Monday, August 12, 2013

Poverty and Crime

There is lot of talk lately about violent crime among young blacks. I keep hearing people say it all comes down to individual choice. Are they suggesting young black men simply make far more bad choices than young white men?

When large groups of people commit more crimes than other groups, we look at common factors to explain the cause. In the case of violence among young black men, four obvious factors that distinguish them from other young men are race, poverty, limited education and lack of good adult role models. I reject race as a cause. That leaves poverty, education and role models, all of which revolve around poverty.

Poverty leads to broken families, learning disabilities and crime — regardless of race. Individual adults, let alone individual kids, can’t just “choose” to overcome it. Context matters.

None of us are completely free. Environment and random events play a much bigger role in our choices than our egos dare admit. White people who assume they would make the same choices had they been born poor and black are simply and conveniently wrong.

Individual responsibility has its place but so do social responsibility and the common good. It’s not one or the other. it’s both.

If we, the taxpayers, can continue to do things like guarantee Georgia Power billions in corporate welfare to build nuclear reactors which run 1,200 percent over budget and years behind schedule, we can also guarantee living wages, affordable schools and affordable health care for all Americans.

Where is the alarm over corporate welfare, corporate entitlements and corporate government dependency?
Corporate profits are at record highs thanks to corporate bailouts, tax breaks, tax subsidies, huge government contracts and grants awarded in the name of privatization and national security - while wages and benefits for the poor and middle class keep falling.

We certainly need to fix what we have, but not by repealing and cutting programs that millions of children, the elderly, the working poor and sick people depend on. That’s going backward and will only breed more poverty, more desperation and less hope.

As important as they are, volunteer organizations aren’t enough. No one wants their child’s life-saving operation to depend on a jar at the grocery store check out or a church fundraiser.

Extreme economic, educational and health care inequality, like we have in the U.S., is not conducive to a healthy and secure society, regardless of what we, the more comfortable members of society, tell ourselves.

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