Walter E. Williams

 Dr. Charles Murray, an American Enterprise Institute scholar, argues in an article titled "Rediscovering the Underclass" in the Institute's On the Issues series (October 2005) that self-destructive behavior has become the hallmark of the underclass. He says that unemployment in the underclass is not caused by the lack of jobs but by the inability to get up every morning and go to work. In 1954, the percentage of black males, age 20 to 24, not looking for work was nine percent. In 1999, it rose to 30 percent, and that was at a time when employers were beating the bushes for employees. Murray adds that "the statistical reality is that people who get into the American job market and stay there seldom remain poor unless they do something self-destructive."

 I share Murray's sentiment expressed at the beginning of his article where he says, "Watching the courage of ordinary low-income people as they deal with the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, it is hard to decide which politicians are more contemptible -- Democrats who are rediscovering poverty and blaming it on George W. Bush, or Republicans who are rediscovering poverty and claiming that the government can fix it." Since President Johnson's War on Poverty, controlling for inflation, the nation has spent $9 trillion on about 80 anti-poverty programs. To put that figure in perspective, last year's U.S. GDP was $11 trillion; $9 trillion exceeds the GDP of any nation except the U.S. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita uncovered the result of the War on Poverty -- dependency and self-destructive behavior.

 Guess what the president and politicians from both parties are asking the American people to do? If you said, "Enact programs that will sustain and enhance dependency," go to the head of the class.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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