We join the editorial bard in saluting John Edwards for keeping the poverty issue alive (Johnny’s two cents, 11/03/05). Indeed, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina spotlighted a disturbing reality: Poverty persists in America. However, we dissent from our colleagues where solutions to poverty are concerned. Beyond education, strengthening the American family is the most necessary tactic in the war on poverty.
U.S. Census data shows that children born into poverty, especially those reared by the uneducated, unmarried and young, are likely to remain in poverty. Twenty-two percent of Americans who do not graduate high school are poor. Nearly 11 percent of adults who do not work remain poor over the long term. Beyond a lack of education, children raised by overwhelmed and unprepared mothers are more likely to be brought into the world in poverty. On average, a child raised by an unwed mother is nine times more likely to live in poverty than a child raised by two parents in a stable marriage. Finding a lifetime partner and waiting until marriage to have children, takes a step toward fighting poverty. For instance, a single person who marries and finds employment increases his chances of leaving poverty by more than 50 percentage points. Personal responsibility, abstinence and marriage are not only religious ideals but also proven deterrents to poverty.
Unfortunately, contemporary culture places disturbingly little emphasis on the importance of marriage and abstinence. Within its lyrics, “Gangsta” rap glorifies the “pimp” lifestyle, degrades women and diminishes the accountability of fathers. Those who speak out against these societal dangers are labeled insensitive, sexist and racist – just ask Bill Cosby. At what point in U.S. history did criticizing conduct detrimental to society with morality become intolerance?
The effects of poverty hit black Americans as a demographic group hardest. A National Public Radio report found almost 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock. However, it is more politically effective for black leaders (Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Julian Bond, Harry Belafonte, etc.) to blame conservative, white America for their constituents’ problems. Granted, past discriminatory injustices certainly hindered the upward social mobility of black Americans, but statistics show the black family structure is now the root of black poverty. The black leadership labels courageous black Americans like Bill Cosby, Condoleezza Rice and J.C. Watts “Uncle Toms” and “Aunt Jemimas” because they dare to look inward instead of pointing the finger at white America. Refusing to address irresponsibility in their own communities, black leaders continue to play the blame game and in the process, perpetuate the belief that the behavior is socially acceptable.
Former President Reagan famously declared, “Real change requires real change.” Re-emphasizing the traditional family values that permanently liberate impoverished Americans is real change. Enacting policies that encourage young Americans to graduate high school, seek a lifetime partner, wait for marriage to start a family and take personal responsibility by working will decrease poverty. We commend the Bush administration for encouraging abstinence-only education, emphasizing the societal benefits of marriage and funding faith-based, poverty-elimination programs. The most dangerous sexually transmitted disease in America is poverty – irresponsible behavior not only mires today’s poor in poverty, but ensnares future generations as well. Temporary relief, such as raising the minimum wage, only serves to provide a false sense of accomplishment in the war on poverty. In order to enact real change, Americans have a moral obligation to discourage behaviors that feed the beast of poverty.
“In Dissent” opinions do not reflect the views of the Daily’s editorial board. They are solely the views of the author.