Monday, March 28, 2011

Coffee Party

Some readers might be aware that liberal progressives, alarmed by the influence of the tea party on our electoral politics decided to start their own party - they called it the Coffee Party, which I thought was pretty clever - to serve as an ideological counterweight. Two of it's goals were to promote democracy and civility in our public discourse.

Unfortunately, three Coffee Party board members are resigning their posts. The reason they gave, ironically enough, is a lack of civility in the organization, a lack of democracy among the leadership, and an overall organizational chaos.

Well, a party comprised of the same people whose behavior was on display in Madison, Wisconsin last month can scarcely be expected to overflow with either civility or democracy, although admittedly they did seem pretty well organized.

How Liberalism Hurts Blacks

It is no secret that Viewpoint tends to think that on most matters of public policy conservative solutions are superior to those of liberals. Liberals, it seems to me, excel at discerning problems and calling them to our attention - the injustice of racial segregation, the need to preserve and protect our natural places are two examples that come to mind - but the solutions they propose often have unintended consequences that are counterproductive and even disastrous.

Economist Thomas Sowell discusses three examples of policies that, though intended to meliorate the plight of the poor, actually make them worse off than before. This is particularly true, as Sowell notes, of the black poor.

He explains first how the imposition of restrictions on housing construction in large areas of California have made it all but impossible for blacks to continue living in areas they have traditionally inhabited:
San Francisco's irrepressible former mayor, Willie Brown, was walking along one of the city's streets when he happened to run into another former city official that he knew, James McCray.

McCray's greeting to him was "You're 10."

"What are you talking about?" Willie Brown asked.

McCray replied: "I just walked from Civic Center to Third Street and you're only the 10th black person I've seen."

That is hardly surprising. The black population of San Francisco is less than half of what it was in 1970, and it fell another 19 percent in the past decade.

A few years ago, I had a similar experience in one of the other communities further down the San Francisco peninsula. As I was bicycling down the street, I saw a black man waiting at a bus stop. As I approached him, he said, "You're the first black man I have seen around here in months!"

"It will be months more before you see another one," I replied, and we both laughed.

Actually, it was no laughing matter. Blacks are being forced out of San Francisco, and out of other communities on the San Francisco peninsula, by high housing prices.

At one time, housing prices in San Francisco were much like housing prices elsewhere in the country. But the building restrictions — and outright bans — resulting from the political crusades of environmentalist zealots sent housing prices skyrocketing in San Francisco, San Jose and most of the communities in between. Housing prices in these communities soared to about three times the national average.

The black population in three adjacent counties on the San Francisco peninsula is just under 3 percent of the total population in the 39 communities in those counties.
Sowell goes on to wonder why liberal Democrats are allowed to get away with this, both by blacks and by Republicans.
If the Republicans did point out such things as building restrictions that make it hard for most blacks to afford housing, even in places where they once lived, they would have the Democrats at a complete disadvantage.

It would be impossible for the Democrats to deny the facts, not only in coastal California but in similar affluent strongholds of liberal Democrats around the country. Moreover, environmental zealots are such an important part of the Democrats' constituencies that Democratic politicians could not change their policies.
And it's not just housing policy that works to the disadvantage of the poor. Minimum wage laws which are ostensibly enacted to help the poor actually hurt them by making it more difficult for employers to hire more than just essential help. To be sure, minimum wage assists those lucky enough to get employment, but it also insures that many who might otherwise be hired are not. Sowell says, "[T]he facts are undeniable, and the Democrats cannot change their policy, because they are beholden to labor unions that advocate higher minimum wages."

Yet another area in which liberal policy hurts blacks is in their opposition to school choice which forces poor children to attend underperforming public schools. Liberals oppose school choice because it's opposed by the teachers' unions which are a major element of their base. As Sowell notes, "No one loses more from this policy than blacks, for many of whom education is their only chance for economic advancement."

Another liberal policy Sowell could have mentioned that hurts the poor are welfare programs which encourage a dependency upon the state which saps people of the incentive to improve themselves and climb out of poverty.

Yet the black poor are constantly instructed by their "leaders" that they have to vote Democratic, that it's the only real choice for them, so they do. Every election cycle urban populations elect Democrats to run their cities, but how are they helped by their loyalty? Their neighborhoods are crime-ridden shambles and their schools are dilapidated failures. Yet the black poor who suffer the most from ineffectual policies imposed by Democrats for decades are the most reliably Democratic voting bloc in the nation.