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April 22, 2014

A Black Conservative Takes on the ‘Poverty Pentagon’

“We’ve created a poverty industry, turned poor people into a commodity.”

Earlier this year, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) offended the sensibilities of those who are highly attuned to every racist inflection of Republican speech when he said that there is “this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work; and so there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.” Ryan later apologized for being “inarticulate,” but he needn’t have. He is the object of leftist scorn because he is the go-to guy for budgeting in the GOP, and he has taken particular aim at federal anti-poverty programs that have done little or nothing over the last 50 years to achieve their stated objectives.

But he’s not the only person to criticize inner city culture. Michelle Obama recently said, “When it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can’t be bothered. They’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper.”

It’s not just recent, either. Way back in 1976, none other than race baiter in chief Jesse Jackson said, “I know black contractors who have gone out of business because their black workers were not prompt or had negative attitudes. I know black workers who take pride about going to work any hour they feel like it, taking the day off when they feel like it. … Many leaders who are black and many white liberals will object to my discussing these things in public. But the decadence in the black community … is already in the headlines; the only question is what we should do about it.”

Memo to leftists: The “R” after Ryan’s name doesn’t stand for “racist,” especially when Obama and Jackson have said the same things.

With that setup, The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley interviewed Robert L. Woodson Sr., a “no-nonsense black conservative who heads the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise and knows a thing or two about that culture, the nation’s inner cities and Mr. Ryan.” In fact, Woodson has taken Ryan on 12 under-the-radar trips to “high-crime, drug-infested neighborhoods” to learn more about the issue. The article is an excellent exposé on poverty, black culture and how race baiters have made things worse. Here are some highlights.

Woodson says the flap over Ryan’s comments may end up being beneficial if it sparks the “right conversation” about helping the poor. “Low-income people haven’t been on President Obama’s agenda for five years,” he says. We’d only add that while low-income people have indeed been left behind in Obama’s “recovery,” they have occasionally shown up on his teleprompter.

Even so, Woodson says that it’s good if Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, for example, ends up succeeding. “If someone is doing something for political advantage, but it has the consequence of helping people, I don’t think we should be critical.” But he adds, “My worry and my fear is that the money and resources will go to the same racial grievance groups, the same members of what I call the poverty Pentagon. They’ll give it to Al Sharpton and the others to do what they’ve been doing for decades, to do what doesn’t work – what in fact is making things worse.” We’d say he’s right on the money.

As for the failed federal “War on Poverty,” Woodson notes this sad truth: “Around 70 cents of every dollar designated to relieve poverty goes not to poor people but to people who serve the poor – social workers, counselors, et cetera. We’ve created a poverty industry, turned poor people into a commodity. And the race hustlers play a bait-and-switch game where they use the conditions of low-income blacks to justify remedies that only help middle-income blacks.”

What is perhaps most stunning is that blacks still form a monolithic Democrat voting block, despite having been enslaved on what we call the poverty plantation for the last half century. Conservatives have a big job to do in getting the message of Liberty and self-reliance into those communities.

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