In an energetic message delivered to an audience at Wichita State University this Monday, author and columnist Star Parker spoke about breaking the cycle of poverty and other issues facing our country.
Early in her talk, Parker noted the irony of the welfare office in Washington (the Department of Health and Human Services) being located on Independence Avenue. The approaches that have been tried over the last 45 years to conquer poverty haven’t worked and have led to two generations of government dependence with disastrous consequences, she said.
Speaking of her own experience being on welfare, the rules of welfare are “don’t work, don’t save, don’t get married.” These rules are designed to keep poor people on welfare, not allow them to break out of poverty. There’s something wrong with our society, she said, if we allow this to continue.
She believed the lie that “I was poor because rich people are rich.”
There used to be a healthy black community, but the war on poverty has been very harmful to family life. Fathers used to be in the black home. But the government moved in and began to bankrupt family life.
At the time, Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan looked at the plans for Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and recognized that it will hurt black families more than help them, Parker said. Then, black out-of-wedlock births was one in four; today it is three in four. Even though there was poverty and racism, black family life was largely intact.
The ideas of the conservative right work for all Americans, including poor people, she said. Traditional values, including the duty to be self-sufficient and responsible in the choice they make, are an important factor in getting out of poverty.
Who is in poverty, Parker asked? 53% of the poor live in families with only one parent. We need to “mention marriage every now and then,” she said.
Developing a work ethic is also important, she said. “Work is how you get out of poverty.” But there is a hostile environment in Washington and elsewhere that says the wealthy need to be penalized. That means they can’t produce as many jobs as they could.
The welfare state and moral relativism has caused harm to all of America, she said. The black family was most vulnerable, so it was hurt first. Now the rate of births out marriage for Hispanics and whites is higher than it was for blacks was when the war on poverty started.
Regarding education and school choice, Parker made the point that the rich — even the middle class — already have school choice. It’s poor people that benefit most from school choice programs across the country. She told of the Washington, DC scholarship voucher program, where 1,700 poor children each year were able to attend better schools. Parents desperate to get their children out of DC schools applied, 40,000 of them, so there had to be a lottery to decide who would get the scholarship.
But President Barack Obama canceled this program.
Social security is another government program that is harmful to the poor, Parker said. The little that they might be able to save gets sent to Washington for something they don’t own, they can’t transfer, and on which they get a horrible rate of return.
In response to a question about the redistribution of wealth through the tax system to provide basic needs such as food and shelter, Parker said that the best approach is to create an environment where people can provide these things for themselves.
Answering another question, Parker said it’s important for youth to hear all sides. Most curriculum, she said, is slanted towards the left.
A question about race and racism brought out Parker’s observation that whenever the left is losing on an issue, such as health care, they bring up the issue of race. This is the case even when the people on both sides are black. There’s an industry that benefits from racism, but “most of the barriers of segregation have been removed,” she said. The number one crisis facing African-Americans today is not racism, but sexual immorality, she said.
Regarding the murder of Wichita abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, she said that people should not take justice into their own hands. The debate is intense, and we need to “take it down a notch.” The death of Tiller was a horrible thing, and it is also horrible to glorify the man and the things he did, she said.
Additional coverage of Parker’s visit is at Kansas Watchdog.