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A New Deal For Black America from an Old White Guy

Republican nominee Donald Trump outlined a “New Deal for Black America” on Wednesday, and we have to admit that to such middle-aged white folks as ourselves it made a lot of sense. Even the skeptical scribes at the impeccably liberal Washington Post had to concede that his speech in the crucial and traditionally-Republican-yet-largely-black and suddenly swing state of North Carolina was “heavy on policy specifics,” especially by Trump standards, and it specifically addressed the educational and economic and criminal problems that clearly afflict too much of black America. How black folks of any age will respond remains to be seen, but our guess is that they’ll largely reject the messenger if not the entirety of the message.
We especially liked the part about charter schools and other parental choices for education, even if it wasn’t so bold as to come right out and mention vouchers and privatization, and we expect that much of black America will as well. The current system of one-size-fits-all education has resulted in an inarguable racial gap, educational outcomes are the most reliable predictor of economic outcomes, and they always will be unless there’s an economically disastrous and politically impossible quota system imposed on the country, and any old Republican nominee can make a persuasive case that for all their black-friendly reputation the Democrats are too beholden to those stubborn teachers’ unions to ever allow any significant changes in the cushy-for-teachers but ineffective-for-students current system. All the public opinion polls show that this is one of those internecine Democratic interest group conflicts that any old Republican nominee should be able to exploit, and Trump’s undeniably anti-establishment reputation makes it all the more exploitable, so we’ll give him credit for trying, even if more than the usual 95 percent of black voters ultimately don’t.
Without addressing that educational racial gap you really can’t address that economic racial gap, absent those quota systems that Trump surely wouldn’t consider, but Trump also proposed tax holidays and other economic incentives for investment in the most blighted black neighborhoods, and he managed to avoid his past suggestions that pretty much of all black America except his black celebrity friends live in such blight, and the scribes at The Washington Post seem slightly worried about it. Such hard-core capitalist and middle-aged white folks as ourselves have a mixed reaction to his proposals, some of which seem like the usual bad bets waged by government that realists would avoid, we can only imagine that Trump’s supporters on the defiantly white nationalist alt-right will be even more annoyed, and we can’t blame any black folks of any age for pointing out that at no time in his hard-core capitalist life did Trump ever lay down any bets on black America’s more blighted communities, except for maybe Atlantic City, where everyone else he was in business with went bankrupt while he boastfully pocketed millions.
Trump’s old-school Republican “Law and Order” themes should also arguably appeal to the lawful and orderly majority of black Americans, and have a special resonance with that law-abiding and ordered majority of black America’s minority who have to contend with black America’s most blighted neighborhoods, but we don’t expect his more specific policies will prove popular with most black folk. Trump and his now-ubiquitous surrogate former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani are by now associated with the “stop-and-frisk” policy that allowed police wide latitude to stop and frisk random pedestrians, who more often than not were non-white, and a generally indulgent attitude toward police shootings of civilians, who are also more often than non-white. Such middle-aged white folks as ourselves are willing to concede that most more-or-less reasonable searches as seizures in the most blighted areas of black America will mostly involve black folks, and that police shootings of civilians are more often than not quite justifiable no matter the races of the shooters or shot, but we’re also hard-core Constitutionalists who admit there’s some reasonable-search-and-seizure issues involved. We’re also such policy wonks that we have to wonder how much stop-and-frisk had to do with the undeniable drop in the number of murders and other crimes committed in New York City during Giuliani’s generally successful mayoralty, given all the other shrewd law enforcement measures he enacted, and we have enough law-abiding orderly black friends that we can understand their gripes about that time some cop made an entirely unreasonable search, and we can well understand why they might want a harder look at those times when the police shooting of a civilian wasn’t so clearly justified.
Any old Republican nominee should be able to make a nuanced case that the Democratic nominee and the rest of her party are going to get a whole lot of black lives that really do matter killed, and that in the meantime those lives will mostly be spent in economic inequality because of Democratic policies, and that it’s largely because of an educational gap that those teachers’ unions won’t allow the Democrats to address, but Trump has problems making the case that any other old Republican nominee probably wouldn’t have. His family business has been dogged settled cases over housing discrimination, he still insists that those vindicated “Central Park Five” defendants should be jailed despite scientific evidence to the contrary, his ham-fisted “What have you got to lose” line still resonates in the ears of all sorts of black Americans who have something to lose, those defiantly white nationalist supporters on the alt-right are still on board, and even such old-fashioned Republican and trying-hard-not-be-racist middle white folks as ourselves aren’t quite buying it. That Democratic nominee is at least as awful, whether you’re white or black or anything in between, so at this point in this crazy election year we don’t expect it will make much of a difference either way.

— Bud Norman

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Schools of Thought

The most overlooked story of recent days concerns a German family whose parents have been jailed after police invaded their home with a battering ram and took custody of their children, all for the crime of home-schooling. This sounds like an overlooked story from 1936, when the Nazis were exerting totalitarian rule over Germany, but it happened recently and America’s government is complicit in the outrage.
Chances are that you’ve never heard of the Romeikes, either, but they’re another German family who earlier this year sought political asylum in America after being threatened with the same draconian treatment for the same peaceable behavior. These folks apparently assumed that our longstanding tradition of protecting individual liberty would guarantee them safe refuge from such tyranny, but the Obama administration has decided to return them to the harsh justice of their homeland. Thus far the administration has not complied with a Supreme Court order to respond to the Reimeike’s petition for asylum, so one can only speculate on its reasons for such an outrageous decision. Perhaps it’s merely a diplomatic nicety, meant to compensate for previous indignities against the German state ranging from bugging its leaders’ phones to snubbing an invitation to participate in the anniversary of its re-unification, but the administration has gained a reputation exceptionally lenient in its attitude toward asylum requests coming from even the friendliest countries, so we can’t help suspecting it has more to do with domestic politics.
One likely explanation is the administration’s obligations to its loyal supporters in the teachers’ unions, who rightly regard home-schooling as a growing threat to its nearly monopolistic control of America’s educational system, but we can’t help further suspecting that that Obama has his own reasons for opposing the fundamental right and responsibility of a parent to educate his or her own children. In America as well as throughout Europe, the left insist that this right and responsibility be sole province of the state.
There is ample evidence that home-schooled children fare at least as well in life as their government-educated counterparts, and far better than the poor lads relegated to the most dysfunctional districts of the public education system, but the left has constantly sought to either ban the practice or exert control of it through regulation. The objections raised range from the home-schoolers’ alleged lack of socialization, as if failing to learn high school’s caste system of jocks, nerds, and stoners will somehow hamper them throughout their adult lives, to a hysterical insistence that home-schooling parents are all a bunch of Bible-thumping hillbilly anarchists. The popular stereotype of a home-schooled student as a socially-awkward religious nut is rooted in the true and entirely unembarrassing fact that many of them are evangelical Christians, as are the Romeikes, but it is belied by the fact that so many of them are clearly superior as citizens to their more secularly educated peers. In this country many home-schooled children are also products of distinctly non-religious and even hippy-dippy homes, which might explain why home-schooling has not yet been forcibly banned in this country, but even in those cases there is a nagging concern that youngsters might not be getting the officially-sanctioned lessons of the government.
In our conversations with the horrified opponents of home-schooling we have always reached an admission from them that they are most worried that the home-schooled children will question the approved opinions of global warming, cultural relativism, Darwinism in both its anthropological and sociological senses, and any number of other important issues. Only the state should decide what the young are taught about these matters, the left believes, and letting the Romeikes be free to form their opinions would therefore be intolerable.
If the Obama administration has a better reason for denying these people their rights as human beings, we will be eager to hear it when they finally get around to making their response.

— Bud Norman

School’s Out

Summer vacation has been indefinitely extended for the public schoolchildren of Chicago, a result of a strike by the school teachers’ union in that troubled city, and most of them probably don’t mind at all. For almost everybody else, though, the strike is an absurd nuisance.

The Chicago Teachers Union called for the strike after rejecting Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s offer of a 16 percent raise over four years in exchange for requirements that teachers pay more for their health insurance and submit to periodic evaluations of the membership’s teaching skills and perhaps even face eventual firing if the skills are found wanting. Given that the average teacher in the Chicago public school system makes $76,000 per year, which is about $29,000 per year more than the average Chicago taxpayer, and that they only pay 3 percent of their health care costs, which is a number the average Chicago taxpayer will envy, and that only 15 percent of the average teacher’s fourth grade students can read and that only 56 percent of his students will ever hold a meaningless high school diploma, the offer seems all too generous. Indeed, the union’s position is so extreme, so unreasonable, so outrageous that not even Rahm Emmanuel could accept it.

The strike is not only denying nearly 400,000 young Chicagoans an education, such as it is in that city, it is also inconveniencing parents, causing hunger among a large of number of students who had come to rely on the school system for regular meals, and stretching the resources of a police force that was already unable to stem a catastrophic wave of murders and other violent crimes. With a whopping 71 percent of budget-beleaguered Illinois’ educational budget already devoted to retired teachers’ pensions, even worse consequences of a big teachers’ union win will likely be felt in years to come.

Chicago’s reliably left-wing media had no trouble finding parents who support the strike, but we suspect that if they’d bothered to look they would have also found many more who are opposed. Although teachers may not be among the hated 1 percent they are at least well compensated enough to resented by liberals who have been conditioned to resent the better-off, and whatever conservatives remain in the city are bound to be outraged by almost every aspect of strike. The longer the strike lingers and parents have to figure out what to do with their unruly brats, public is bound to become increasingly angrier.

Which also creates a problem for Barack Obama. Because Emmanuel was once a key member of Obama’s administration, and because Obama is a pure product of Chicago’s notorious political machine, he can’t speak out against the city’s offer. On the other hand, because he’s a Democratic politician, he can’t speak out against a teachers’ union. Predictably enough, he has resolved this dilemma by courageously not speaking out at all.

Republican rival Mitt Romney has no such constraints, and immediately took the opportunity to criticize the union. Aside from the kids who get the days off of school, he’s likely to be the only beneficiary of the whole mess.

— Bud Norman

On Labor Day

There’s something slightly melancholy about Labor Day. The holiday announces the end of the lazy days of summer, when the children return to school, the adults turn their attention to politics and other unpleasant chores, and the days grow short as we reach September.

There’s an ambivalence about the meaning of the holiday, too. Many people regard the day as an honor to all those who labor under the curse of Adam, as a good a cause for celebration as any, but in fact the holiday is intended to honor the capital-L Labor of the union movement, which hardly seems worth honoring at all.

Whatever beneficial role the union movement might have played in the past, it has now fallen into widespread and well-deserved disrepute. Membership in private sector unions is at a historic low and falling, the vast majority of the working class that the unions claim to represent want nothing to do with them, and the union bosses are regarded with a low level of trust. Some of the unions still have enough political clout to wind up in control of General Motors, but that could soon prove temporary.

The public sector unions remain a formidable force, but they might have also reached a peak of influence. After losing the recall election to the heroically union-busting governor earlier this year in Wisconsin, birthplace of the public sector union and home to a larger-than-usual number of leftist loons, they seem to be in an unlikely position to prevail in the inevitable upcoming battles with other governors and state legislatures. Without the government-granted power of coercion they seem to shed members at a rapid rate, and that is likely to become the norm. The teachers’ unions are also powerful, and a major impediment to the much needed reforms, but even they suddenly seem vulnerable to scrutiny by a public that can’t help noticing how very stupid the young people seem these days.

Which is no reason not to fire up the grill and charbroil a couple of burgers in honor of all the workingmen and workingwomen out there, and to hoist a beer or two in their honor. Those unsung slobs have done a remarkable job of keeping America fed, fueled, caffeinated, and contented despite the catastrophic leadership of their betters, and that more than justifies an extra day of summer at the lake. As the great Merle Haggard once put it, hey, hey the workingman.

— Bud Norman