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Like broken watches, even politicians are right occasionally.

April 29, 2015

There is a tendency, particularly among  right of center pundits, to dismiss everything President Obama says as liberal claptrap. One thing he did say yesterday that rings true is that what we are doing isn’t working.

Where it goes wrong is in repeating the same old tired liberal talking points as justifications for continuing to do the same things.

Pontificating about police brutality begs the question of how police are supposed keep the peace in the face of high crime rates in poor neighborhoods, black or otherwise.

Certainly having no police or no law at all can’t be the answer. Could it be making the root causes of crime the problem instead?

Although it hasn’t been as widely reported, one of the common denominators of the publicized death-by-cop stories is the criminal history of at least some of those killed.

If running from the cops or resisting arrest is a Pavlovian response developed over years of having a reason to run, all the cameras in the world won’t prevent that reflex action.

That observation meant isn’t meant to excuse obvious instances of excessive and inappropriate  force, but it brings some balance into the story about why the cops are interacting with the people in the first place. It can’t all be about cops hating minorities, when the cops themselves are members of minority populations.

As noted, the President is right about one thing. Whatever we have been doing in the area of getting along as civilized Americans and not defining ourselves as black or white or rich or poor isn’t working.

Untold hundreds, even thousands of millions of dollars have been spent over the last 150 years  trying to buy peace and understanding. Cities and towns like Birmingham and Ferguson are still burning, so something is definitely still not working.

That’s not to say that spending money is unnecessary. But it’s only gotten us so far.

We are a nation of disparate personalities. Our country is made up of states, our states encompass counties, counties surround towns and towns surround people. It’s the people that have to change, not the person in the White House.

The Federal government can only do so much, and given that the very remoteness of Washington breeds inefficiency, aloofness and waste, even what they can do isn’t working.

The President talked about the need for more jobs for low-income areas, more job training programs and how manufacturing jobs don’t exist anymore. All the training programs in the world won’t help if  there are no jobs.

Maybe a good way to fix that would be to promote a better business climate. There are a number of proposals out there to encourage businesses to repatriate their operations back to the U.S. Hating businesses and burning them isn’t working, so let’s try getting along with some of them.

He also spoke about the lack of a stable home environment and fatherless homes. He’s right about the symptom, but is the answer to ignore so-called insignificant crimes? Would that cause the perpetrators to suddenly become model parents?

If you don’t think that giving the parents a pass for breaking the law would improve the home environment, then come up with something better.

Let’s try incentivizing good behavior instead of rewarding bad behavior. Instead of paying for more and more fatherless kids,  maybe paying their mothers not to have babies by earning credits for every year they don’t get pregnant toward receiving vocational training would be a better strategy.

How about encouraging more small business development in the areas where the people live?  Then perhaps that vocational training would result in a job, not just qualify the recipients for some other Federal handout.

The same thing with gangs. Gangs exist because there is a perceived need to join them. No kid is born wearing colors.

If the kids can join community groups and yes, even churches and be rewarded with safety and honor for doing so, the need diminishes. The thing about cutting off a snake’s head is, neither half of the body can exist without the other half. It’s hard to have a gang without gang members.

It’s the old story of making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. Particularly in the past 50 years or so, we seem to be employing the reverse of that strategy.

Every program we have is predicated on staying poor to be able to use them. If you do succeed in escaping, then you are rewarded by being ostracized, reviled, taxed and regulated out of existence  for daring to be a normal productive citizen.

It’s sadly ironic that the Federal government abolishes slavery, and then spends billions to keep people enslaved to that same government. Somehow, it doesn’t seem that trading many masters for one is the outcome President Lincoln was probably hoping to achieve.

When civil rights leaders and community figures preach that riots are the language of the people, you wonder at whose knee they learned that language. If every riot results in a monetary reward, why not riot?

Maybe we can work toward the time when, like Latin, that language becomes simply a historical antecedent of modern communication.

There is probably never going to be a time when everyone loves everyone else, but peaceful coexistence is possible. It’s just a matter of whether we are smart enough to change tactics to get there.

From → op-ed

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