Ed Kilgore made a good point: if you want to know what the Republican response to the problems in Baltimore are, look at Jeb Bush. After all, he is the most “moderate” of the 2016 presidential candidates. So we are going to get the most reasonable ideas from him. So it is worth while to take a look at his little OpEd, Jeb Bush’s War on Poverty Revamp. It starts off with the obligatory “it sure is sad that a young man was murdered by the police.” But then, he goes immediately after the city government, “Those who permitted this to happen must be held accountable because public safety is the first responsibility for those who lead our cities.” He’s not referring to what happened to Freddie Gray; he’s referring to the burning of the CVS. Apparently, that’s the real story.
Bush is not at all interested in revamping the war on poverty. He’s interested in slapping at Democrats and liberal policy. In a bit of unintended comedy, he wrote that “voices on the left tick off tired explanations.” And then he went on to provide three incredibly tired and useless ideas of his own. Idea number one: “If our government leaders want to attack poverty, they should first acknowledge that an effective anti-poverty program is a strong family, led by two parents.” What insight!
Apparently, no Republican can talk about poverty without talking about the two parent household. There is a correlation here. Two parent households do have higher standards of living. But it simply isn’t true that making people stay in dysfunctional marriages is good for the kids. But conservatives love this idea because it allows them to blame the poor for their problems. It’s like David Brooks’ continued lectures to the poor that if they’d only act like middle class people, they too would succeed.
But the bigger reason why Bush wants to “strengthen” the family is because it doesn’t require that the government do anything. The biggest social change that I’ve seen in my lifetime has been the shift to two earner households. When I was a kid, pretty much all the the mothers were at home. That added a great deal of social cohesion. Families could survive and even thrive on a single paycheck. But is Bush in favor of that? Of course not! He’s on the leading edge of taking money away from the poorer classes and giving it to the rich.
His second idea is just as unimpressive and tired: education. If only we provide better education, then everyone will get good jobs. I’m not keen on the whole “education as job training” idiocy. But regardless, we now see millions of young people who did get good educations, including college degrees, who can’t find good work. Why? Because the jobs just aren’t there. Again, this is because we have an unfair economic system that takes from the poor and gives to the rich. And who is to blame for the fact schools are failing? Teachers’ unions of course!
But even worse is that Bush just lies about the situation in Baltimore. He claims that on average, $15,000 is spent per child on their education. The problem is that this includes all schools — including charter schools. Public schools get just over $5,000 per year per student. And as I harp on all the time, students in rich areas get more money spent on them than children in poor areas. Is Bush willing to do anything about that? Fat chance.
And Bush’s third idea for fixing Baltimore is probably the worst: “encourage people in the toughest neighborhoods to start up businesses.” And how will they do that? Well, as Mitt Romney instructed, they should just get a loan from their parents. Bush seriously suggests that it is regulation that is stopping people from starting businesses in “tough” neighborhoods. He’s just clueless.
As we all know, Bush is moderate only in the sense that he doesn’t foam at the mouth. His solutions to Baltimore are exactly the same as we will hear from the rest of the Republicans running for president. If you strip away the very minor policies that are implied, they are just about blaming the victims: you aren’t staying married; you aren’t staying in school; you aren’t starting businesses. If Republicans were honest, they would just say that they have no ideas for how to make things better in places like Baltimore and they are okay with treating the people there as though they didn’t matter.
See also: Media Determined to Make Jeb Bush a Moderate.