To meet Star Parker is to come face-to-face with hope. Her radiant smile and graceful manner make you feel as if you've known her all your life. She is kind and sincere, and an unmistakable twinkle in her eye gives you the impression she has a beautiful secret to share that could change your life forever.
But Star's eyes didn't always twinkle. She used to be a slave to welfare and all the sadness that frequently occupies the lives of those who make it a profession. Star started young: As a child, she would steal money from her own mother and use it to bribe her siblings to do her chores for her. The pattern became worse as she got older. She squandered her chance at an education, carried out a string of burglaries to pay for her expensive tastes in clothes, held up a liquor store, become addicted to drugs, shacked up with more men than she could count and had four abortions.
It got so bad, she had to change the clinic she went to for her taxpayer-funded final abortion because she had become a "regular," and staff had begun to recognize her. Plus, the baby didn't belong to the man she lived with, and she feared his temper ? made worse by constant drug abuse ? might boil over and lead to a severe beating if he found out she'd been unfaithful.
When she realized that having your housing, food, clothing, income and medical care dependent on government handouts not only didn't set her free but actually imprisoned her, she gave new meaning to the phrase "zeal of the converted."
"Slavery still thrives in this country," she says in her new book, "Uncle Sam's Plantation." "But today, the poor are the slaves, and Uncle Sam is the 'massa.'"
She knows. She's been there. That's what makes her story so powerful. I can see that the programs of the Great Society don't seem to have helped America's poor. I don't see ghettos remade, education improving or teen birth rates declining. I can see that the programs don't work. Star Parker can see why.
One example Star gives in her book is the story of what one welfare caseworker told her: "Look, if you want to get along with me, do not open a bank account and do not get married." Either of those actions might help a woman climb out of poverty. Opening a bank account might encourage savings, might point up what spending was necessary and what was wasteful.
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