How much does politics count?

Walter E. Williams

11/15/2006 12:01:00 AM - Walter E. Williams

Blacks and Hispanics, especially blacks, are the most politically loyal people in the nation. It's often preached and taken as gospel that the only way black people can progress is through racial politics and government programs, but how true is that? Let's look at it.

In 1940, poverty among black families was 87 percent and fell to 47 percent by 1960. Would someone tell me what anti-poverty program or civil-rights legislation accounted for this economic advance that exceeded any other 20-year interval? A significant chunk of that progress occurred through migration from rural areas in the South to big Northern cities. Between 1960 and 1980, black poverty fell roughly 17 percent and fell one percent during the '70s. Might this have been a continuation of a trend starting much earlier, or was it a miracle of the civil-rights movement or President Johnson's War on Poverty?

Dr. Thomas Sowell's research points out that in various skilled trades, the incomes of blacks relative to whites more than doubled between 1936 and 1959. What's more, the rise of blacks in professional and other high-level occupations was greater during the five years preceding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than the five years afterward.

In 1940, 86 percent of black children were born inside marriage, and the illegitimacy rate among blacks was about 15 percent. Today, 31 percent of black children are born inside marriage, and the illegitimacy rate hovers around 70 percent.

In the mid-1960s, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan sounded the alarm for the breakdown in the black family in his book "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action." At that time, black illegitimacy was 26 percent. Moynihan said, "[A]t the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of the Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family." He added, "The steady expansion of welfare programs can be taken as a measure of the steady disintegration of the Negro family structure over the past generation in the United States."

Moynihan's observations were greeted with charges of racism and blaming the victim. If one accepts that a weak family structure has devastating effects on well-being, pray tell us what solutions can be found by electing Republicans or Democrats to the Congress, Senate or White House. By the way, today's growing illegitimacy among whites is what it was among blacks in the 1960s.

Another significant problem for black Americans, independent of whether there are Democratic or Republican congressmen, senators or president, is the level of crime in many black neighborhoods. It's a level of crime unimaginable to most Americans and unimaginable to blacks of yesteryear. In 2005, the nationwide murder rate, per 100,000 of the population, was 5.6. Cities with large black populations had much higher murder rates, such as: Gary, Ind. (58), Richmond, Va. (43), Detroit (39), and Washington, D.C. (35).

According to Justice Department figures, blacks were six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims, and 94 percent of black victims were murdered by blacks. Again, pray tell us what solutions will be found by electing Republicans or Democrats to the Congress, Senate or White House.

Homicide is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the level of crime in many black neighborhoods. The overwhelmingly law-abiding residents of these neighborhoods live their lives in fear of assault and battery, rape, robbery and various forms of intimidation. High crime not only turns many neighborhoods into economic wastelands, but they cause the most stable members of those neighborhoods to be the first to leave. The solutions to the major problems that confront many black people won't be found in the political arena, especially not in Washington or state capitols.