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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Before I was born, I spent some time researching prospective parents. It wasn’t the best time to choose, ah, Negroes — as they were known back then — but I thought I could nevertheless pick a pair prepared to give me a good head start in life.

So I chose a married couple, neither of whom was addicted to alcohol or drugs. They were hardworking, churchgoing and thrifty — the sort who eschewed credit cards, saved for retirement and were not seduced by the latest consumer trends.

Equally important, I picked a couple who were both college educated, though that was quite rare for black Americans then. They were able to help me with homework, steer me toward enriching after-school activities and help me navigate college choices.

Because I took the time to choose the right parents, my childhood was safe, secure and productive. I made good grades. I went to college. I started a fulfilling career. Clearly, my pre-birth research paid off.

Does that sound like a fairy tale? Do you doubt I had anything to do with picking my parents?

Well, you may be right, but we conduct our politics as if children are responsible for the families into which they are born. Just look at the recent farm bill passed by the GOP-dominated House of Representatives. While leaving subsidies to large agricultural entities intact, it cut out the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (or food stamps). Half of its beneficiaries are under the age of 18.

Even politicians more compassionate than House Republicans have a hard time grasping the increasing importance of parents’ education and income in dictating a child’s future. Horatio Alger mythology — the notion that anyone can succeed in America with enough pluck and hard work — is deeply ingrained in the national consciousness.

But if that were ever true, it’s not so now. Class (as defined by family income and parental educational attainment) is now more important than race in determining a child’s chances at climbing the economic ladder.

There is certainly good news in that. For centuries, race was a formidable barrier for black Americans, no matter how hard they worked, no matter how much education they attained. They were still limited by law and custom.

  • cemab4y

    True, no one chooses their parents. BUT- People are still responsible for their choices. Black males (I do NOT call them “men”), just play “hit it and quit it”, and continue to impregnate black females (I do not call them “women”).

    • sigrid28

      Just my opinion, but I don’t think any race has a lock on infidelity. As for gender, a study of marital fidelity covered on cable news recently (that’s the best I can do for the reliability of this tidbit) found that the most faithful married couples were lesbian, then heterosexual couples, and then male homosexual couples. Do you notice a common denominator?

      • MollyBee64

        Women.

    • 4sanity4all

      You are remarking on something other than the content of this article. While the author is writing about public policy, and how we have a vested interest in providing for all citizens, you are trying to turn this into commentary on problems within the black community. If you did that because you think that it excuses our society from providing for those unable to provide for themselves, it does not.

      • cemab4y

        “Our society” should NOT have to pick up the pieces, and repair the destruction wrought from other peoples bad choices. There are more people on food stamps now, than at any time in history. Children born to unmarried females, have all of the detritus: lower birth weight, bad pre-natal care, more likely to be involved in crime, more poverty, less education, more likely to commit crimes, and to be victims of crime. The list of problems goes from here to the moon.

        • RobertCHastings

          OUR Society, if it is based upon Christian values, is bound by its creed to “repair the destruction wrought from other peoples bad choices”. As you so clearly state, children born under the conditions you list do face serious problems in getting the most out of life. It is not a choice that any of us should be making to just throw them to the wolves. How will these children overcome their circumstances if they are not helped? Yes, some actually do rise above the ghetto with what might appear to be no help, but the vast majority of those who claim to have done so have not bothered to look as closely as say a Tyler Perry, or an Oprah Winfrey. These two endured unspeakable suffering and have risen to a positions of esteem by people of ALL colors.

        • sigrid28

          The majority of people using the SNAP program that provides a leg up for families, many of them workers’ families–the majority is white, not black.

        • charleo1

          We hear a lot of you, (mostly,) guys, lately. With one tact or
          excuse, or another as to why, “Our Society,” meaning themselves, of course, should not, “have to, “pick up the pieces, for other people’s bad choices.” Usually, lot’s of scapegoating. Which makes them sound a bit of the selfish ogre, that don’t care, or don’t care enough to educate themselves, as to some of the underlying factors causing the increases in poverty, and societal dysfunction. And also kinda lopsided. Actually, “cenab..” you were more lopsided than most. Because, White society in America, has their own societal dysfunctions. And since Whites, who also happen to be mostly men, control a disproportionally larger part of the power structure, their dysfunctions tend to be of actual greater consequence, and cause greater destruction when they present themselves, than those in the most impoverished, inner city Black, and Hispanic neighborhoods.
          Or, mostly White, small town America, across the Nation.
          Look, you site the expanding food stamp rolls, and mention,
          “other people’s bad choices.” Okay. Fair enough. Which poor minority group’s choices would you guess introduced selling bundles of collateralized debt, around the world, destroying trillions of dollars of wealth, and tens of millions of jobs?
          I’m serious! If you want to lay the increase in food assistance
          on the poor, you’re going to need to tie the economic collapse to them. Or, you sound like a ignorant jerk. The truth
          is, a ton of the fallout of a failed policy on Wall Street, fell harder on minorities, people of color, and the working poor.
          than any other groups, who could least afford it. They were forced onto the food stamp rolls. Not by their own choices.
          But by the irresponsible behavior of a group that seems to be
          long on demands. That it is, “they,” those people over there.
          that need to take responsibility. To which I say, responsibility
          is a great idea, especially for those in positions that require
          such a great deal of it. And while we’re at it. Instead of wailing away about children born to unmarried poor parents.
          Let’ start at the top of the pay-grade. After all, reproducing is
          kinda hard wired into people. Wrecking economies, due to
          unmitigated greed? That we should change right away.

        • stcroixcarp

          Did you know that most of the people on food stamps are white?

          • Germansmith

            You are technically correct, until you look at population percentages http://www.indexmundi.com/united_states/demographics_profile.html

            Whites are 79.96% of the population (whites are 36.6% of food stamps recipients) This also include Hispanics that are Caucasians
            Blacks are 12.85% of the population (blacks are 22.8% of food stamp recipients) This also includes Hispanics that are considered black.
            This tells any high school student that by percentages , a higher percentage of the population of African Americans are receiving food stamps than whites
            No point, I just want to make sure we put all in perspective

          • tax payer

            Where I shop all I see is Hispanics walking in with their lone Star Cards in their hands. They don’t even bother to hide them from the those that pay for their food. I live in an area composed of mostly Whites yet the Hispanics are shopping there because they don’t want their neighbors to know they are leeching off the tax payers.

          • stcroixcarp

            Maybe your white neighbors are shopping in Latino neighborhoods so their bigoted neighbors won’t know that they are on the government dole.

          • tax payer

            Could be, but most of them work for the Government, but maybe their unwed daughters with two babies have those cards.

  • cemab4y

    The result is that 78% of black children are born to unmarried women. (Whites and Hispanics and Asians also have children without benefit of marriage). These children who are born to these females are disadvantaged from birth.

    • sigrid28

      Many children born within wedlock now enter a world of disadvantage after divorce when men fail to provide child support and alimony as required by law. A new trend shows unmarried parents providing joint support for their children. In these two cases, the point Cynthia Tucker holds true. In this culture, the economic class of the parents is the greatest predictor of a child’s potential accomplishments.

  • cemab4y

    Black males need to “man up”, and keep it in their pants. Black females need to keep their skirts up, and not have sex with males, without benefit of marriage. The destruction of the black family is leaving its wreckage throughout our society. Drugs, crime, murder (blacks killing blacks), all of the holocaust. Where is the leadership from the black community. Pres Obama and al Sharpton, and that whole chorus needs to speak up and demand that black people show some responsibility.

    • sigrid28

      Here is a test: change every “black” to “white,” and point out the fault with that statement.

      • cemab4y

        No ethnic group has a monopoly on irresponsibility. ALL people, regardless of color, must be responsible, and provide for their offspring.

        • Sand_Cat

          Then why are you chastising blacks?

      • RobertCHastings

        Excellent point!

    • MollyBee64

      cemab4y, It is clear you do not care for women or for anyone who is not white. This reduces any comments you make to ‘blather’.

  • Takecover

    Cynthia Tucker, thank you for the humane intelligence you bring to your work. In a world where many journalists treat politics as a “game”, you continue to be a voice of good sense about the real human impact. Lily Tomlin once said, no matter how cynical you get, it’s not enough. Thanks for being a force in the other direction.

  • Dominick Vila

    Excellent article. The only thing I would add is outside the scope of government policy, and involves the opinion of a segment of our population whose interpretation of values and alleged defense of our constitutional rights is very much in question. I am talking about the so-called “anchor babies”, the children of illegal immigrants born in the USA, or brought to the USA when they were small children, who many believe are guilty of crimes committed by their parents, and should be deported. Interestingly, those who don’t hesitate to bring up the Constitution whenever it is convenient to support a position, don’t hesitate to ignore the 14th Amendment which is unambiguous on the issue of citizenship.
    Children are not guilty and should not be blamed for whatever their parents did, no matter how despicable that may have been.

  • montanabill

    Cynthia, re-examine your own words and circumstances. You decry continuing aid to agriculture without a single bit of analysis and in the same breath, want give-aways (food stamps) to continue. Were you raised on food stamps, or did your parents insist on self-reliance? You point a finger at the GOP, but they are ones who are encouraging a nuclear family and solid education. Those are exactly the qualities you ascribe to your upbringing, but somehow, that is not good enough for today’s children?
    Class has little to do with success. The values instilled by your parents, the quality of education you received and your own determination to achieve the life you want, are the pillars of success.

    • Sand_Cat

      All of the factors in your last sentence are heavily influenced by class, and you are full of it as usual. And of course, Cynthia must have been a freeloader raised on food stamps, because she disagrees with you, which we know only freeloaders and other degenerates could possibly do.
      I really LOVE the part about how the GOP encourages a “solid education.” That’s why they cut public educational funding to the bare minimum at every opportunity, why they oppose low-cost college loans to poor people – and practically everyone is poor compared to college expenses these days – why they fight to have religious fundamentalism and other pseudo-science taught in science classes and deride and belittle the educated constantly, probably because most educated people disagree with them, and they see their “base” of ignorant yahoos shrinking rapidly. And of course, they’re really big on family, too: their anti-union, anti-labor policies assure that both parents have to work outside to support the family, and of course stay-at home moms are the only right choice, except in the case of those who need them the most: the poor.

      • montanabill

        Perhaps, in your enlightened state, you can define for all of us, all of the glorious progress in education that the billions all ready spend on the Dept. of Education and American education, in general, has produced.
        Are you proposing we keep spending ever more billions in the hope that something different will occur?
        You know full well, the GOP has proposed a different course, rather than simply throwing more money at the bureaucrats and unions that absorb it like a sponge. Maybe their plan won’t work any better than the current situation, but it for darned sure can’t do much worse.

        While you are cherry picking ‘religious fundamentalism’ as an example of bad education, why not also pick the ‘revised history’ taught by many liberal professors (you seemed have been exposed to it), or the pseudo economics of John Keynes.
        FYI: I managed to work my way through five colleges to multiple degrees, all without family money, scholarships or loans. It can take a little longer, but not only do you finish debt free, you have learned much in school of real experience. Your ‘high minded’ pity for people who work to achieve is simply the same excuse that all governments use to create control over these ‘poor souls’. For their own good, of course.

        • Sand_Cat

          Yes, we all know you’re a superhero and all-around saint; no need to repeat your glorious accomplishments yet again. Speaking of revised history, the conservatives are after that as well. Some of those “liberal” professors base their ideas on actual research, as opposed to the fact-free, feeling-driven opposition many of them face.

          And of course you keep worrying about “control.” It still seems to me that you are the one who wants control, to assure that those you deem unworthy and all of their descendants are condemned to starvation and misery.

          And yes, the GOP has proposed a different course: government subsidization of religious schools while (as usual) starving the schools most of us depend upon as much as possible, and demanding indoctrination of children to be good little automatons completely incapable of critical thinking in those. This agenda, like suppression of the votes of those they disagree with, produces reliable GOP support, and those who are under- and mis-educated are usually – surprise – much easier to control.

          It’s no accident that many if not all of the “red states” have the lowest educational standards, the lowest spending per pupil, the highest levels of violent crime, the highest percentage of people on welfare, the highest rate of teenage pregnancy and single motherhood, etc.

          You’re right: the GOP is leading the way in education: spending lots of money absolutely does not guarantee results, while spending as little as possible definitely does.

          • montanabill

            Name ‘some’.

            People in the U.S. are condemned to starvation and misery only through their own decisions.

            GOP has proposed helping all types of schools as alternatives to a public school system that is largely broken. They also want it to be your ‘choice’ as to which school you would like your kids to attend. You simply seem to have a big problem with allowing people to make their own choices. And you also have a problem with exaggeration.

          • Sand_Cat

            You name “some” first. You’re the one slinging the mud here.
            Gee Bill, you’re right: I do have a problem with your exaggeration, though I didn’t need you to point it out.

      • MollyBee64

        MontanaBill is full of himself and undoubtedly believes he belongs to the ‘enlightened class’. Isn’t it funny how the GOP loves money but decries ‘throwing it’ at anything with which it doesn’t agree? There is no excuse for children in the U.S. to go hungry and/or go without a free and appropriate education…all of which costs money, of course. Hopefully, the radical conservative trend started by that actor President is on the way out. And…boy! Was he an actor!!!!!

    • Bill, farms ceased to be ‘family’ farms long ago. Most of the farm aid goes to 3 corporations like Monsanto, who doesn’t need it – but sure likes the extra profit. Were it otherwise I would agree with you. As for ‘values’, the nuclear option family you believe the country was built on is a fantasy built on brief immigrant and settlement periods. Accident, disease and yes, sometimes family fights require extended family to help. If that’s what you’re talking about, great. But the reality of family and community support was rather uglier than the picture most often painted. People, especially kids starved to death, or died from avoidable disease, or lived miserable lives of poverty when a parent died, had an incapacitating illness or injury, or was unlucky in work.
      I WAS raised on food stamps. My parents were very poor at first – so poor I should be 3-4 inches taller, but due to early malnutrition…. . But we got out OK. Despite the ground rules of assistance back then (no assistance if dad was at home, a CONSERVATIVE requirement) my parents struggled and dad eventually made up for failing 9th grade and became a machinist. We became poor again after he left when I was 14; mom with no work prospects and 6 kids, so welfare and foodstamps. Yeah, we kept working. The assistance wasn’t really enough, so as each of us reached 14 (the minimum age back then) we went to work during the summer to help, but kept at school. I went to university, all but one of my sibs are solid middle class with families (and grandkids) of our own.
      The ‘family values’ you espouse are great in theory. The GOP version falls a little short; the reality is more along the lines of punishment. Pregnant? Tough, it’s your fault! No birth control, no abortion, no support – and if you and your bastard starve to death it’s no less than you deserve! Out of work? Get off your ass and get a job! No jobs nearby? Tough! Starve to death! It’s no less than you deserve for the factory closing! Husband beating you? Tough! Stick it out, a little slap never hurt anyone – and if he’s abusing the kids, well, they’re all destined to be welfare dependent dropouts anyway!

      This is EXACTLY the kind of reasoning I’ve heard for years, except there were slurs (racial and otherwise) included. We can blame the victim, or try to help leverage people out of bad situations. It works best when a rational approach is used. Keeping families together is huge, don’t force parents to separate to feed the kids. Provide training and education, it helps get people off the poverty cycle. (My mother was set for work training when President Reagan killed the program that would have made here employable.) Don’t like abortion? No one really does. But before you try to restrict it, do the one thing that cuts up to 90% of abortions – science based sex education and readily available birth control.

      What you clearly don’t get Bill, is that food stamps are the very definition of family values; don’t let the family starve to death. It was attached to the farm bill years ago (by Republicans) as a way to use up excess farm production and moderate price fluctuations. That it saved families just made it that much better. A healthy marriage of conservative and progressive ideas can be used to fix a lot of the problems in our country, but first we need to talk. And listen. Then we all need to be willing to examine what we are trying to do, rather than rant.
      OH, BTW – class has everything to do with success these days. We have less class mobility than at any time in our history, and even less than most of South America. It wasn’t the case when I was young (in the 60’s) but it is now. We need to reverse that trend, and I suspect we would be largely in agreement with the methods if we could talk a while.

      • montanabill

        I don’t know how old you are Randy, but I would guess less than 40. The nuclear family you call a ‘fantasy’ was pretty universal in America until somewhere near the 80’s. I was also born into poverty. I had polio and cancer. A mother who died of cancer when I was young. My father, a laborer, worked and scrimped to pay off a quarter million dollars in medical bills. I started working at age 10. I’ve worked in the fields and orchards with migrate labor. I had a lot of dirty, hard jobs early on, but I made up my mind I was going to do better. My family never had government assistance of any kind and neither have I. During times when I was unemployed, I would find day labor until I could find a job. As I mentioned, I worked my way through college. I’ve worked at a variety of careers, in small businesses and fortune 500. I started and failed at several businesses before I learned how to succeed. Assistance is like an opium. If you get used to it, depend on it or expect it, you will probably never get to where you would like to be in life. You can believe it or not, but only you will ultimately make the decisions that dictate the kind of life you will have. Luck has very little to do with it.

  • RobertCHastings

    For those who actually do believe that we do make such choices before we are born, and do make choices regarding the circumstances of our lives, this is a cautionary tale. Folks who believe that we DO make these choices understand that there is reason behind them, and it is not to assure that we have an easy life.

  • Germansmith

    Throwing money at the problem will not solve the issue.
    Money does not make ignorant lousy parents improve themselves, education does.
    I am all in favor of providing free good lunch and dinner to students in schools
    I am in favor of providing tutoring and additional help to deserving students.
    I am in favor of facilitating college scholarships to deserving students (in exchange for a token government service time)
    I am not in favor in giving more money to broken families that can be used for other less deserving purposes that we originally intended.
    We fail to understand that we ALWAYS get what we pay for
    If we want to give money to single mothers…we’ll get single mothers
    If we want to give them money for additional children…we’ll get additional children
    How about we take the money from the baby’s daddies?
    Like the song said “cruel to be kind is the right magic”

    • dpaano

      Germansmith: I have to agree with you to a degree. I don’t know why most of these unwed mothers don’t take the fathers to court for child support. I know my mother always told my sisters and me that if any of us got pregnant out of wedlock, she would sue the male who aided in the pregnancy, and she would make sure he paid child support until the child turned 18! She made sure all our “dates” knew this beforehand also! Made them think a little! Too many unwed mothers are having children; due, in part, by the cutting off of places like Planned Parenthood, and then not going after the father in a court of law for child support! Maybe Planned Parenthood needs to open a Legal Aid section for this reason….just saying.

      • tax payer

        Most of these women don’t even know who the father of their baby is because they only have sex to get more benefits. They know the Government won’t allowed those children to go hungry as long as they have our tax money to support these women.

    • stcroixcarp

      Not throwing money at the problem won’t solve it either.
      I take it that you are not pro-life. With that in mind how would you feel about funding abortions? If we don’t want to pay for single mothers, shouldn’t we pay for abortions and birth control? If we ALWAYS get what we pay for, how about paying for abortions, we will get fewer children, fewer free lunches, less crime, fewer workers to support your medicare and social security. etc…etc…etc…

      • Germansmith

        I have no problem with having a woman take control of their own body and not have any children until she and her husband are ready (of course I would prefer safe sex instead of abortions).
        Do you have a problem with that?
        There are statistics that correlates a direct relationship between the reduction of violent crime with the legalization of abortion. Less unwanted children, less adults that grow up in an uncaring environment that could lead to a life of crime.
        If my choices are between paying for an abortion or dozens of years of welfare, handouts and/or possible incarceration, I’ll take the first choice.
        As a society, we should find ANY possible ways to reduce children out of wedlock. In today’s society, that is the primary cause of poverty.