|Boys in the Hood: It will take more than cash to help these guys|
Mad Dog has been taken to task by none other than Ms. Maud for suggesting we "throw up our hands" at the idea of spending money to improve the lot of the Children in the Basement, the dispossessed, the struggling, the underprivileged, the most vulnerable who face hopeless lives of deprivation while corporate profits soar to record highs and the 1% get richer and laugh all the way to the bank.
This really set Ms. Maud off, and evoked such an inspiring outpouring of indignation, it set Mad Dog dreaming about setting up an exploratory committee for Ms. Maud in her run against Kelly Ayotte. Wouldn't you just love seeing Senator Ayotte having to respond to this? It would be one of those, "At long last, Senator, have you no sense of decency?" moments. But Mad Dog digresses.
Surely, we can spend money in a constructive way to better the lot of the most needy.
Paul Krugman has suggested as much, in a way, by saying virtually any government spending in a recession helps lift the economy, and a rising tide lifts all boats. You could bury money in a mine and there would be jobs created just to dig down to it.
But that technique has been tried, back in the 1960's, to try to change the fate of inner city lives, and it was ineffective.
Mad Dog does agree we ought not give up.
Ms. Maud is correct: there is no such thing as "benign neglect." Mad Dog does agree that:
1. We should do whatever we can do to effectively raise the poor into the middle class and beyond.
2. Throwing up hands in frustration or despair will never help. You can only hit what you aim at, for the most part. As FDR said: better the occasional faults of a government which lives in the spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.
3. Government can be at least part, maybe the major player, in accomplishing the goal of helping those who dwell at the bottom or who struggle to remain in the middle.
What affects Mad Dog's thinking, however, is the memory of the last great effort to do all this, the "War on Poverty." Lyndon Johnson set as a goal ending poverty in America in 1964 and from his efforts Congress funded the Office for Economic Opportunity and many other agencies and programs directed at the inner city poor.
Many were the voices which warned against raising unreasonable expectations, which, when dashed, who cause more unhappiness than if we had just left well enough alone. These voices mostly had Southern accents.
Today, of course, different voices, with the same message howl that any effort to spend taxpayer or(Heaven forbid) corporate money to help the less fortunate is doomed to be money poured down a black hole to no effect. Only trickle down from the top 1% can help create real jobs, they say. They always point to the fruitless efforts of the War on Poverty. These voices emanate from people like Paul Ryan, who believes the reason for inner city poverty is the "laziness" of inner city people. And there are other voices, emanating from people who bear a striking resemblance to turtles. The turtle, you will recall, can retract his arms and legs and head into his shell and seal himself off from the world.
|Fear the Turtle|
In 1964, Martin Luther King, who had needed Johnson to pass the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, began speaking out against Vietnam, which struck many of his supporters as biting the hand that fed.
But King saw clearly it was all part of a larger picture: Penniless Black kids from every inner city ghetto saw every opportunity closed to them and they had no other viable option but to join the military, or at least allow themselves to be swept up into the military. King saw the great American war machine as somehow being part of the reason Black people were kept down.
Now, Andrew Bacevich, a West Point graduate, a retired soldier and a professor at BU, writes about the Breach of Trust between citizens and the soldiers they hire to fight an eternal war, putatively in "service to their country," but actually in service to their own financial security, their own families, and, ultimately, to corporate bonanzas and to moneyed interests.
Whereas in the past, service in the Army actually provided some legitimacy to the claims of Black citizens to reap the benefits of the American economy, once they came home, in the new, all volunteer (i.e. mercenary) Army, this is no longer true. The only claims the Black youths have now is to an artificial arm or leg at the VA Hospitals. That's part of the contract. And "service" has been reduced to contract work. All that talk about "Duty, Honor, Country," has been displaced by talk about better housing, better pay and scholarship money. Part of the payout is a certain claim to social respectability, but we no longer have an army where rich boys serve with poor boys, where the rich defer their entry into upper class pursuits while they "serve their nation" as JFK did on his PT boat, as Oliver Wendell Holmes did when he served in the Union Army. When you have people who are clearly not improving their own finances in the service, it really is a "service."
Bacevich ties many ills you would not think related to the way we have constructed our military, and while his screed is clearly a polemic, written in white heat rather than cool remove, he does marshal enough thought, if not evidence, to be persuasive.
Essentially, what he is saying, is the Child in the Basement argument: When you have something very rotten at the core, the whole foundation of society is weak and the superstructure totters.
If you have slavery at the core of the Southern economy, eventually that structure will fall.
When you have corporate profit driving the disposition of armed intervention and when you have Congressional districts depending for their wealth on military bases and munitions plants, as directly as the cotton farms depended on slaves, then you have some serious structural problems for the whole society.
Spending money is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to lift all boats. This goes back to George Bernard Shaw and "Major Barbara. " There is no such thing as "clean money" or "dirty money" in a society which prints its money in ink made of blood.
Mad Dog believes we do not actually benefit our economy or protect ourselves effectively by sending only 1% of our population (and not the 1% that owns this country) who comprise our military, off to fight in Afghanistan or Iraq or Ukraine. But the infrastructure which supports this so corrupts Congress and our priorities that this rotten core begins to affect the rest of our society and damages prospects for those at the bottom of the heap.
So, to address the needs of the underclass, good intentions are not enough. We need to figure out what ails the patient first, and then fashion therapy.