The irony: Back to the plan­ta­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Six years ago I wrote a book called “Un­cle Sam’s Plan­ta­tion.” I wrote the book to tell my own story of what I saw liv­ing in­side the wel­fare state and my own trans­for­ma­tion out of it.

I said in that book that in­deed there are two Amer­i­cas. A poor Amer­ica on so­cial­ism and a wealthy Amer­ica on cap­i­tal­ism. I talked about gov­ern­ment pro­grams like Tem­po­rary As­sis­tance for Needy Fam­i­lies (TANF), Job Op­por­tu­ni­ties and Ba­sic Skills Train­ing (JOBS), Emer­gency As­sis­tance to Needy Fam­i­lies with Chil­dren (EANF), Sec­tion 8 Hous­ing, and Food Stamps.

A vast sea of per­haps well-in­ten­tioned gov­ern­ment pro­grams, all ini­tially set into mo­tion in the 1960s, were go­ing to lift the na­tion’s poor out of poverty. A benev­o­lent Un­cle Sam wel­comed mostly poor black Amer­i­cans onto the gov­ern­ment plan­ta­tion. Those who ac­cepted the in­vi­ta­tion switched mind­sets from “How do I take care of my­self?” to “What do I have to do to stay on the plan­ta­tion?”

In­stead of solv­ing eco­nomic prob­lems, gov­ern­ment wel­fare so­cial­ism cre­ated mon­strous moral and spir­i­tual prob­lems. The kind of prob­lems that are in­evitable when in­di­vid­u­als turn re­spon­si­bil­ity for their lives over to oth­ers.

The legacy of Amer­i­can so­cial­ism is our blighted in­ner cities, dys­func­tional in­ner city schools, and bro­ken black fam­i­lies.

Through God’s grace, I found my way out. It was then that I un­der­stood what free­dom meant and how great this coun­try is.

I had the priv­i­lege of work­ing on wel­fare re­form in 1996, passed by a Repub­li­can Congress and signed into law by a Demo­cratic pres­i­dent. A few years af­ter en­act­ment, wel­fare roles were down 50 per­cent.

I thought we were on the road to mov­ing so­cial­ism out of our poor black com­mu­ni­ties and re­plac­ing it with wealth-pro­duc­ing Amer­i­can cap­i­tal­ism. But, in­cred­i­bly, we are go­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

In­stead of poor Amer­ica on so­cial­ism be­com­ing more like rich Amer­i­can on cap­i­tal­ism, rich Amer­ica on cap­i­tal­ism is be­com­ing like poor Amer­ica on so­cial­ism.

Un­cle Sam has wel­comed our banks onto the plan­ta­tion and they have said, “Thank you, Suh.” Now, in­stead of think­ing about what creative things need to be done to serve cus­tomers, they are think­ing about what they have to tell Mas­sah in or­der to get their cash.

There is some kind of irony that this is all hap­pen­ing un­der our first black pres­i­dent on the 200th an­niver­sary of the birth­day of Abra­ham Lin­coln.

Worse, so­cial­ism seems to be the el­e­ment of our new young pres­i­dent. And maybe even more trou­bling, our cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives seem happy to move onto the plan­ta­tion.

In an op-ed in The Wash­ing­ton Post, Pres­i­dent Obama is clear that the goal of his tril- lion-dol­lar spending plan is much more than short term eco­nomic stim­u­lus.

“This plan is more than a pre­scrip­tion for short-term spending — it’s a strat­egy for Amer­ica’s long-term growth and op­por­tu­nity in ar­eas such as re­new­able en­ergy, health care and ed­u­ca­tion.”

Per­haps more in­cred­i­bly, Mr. Obama seems to think that gov­ern­ment tak­ing over an econ­omy is a new idea. Or that mas­sive growth in gov­ern­ment can take place “with un­prece­dented trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity.”

Yes, sir, we heard it from Jimmy Carter when he cre­ated the En­ergy Depart­ment, the Syn­fu­els Corp., and the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment. Or how about the Eco­nomic Op­por­tu­nity Act of 1964 — The War on Poverty — which Pres­i­dent John­son said “does not merely ex­pand old pro­grams or im­prove what is al­ready be­ing done. It charts a new course. It strikes at the causes, not just the con­se­quences of poverty.”

Tril­lions of dol­lars later, black poverty is the same. But black fam­i­lies are not, with triple the in­ci­dence of sin­gle par­ent homes and out-of-wed­lock births.

It’s not com­pli­cated. Amer­i­cans can ac­cept Barack Obama’s in­vi­ta­tion to move onto the plan­ta­tion. Or they can choose per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity and free­dom.

Does any­one re­ally need to think about what the choice should be?

Star Parker is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist, an au­thor and pres­i­dent of CURE, the Coali­tion on Ur­ban Re­newal and Ed­u­ca­tion (www.ur­ban­cure.org).

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