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Lowman S. Henry

Lowman S. Henry

Chairman & CEO
Lincoln Institute
of Public Opinion Research

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Town Hall Commentary

Epic Failure in Baltimore

by Lowman S. Henry
 

The real victim of the riots in Baltimore is the Left-wing philosophy of cradle-to-grave big government that has inevitably collapsed under the weight of its own faulty theories and inept implementation. It wasn't just a drug store that went up in flames; it was generations of nanny state public policy that got incinerated in Lord Baltimore's burg.

If ever there were a poster child for a progressive Utopia it would be the city of Baltimore. Nestled by the bay of the most liberal state in the union, Baltimore has been ruled by Democrats of the most Leftist variety for a half century. As a majority black municipality Baltimore is governed by an African-American mayor and city council. The police chief is African-American as are three of the six officers involved in the tragedy that sparked the violence.

There is no way to claim racial under-representation. Yet mostly young blacks took to the streets out of frustration to protest, and then riot in a desperate bid to be heard. With race not being a factor, the only conclusion that can be reached is that those governing the city, and the policies they champion, have failed.

Let us set aside for now the fact many of the rioters were simply taking advantage of the situation, and that the mayor's handling of the riots was incompetent. Rather, we should examine the root causes of the city's failure, of which there are at least four:

The most significant factor contributing to the crisis is the decline of the family unit. It is rare in such an instance of societal meltdown for one image to encapsulate the solution to the problem. The mom who saw her son rioting, went out into the street, literally smacked him upside the head (repeatedly) and then dragged him home represents the ultimate solution.

Young people need somebody who cares; somebody who will be both a mentor and a disciplinarian. The skyrocketing rate of out-of-wedlock births has deprived many children of a stable two-parent household, and sadly in all too many cases, not even one responsible adult is present. Policies that foster stronger family ties, rather than seeking to replace the family with government programs are a foundational step that must be taken.

Second, it is time to admit public education in our cities is a failure. Federal, state and local school district spending on public education has far outpaced the rate of inflation for decades, yet our inner city public schools continue to fail. Teacher unions and bloated bureaucracies, rather than students have been the prime beneficiaries of this taxpayer largess. In some cities — Washington, D.C. is a prime example — charter schools have provided students and parents with choices. But union opposition has kept charter schools from realizing their full potential and trapped students in under-performing schools.

Third, good job opportunities are a must. The unemployment rate among African-Americans is more than double the national average, worse in urban cores. Decades of over taxation and hyper regulation have driven business and industry out of cities. As the good jobs have left, so too have the people qualified to hold them; leaving a largely unskilled workforce which serves as an additional disincentive to economic development.

And speaking of disincentives, our system of public welfare must be reformed to encourage recipients to seek the education or training that leads to employment. Arcane and complex public assistance formulas often create welfare "cliffs" that make it more profitable for recipients to stay on welfare than to enter the work force.

The time has come for a complete reassessment of urban public policy. Decades of experimenting with government centered solutions have clearly failed. These progressive policies that trap people in poverty must be tossed out and replaced with a realistic approach based on time-proven principles that will help people move from poverty to prosperity.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolnisntitute.org)

Permission to reprint is granted provide author and affiliation are cited.