Saturday, December 29, 2007

Intellectual Progress

Ramirez notes that we've come a long way in 235 years:


Poverty in America

Byron sends along this sobering essay by Bart Campolo about his work for justice among the poor. It reminds us in this season of good will that we have a moral obligation to help - in whatever way we feel most competent - those who are in need.

Unfortunately, any long term solution to the plight of America's disadvantaged is going to involve more than providing goods and services and other forms of temporary relief to destitute people. Somehow, the culture into which these individuals are born has to be changed. A culture that breeds babies without fathers, which breeds dependency on government or on the benevolence of people like Campolo, which breeds a lack of discipline and a disdain for education and learning, which fosters a terrible work ethic, which fails to place a premium on family, which glorifies the "gangsta" lifestyle, which nurtures a dependency upon drugs and alcohol, which normalizes promiscuous sex and gratuitous violence, is a culture which dooms the people trapped in it to generational poverty.

I wish someone knew how to get the urban poor out of that culture. Unfortunately, anyone who calls for tearing down the prison walls within which our poor are stuck, especially if that person is white, is often dismissed as a racist, an elitist, a cultural chauvinist, an insensitive boor who's guilty of blaming the victim, etc. Consequently, nothing much gets done beyond the tut-tutting that occurs in the wake of a disaster like Katrina or publication of the latest homicide statistics out of Philadelphia.

I sure don't know what all the answers are, but I'm convinced that the first step toward winning the "war" on poverty is a loud, sustained national condemnation of the deracinated, dysfunctional culture which, like the muck in a swamp, makes it hard for these people to lift themselves out of the mire and into the middle class. It'd be worth suffering the obloquy of the race-hustlers and other small minds who will be quick to condemn anyone who spoke in such accents if doing so eventually broke the shackles that chain so many in the miseries of poverty.


'Twas a Very Good Year

Lawrence Kudlow writes that President Bush has had a very good year in 2007:

The troop surge in Iraq is succeeding. America remains safe from terrorist attacks. And the Goldilocks economy is outperforming all expectations.

At his year-end news conference, Mr. Bush said with optimism that the economy is fundamentally sound, despite the housing downturn and the subprime credit crunch. The very next day, that optimism was reinforced with news of the best consumer spending in two years. The prophets of recessionary doom, such as former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, Republican adviser Martin Feldstein, ex-Democratic Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, and bond-maven Bill Gross have been proven wrong once again.

Calendar year 2007 looks set to produce 3 percent growth in real gross domestic product, nearly 3 percent growth in consumer spending, and more than 3 percent growth in after-tax inflation-adjusted incomes.

Meanwhile, headline inflation (including food and energy) will have run at 21/2 percent, with only 2 percent core inflation.

Jobs are rising more than 100,000 monthly and the stock market is set to turn in a respectable year despite enormous headwinds. Low tax rates, modest inflation, and declining interest rates continue to boost Goldilocks, which is still the greatest story never told.

Mr. Bush's optimism is well-earned, in Congress too. He has stopped a lot of bad legislation on higher taxing and spending. He won on S-CHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) and the alternative minimum tax. He mostly prevailed on domestic spending. And he got much of what he wanted on war funding without any pullout dates.

On the other hand, Ambrose Evans Pritchard foresees catastrophe looming on the near horizon. I haven't talked to him recently about this, but I know what my brother Bill would say: Invest in precious metals.