This post adds yet another extreme example to the list of posts in this blog[i] that discuss well-intended, insufficiently informed people (“Do-Gooders”) advancing policies and ideas that do more harm than good for the people the Do-Gooders want to help. In Part III of this series, we identified the slate of positive trends that Do-Gooders could mess up. This post and the next few sort out how Do-Gooder’s ideas and policies both messed up the positive trends blacks were achieving and caused many of the problems that are fueling what is going on in the country. Sadly, most of the policy prescriptions of today’s Do-Gooders are merely doubling down on the failed Do-Gooder policies of the past.
This sub-series focuses on the unintended negative consequences inflicted on blacks by Do-Gooders’ ideas and policies. The reason for the focus on blacks is not that those ideas and policies did not negatively affect people of other skin hues (they did). That focus is on black grievances because Black Lives Matters, a leading player in what is going on, is exploiting the failures of Do-Gooders’ ideas and policies.
The seminal Do-Gooders’ legislation that sent the country down the path that has resulted in the current black grievances and civil unrest is known as the “War On Poverty” (“WOP”) (not to be confused with Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, 1964 or the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which produced net positive results). The WOP opened a pandora’s box of calamities that beset blacks and were so consequential that it deserves a separate post.
While LBJ’s motivation for advancing the WOP[ii] was, in part, if not mostly for political advantage (to get blacks “voting Democratic for 200 years”[iii]), most voters who supported the WOP believed that its net effects would be positive for blacks. Indeed, it did bestow some benefits. However, as I have described in prior posts, [iv] its adverse impacts on blacks have vastly exceeded its benefits to blacks. Here is a summary of a few negative consequences inflicted on blacks by the WOP:
- Stopped Robust Black Progress. Blacks were making tremendous progress socially, politically, and economically (closing the black/white income gap) until the WOP got up and running, at which point much of that progress stopped.[v]
- Tore Black Families Asunder. Before the WOP, black babies were more likely to be born into two-parent families than white babies.[vi] The WOP turned poor fathers who wanted to live with their children into economic burdens on their families (stripping too many black men of a great source of meaning in life, denying their children the benefits of a two-parent family, and more). The negative impact on children of single parents can be grim.[vii]
- Caused Poor Black Neighborhoods To Be Less Nice and More Dangerous.[viii] In the 1950s, “The interest in education [in black neighborhoods] was just profound… The moral standards and ethical standards for those people living in [black] communities was extremely high.”[ix] According to Trends in Homicide Among African Americans: “The phenomenon of extremely high homicide rates in the nonwhite population is not new. Since 1914, when national mortality data were tabulated for the first time by cause of death and race, death rates from homicide among nonwhite males have exceeded those for white males by factors as great as 13 to 1. However, this ratio steadily diminished in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s; and the ratio held fairly steady in the 1980s as the homicide death rates from each race-sex group declined after sharp increases in the 1960s and 1970s. [As the effects of the WOP set in.]” [Emphasis added.] “As for ghetto riots, these were never as numerous, nor of such magnitudes of violence, in the 1940s and 1950s, as they became in the 1960s…”[x]
- Raised Minimum Wages. The WOP ushered in a constant stream of raises in minimum wages,[xi] thereby disproportionately hurting the most unskilled laborers the most[xii] (by raising the bottom rung on the latter of success so high that the most unskilled could not get on the job training/get a start[xiii]).
- Inflicted Affirmative Action. Affirmative Action (“AA”) inflicted the following disadvantages on blacks:
- In the mid-60s, America’s top universities desired higher enrollment of black students. The most capable black students did not need AA to gain admission. AA, however, caused black students of every ability level to wind up in universities in which they were, on average, the least qualified to grapple with the curricula and required pace of learning.[xiv] Anyone finding themselves so outmatched is discouraging and debilitating and causes far too many highly-skilled blacks to drop out.[xv] Had those students been admitted according to the same standards as applied to all other students, they would have been admitted to universities in which they would have been much more likely to excel. On average, AA denied black students the inspiring the encouraging positive feedback of success and replaced it with the debilitating feelings of unworthiness. All of this led to disproportionately high dropout rates — not because they could not succeed, but because they could not succeed at the school that admitted them. That the admission of AA students advanced the interests of the school at the expense of the students adds insult to injury. That they continue to do it after they have witnessed the consequences is disgraceful.
- Before AA laws, blacks who succeeded by overcoming the disproportionate disadvantages and hardships of being black in America were correctly perceived to be exceptionally capable, hardworking, and had more grit than most of their non-black peers. The ability to gain that status was watered down, if not denied, as a consequence of the presumed unearned advantages that AA implied.
- AA created resentment, if not animosity among non-beneficiaries of AA who felt unfairly disadvantaged by AA,[xvi]
- Employers knowing that an applicant or employee was aided by AA admission and, likely had grades boosted by teachers’ empathy or desire to avoid time-wasting hassles with students and the administration[xvii] rather than merit often evokes suspicion that the employee may not be as competent as her peers from the same school with the same scores. Such presumptions can lower the likelihood that the “beneficiary” of AA is hired or, if hired, create wariness and reluctance when critical projects are assigned to employees. Consequently, because effectively handling critical assignments creates the appearance of cream to rising to the top, AA “beneficiaries” who are equal in competence are likely to have fewer opportunities to prove their mettle,[xviii] i.e., rise to the top.
- Slowed Economic Growth/Cost Jobs. Complying with the laws and regulations the WOP imposed on businesses tremendous costs, inefficiencies, and liabilities — thereby slowing economic growth.[xix] A consequence of the Economic Opportunity Act, capital and effort that could have been invested in activities that created wealth (which would have created faster technological innovation and job creation, and would, other things being equal, drive up the pay for low-income workers) were diverted into unproductive and unprofitable regulatory compliance. Black people are disproportionately poor and slower than necessary economic growth hurts poor people most.
- Increased Dependency, Bigotry of Low Expectations, Hopelessness, and Grievances and Decreased Incentives, Motivation, and Efforts to Thrive. The massive negative effects of these phenomena will be discussed in a later post.
The WOP proponents touted it as a means to improve conditions, especially economic conditions for blacks. Instead, between 1959 and 1967 (the period immediately before the WOP kicked in) the percentage of blacks in poverty fell 29% (from 51.1% to 39.3%), fell to 34% in 1968, and then flat-lined for 25 years.[xx] Summing it all up in “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed” (p. 170), Jason Riley says, “…fifty years into the war on poverty the picture isn’t pretty. While gains have been made, significant racial disparities persist in some areas and black retrogression has occurred in others. The black-white poverty gap has widened over the last decade and the poverty rate among blacks is no longer declining.”
That Do-Gooders meant well and feel good about having tried is little consolation for the damage they inflicted.
For more information on the negative effects of the WOP, see: “How We Lost the War on Poverty,” “Poverty in the US Was Plummeting—Until Lyndon Johnson Declared War On It,” “The War on Poverty Wasn’t A Failure — It Was A Catastrophe,” and the citations in the endnotes.
[i] A few examples”
- “Welfare Wreckage,”
- “Biden’s Bigotry,”
- “Exploitation—Part IV (c), Exploiting Exploitation−The Path To Prosperity,”
- “Equal Rights or Equal Outcomes?”
- “You will always have the poor among you. . . .”
- “Wealth Creation – It’s for the Children, and their Children, and their Children. . . .”
“In the mid-1950s, black labor force participation rates for 16-year-old and 17-year-old males began falling below that of their white counterparts, and the gap grew wider in succeeding decades. For males aged 18 and 19, the same racial reversal in labor force participation rates occurred a decade later, in the mid-1960s. For males aged 20 to 24, that same racial reversal occurred at the beginning of the next decade, in 1970. The magnitude of the racial difference in labor force participation rates among males, after the racial reversal, followed the same pattern, being greatest for the 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds, less for males aged 18 and 19, and least for males aged 20 to 24.”
Sowell, Thomas. Discrimination and Disparities (p. 54). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
“[M]ost black children were being raised in two- parent families in 1960. But thirty years later after the liberal welfare state… the great majority of black children [were] being raised by… single parent[s].”
[vii] “What Are The Effects On Children Of Single Parents?”: “The forum concludes that the consequences are a result of more limited social, emotional and financial resources. These findings are reinforced in Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps, a book written by Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur. According to McLanahan and Sandefur, children of single-parent households are at increased risk of dropping out of high school. In the book’s findings, boys tended to be idle and teenage girls had a greater risk of pregnancy. Overall, the chances of these children going to college were greatly diminished.”
“Walter Williams: Suffer No Fools – Full Video” @15:28 and “In 2008 economists David Neumark and William Wascher published a book that surveyed the minimum-wage literature of the previous three decades. They reviewed more than one hundred academic studies on the impact of [minimum wage] laws and found ‘overwhelming evidence’ that younger, lesser-skilled workers suffer what economists call ‘disemployment effects,’ or loss of employment when the minimum wage goes up.”
“The Even and Macpherson study finds that among whites males ages 16-24, each 10% increase in a federal or state minimum wage has decreased employment by 2.5%. For Hispanic males, the figure is 1.2%. ‘But among black males in this group, each 10% increase in the minimum wage has decreased employment by 6.5%.’”
“Race and Culture: A World View” 176 – 177 (1994) (“Even if most minority students are able to meet the normal standards at the “average’ range of colleges and universities, the systematic mismatching of minority students begun at the top can mean that such students are generally overmatched throughout all levels of higher education”).” [Some (e.g., Brookings) say things like, “There is very little high-quality evidence supporting the mismatch hypothesis…” Of course, that is the case. Too many professors know better than to even search for, much less publish the high-quality evidence supporting this self-evident fact.]
“Moreover, research has suggested that there are several flaws with affirmative action that preclude its success as a practice. These flaws are not only limited to external strains that others impose on it, they also includes internal burdens that negatively affect the same individuals they claimed to assist. The beneficiaries of affirmative action are often stigmatized as incompetent and incapable (Heilman, Block & Stathatos, 1997). Externally, when an organization has an affirmative action plan or program, fellow employees assume that the individual only received the job on the basis of their demographic. The perception that such a beneficiary lacks qualification causes the targets of affirmative to be evaluated negatively, regardless of their actual performance (Leslie, Mayer, & Kravitz, 2014). Such external developments create a cycle that then perpetuates itself to the individual and his or her evaluation of him or herself. The individual then believes that they are not capable of doing their job properly. For one, evaluations of work performance that is completed by supervisors lack clarity (Heilman, Block & Stathatos, 1997). Thus, the individual, upon receiving the evaluation of their performance does not believe that they are able to succeed in the workplace because they are not fulfilling the organization’s performance standards. This further leads the individual to evaluate him or herself negatively. Their self-perception leads to a negative view of oneself and a lack of confidence to thrive in that given corporate environment.”