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George Will’s Prescription For Poverty

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As I expected, there is already a crescendo of voices railing against George Will and his comments on This Week regarding the issue of poverty in general, but germane to the discussion of the issue of poverty as witnessed during the crises of Katrina last week. It was obvious from the moment the words tripped off his tongue that there would be many, many people ready to take him to task, and to perhaps go so far as to call for his head on an ABC network platter.

If you missed the Sunday morning, September 11th show, George laid out his ideas regarding poverty during the roundtable discussion between himself, George Stephanopoulos, Newt Gingrich, and Fareed Zakaria, a journalist from Newsweek magazine. They were discussing poverty, race and Katrina during which Will spelled out his prescription for poverty in three steps:


  1. Get a high school education and graduate.

  2. Wait until you are married (at least 20-years-old) before having babies.

  3. Each family needs a mother AND a father to succeed.

Will contends that a person’s best chance to avoid the grip of poverty is to follow these steps. And though it will not be easy, it’s probably your best chance for success. When I heard George say these words I immediately had a couple thoughts:


  • Spot on, George

  • You’re in trouble, George

Tough advice, his. Bitter pills to swallow, those. And because of the difficulty inherent in his prescription, Will is going to be labeled (among other things), “out of touch,” “racist,” “typical white male,” and so forth. You’ve all seen it hundreds of times before. And whether you agree with his advice or you don’t, you can’t argue against the validity of it, nor can you simply dismiss his admonishment as conservative Republican drivel.

But you’ll try to. It’s already happening. “How dare he sit in judgment of us,” or, “What does he know, everything he has has been given to him.” You know, trotting out the same old rebuttals to the kind of advice people really don’t want to hear because they haven’t got the wherewithal to recognize its worth, or the balls to step up their game to heed it. In other words, more of the same old bullshit preceding the line “…until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes.”

As this debacle of Katrina wears on, I find myself waffling on the issues of blame, race, and poverty. Yet regardless of my feelings at any given point on those topics, I can’t deny the honesty and the value of Will’s view on the decline of a certain segment of this American population and of what it’s going to take to bring themselves back from the brink. Yes, “bring themselves back.”

If it’s unacceptable for white folk to have things handed to them, then it needs to be labeled unacceptable for all. We’ve spent decade after decade cultivating an attitude of entitlement, and for what? Where has it gotten us?

Rhetorical, so don’t bother. I’ve seen enough of it splattered across my television set over the last couple weeks to last a lifetime. It’s not about money, folks. It never has been. It’s about taking responsibility for yourselves and your actions. My parents pounded these lessons into me, and I happened to hear them again yesterday from Will. Sage advice then, as now. So do the same for your kids and break the cycle.

For more of me and my rants, visit Bite The Pariah, if you dare.

Ed/Pub:LM

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About Psychedelic Pariah

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “1 – Get a high school education and graduate.”

    The fact of the matter is, if you don’t even get a measly high school diploma (or GED) in today’s world, you’re more than likely going to be poor or lower-middle class.

    Sure, there are examples of folks who dropped out of school and made a great life for themselves. But they are few and far between. Education is an absolutely crucial prerequisite if your goal is to get out of poverty.

    “2 – Wait until you are married (at least 20-years-old) before having babies.”

    With 70% illegitimacy rates in the black community, as well as 30% rates in the white community, this is advice that needs to be heeded. Few things are more likely to trap someone in an unfortunate socio-economic position than having a kid at 15 or 16 or 17, and wathcing the “father” just walk away from the situation.

    The mother loses, the child loses, and society loses. Bad stuff.

    “3 – Each family needs a mother AND a father to succeed.”

    This is perhaps the most controversial thing he said. It is controversial because people will want to twist this into an insult directed at single moms.

    But the facts are the facts, and they clearly show that single mothers tend to have children with more problems (dropping out of school, disciplinary issues, abuse of drugs, precocious sex, etc.) than kids who grow up in a stable home with both a mom AND a dad around.

    So, while Mr. Will may take some heat for these comments, he was most certainly correct in stating them…

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Oy, I am not gonna win on this one, but here goes…

    Get a high school education and graduate.

    I totally agree. But the curriculum for a high school education must be completely revamped. The basics must be tought. Accountability, responsibility and civics must be an integral part of education from K – 12.

    Wait until you are married (at least 20-years-old) before having babies.

    Oh Lord, that makes so much sense. That is commensurate with education. Children must be taught just how dire the consequences of having a child can be.

    Each family needs a mother AND a father to succeed.

    Ideally every family needs 2 parents, preferably a mother and a father. That’s not to say that gay parents don’t work because they do. Regardless of what ultra rightists would have you believe, children nurtured in gay households are quite healthy emotionally. Of course, in a perfect world, two parents are the ideal. It makes sense. But we live in an imperfect world. We live in an age where the definition of family and the family dynamic has been forever altered. Just as humans evolve, so do families. The family of Ancient Egypt differed dramatically from the family dynamic of Constantine’s time. It’s a natural process.

    So, in the absence of a ‘conventional’ family, it remains preferable to have two parents within the family domicile.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “I totally agree. But the curriculum for a high school education must be completely revamped. The basics must be tought. Accountability, responsibility and civics must be an integral part of education from K – 12.”

    Well, I’d settle for math, the physical sciences, and english … but otherwise we agree! :)

  • Dawn

    George’s prescription is definitely the right one, and really, there is no good reason someone can’t get their GED by age 20 or so.

    I don’t really care what their circumstances are, if you make not being ignorant important and education a priority you are on your way to success.

    Not having kids early – and to me early is before 25, should be every young person’s goal. Kids are expensive, aggravating, time-sucking, enormous responsibilities, not to be taken lightly – and they don’t go hand and hand with kegstands and Rave parties.

    As for “mom and dad” that would be preferable, but not always feasible.

    That part is much harder to make mandatory.

  • http://zardozz.com/zz/ Z.Z. Bachman

    Points well made… especially that of the “entitlement” contagion that permeates more and more of our society. (A post of mine a few days ago)

    IMHO the entitlement mentality has really begun to erode the fabric of what once made this country great. Individuals taking accountablity for their actions and then DOING something about their condition rather than complaining about it or waiting for “the man” to bail them out is becoming the exception rather than the rule.

    Skin color does not have a damn thing to do with that issue. But as you say, the inferences will be made anyway against George Will for speaking the obvious.

  • G. Oren

    Of course George is correct. What we must come to realize is that the underclass is also an underclass of cognitive ability. This means that they are less likely to exercise personal responsibilty and constraint or to embrace a long-term time horizon for their own prospects and those of their children.

    I take it as something of a given that this permanent underclass will get worse and not better – at least in the short and medium term. This is due to the PC mindset that wants to avoid any effort to inculcate personal responsibilty and a middle class work ethic (or maybe bestows upon them a nonexistent virtuousness).

    I also agree with Hernstein and Murray (the Bell Curve) that, while middle-class Whites tend to overlook or downplay the magnitiude of these behaviors in the Black and Hispanic underclass, they will not be so understanding of the same behaviors in the growing White underclass. To wit, illigetimacy rates in the White community are now about what they were in the Black community 40 years ago and three times what they were in the White community 40 years ago.

    If we are compelled to provide the nanny state for a growing cognitive underclass, then that nanny is going to have to be tougher and require better incentives for behavior modification. Given a more rigourous educational environment combined with better vocational ed. training (let us cease to believe that a high school education should prepare all students for college, most need some introduction to vocational training more than they need trigonometry) and firmer ladders into the world of work – perhaps more programs like job corps, or even WPA or CCC – we might begin to see some improvement in the long term.

    None of this is to say that the government is in anyway justified in leaving the poor or New Orleans to flounder for three days after Katrina. That they should have left is not the issue, we should have planned proper evacuation and rescue operations far in advance to this crisis.

  • Nancy

    If the conservatives want to halt the increase on the growing ‘cognitive underclass’ – i.e. people who are marginal economically because they’re just plain too stupid to think ahead – then why do these same conservatives throw every possible roadblock in the way of making contraception cheap & easily, widely available? Conservatives need to recognize that these people are NOT going to exercise personal self-restraint in matters of sex any more than they do in drinking, drugging, or anything else, all the wishful thinking of the right wing concerning abstinence notwithstanding. It just ain’t gonna happen. So, if they want to put a stopper on these human drones, then at least provide said drones with all the contraceptives they want & need – or else shut up about the population increase.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    I think it’s fine advice. The problem is, How to Achieve It?

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    How about mandatory sterilization…

    …of Conservatives?

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Well, from an objective standpoint (almost never achieved in politics), making abortion illegal in the U.S. seems like a really great way to not help the poverty problem, no?

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    like ‘no child left behind’, this is an extremely simple answer to a very complex problem.

  • Nancy

    Well, part of the complex problem DOES have a very simple answer: let the government (conservatives-GOP-the right) butt out of everyone else’ sex lives, & make contraception widely available & cheap. They’re so afraid teenage girls are going to abuse it. Well, the kids can’t do any worse w/the morning after pill (or a prevention pill) than they can by popping bastards while they should still be in school, hey? Actually, I think the issue goes deeper: I think the right is afraid that women might become even more independent & uppity than they are now, if they REALLY had autonomy over their own reproductive rights. Worried girls might “abuse” it, my fat ass; what a crock.

  • G. Oren

    I don’t have time to make a more complete answer, but from having observed the Black and HIspanic underclass close-up, I don’t think that the availibility of contraception is a problem. What I mean is, the consequence of children is accepted as part of the equation of sex, even if that sex is fleeting, non-monogamous etc.. They come from cultures that highly value young children – though they do poorly in disciplining young males.

    Consevatives still feel that, given half a chance, folks will choose to discipline themselves rather than have to be disciplined by a fascist state. But if this problem cannot be controlled, one of the tradeoffs for AFDC may have to be required injections of contraceptive drugs. Anyone for more big brother?

  • Nancy

    I personally feel that EVERYONE regardless of race, etc. should receive a subdermal permanent contraceptive immediately upon onset of puberty, which would not be neutralized for the purpose of breeding until the would-be breeder had demonstrated thru classes & various exams that s/he really WANTED kids & knew how to handle them. This would involve passing classes on child development, birth, rearing, psychology (basic), basic first aid, childhood diseases, basic nursing, etc. Anyone who had the determination to do all that must really want kids, would certainly be qualified to raise them, and IMO would then also qualify for assistance raising & educating them. Boy, would this cut a lot of losers and mental cases out of the loop, not to mention idiots who feel they should breed because they have the organs for it – kind of like people with checks at the end of the month feel they must also have the money as well. But I’m kind of strict about kids should have the best if you’re gonna have ‘em at all.

  • Obasi

    you know, taken by themselves, Will’s comments are harmless. However, when they are attached to any people historically impoverished in any part of the world, they begin to point the finger of blame on groups of people who remain in poverty, by and large, as a condition of how they were socialized into this part of the world. Nobody wants to be poor, but there is a tradition of poverty that pervades communities that are predominantly African American in the US. Black poverty is not a New Orleans problem, it is an American problem. The end of sharecropping led to migration, which ultimately led to white flight and corporate/factory flight visiting poverty on certain areas of the world. Social Scientists call it concentrated poverty as a function of suburbanization, corporate outsourcing, the development of the prison industrial complex that disproportionately targets unemployed African American males, and widespread redundancy. When American ends its discontempt with people of African descent, then, and only then, will she be willing to confront the demons that continue to keep her inhabitants divided by gender, race, and class (the latter two finally being acknowledged as inextricably linked by George Bush in his Special Report of September 16, 2005).

  • David Muhammad

    Black americans should study the determined do for self attitude of the Israeli’s. Begging others for help IS HOPELESS