While Barack Obama declared victory in the fiscal cliff theater, the mean streets of Detroit bring a sobering reminder of the country’s biggest loss – and the president’s failure to address it.
Detroit is Murder Capital once more with a bloody 53 murders per 100,000 residents, returning to murder numbers not seen since the horrific 1970s (and soaring above 2006′s 47 per 100,000 rate when Detroit was last Number One).
If the president’s refusal to embrace Washington’s fundamental spending problems is irresponsible, his refusal to address Detroit (and inner city America’s) fundamental family implosion is a matter of life and death.
I do not mean to suggest that Detroit’s violence is solely a presidential responsibility – it is most immediately a local crime problem. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy courageously points at Detroit’s police leadership for not putting in place more thorough crime tracking – the solution that Mayor Rudy Giuliani (another prosecutor) brought to out-of-control New York in the 1980s and that has helped reduce that city’s killing rate from 30 to just 6 per 100,000 today.
“It can be done,” an impassioned Worthy told The Detroit News editorial board in December.
But the long-term problem is a matter of cultural change – and the president has the unique status as a black man at the head of a nuclear family, a rarity in America’s impoverished inner cities.
The number one indicator of poverty in America is the lack of a two-parent family. Eighty percent of Detroit families are fatherless, seeding every social pathology from illiteracy to crime. In 1960, 25 percent of Detroit black residents were born to single mothers. By 1980, that number had climbed to 48 percent and the murder rate was shadowing it upward step-by-step. According to academic research, over 50 percent of black men in Detroit are high-school dropouts. In 2004, 72 percent of those dropouts were jobless. By their mid-30s, 60 percent have done prison time.
Yet, Obama has ignored this crisis and instead crossed the river to Canada to import another one: Nationalized health care. Sure, socialized medicine will consolidate his party’s power, but it does nothing to raise Detroit children from poverty.
Worse, Obama’s federal welfare expansion is exacerbating the problem. Lest you think this is a racial problem, read New York Times liberal columnist Nicolas Kristof who traveled to white, underclass Appalachia last year to find the same pathologies in a population with 50 percent, welfare-driven, illegitimacy rates:
Conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. . . . Some young people here don’t join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because it’s easier to rely on food stamps and disability payments. Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households.
From Appalachia to Detroit, welfare-driven illegitimacy is trapping children in crime and poverty. It’s the family, stupid.
Where are you, Mr. President?