"A teachable moment."
That is how President Obama described the incident involving Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge police Sergeant James Crowley -- and his own controversial reaction.
Recall that in February, Obama's Attorney General -- Eric Holder -- received national attention for calling the United States "a nation of cowards" for its failure to honestly deal with race relations. He claimed that most Americans avoid discussion of lurking racial issues. He went on to justify a significant expenditure of Justice Department resources in pursuit of the traditional straw-men:
• Investigating whether police stop and arrest blacks at disproportionate rates because of racism
• Whether blacks are disproportionately in prison because of racism
• Whether blacks are failing in school because of racist inequities in school funding
• Whether the black poverty rate is the highest in the country because of racism
• Whether blacks were given mortgages that they couldn’t afford because of racism
While Obama and Holder jumped instantaneously to the same, racially-fired conclusion, some formidable statistics and truths stand in their way.
Of 23 peer-reviewed U.S. studies since 2000, 20 found that family structure directly affects crime and/or delinquency. Most research "strongly suggests both that young adults and teens raised in single-parent homes are more likely to commit crimes, and that communities with high rates of family fragmentation (especially unwed childbearing) suffer higher crime rates as a result."
One two-decade study found that nearly 90% of the change in violent crime rates can be attributed to the change in percentages of out-of-wedlock births. Conversely, divorce rates had no relationship with crime.
In The Atlantic Monthly, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead noted that the "relationship [between single-parent families and crime] is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime. This conclusion shows up time and again in the literature. The nation's mayors, as well as police officers, social workers, probation officers, and court officials, consistently point to family break up as the most important source of rising rates of crime."
Let me repeat: Control for single-parent families and there are no differences between the races when it comes to crime.
In addition, the statistical link between the availability of welfare and out-of-wedlock births is conclusive. There have been dozens of studies that link the availability of welfare benefits to out-of-wedlock birth.
One study found that a 50 percent increase in the value of AFDC and foodstamp payments led to a 43 percent increase in the number of out-of-wedlock births.
Additional research for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that a 50 percent increase in the monthly value of combined AFDC and food stamp benefits led to a 117 percent increase in the crime rate among young black men.
In 1995, Dr. Patrick Fagan wrote a seminal summary of the situation: "Over the past thirty years, the rise in violent crime parallels the rise in families abandoned by fathers... High-crime neighborhoods are characterized by high concentrations of families abandoned by fathers... The rate of violent teenage crime corresponds with the number of families abandoned by fathers... Neighborhoods with a high degree of religious practice are not high-crime neighborhoods... Even in high-crime inner-city neighborhoods, well over 90 percent of children from safe, stable homes do not become delinquents. By contrast only 10 percent of children from unsafe, unstable homes in these neighborhoods avoid crime... Criminals capable of sustaining marriage gradually move away from a life of crime after they get married."
Statistics demonstrate that welfare is a primary contributor to the breakdown of the American family.
In 1994 the Maryland NAACP published a report that concluded "the ready access to a lifetime of welfare and free social service programs is a major contributory factor to the crime problems we face today."
Author Robert Rector argued that "[f]or thirty years, the welfare system has paid for nonwork and nonmarriage and has achieved massive increases in both." Rector noted that when New Jersey began denying increases in cash welfare benefits to single mothers who have additional children while on welfare, out-of-wedlock births decreased 10% with no increase in abortions.
Idealogues like Obama, Gates and Holder notwithstanding, experts offer a series of legislative proposals that strengthen the family:
- identifying every child's father, by having states ensure that a document exists at birth to identify the name and social security number of both parents
- forcing fathers to take responsibility for their children through programs like Charles Ballard's National Institute for Responsible Fatherhood, in which fathers are strongly encouraged to legitimate their children, attend school, and find gainful employment
- rescinding no-fault divorce laws for parents with children
- purging the destructive incentives of the welfare system
So what did the Obama administration and Democrats do? They passed a pork-filled Stimulus package that helps dismantle the 1996 Welfare Reform Act and will increase the number of single-parent families.
Buried deep inside the massive spending orgy that Democrats jammed through the House this week lie five words that could drastically undo two decades of welfare reforms.
The very heart of the widely applauded Welfare Reform Act of 1996 is a cap on the amount of federal cash that can be sent to states each year for welfare payments.
But, thanks to the simple phrase slipped into the legislation, the new "stimulus" bill abolishes the limits on the amount of federal money for the so-called Emergency Fund, which ships welfare cash to states.
"Out of any money in the Treasury of the United States not otherwise appropriated, there are appropriated such sums as are necessary for payment to the Emergency Fund," Democrats wrote in Section 2101 on Page 354 of the $819 billion bill. In other words, the only limit on welfare payments would be the Treasury itself.
In other words, while Gates, Holder and Obama market racist straw-men, their own Democrat-controlled government has unleashed more single-parent families, more poverty and more violent crime that directly target the African-American family.
They cry racism while undermining the very freedoms that protect minorities and the urban poor.
It can't be called a 'teachable moment' if Democrats fail, decade over decade, to learn.
Update: Liberals Support Crime, Not Punishment.