Tuesday, February 23, 2010
In the Sunday, February 21st, 2010 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer an article was published at the very top of page two titled "City's main problem: poverty" written by Karen Heller. In the article, Heller proceeds to lay every single ill that befalls the city of Philadelphia - and that's plenty of ills - at the very feat of this fearsome monster known as poverty.
Budget of the city shows 62% goes to fighting crime and social needs? Poverty is the culprit. Michelle Obama visits Philly to campaign against obesity because too many parents shove McDonald's down their kids throats? Poverty. Teachers are overworked? Poverty. School violence is tolerated? Poverty. Health rate is poor, kids don't take education seriously? Poverty.
The problem, not with the city but with Heller's article, is that she simply cries "poverty" at every opportunity, making the typical liberal mistake of never seeing the forest for the trees. The problem you see is not some general epidemic of poverty, it is an epidemic of liberalism.
That's right, little kids go without food because of the political philosophy and ideology of liberalism. Little kids get fat in some cases because of the exact same ideology. Kids don't stay in school, don't want to stay in school let alone advance further, because of it. Violence is greatly increased because of it, and health problems are magnified because of it.
But where Heller stops, I am going to plow on. She says that poverty is the problem and then makes only a couple of small general comments as to how to deal with the situation. The answer to her view of poverty as the problem is "the city must reduce the poverty rate in order to succeed."
Fine enough principle on it's own that I won't argue with it. Among the many symptoms of entrenched liberalism is more widespread poverty than need exist. So how to reduce that poverty rate? Her answers are to "attract new residents to revitalize neighborhoods" and "moving families..to self-sufficiency and security." She also states correctly that Philly needs to address it's dismal educational system.
What the obviously liberal herself Heller has basically written is what is known as a 'fluff' piece. It is full of statements and commentary that will have her co-workers at the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the single most liberal newspapers in a country full of them, patting her on the back. It will have her friends and family saying things like "right on, Kar, you got that right. Good job!" It will make her feel better.
But it will have done nothing at all to address the problem, because the real problem has not even been identified in her piece. The city's main problem: liberals.
For decades now, liberal Democrats have been increasingly in charge of the city of Philadelphia. They have been the decision makers, the unchallenged and all-powerful ideologues whose programs, ideas, and policies have taken the city in the direction that it has gone - straight down.
Here are just a few of the things that Philadelphia does not need to be doing. It does not need to spend a dime on a homeless shelter. It does not need to spend a dime on feeding a hungry person. It does not need to indoctrinate students in the classroom in it's liberal ideology. It does not need to allow students who refuse to behave to continue in school. It does not need to provide free health care to anyone.
Wow, what an uncaring, unfeeling, insensitive, inhuman I must be in order to believe all of those things, right? Wrong, Mr. and Ms. Liberalism. My belief is not that man must stand by and watch the suffering of the inevitable folks who will fall between the cracks of opportunity do to reasons beyond their control, such as a physical or mental handicap or some sudden disaster. My belief is that it is not the city of Philadelphia's responsibility to address those issues.
When given the opportunity, mankind will respond charitably to his fellow man. The story has been told of a locality in Texas back in 1887 where a couple of consecutive seasons of drought had left the farmers in bad shape and facing poverty. The local government put out the call to Washington for some emergency subsidies for the farmers.
The plight of the poor farmers was passed by a misty-eyed congress before being vetoed by President Grover Cleveland (pictured). In one of the single greatest acts by any American President of all-time, Cleveland defended his veto in the exact same manner that must be embraced by Philadelphians today. Let me quote exactly a couple of key paragraphs of his veto speech:
"I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people."
"The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood."
So President Grove Cleveland literally said what the liberal Democrats of Philadelphia and all over the country have no ability to say. He said what every parent learns is one of the single most valuable words that they must early on begin to say to their children. He said the very thing that many of us need to begin to say to ourselves. He simply said "No".
But he didn't just say that "no" to win some political battle, he said that "no" because frankly it was the right thing to say. What was the result of his decision? Dead farmers? Far from it. As he rightly predicted, the call went out around the nation for private donations to help the farmers. This call resulted in the appropriation of ten times the money that had been requested from congress. And not a dime of forced expense on the general American public, not a single tax levied.
Karen Heller is wrong. She has pointed at a symptom rather than the real problem. The problem is not poverty, it is liberalism. Philadelphia needs to have the strength to begin finally to say "no" to the Democratic Party as it is now constituted. It needs to begin to say "no" to the nanny state that has led to our inevitable and continued decline. If we don't have the strength to say "no", if leaders do not emerge who will stand up and then be supported in saying that "no", then Philadelphia will never, ever recover it's former greatness.
So specific answers start with stopping funding social welfare programs cold. If we are to spend any money on a social program, I would make it on an on-going publicity campaign with billboards, TV and radio ads, all positively encouraging people to make good choices in their lives, to stay in school, to turn away from drugs and drink, to go to church, to become or remain sexually responsible, and to keep their families intact.
I would do whatever is necessary to turn our schools around. That would first happen with security. Difficult decisions need to be made to eliminate the unrepentant criminals who commit assaults, robberies, and drug dealing on our school grounds, no matter their age. Expulsion for the absolute worst cases, transfer to disciplinary schools for those who may simply need a period of behavior modification before possibly returning to the general student population.
The second thing that needs to happen is that curriculum needs to be addressed. Philadelphia school children need to be taught the fundamentals of education as the primary goal of our school. Math, science, reading, writing, and wait for it - civics. They need to learn and understand our history as a nation, the good and the bad with an emphasis on the incredible good that America has been and done since it's founding.
Next I would empower teachers to take charge of their classrooms again, having their backs when they need it in controlling the room and maintaining that control. I would also ensure that those teachers are allowed and encouraged to emphasize their role as educators, not social workers and not substitute parents. But at the same time, I would not tolerate the small number of teachers who simply will not or do not enthusiastically do their jobs. Out on their cans, union or no.
Where violence and other crime occurs on the streets, deal with it. Support our law enforcement officers and officials in any way possible. Zero tolerance. Let's face it, some sections of the city are simply out of control, and you cannot begin to rebuild them and, as Heller says "attract new residents" without gaining that control and maintaining it.
Arrest criminals, put them in jail, if they get out, put them back in. If we are unwilling to fight this fight on a daily basis, to win this war over time, and spend what it takes to at least keep up with it year after year, then we will lose. Any alleged 'war on crime' or 'war on drugs' will never end. But we need to fight it every hour of every day. Just as with the teachers, if some cops don't know professional limits and abuse their power, out on their cans. The good ones will be happy to see them go.
Finally, emphasize parental and familial responsibility in public. From the stump speeches of politicians to the teaching in our classrooms to our public service announcements and community outreach, strengthening and maintaining our families and the responsibility level of parents has got to become paramount.
You can never force someone to become a good parent. But you can tap them on the shoulder and let them know that it is just as easy to hand their kid a celery stick as it is a cupcake. It is just as far a walk to the supermarket for some soup, vegetables, fruit as it is to McDonald's for some fries and a Big Mac. Obesity is not the result of poverty, it is in most cases the result of bad decisions.
Those same bad decisions are the reasons for the vast majority of other childhood problems, many of which in a large portion of Philadelphia's communities lies directly at the feet of non-existent or irresponsible fathers. Men need to begin to take their familial responsibilities seriously. Women need to respect themselves more and develop more of a sense of self-worth. Most of this comes from your own strong family situation.
The city needs to find a way to encourage it's residents to return to church, return to the basic values and teachings that God gave all of mankind in the Bible. The long-held liberal notion of a "separation of church and state" is a crock. In fact, America has shown that it has been our embracing of Judeo-Christian values that has separated us from other nations and governments in history. We need to return to that root strength, not run from it, and we need to embrace and advertise that resource, not hold it at arms length.
Liberals will see my ideas resulting in armies of homeless people, drug addicts, and student truants roaming the streets, exploding the crime rates, and only adding to the problems of Philadelphia. They have cried this cry for decades, and their own answers have proven both soft and ineffective, as anyone with a spine could have predicted. It is time we began to walk a hard, straight line here in Philadelphia.
While we slice social programs and increase law and quality of life enforcement measures we need to also decrease the Philadelphia tax burden. We need to drastically overhaul our overall tax policies with the stated goal of making the city of Philadelphia the single most attractive place in the entire nation for a business to locate itself. We then need to aggressively market that new-found status and begin to bring business, and thus jobs, back into Philadelphia.
Lower taxes and increasing the quality of life here in the city. These are the things that will accomplish what Heller calls for. They will never, ever be accomplished by appropriating more money from Philadelphia's already overburdened tax payers, or from the already overburdened Commonwealth, or from the already over-socialized federal government.
These general ideas that I have put forward today go far beyond what the simplistic approach and siren's call made by Heller and the Inquirer. There is zero chance that my ideas would ever be supported by Philadelphia's talking head politicians or it's liberal media, so the only way that such a change would be possible would be for some distinctly charismatic and articulate individual to step forward and lead Philadelphia in this direction.
I guess in short what Philadelphia really needs is an effective alternative to the liberal Democratic Party that has ruled the crumbling roost for this last half century. It needs an effective, strong, threatening, alternative, conservative Republican Party to emerge and become a realistic challenger. That has to start from the grass roots, but it also needs an effective leadership with an uncompromising alternative vision that is a true alternative to the city's main problem: liberals.