Editor’s Note: This was written before the Charleston, S.C., murders had taken place, and, to be honest, I’m not sure whether that horrible event has anything to do with what I’m talking about here. In fact, I’m not sure what the significance of the shootings is. Maybe they have no significance, and they’re just another mad act of a sad, pathetic and evil loser. Regardless, having this article published so close to the South Carolina shootings felt a little awkward, and I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable about it.


A Modest Proposal for and From Baltimore

 

A recent editorial claimed Hillary Clinton “offends conservatives by being too liberal and liberals by being too conservative.” In less partisan times, this would make her a “moderate,” but that quaint term now describes someone who won’t be making it out of the primaries. Mitt Romney realized this in 2012, when GOP rivals smeared him as a “Massachusetts moderate,” and he needed to rebrand himself as a “severe conservative.”

Back when Congress actually attempted to govern, they compromised in ways that made some moderates happy, but generally left the extremists on both wings dissatisfied. Prior to our current era of hyperpartisanship, it was said that, if almost everyone was at least a little unhappy about a bill, it was probably good legislation, but those days are gone.

In 2015, our Republican Congress is eager to prove the conservative maxim that government can’t do anything right. Based on their performance thus far, they’re succeeding. If America’s problems are going to be addressed, a collection of polarized and ideological politicians is unlikely to do it.

As always, Americans feel pessimistic about the American dream, and we’re convinced we need to get back to some mythical “good old days.” With Russian imperialism, Chinese nationalism, nuclear proliferation, climate change and Islamic terrorism all worsening at once, we’ve got a full plate to worry over.

Here at home, racism has again reared its ugly head (as if it had ever gone away), as our inner cities suffer riots, arson, gunplay and vandalism. Too often the police have behaved disgracefully, and too often their victims have reacted just as badly. During the first few months of 2015, there were more than a 100 homicides in Baltimore, and nine over the Memorial Day weekend alone.

Baltimore has also brought us Toya Graham, the “slap mom,” who dragged her son out of a gang of rock-throwing vandals. Some in the media have called her “Mother of the Year,” but they conveniently ignore the fact that her son may have ended up with thugs and looters because he lacked supervision. After all, Ms. Graham has six children, and no father in the picture, so Mother of the Year … I don’t think so.

In the mid-60s, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D.-NY) warned of the dangers inherent in the decay of the black family, including a lack of fathers and an unprecedented rise in teen pregnancies and unwed mothers. According to my left-wing college sociology professors, the Moynihan Report “blamed the victims,” so the moderate senator was vilified by left-leaning social science departments, which treated his work like something written by a Klansman or a Nazi who was advocating lynchings and forced sterilization.

Sadly, the Moynihan Report turned out to be prescient. The disintegration of minority families metastasized into an endless cycle of suffering and dysfunction; so, 25 years later, Baltimore’s black mayor, Kurt Schmoke, came up a modest proposal for addressing the problem.

Because one critical component of success is growing up in a stable, two-parent family, Schmoke set about reducing pregnancies in Baltimore’s high schools. Statistically, girls who finish high school without giving birth have a much better chance of being part of a stable family after graduation. To achieve this goal, Schmoke instituted a program for offering sexually active teenagers the long-term (five-year) contraceptive Norplant. In some places, girls were paid to have the implants.

Almost immediately these programs were attacked from every end of the political spectrum. The same leftists who’d denounced the Moynihan Report two decades earlier again trotted out the phrase “blaming the victims,” and some ludicrously labeled the program “genocidal.” Civil rights activists called Norplant “population control disguised as birth control,” and Baltimore’s black politicians called it “a tool of social engineering.” Feminists accused Schmoke of “targeting women.”

As the Left opted for political correctness over dealing with a serious situation, the Religious Right showed that it’s not the bad effects of sex they object to, but sex itself. Conservative Christians lamented that Norplant “encouraged promiscuity” by allowing teenagers to copulate without consequences. Predictably, Catholic leaders attacked Norplant for being birth control, and conservative politicians decried “bribing” teenagers to be implanted, as if this would cost more than the unwanted pregnancies.

A concept attacked from every political wing might have been a good idea, but it never really took off, due, in part, to a campaign by local clergymen to frighten teenage girls and their parents as to Norplant’s health risks, despite its FDA approval and years of safe use in Europe. Schmoke’s efforts ultimately failed, as political correctness and ideology triumphed over pragmatic practicality.

Fast forward 20 years, and Baltimore has burned again, and the only hero seems to be an unwed mother of six. I don’t pretend to know how the decay of our inner cities can be turned around. However, finger-pointing — whether it’s blaming President Obama (the default GOP position) or blaming racist police, when the overwhelming majority of urban violence is black-on-black — is unlikely to help.

Nor does it do much good to blame a lack of investment in the inner city, when the residents themselves protest police violence by burning down existing businesses. And though Jeb Bush’s 1995 suggestion that unwed mothers need to be publicly shamed may excite the conservative base, it’s no more helpful than the partisan sniping at Bush for having floated the idea 20 years ago.

Maybe if more of us were a little more sincere about looking for practical remedies, and a bit less extreme about looking for someone to blame, we might have made a little more progress in the past half century. But there’s an election coming, so moderate ideas are probably too much to hope for anytime soon.


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