When I heard that Rand Paul was giving a speech at a historically black college, I was wondering how the media will receive the event. Will they attack him for it? Will they link it to the racist newsletters not written by his father? The most important question is: will he make any sort of meaningful impact on his audience?
I hope so. I think that minority groups are ripe for the libertarian message. The Drug War, arguably one of the most destructive “policy” based initiatives in American history, disproportionately affects minorities. The minimum wage prices out those trying to enter the work force. Federal power was used to prevent African Americans from becoming citizens, getting married to white people, and owning guns. Poorly managed social programs cause underprivileged African Americans to live in terrible neighborhoods with no chance for upward movement, and entrenched unions keep them in the schools that are failing those who need the most help in their schooling.
All of us want to be appreciated as people. We have our own wants and goals, and the world is a better place when we are free to be an individual, not treated as just a class, race, gender or any other category that gives the government the ability to discriminate.
As a “White” man of German and Hungarian ancestry, I cannot speak to elements of racial prejudice from personal experience. They do exist, and we must acknowledge that they do in order to have a productive conversation. I can, with good confidence, say how bigger government policies are destructive to not only the economic viability of under advantaged groups, but specifically to African Americans in the United States. In honor of Rand Paul’s speech at Howard University, here are four policies that have negative implications for the African American community:
1. Minimum Wage: This is one of the most seemingly well intentioned, yet economically destructive policies to the upward mobility of “the 99%”. For some, it’s counter intuitive. Why would helping them keep enough money be destructive? The problem with this price control, like any price control, is that it prices out the bottom. It serves the larger businesses at the expense of the smaller. Think about it this way: Sam runs a business. He has a steady cash flow, and knows more or less what is coming in and going out each step of the way. He employs 4 eighteen year olds for 20 hours a week, and pays them the minimum wage of $7.25. When calculating cost per hour, he calculates that he has $30 for each, which means that he spends $29 on labor per hour. One day, President Obama, declares that instead of paying them the current minimum, Sam should pay them $9.00. What does Sam have to do? He has to fire someone, as he cannot afford to pay them all the new cost of 4 workers at $9.00 per hour. He just lost 25% of his workforce. Big corporations can cushion this sort of hike at least in the short term; the 99% gets moved to the unemployment line. A corporation with a bigger profit margin won't be as badly affected, but small business owners whose profits aren't as hefty don't have as much freedom to raise wages before it becomes necessary to cut costs elsewhere. See how that happened within the past 10 years here.
2. School Choice: School choice is crucial in achieving some modicum of change in our antiquated education system. The system is dominated by unions, many of which place their financial interests ahead of the faceless students they never have to see. The students who need the best and most focused attention are districted into school that can’t help them. These schools, funded by property taxes in many cases, are disasters. What if these children had the choice to go to the same school that the kids across town can go to? What if the parents wanted to help get that kid into another school, but were literally prevented from doing that?
Indiana has provided an incredible school choice model. It isn’t as privatized as the Jindal-model, but what Mitch Daniels did in Indiana was nothing short of brilliant for school choice: Each child can choose to go to any public school they want to, or can take the amount into a voucher towards a private education. It started out as a limited, means-tested voucher scholarship, and now there is no limit to the number of scholarships available. The vouchers for private education are HALF the cost of what it costs to send a child to a public school in Indiana, which gives the state the ability to help kids get the best education possible by going to the best school for them, without having to spend billions of “Race to the Top” dollars. You achieve both public and private school choice. This allows schools to come up with ways they can make themselves more attractive. Maybe one high school specializes in the arts, while another is the best at math and science (but has a terrible football team). It wouldn’t happen overnight, but there are steps to get underprivileged African Americans the education they deserve. Never let aspirations be dictated by the Federal Government. See: Afghanistan, Iraq, The War on Poverty, etc.
3. The War on Drugs: it's hard for me to stress this one enough. The ludicrous notion that marijuana and heroin are classified the same in the eyes of the law perpetuates this racist policy. 60% of prisoners in America are non-violent drug offenders. Blacks are disproportionally stopped, charged, abused, and sentenced to longer prison sentences than white people. Obama, no stranger to the magic herb, cannot stand by and justify his own actions, yet not make ANY overture to even address the problem. His administration's stance when two states legalized marijuana? Eh. We'll wait and see, we aren't going to go after people who aren't criminals. Unfortunately, the continuation and expansion of these policies has created a whole class of criminals. I have a hard time putting it any other way but this: when you imprison a parent for something as innocuous as marijuana, a child becomes less likely to graduate and has a lower standard of living on average for the rest of their life. I know I wouldn't want that to be part of my legacy. You aren’t just punishing a crime, you are destroying the viability of an individual who did nothing wrong before they hit double digits.
4. Gun Control: There's still an ongoing debate over the future of gun rights in America, so I'll let that part of policy play itself out. I'm more interested in the positioning of the argument. Here are two thoughts:
A. If every individual, and I mean every color, gender, race, religion, etc. were given Constitutional and Bill of Rights protections in 1776, would slavery existed? I guarantee that a minority of people (Anti-abolitionists) with guns oppressing a majority of people with guns (normal humans), would inevitably lose. Government doesn't give rights, it tries to define them for you. Don’t let it take anything away.
B. When is the conversation going to shift from panic to the epidemic? We panic each time a tragedy like Newton or Aurora or Columbine happens, yet forget the epidemic that happens all around us. It may have once been home to President Obama, but he seems to have turned his back to the troubles facing the city. Last year, there were a total of 516 murders in Chicago. That is about 20 times the number that were killed in Newtown. It has TWICE as many murders as Detroit, which in 2012 was declared by the Detroit Police Office Association as “war-like” and had a “Enter at your own risk” area. Chicago has some of the strictest gun control measures in the country, and the problem with gun control remains that those law abiding citizens are the ones you are preventing from getting guns. If gun control worked, wouldn’t Chicago be like Beverly Hills?
Criminals will obtain a weapon if they need to. The problem is that gun legislation being proposed doesn’t solve the problem of criminal gun violence. It may solve accidental gun violence, but it’s not going to stop a bank robber or a drug dealer from doing what they are doing. What we need to focus on is the reason why there is gun violence. It’s not from violent video games, autism, or neglectful parenting. These issue may influence the situation, but violent crime in inner cities is predominately related to the drug trade. Take away the profit, and you take away the crime. People choose criminal acts for profit because the money they earn is more than a normal job. If we think about why these issues happen, then may be able to come up with a policy solution to help. The problem in America is our policy suggestions are reactionary; just look at the TSA. We need to be focusing on what happens in the future, not singular incidents in the past.
It’s not that these policy ideas are specifically targeting African Americans, it’s that they seek to provide an equitable solution for everyone. Choice is something that shouldn’t be determined by the government, and minimum wage limits employment choices and availability. Teachers’ Unions restrict choice in education and schooling. The war on drugs sentences non-violent criminals and their families to a lifetime of poverty and hardship. Gun control in our history was used to restrict the rights of minorities. This is not to mention the secret middle class tax hike that Obamacare contains, further depressing upward mobility for low incomes.
I know my narrative might not be as attractive as the one espoused by President Obama, and I’m ok with that. The difference is the ideas I’m suggesting we can afford. They are ideas that are consistent with the constitutional values and furthering liberty. For a minority group that has a documented, terrible, history of governmental oppression, it’s time the narrative shifts to reality. It’s time to take Liberty to the streets, and free the power of each individual to succeed, regardless of their current situation.
President Obama doesn’t seem to care about policies that do that. Neither do the Democrats in Congress. I don’t mean to suggest it’s on purpose; he simply doesn’t know how his policies are negatively affecting those who need help the most. Rand Paul does. It’s time to dismiss the notion that the values of liberty are a trojan horse to oppression. It’s time to make everyone as free as the Constitution states.