Thursday, September 25, 2014

School Dis-integration


The Connecticut Post likes to feature statistical studies on its Sunday front page. This past week it ran a lengthy article complete with appropriate bar chart that indicated that schools in Fairfield County were still largely segregated.

Thus, sixty years after the famous Brown vs. Board of Education decision that outlawed so-called separate but equal segregated schools in the South, the population of the Bridgeport Connecticut public schools is largely Black and Hispanic. At the same time the smaller communities surrounding Bridgeport have a school population made up largely of White students.

In typical fashion the CT Post followed up this shocking revelation with an editorial a couple of days later that bemoaned the situation and called for remedial action. Interestingly, the Post article included interviews with two older black men who both had attended segregated schools in the South as children. Both men praised the education they had received, and believed that it was superior to what students were getting in Bridgeport today. One even claimed that his all black school was superior to the white one in his South Carolina hometown,

Neither in the article nor in the subsequent editorial did the Post comment on or even realize the implications of the evidence provided by these two men. Is it possible that the whole school integration movement has been the problem and not the solution? Despite all sorts of social engineering involving vast expenditures of time and money, is it possible that school integration has been a disaster for three generations of black children?

Today more than 70% of black children are born out of wedlock to single mothers many of whom are little more than children themselves. Some are grandmothers before the age of forty. Today more than 70% of the inmates in American prisons are black men. Today on the streets of cities like Chicago, young black men are killing each other at alarming rates.

I was still in college when the implications of Brown vs. Board of Education began to be felt in northern cities. In these cities there were no laws requiring segregated schools, but there was what was called “de-facto” segregation. In the North children went to their neighborhood schools and the neighborhoods reflected the racial and ethnic make up of those cities.

Although there was often racial imbalance in the neighborhood elementary schools, by the time students went to high school, they would usually all attend the same high school. My wife grew up in the city of White Plains in nearby Westchester county. Pictures from her high school yearbook show a school much more integrated than most urban schools today. The school’s excellent football team reflected the racial balance in the city where about 10% of the population was black. The class President was an outstanding black student. He and other former black students attended her fiftieth reunion a few years ago, and most of them seemed to have been successful at making it in American society.

Nevertheless, in the sixties it was decreed that to achieve true integration children had to be bused out of their neighborhood communities into schools in other neighborhoods in order to achieve true racial equality and so-called “upward mobility.” This policy inevitably led to the white flight from the cities that is a matter of historical record.

You can call the Whites “rascists” but whether they were or not begs the question. Political scientists and sociologists like the ones interviewed in the CT Post article should have, with all their learning and studies, been able to predict the White flight and its consequences. I don’t think any proponent of integrated schools at the time imagined the terrible consequences that ensued.

Integration destroyed community. It destroyed both white and black communities in the cities. It can be argued that without community and the consensus it brings, it will be almost impossible to educate young children. Nowadays, everyone talks about and praises the value of “diversity.” It has become a sacred cow that must be accepted on faith. Yet, the testimony of the two men cited but ignored in the CT Post article is not irrelevant. A community is essential to education but it cannot be created by judicial order.

Moreover, as the population of American cities like Bridgeport became largely made up of former minorities, the white politicians, policemen, firemen, civil servants, and teachers kept their union jobs in the cities. These upwardly mobile positions would be largely closed to Blacks and Hispanics graduating from the city schools. What could they do to make a living after graduation? A handful might succeed in athletics but many more had no alternative but the drug trade. For young black women the choices were even fewer.

Actually, the proponents of school integration were guilty of a kind of racism of their own. Without saying it, they assumed that Blacks like the men quoted in the article would not be able to rise out of poverty unless they were provided with the example of White students. Weren’t they saying that Blacks were really inferior to Whites? Or was it that “diversity” became a goal in itself, more important than a good education?

If a White Supremacist had planned an attack on the Black community in America sixty years ago, he could hardly have wrecked more havoc than White Liberals and Black activists did in their pursuit of integrated schools and diversity. Yet, the local Professors cited in the CT Post article could only call for more of the same. Instead of local involvement and control of public schools, they want larger mega school districts where children will be bused even further away from their local communities.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Pope Francis and Capitalism

I are a Capitalist

Shortly after being elected Pope last year, Pope Francis issued an encyclical letter, entitled "Evangelium Gaudium", or the Joy of Evangelization. The letter was directed mainly to the Catholic faithful but in a brief section designed to put his message in context the Pope seemed to direct his words to a wider audience. The section was entitled “Some Challenges in Today’s World.”

The Pope complained that “the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, and that “inequality is increasingly evident.” This inequality has resulted from “the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occurring in the sciences and in technology.”

The Pope insisted that we must say no to “an economy of exclusion and inequality,” and asked the often-quoted question, “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

He singled out for special criticism a kind of economic Darwinism.

“Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

He argued that so-called “trickle down” theories based on the idea that economic growth will make the tide rise for both rich and poor do not really work. They express “a crude and na├»ve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.”

There may be theories of this kind in the world today but I do not know of any place where the kind of unfettered or uncontrolled capitalism that the Pope mentioned actually exists. If inequality is actually increasing in the world today, it is going hand in hand with increasing state regulation and control of economies.

The Pope was not speaking infallibly in his encyclical. He admitted that:

“It is not the task of the Pope to offer a detailed and complete analysis of contemporary reality, but I do exhort all the communities to an “ever watchful scrutiny of the signs of the times.”

As an ordinary Catholic I would like to offer an anecdotal and incomplete analysis of the signs of the times based on my own experience.

I have to confess that I am a Capitalist. I even remember the year I became a Capitalist. In 1965 I was hired, right out of graduate school, as an Instructor to teach History at Sacred Heart University, a small, recently opened institution of higher learning in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Sacred Heart could hardly be called a university in those days. It was a small liberal arts college with the distinction of being the only Catholic college in the country staffed and run entirely by laymen. When I arrived the school was only in its third year of existence and the faculty was still in the process of formation.

Anyway, a few weeks after classes started the Business Manager of the school approached me to ask if I wanted to sign up for the fledgling school’s retirement plan. He explained that if I agreed to allocate a small percentage of my pay toward retirement, the university would match my contribution.

My starting salary back in 1965 was about $6000 and I had a wife and one small child. Retirement was the last thing on my mind. Nevertheless, it seemed like a good deal especially since the university would match it. If I reduced my pay by 6% or $30 per month, the university would add that much to my account. The reduction in take home pay would only be about $25 per month.

After I agreed to sign up, the Business Manager told me that I would have a choice of where my small contributions would be invested. Sacred Heart University had joined with the great majority of colleges and universities in the country to utilize the services of the Teachers’ Retirement and Annuity Association (TIAA) to administer and manage its retirement plan. The university would deduct the contribution and send it along with their matching contribution to TIAA where it would be invested as I chose.

At that time, there were only two investment choices. The first was a fixed or guaranteed account like a bank account. The principal in the account was guaranteed by the insurance company and it would earn a fixed rate of interest. The second option was a variable account where my contributions would be invested in a diversified portfolio of common stock. In this account, there were no guarantees. The principal value would fluctuate according to the vagaries of the stock market, and there could be no predicting what the actual rate of return would be.

Like the majority of teachers I elected to split my retirement equally between the fixed and variable account. I was not a student of finance or the stock market, and just decided to do what most others seemed to be doing. I had no idea that in electing to put half in the variable account that I was becoming a Capitalist.

The variable account was a relatively new creation. It was a mutual fund but since it was run by an insurance company, it was called a variable annuity. After years of lobbying TIAA had finally convinced the Government to allow insurance companies to get into the booming mutual fund business. TIAA’s variable annuity fund was called the College Retirement Equity Fund (CREF), and it would in time become one of the largest pools of investment dollars in the world.

When my little contribution went into CREF each month, I became a part, although very small, owner of practically every major company in the USA. Whatever their political feelings or philosophy, thousands and thousands of other college teachers throughout the country were also becoming Capitalists. We all were becoming owners of a slice of the American pie. Moreover, the government agreed not to tax our contributions or their earnings until we retired. 

Over the next fifty years the features of this type of retirement plan would be extended to a larger and larger segment of American workers. Self-employed individuals were allowed to use so-called Keogh plans. Corporations were allowed to set up tax favored 401k plans for their employees. Finally, the creation of IRAs enabled practically every American to have a stake in the American economy.

It’s true that few of us will have the income or assets of Rock stars like Madonna, TV personalities like Oprah, or athletes like Tiger Woods. But more than anywhere else in the world, we do have the opportunity to acquire and keep property. We can even buy and sell shares in the companies we work for.
Trickle down economics may be an odious theory but I don’t call what has gone on in America in the past fifty years trickle down economics. It is something else and whatever you call it, it has worked to raise the standard of living in this country to the highest that has ever been seen in the world. Other countries have an emigration problem. Only we seem to have an immigration problem.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Death in Ferguson


The recent shooting of Michael Brown, a young black man in Ferguson, Missouri by a white police officer has sparked a predictable response from the black community in Ferguson, unofficial black spokesmen like Al Sharpton, the media, and even from high public officials like President Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder.

Initially, Brown was described as a teenager but it soon was revealed that he was a hulking six foot four and weighed almost 300 pounds. A surveillance video showed him shoplifting in a convenience store and roughing up the relatively small proprietor who tried to stop him. Shortly, after the robbery Brown had a confrontation with the police officer for an unrelated reason. The full story has not yet been told but it appears that an altercation ensued before Brown was shot five or six times.

Brown’s death was followed by riots and looting. The governor of Missouri called in the national Guard for a while, and called not for an investigation, but for the prosecution of the police officer. Subsequently, President Obama spoke out and Attorney General Holder made the shooting a Federal case.

Contrast the situation in Ferguson with the situation in Chicago this year. So far this year there have been 255 homicides in Chicago. It is safe to assume that the majority of the victims were young black men shot down by other young black men. In 2013 there were 415 homicides in Chicago, down from the 516 in 2012.

Over the July 4 weekend there were 12 homicides on the streets of Chicago. Again most of the victims were young black men. I’m sure these killings made headlines in Chicago but I don’t think they attracted much attention either online or in the traditional media. 
President Obama, who owns a home in Chicago, did not see fit to send Attorney General Holder there to speak out and take over from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former Obama aide. As far as I know there has been little outrage within Chicago’s black community, certainly not enough to make the Governor call our the National Guard. Even black activists like the ubiquitous Al Sharpton have seemed remarkably unconcerned by the deaths of so many young black men.

What is the difference between Chicago and Ferguson? Last year one of the most quoted lines from the first encyclical letter of Pope Francis was the following:
How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points…?
It is true that the Pope was making a point about the relative value of human life and money, but his statement raised an interesting point about news. It is not news when a homeless person dies of exposure because it happens all the time. In the same way it is not news when the stock market goes up or down two points because that is also a frequent, largely insignificant change. Coincidentally, it was news last month when the SP 500 Index went up two points but only because that market average crossed the 2000 mark for the first time.

In that sense homicides in Chicago are not news because they happen all the time. The killings of young black men by other young black men are also not news because they also occur with great frequency. The warfare going on in the streets of Chicago does not seem that important.

However, it is news when a young black man is shot by a white man, especially a police officer. It is news first because it happens so rarely. Ferguson is a city with a largely black population but how many blacks have been shot by members of its largely white police force? It is the same all over the country. Young black men are murdering each other at alarming rates, but activists close their eyes and claim that white police officers have declared war on black men.

This brings us to the second reason why the shooting in Ferguson was so newsworthy. Despite its rarity, the shooting of a black man by a white police officer inevitably brings forth cries of racism in a society permeated more by ignorant political correctness than by racism.

Political correctness will never be able to find, for example, racism among blacks. In a subtle form of racism some commentators believe that blacks are almost genetically immune to racism. Even though about 70% of the inmates in American prisons are black men, the criminals on American TV police dramas are usually white businessmen.

PC has also created many other privileged minorities who are above criticism. This last week a story in the Wall Street Journal told a shocking tale of child sex abuse in the United Kingdom. No, it was not Catholic priests preying on young boys, but immigrant Pakistani Moslem men who were abducting and forcing teenage white girls into a widespread prostitution ring. Only investigative newspaper reporting finally revealed the scandal that had been covered up by authorities for fear of offending politically correct sensibilities.