Thomas Sowell

Recently former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice added her voice to those who have long been urging the Republican Party to reach out to black voters. Not only is that long overdue, what is also long overdue is putting some time -- and, above all, some serious thought -- into how to go about doing it.

Too many Republicans seem to think that the way to "reach out" is to offer blacks and other minorities what the Democrats are offering them. Some have even suggested that the channels to use are organizations like the NAACP and black "leaders" like Jesse Jackson -- that is, people tied irrevocably to the Democrats.

Voters who want what the Democrats offer can get it from the Democrats. Why should they vote for Republicans who act like make-believe Democrats?

Yet there are issues where Republicans have a big advantage over Democrats -- if they will use that advantage. But an advantage that you don't use might as well not exist.

The issue on which Democrats are most vulnerable, and have the least room to maneuver, is school choice. Democrats are heavily in hock to the teachers' unions, who see public schools as places to guarantee jobs for teachers, regardless of what that means for the education of students.

There are some charter schools and private schools that have low-income minority youngsters equaling or exceeding national norms, despite the many ghetto public schools where most students are nowhere close to meeting those norms. Because teachers' unions oppose charter schools, most Democrats oppose them, including black Democrats up to and including President Barack Obama.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's recent cutback on funding for charter schools, and creating other obstacles for them, showed a calloused disregard for black youngsters, for whom a decent education is their one shot at a better life.

But did you hear any Republican say anything about it?

Minimum wage laws are another government-created disaster for minority young people.

Many people today would be surprised to learn that there were once years when the unemployment rate for black 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds was under 10 percent. But their unemployment rates have not been under 20 percent in more than half a century. In some years, their unemployment rate has been over 40 percent.

Why such great differences between earlier and later times? In the late 1940s, inflation had rendered meaningless the minimum wage set in 1938. Without that encumbrance, black teenagers found it a lot easier to get jobs than after the series of minimum wage escalations that began in the 1950s.


Thomas Sowell

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

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