly unfortunate that every scheme advanced by liberals over the years aimed at helping people out of poverty has failed so miserably. AFDC Welfare has created millions of fatherless children to their detriment and to the great detriment of society as a whole. AFDC should be converted into a temporary emergency program for new recipients. In my last column I discussed the total failure of the Section 8 Housing program, and Katrina showed us just what the terrible consequences of the anti-poverty programs have inflicted on a population, rendering them helpless to take any action to deal with a weather catastrophe. As a survivor of Hurricane Charley, I can attest to the extraordinary efforts of neighbors working together to overcome incredible destruction with only minimal help from government agencies. Contrast that with the crime and utter helplessness and finger-pointing we saw in New Orleans.

What has been missing in all of these government programs is the understanding that the most important element in the life of the head of every household is a JOB, - not a hamburger-flipping, minimum wage job, but one that offers a real living wage and some sense of accomplishment, whether it is in digging a ditch, completing a trucking run or producing a manufactured item.

Both the Clinton and the Bush administrations have had extremely good records of accomplishment with respect to the unemployment rate and in job growth and creation, however the manufacturing jobs that provided good wages for unskilled and semi-skilled workers have largely disappeared and continue to disappear from our population centers. These jobs have disappeared due to foreign competition, union overreach, NAFTA, high taxation on businesses by state and local governments and technological obsolescence.

In my opinion, it is the disappearance of these kinds of jobs and what was done about it that is mostly responsible for the disintegration of large areas of American society, the signs of which can be seen all around – from the drug problem to the increasing crime rates in our mid-size cities, to the tremendous increases in fatherless children and the huge prison population we must now support. The reader may be surprised to learn that the rate of births to unwed mothers was exactly the same, about 25%, for both whites and blacks before the advent of the Great Society which attempted to ameliorate the problems caused by job losses. That rate has now doubled for whites and tripled for blacks.

If we try to reinvigorate our manufacturing sectors by imposing tariffs on imports, we would risk trade wars and a second “Great” depression. What I would like to see us do is expand the tax credit programs now in place and add to them a multi-billion dollar system of grants and subsidies to companies that locate new manufacturing plants in urban areas that would make products that require intensive labor to produce.

Now, I have always hated and tried to minimize my taxes; I’ve usually voted for the person I thought would tax me the least, but I’m prepared to spend 1% or 2% on every purchase I make toward a national sales tax that is restricted only to the purpose of subsidizing new manufacturing plants as described, and would continue to subsidize them as long as is needed, so long as a market exists for the product, and the technology represented is appropriate. I realize that we prove over and over again that government usually fails terribly whenever it gets involved in commercial ventures, so some kind of system of public-private boards, with a majority composed of individuals from businesses and non-profit organizations would have to be set up so that good decisions are made about where to invest, and oversight is in place to prevent corruption. Rhode Island already has, as do many states, a publicly funded, privately run fund that invests in new companies that locate here, however this fund, called the Slater Technology Fund, only invests in high-tech companies that employ highly skilled workers.

I know that this plan has aspects of socialism and that it will take a tremendous effort to design a system that works and can be sold to the American people, but would you rather have that kid on your block grow up to be a drug dealer or earning a living wage making brooms in the broom factory down the street? I am not talking about nationalizing any industries, however I would step in and save plants that met the above requirements and were going out of business due to foreign competition.

This plan does in some measure go against my conservative ideology, but I can’t think of another way to overcome the disintegration of American society I see happening. In a just society everyone is not equal, but everyone should have some chance for a good life as a contributing member of that society. I don’t think that’s true anymore in America, and liberal-inspired solutions always make the problem much worse.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button


At 5:05 PM, Blogger Richard Jennings said...

Unemployment stats are depressing but contrary to those stats there are still many extremely high paying jobs posted on employment sites i.e.

You'd think these high paying jobs would yeild a living wage.

At 5:16 PM, Blogger RussWilcox said...

None of these jobs are factory jobs for unskilled and semi-skilled labor of the kind we need to address the problems we have.

At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On another topic, the Supreme Court has just announced that the DC law is unconstitutional.

All the gun loons will be dancing in the streets. Hope they don't start shooting bullits into the air as is done in other gun crazy countries. Someone might get hurt, possibly even one of those Supreme Court guys.

At 8:20 AM, Blogger RussWilcox said...

The above comment is absurd. The likely outcome of the above ruling is that the murder rate in DC will start to decline as it has in every state that permits law-abiding citizens to protect themselves.


Post a Comment

<< Home