Thomas Sowell

NO GROUP votes more solidly for the Democrats than blacks -- and no group suffers more as a result than blacks. Political spin makes Democrats the best friends of blacks, the party of civil rights laws, the party of affirmative action and the party of social programs to help the poor in general and blacks in particular. But spin and facts are very different things.

The fact is that a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Despite all the media hype about the confederate flag flying over the state capitol in South Carolina, no Republican put that flag there. The Democrats' Senator Fritz Hollings, who was governor of South Carolina in the 1960s, put that confederate flag there at a time when it was used all across the South as a symbol of resistance to the civil rights movement.

With all the criticism of Texas Governor George W. Bush for not telling the state of South Carolina what to do, there was scarcely a word anywhere about Democrat Fritz Hollings. That's the media for you.

Democrats can claim credit -- if that's the word -- for all the government social programs that have played such a role in the disintegration of families. These programs have done little to reduce poverty. Blacks did more to reduce their own poverty than the government ever has.

Between 1940 and 1960, the poverty rate among black families fell from 87 percent to 47 percent. Yet there was no major federal civil rights legislation or welfare state programs created during that period. The continuing rise of blacks out of poverty during the 1960s, when their poverty rate fell an additional 17 points, cannot be arbitrarily attributed to the Great Society programs, since this trend was already decades old before these programs were created.

As for the first decade of affirmative action -- the 1970s -- the poverty rate among blacks fell by only one percentage point then.

Education had much to do with the rise of blacks. As of 1940, black adults averaged just 5 years of schooling. By 1960 that was 8 years and by 1970 it was 10 years. Obviously, doubling your education within one generation tends to increase your income, regardless of which party is in power or what policies they follow.

In our own high-tech era, education is even more important. Nothing is more of a handicap to blacks today than inadequate education. There are many reasons for these inadequacies. How do the Democrats and Republicans compare, when it comes to the education of black youngsters?

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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