In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson launched his “great society” initiatives. It was a series of domestic policies designed to eradicate poverty and racial injustice. One of the main ideas was to help raise minorities, primarily blacks, out of economic stagnation. Government programs, like food stamps and Head Start, were on their face, designed to give people a hand up in hard times. What they ultimately achieved was getting African Americans to vote Democrat in perpetuity all to keep the freebies coming.
A recent study headed up by Jason Q. Purnell, assistant professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, is called, “For The Sake of All: A Report on the Health and Well-Being of African-Americans in St. Louis”. The results say, not surprisingly, that if you are black and live in the Gateway City, you are more likely to be unemployed, uneducated, living at or below the poverty line, and have a higher incidence of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These findings of course also conclude that you will die earlier.
But does this study really give the whole picture? Since this story appeared in the city’s only newspaper, the left-leaning St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the answer to that is no.
St. Louis may look to an out of towner like a segregated city. The northern part of the city is predominantly black, the southern portion, mostly white. There are high crime rates in North St. Louis, plenty of vacant lots where affordable housing could be built, and in an area where there are still vibrant close knit neighborhoods, not even a grocery store from one of the big three chains is within walking distance. Even life expectancy is greater for those who live outside of the city limits in farther reaches of St. Louis County.
Dr. Purnell attempts to portray this study as primarily a medical one. Yet, he talks about things like unemployment rates and income disparity. So let’s talk about those things. Let’s also talk about some other statistics not mentioned in the study or by the Post-Dispatch. Currently, the unemployment rate in St. Louis for blacks is 11.6%. As of 2012, the latest year for numbers available, the black out of wedlock birth rate is a staggering 87%. The high school graduation rate is a tad bit better at 78%, that in light of the St. Louis Public Schools losing accreditation for a time.
The Post-Dispatch would like to talk about the same things that Dr. Purnell does because they do not want to burden their readers with some pertinent facts. St. Louis is like a lot of other cities. Cities who continue to elect Democrats to the Mayor’s office, City Council, State Rep and State Senate seats, even in Missouri’s first congressional district where St. Louis resides. In fact, St. Louis has not elected a Republican mayor since 1949. St. Louis has not elected a Republican Congressman since 1949 as well. The city’s Board of Aldermen is made up of representatives from 28 city wards. Twenty seven are Democrats. In Jefferson City, capital of the Show-Me state, St. Louis is represented by 11 State Reps. All are Democrats. Of four State Senators, three are Democrats. In Washington D.C., Congressman William “Lacy” Clay (D-MO) has represented Missouri’s first congressional district since 2000. His father, William Clay Sr., was elected in 1968.
The real question is, just who is the Post-Dispatch attempting to blame the health and wealth disparities on? Certainly not the policies of those evil Republicans. They are as hard to find in St. Louis as they are in Chicago. Can it be that the grim realities of poverty and African-Americans in a great Midwestern city like St. Louis are the result of decades of Democratic rule? These are no doubt the same people who don’t like to talk about things like personal responsibility, staying in school, being married before having children, and just generally being an upstanding citizen of the community. We don’t want to judge.
Dr. Purnell and the Post-Dispatch’s remedy to the situation? A dose of thinly veiled, watered down social justice. More money for early childhood education, more help for low and moderate income families to create “economic opportunity”. Wouldn’t getting an education, getting and keeping a job, and staying away from a life of crime constitute economic opportunity?
Dr. Purnell also says he knows it will take “decades of work”. He could be right. St. Louis, like many other cities, can’t take many more decades of Democrats.