Are Middle-Class Values Cultural Impositions or the Only Real Way Out of Poverty?

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A panel forum discussion, titled "Are Middle-Class Values Cultural Impositions or the Only Real Way Out of Poverty?", sponsored by the Center of the American Experiment. Panelists Imam Matthew Ramadan, the executive director of the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council; Steven Belton, a lawyer with Leonard, Street and Dienard; Luanne Nyberg, the director of the Children's Defense Fund in Minnesota; Laura Waterman Wittstock, president of MIGIZI Communications; and Mitchell Pearlstein of the Center of the American Experiment, provide commentary on poverty and social economic issues. Forum was moderated by John Brandl, a professor at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute.

Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.

(00:00:00) For the next hour our assignment is to talk out loud in front of God and everybody about the relationship between middle-class values and poverty. Is there a set of values and behaviors generally endorsed in this country and which if honored make for or would make for a more prosperous a safer a more harmonious Society some months ago in a newspaper column Mitch pearlstein our host took a stab that listing middle-class values. Here's his list. work modestly hard in high school and graduate if you father or bear a child be married if you're married with with children stay that way unless abused hold a job unless you have good reason not to don't abuse drugs or alcohol and don't break the law. This list then has to do with education Parenthood work and crime. I was struck with the list of that Mitch had compiled and therefore intrigued at the at the challenge of being part of this panel today to prepare for today. I looked at some research on the relationships among education Parenthood work and crime and found clear and very troubling relationships among these in children who grow up without a father present. There is a higher incidence of rage and disappointment and guilt and confusion. I say that out that's on the average and I want to come back to that point about it being on the average. Among such children their education achievement is lower. There's a higher incidence of psychological disorders are less well prepared for the workforce. There's higher unemployment their higher crime rates and here's an interesting angle. And in that regard there is not a separate income effect, and there's not a separate race affect children who grow up without a father present. Engage in crime in larger numbers and in such larger numbers that that that is not it's not separately explained by poverty. It's not separately explained by race. There's even a higher teen suicide rate among children from such families. Now in the of course the past generation the problems which I've just listed have grown at the same time as family composition to which This research has related. These problems has also changed one in ten children lived in a single-parent family in 1960. And now 1 & 4 do those are as I say averages some people beat the odds many people beat the odds just as some smokers don't get cancer and some people who live on a diet of cream and butter like my grandmother who lived to be 99 beat the odds But a lot of people don't beat the odds on average the relationship between societies apparently between our our societies apparently backing away from what Mitch is called middle-class values and some social problems seems to be a real relationship. Presumably government ought to act to overcome these difficulties. I believe government has responsibility to act overcome these responsibilities. But but notice that during that generation in which there has been this proliferation of problems and in which there has been this change during that time. It happened while we were doubling the per student expenditure on our kids in the schools after adjusting for inflation. Now, I wish that we could envisage. I wish we could predict that which we could hope for another doubling of expenditures in the schools. And the next in the foreseeable future. It's most unlikely, isn't it? It's unlikely that the society will have the decency and the good sense and Maybe not maybe even the money to do that. But the troubling thing is that even if we come up with the money if doubling the amount of money we spend per kid in a generation. Wasn't enough to counter the other forces were talking about here. Then maybe this question this most difficult question of the relationship between middle-class values poverty and even crime is an appropriate one for us to take up. Maybe maybe we're even moving to something of a consensus or if not a consensus and accommodation in which the society recognizes its responsibilities to people in need and and Back Again people in need accept responsibility is to do what they can to be not only self-supporting but also be responsible to one another is there then a connection between middle-class values and poverty to discuss this this question today you have before you and illustrious panel, which I will introduce in alphabetical order. Steve Belton barely to my left is a lawyer with the Minneapolis firm of Leonard's. Is a lawyer with the Minneapolis firm of Leonard Street and die nerd whereas practice includes employment litigation and government relations. He served as president of the urban Coalition of Minneapolis from 1983 to 1989 and prior to that. He was executive director of the state Council on black minnesotans. I mentioned him his is the only resume I've ever seen with the with a statement such as the following he reports in his resume that he is married to a shy and retiring woman. Lou Ann nyberg has been director of the children's defense Fund in Minnesota since its opening in 1985. She to a served with the urban Coalition of Minneapolis first as a program officer and later as program director prior to that. She was state director of the Minnesota recipients Alliance and spent five years with the Hennepin County Welfare Department including Services. The County's first client advocate. Mitch pearlstein as most of you will know is our host that also the founding president of the center of the American experiment which opened its doors in March two years ago among other assignments you served in the US Department of Education during the Reagan and Bush administration's he spent four years as an editorial writer and st. Paul and served as Special Assistant for policy and Communications to Governor elk. We Imam Matthew L. Ramadan has been executive director of the north side residents Redevelopment Council since 1990 serving as chairman of the board for eight years before that. He currently is a member of the corrections departments chaplaincy board where he coordinates activities for Muslim inmates in Minnesota's prison system. He also is Imam of Masjid done or a mosque in North Minneapolis. Laura Waterman wittstock is president of ygz Communications Inc. In Minneapolis. She serves on several area nonprofit boards. Mrs. Waterman wittstock is also executive director of first-person radio production form a gz she writes a monthly column for the LA newspaper and has written on American Indians women education and social change in conversation at lunch. We thought we'd give Mitch the first stab at the be at our conversation Mitchell. Thank you John and thanks everyone (00:08:11) for coming John mentioned the column. I did two years ago in middle-class values. Let me just briefly very briefly repeat those items and then ask the question throughout this column right after our first day-long conference on poverty a bit more than two years ago when we were accusing one American experiment was accused of trying to impose middle-class values on for And I did of a glib answer is that it's exactly what we were trying to do. I wrote a column for the Pioneer Press Ron Clark my editor and I said things such as this a middle-class value and this is all that I mean by them include going to high school working reasonably hard and graduating. If you're going to bring babies into this world be married, if you're married try to stay that way unless circumstances are abusive. If you can work work. Don't drink too much. Don't do drugs. Don't commit crime and that is all that I mean nothing more exotic than that. I begin from the premise that all Society has rules. These are our rules in the not terribly demanding any number of folks. However, thought that this was just one great column. There are other people who thought quite the opposite I suspect but any number of people thought this was a remarkably strong and provocative column. My response was thanks very much. But how far have we Fallen if quite Elementary rules such as these are now considered cutting-edge stuff. My-my question is how come in public policy and public policy making and conversations in public debate. We are so reluctant to talk forthrightly. About questions of behavior and individual responsibility and character. Why do we always focus on the obligation of government rather than the obligation of individuals (00:10:15) would like pick that up? (00:10:18) I would (00:10:19) win. (00:10:21) As a person that works in public policy on behalf of poor children. I know that it's only possible to focus all of us or maybe just all of us policymakers on one or two issues at a time. And so the question for me is what is it? Most helpful to get us all focused on in order to do what I think John said which is make things better for individuals and Society or maybe in this context alleviate poverty. And I think that if you look at the trend patterns, I'm going to try to do a little reality therapy here just to ground us most of what we've been talking about is going in the right direction already and therefore I would assert it's not terribly helpful to try to shift our focus on to reinforcing Behavior that's already going in the right direction. For example Teen births as a percent of all births are falling in our country and in our state we're down to only seven percent of the births are two women under 20. They steadily been declining for the last three decades High School. Graduation is up, its up particularly among black kids. It's you know, it varies a little bit by race, but it's generally going in the right direction. And in this state is the highest in the country. Our birth rates are declining rapidly young people are waiting longer to have children at all married or unmarried and they're having many fewer children certainly work. If you unless you have a good reason not to incredible numbers of people in the last 20 years have gone to work even though they have a very good reason not to and that is women who have a very good reason not to which is to stay home and nurture and raise those children, but the economy of the country has dictated that they must go to work in order to prop up a great falling a standard of living that's falling drug. Let's talk a little bit about crime. Here's one. We're all upset about drug use the substance use of illegal substances by kids is falling in this country. It's falling in this state. It's already Or among black kids than white kids and it is decreasing not increasing and so you wonder welfare was mentioned in Mitch's articles. One of the things we don't want or we don't like or isn't that a shame some up do it real quick two parent families. We talked about forming those two parent families up over four hundred percent on welfare in our state in the last eight years single parent families up 6% Birth rates among women are families on welfare lower than your birth rate my rate and way lower than the legislators birth rate. So I would just try to ground this discussion a little bit in the trends which are that most of what got laid out here is going and what I consider the right direction and therefore, I think it's a different problem. I'd like to talk about the value system of the ruling class who is aggregated economics to the top 10 and 1 percent and forced a tremendous amount of the kind of changes that we're now about to decry the when says there's a (00:13:28) lot going on in (00:13:29) Correction, (00:13:31) Laura and then Steve. (00:13:33) I just want to come back a little bit to the to the values list before going into the numbers later on. I made a little list of my own and this is based on people. I know poor people people of color people who are perhaps by economic definition within the middle class of 20,000 to 50,000 dollars per year in family income but nevertheless are either not on Mitch's list or have some different perspectives and let me just run them off for you. First of all, these are the what I call the simple imperatives to produce work and where we get into trouble particularly with poor people and people of color is the work that's produced is not always the work that is marketable. It's not always what people want but still work is done to provide for loved ones. To procreate the Next Generation to promote culture in terms of the context. In other words why we live and to pass along values, which I call the wealth of quality as compared to the wealth of quantity. Now, how does some of these people see those other folks in what may be called the class imperatives? They see it as proselytizing looking in your window making sure you're doing things that they want you to do promotion of lifestyle and individualism purchase the gewgaws of life everything from TVs to condo vacations punishment criticism for those who don't agree with those imperatives and finally Parish you die on the altar of Economics. So I just want to put those out to juxtapose what Mitch has given you as his list. This is the alternative list Steve. Thank you. Who is that over there? (00:15:29) See Laura brought her cheering section. I want to do the lawyer thing and challenge the question. That is the premise. I'm a little annoyed by the notion that the middle class have their own set of rules that everyone else should follow and when I read Mitch's column and when he again read his column to me over the phone and then when he just said it again, I had the same reaction that what middle-class is this that were talking about. The middle class is being propped up here. I'm suggesting is set up if you will is being the repository of all that is good in our society the repository of good values which implies that everyone else who is not middle class or at least who is not at least middle-class somehow is the repository of all the social pathology in our society. I objected that depiction I object to it as a person who is would probably buy some definitions be middle class, but also as a person who Has a another foot firmly grounded through personal relationships family and culture in what is not described as the middle class to put it a little more to the point is an awful lot wrong with the middle class and the middle class is a lot more complex than the the monolithic saw in simplistic values that are being put forth here and to put it in a slightly different way all that essentially what's wrong with the lower classes that they don't have the money that the other classes have. There are also very strong and positive values out of lower class. I would cite as just a quick example the strength of spirit the sense of generosity among poor people is far greater than I have witnessed in some of the other sectors the personal view but something that I'm prepared to back up the sense of cultural tolerance is much stronger. If only in the sense that the lower class has much to lose their certainly willing to invest in risk that economically and otherwise to a far greater extent than others the sense of self-reliance the sense of personal and economic tree. Tivity in the other sectors is again is much stronger in my opinion are at least needs to be examined and can be equally held out as a strong value than those that are being positioned the last note I need to make about in holding up the middle class to be the repository of great things. It obscures obfuscate simply blinds us to the fact that the middle class again has its own problems and in all that is going on there is not to be replicated by others. (00:17:50) That's you, you know, I used to think I was a good talker until I got up here, you know, I'll simply say this that when Mitch called me on this. The first thing I said is that I don't see this as middle-class values. I see this moral values and moral values transcend race. They transcend economics. They go across all those different lines, but these are exactly the things that people are indeed afraid to talk about people are afraid to talk about what they believe in people are afraid to talk about what motivates them to do. The things that they do, you know, we talk about the change and I hear one Administration blaming the other Administration for the the the problems in the inner cities now in the problems of the Great Society and things like this, it was not a change because of the Prophet the the program's failing it was a change because the people fail in their belief in themselves and their belief in authority and a and a power greater than themselves people forgot about where they came from. people forgot about the struggles people forgot about the hardship that it took us to get to this point and everybody became I'm going to get it from me, you know, one of the things that I often say and that I'm accused of trying to proselytize her or propagate or you know preach religion is that the fact that we have parallels in history to show the downfall of societies when societies forgot about those things that were important that those values that that got them that made them progress to those are the values that once people abandoned The society's fell down and you know coming off a religious background. I think most of us have either gone to Sunday school or talmud Torah school or whatever and we know of those stories of the people in bondage and I think about my people particularly African-American people who so strongly related to those people in bondage the children of Israel and they prayed that God would free them from the bondage and that if they would be freed from the bondage they would become God's people I saw this same type of thing happening as a youngster growing up in the 60s and watching this happen from from my home and Watson and the original riots and watch watching these changes take place where people have no possession in the American society the American system, but believed if they kept strong and kept their faith and kept holding an intact that they would progress and immediately upon that we know that historically those people turn their back. In and spent the next 40 years wandering in the wilderness and on a trip that wouldn't take 40 days. And I just hope and pray that we don't follow that same course today that we that we're not looking at 1965 to the Year 2005 as a time of being lost in a Wilderness of confusion. And this is the thing that prompted me to come here today because I said this message needs to get out to more and more and more people. We need to stop being afraid to say we believe in something we need to stop being afraid to say that we have moral values that moral and ethics is more important than the money we make because right now middle class has defined as the amount of money you make is bogus. They're a lot more people who are upper class who have not a dime in their pocket than we would care to (00:21:06) recognize. Let me ask the panel that if if this (00:21:11) tag, (00:21:19) let's let's see. If you can see the four of you can do as good a job the next round you set a high standard for yourselves. If this tag of middle-class were taken off the off this list would it then be an acceptable list put it be said that this this is a consensus or ought to be a consensus in this Society. Could it be said that it does influence the social conditions of the society or not? That's (00:21:44) one of the things that has to be done is that the society has to also agree that if you do these things that there will be a reward if there will be some kind of play Play Back in the end because one of the things that happens is that I can go into my neighborhood and tell the kids stay in school do the best that you can don't get and then after at 18 years old nothing and more money is spent on incarcerating those kids and is spent on trying to help them go on to college and this is the situation that that causes this unrest that causes a sense of hopelessness that yeah, we can play the game but it's on an unlevel playing field and Society has not yet bought into the idea that if people do the right thing that they will be rewarded. So as you're sure societies ready (00:22:28) for that man has got to be next (00:22:30) year. I gotta be next little more reality therapy to back up what Matthew saying in fact education levels in general post-secondary are increasing also and this is true and it was very clear that when One of the Great Society programs was post-secondary help Pell Grants Etc. Is that really got hopin particularly kids of color started being able to go to college more graduating etcetera. And when that started being cut in the 80s, you saw those rates go right down. It was just a parallel line and yet and this is something we have not grasped yet the wage and there was an article in the paper this morning about this the 80s was terribly hard on entry-level workers wages and young people's workers wages. And in fact families with children who's had the head of the family or the two heads of the family who are whatever you got. There are under 30, they're real earnings have fallen 44 percent between 1973 and 1980 92 Peak years of no wasn't one recession in one great year the words were to quote unquote great years and I think one of the things that we got to prepare for this there was a quote that Mitch sent out about whether we as a society as a government need to endure The behavior that sort of is the visible sign of the values we've just talked about and I think that's the wrong question. I don't think we're any longer allowing making it possible for most or all the people in our society particularly, the younger people to live out those values. We are not making it economically possible for people to get all the education they want for people to form families and support them for people to really nurture their children. And I think that it is a great moral crime that's going on the redistribution of wealth out of the hands of the bottom 60% of us. I'll stop with that let (00:24:28) mitchen. Okay, Mitch. I suspect let me try a conservative reality check. I would have no problem if we came up with an entirely different label for middle-class values. I really don't care what we call them. Call them Common Sense call them strawberries. It really does not matter the key to me is for me is that we need to talk about and deal with questions of character and responsibility and we simply do not we do not for a variety of reasons coming out of the 60s and the 70s. We learned that we are what we eat and we shouldn't blame victims and we're terribly frightened and we shouldn't blame victims but we take it to such a degree that we do not hold people responsible. We are terribly afraid in the society to be viewed as insensitive to be viewed as blaming victims to be viewed as sexist and to be viewed as racist and Cause of that, we don't say very much worth saying quite frequently. I would agree with Luann absolutely that it can be quite difficult for young folks in the 90s and coming out of the 80s Young Folks would not much education to make it as well as their parents made it that is indeed a serious problem facing this country and we have to work on it. However piece of Reality Checking I suspect we talked a lot about how the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. In fact, it's a matter of the rich getting a lot richer and the poor are getting a bit better off but the Gap is widening if however from the middle 1970s on until the late 1980s If the percentage of single-parent households had remained steady. What that would have resulted in would have been a having a reduction by 50% of the disparity in income between the richest Americans and the poorest Americans. So it is not just a matter of a cruel economy. It's a matter of quite frequently of Families simply not being in a position to earn incomes in the same way that they had been in simplest terms. Daddy isn't there? (00:26:53) All right, (00:26:55) John, I think that one of the ideas that we need to struggle with is one of the reasons that if you will accept Mitch's list of middle-class values, one of the reasons that those are disappearing is that the middle class itself is disappearing and as a country what we do, I only learned this through my personal experience by just recently having gone to some other countries. I always (00:27:23) read about it, but I never quite you know, I didn't (00:27:25) quite settle in. What is that American point of view while blaming the victim is one of them, but another important thing is we don't look at our history where very short-term thinkers the the results were seeing now in terms of dad's not being there and you know, the list started a very long time ago it started when trains were built it started when Levittown was built which was Houses that only had room enough for Mom and Dad and the kids and the grandparents weren't there. We have warehouses all over this country that are just full of elderly people and most of us in this room are part of that boomer generation that are all going to get old together and there aren't warehouses that are going to be big enough to hold all of the elderly people. If we continue this long long curve of single families nuclear families and just to give you an example of what that history has meant in economic terms in 1919. There was a law that was passed in this country which allowed corporations to not pay tax on the interest on their borrowings just to give you an example three companies supermarkets General Holdings USG Corporation and Burlington Industries each had more interest on loans than they had an income there. Or they paid no taxes. So in terms of the middle class if you earn thirty five thousand dollars a year and you paid $1 in tax, you paid $1 more than these corporations combined. That's what we're facing. That's what we're looking at so we can talk about values and we can talk about why aren't these poor people people and why aren't these people of color coming into the fold of middle-class values but we have to understand that historically this was predictable 50 years ago, but we are not recognizing (00:29:24) it. All right, you twice my I hear you twice. I've heard you lamenting over time a demise in these values middle class or not, or did I hear you correctly or not? Are you lamenting that (00:29:41) and I'm not lamenting it? No. I'm just saying that for purpose of discussing it. If you accept Mitch's list, then this is what's happened just in terms of that list. I'd like to talk about it. Tell you that I think is increasing and I think it's harming our country tremendously. I think the individualism which our country was founded on for good or ill. There was an awful lot of that. A lot of that I think was individually done to deny the pain of leaving. Our families are being ripped out of our families. And and so you know, I'm going to be tough. I'm going to rely on myself and whatever and I think that's accelerated in the 80s and it's absolutely counterproductive. I really do believe that I mean children need more than one grown up around them. That's what I wish for my children that studies show to really be in their corner for a number of years to help them get off to a good hole (00:30:35) start. How do we encourage empathy? How do we create each other regarding behavior? If we're if we're convinced and I certainly agree with you if we're convinced that a growing individualism is harmful to the (00:30:48) society. Well, we can encourage it in public. I mean there's Tax Matters there's public but I mean if Just start running down public policy issues. You can encourage or discourage it and we have a number of things that discourage it. (00:31:00) But how about being (00:31:01) specific about being specific? Let me think about this for a minute. Well, for example, when I was born in 1946 my parents and all parents paid about 3% of their tax on their income in taxes, and that's one reason a lot of moms in the 50s could stay home and raise their children. I think the average tax burden on families with children is about 30% 25 to 30% at low weight, you know at moderate just basically getting along type families and and have you filled out your Minnesota taxes lately. You probably did if you're over 65, you get a double standard deduction. The seniors poverty rate is less than half of the child poverty rate John just throw one more thing and John said we've doubled our school expenditures, but we don't think we're getting what we want for that. I just want to remind you that one in for preschoolers in this state and in this country. Pour those children are not getting enough to eat brains are formed from conception to age five. You'll never get another brain cell. You'll only lose them. If they do not get enough to eat. They cannot do well in school. There's a reason that our special ed spending is going through the ceiling because we have not grasped the changes the basic economic changes in our country that are hitting our youngest the (00:32:17) hardest when if kids are better off on the average. I think you just said, yeah with two adults around and if you're ready to have government encourage certain kinds of behavior and not others, is there something government ought to do in its tax policy to encourage the kinds of living arrangements you think is appropriate (00:32:40) for yeah, I mean well and tax welfare policy being many government programs will not pay a relative to babysit while the other person who's a low-income person goes out and Works there is a good example. We make it very difficult. We don't pay relatives for home health care for the elderly and this is because of what's called woodworking John's familiar with this gosh if we paid relatives for that Home Health Care instead of strangers all those people that are doing it for free those greedy middle class people would sign up and want to be paid and we just can't have that. So yeah there I mean, I don't want to bore you with tons and tons of these different examples, but there's a lot of things like this we make it hard for shared housing Arrangements no more than three unrelated people. I've had the building inspector at my house a number of times. (00:33:30) Okay, Steve and then Mitch (00:33:32) Mitch, it asked a little while ago with John asks, whether if we took a label of middle-class off his list with the list of acceptable. I find it hard as a profession to give blanket endorsements of list. So I'd like to maybe dissect one. All right, I couldn't work hard and reasonably hard and School and graduate the problem. I have first of all, it's a great idea. I'm not sure that I'd call it a value but it certainly is something we ought to push in promoting something. I would certainly plan to tell them my children when they are of that age, but here's part of the reality testing that Luann was suggesting. Nobody wants to be the only one playing by the rules as a parent of a five-year-old and a two-year-old among my three children. I've noticed that they start out with one set of rules. And by the time the game is over. There are as many rules as there are children in the game and nobody wants to play be the only one playing by the rules. So work hard a reasonably hard in high school and graduate. That's a nice message, but it's not going to be the message that's followed. If all around them children Wonder first, what's the reward for doing this second are there exceptions to it? And when the exception start to look more attractive to them then the rule then they start to follow those exceptions. They're not dumb and they See what's around them and they also see plenty of individuals who seem to succeed without following the rules. There are very prominent individuals as a society. We like to talk about the individuals who are millionaires who never graduated from high school are the individuals who didn't work hard in high school and yet managed to get a PhD in something. We need to think about our rules in the context of all that is going on around them and to establish a set of rules is first of all to invite a set of sanctions when the behavior doesn't follow that set of rules and we have if we are thinking about the sanctions and the exceptions in the context of establishing the rule then we aren't being real with (00:35:31) ourselves. But isn't part of the argument that it's not only a question of sanctions, it's not only a question. I'm an economist is not just a question of incentives. It's also a question of models and examples and sacrifice more as Laura said nurturing loved ones. And aren't we as a society as as Lawrence's backing away from this as as we become more and more individualistic more and more self-concerned. (00:35:58) I'm suggesting there's some structural problems with the models you depreciate structural defects as an economist. Let me give you another example from the list. Don't break the law. Well what happens in our model if you break the law if you break the law on Wall Street, you go off to a farm maybe if you break the law on Lake Street and in Hennepin for prostitution or doing drugs or some other Petty economic crime. What's the penalty there now in the back of almost everyone's mind. I'm sure people will say yeah, but there ought to be Farms. These setups for individuals. We really ought to have different penalties. You have your own views, but I'm suggesting to you. If you talk to the people who are more likely to be on Hennepin and Lake than to be on Wall Street and you ask them what their perspective is about the system and about the structure they will tell you it's unfair and therefore I don't need to follow it and I'd rather risk being caught by the system then have to be part of a set of rules that doesn't work for me and isn't fair to me Mitch. (00:37:01) Well, there's a certain logic there. I certainly agree and I'm certainly not going to argue that life is perfectly fair in this nation or any place else on Earth, but it is just a quick jump from making the arguments that we have been making to saying well if we have to Manifest this frustration and this anger and the sadness and self-destructive and destructive Behavior. So be it and I'm not willing to accept that I am just struck. By our reluctance. I am willing to say the government has to do more. I may disagree with some folks about exactly what government should do, but government needs to do more. Ronald Reagan has not done enough on these kinds of issues. George Bush has not done enough on these issues. I can see that easily. I was part of the administration both times, but I also focus and I would hope others would as well on the question of character on the question of responsibility and we are just so reluctant to do that. (00:38:03) I don't believe that people are reluctant to talk about character. I don't believe that for a moment in my personal discussions with individuals. That's all they talk about. People are talking about the failure of government. They're talking about each other talking about individuals, but at the same time people are saying unlike what Mitch has suggested we are also unwilling to have behavior that supports Positive Behavior. Now, let me give you an example of this. It was said a moment ago that people are afraid to be insensitive. They're afraid to be racist. And they're afraid to blame victims and yet all around me. I see people who are willing to be insensitive willing to be racist and willing to blame victims. Now, somebody has to reconcile that disparity before you can convict individuals because they're unwilling to talk about the behavior that is Manifest by that sort of (00:38:50) system, which I would acknowledge that there are number of Bohr's out there but to get specific if we are talking about the great rise in single-parent families and I respect Luann's numbers at one level. They are correct, but in Minneapolis right now about 43 percent of all children are born out of wedlock and by the end of the century, it will be about 67% the fact of the matter is and we'll get to this more fully in July there really is only one currently in office politician in Minnesota who is dealing at all forthrightly with this question. And that's non Fraser and I give them great credit. I would argue that all the other elected officials. I know that this is a problem. But for the reasons I mentioned before they don't want to be viewed as bad people. They keep their mouths shut (00:39:40) part of my argument earlier was it that this is not a racial question in my view. That is the connection between fatherless children and the difficulties that people get into is explained in almost almost entirely by there being fatherless not in terms of their poverty and edit is not an attribution of particular Behavior 242 particular races Matthew, (00:40:07) I somewhat disagree with that belief that you hold because of the fact that one of the things that I do at my initial presentations to inmates in the Department of Corrections, when they come in and want to find out what we're talking about is I talked about the structure of this society, which is very much racist based the structure says as I point out to them the lucky number 13th Amendment says no more. Slavery except when duly convicted of a crime now, you know who the group of people who are who are the slaves and I'm talking to mainly black inmates. Now that that these were the people who are the slaves they had no record of criminal Behavior. They were basically property of white people but all of a sudden once they're free, they're suspect of being criminal and the conditions are put forward which will encourage criminal Behavior the lack of Education the lack of opportunities the lack of ownership the lack of being able to even think for yourself being able to even read and write and these kind of things that had already been put in place and then told you're free but not given any direction on where to go. These kinds of things when placed into a constitutional amendment a government structure say that that Society is a setup that Society has no intention of freeing those people. And in fact, when you look at the numbers today that African-Americans are fill up the prisons and disproportionate numbers. I say go back to the 13th Amendment and see if you're free surely (00:41:42) surely America's great sin is racism but (00:41:46) we've (00:41:50) I would like to thank and maybe the when's talk today gives gives us all leave to be optimistic in some ways. I would like to think that in some ways. This is a somewhat less racist Society than it was in the (00:42:02) past. Well South Africa looked at the situation over here and you know, they asked the question, how do we give the vote to the majority while holding onto the economics of the minority hold on to the economy holding onto the wealth. They said look at America's large inner cities and Can figure out how to do it, you know that this is exactly set a model for how to pretend that we've give people power and at the same time hold onto the power in the wealth and just a few one of the things I wanted to point out to just looking at you know, we talked about Luann talked about the children not being having enough to eat see I grew up poor in watts and I didn't learn until this weekend that it's not etiquette to eat everything on your plate. Somebody just told me that this week and it's oh no, they look at you kind of and I'm sitting here now and I'm like, oh I'm supposed to eat everything but then I said, oh no, I'm not supposed to this. Is this society that tells us that we're supposed to waste that we're supposed to throw away food rather than give it to the hungry and the homeless that we can take, you know, the food from restaurants the food some McDonald's the food from the system the government provided foods and throw it away in such large numbers that we could feed the rest of the world if we would just turn that around and there would not be any homeless or hungry people. In this country if we would stop being a nation of wasters and I would like to say if we would just do it ourselves. See this is the thing. We like to hear these kinds of talks but none of us makes the personal commitment to make a change. That's where it comes from. None of us. We say somebody is going to have to make a change but none of us makes the personal commitment. None of us will make a personal commitment to owns a business to say, let me reach back into the community that's economically disadvantaged and bring at least one person into my company (00:43:46) Laura then Steve and then I'm going to be coming out and giving you a chance to ask questions of the (00:43:51) panel. I just wanted to reaffirm that because we're talking about the middle class that we don't forget that all of the other classes have values in and that it part of the problem is is in how we Define it and how other people recognize it when we say if you have a child stay married or get married or something like that. But it's marriage in terms of the rules of the majority of whatever that Society is. I think that an Indian families American Indian families and other families of color that I'm familiar with women and other members of the family have learned to be extremely creative in how family is constructed how they use the resources and how they have wonderful values about those children and what they want for the future the system is not playing, you know, I was playing with a stacked deck and people know that I mean we can't we can go out in the street today and any number of people will know that and so just this idea just this one concept that you have to be married is perhaps something that we shouldn't hold onto so near and dear because a lot of people are developing Alternatives because they know that for them that is not a workable model and they shouldn't be punished for it or faulted (00:45:13) forth. Reading part of the question whether is LuAnn was seem to be suggesting earlier whether the government ought to arrange things. So as to encourage that behavior there does seem to be a difference of opinion here between Laura and Luann on the (00:45:26) question. Well, the government has arranged it to encourage the behavior we have now, I mean, this is the outcome (00:45:32) right? But but you I thought a moment ago you were saying that the society ought to be indifferent as to the question as to the arrangements in which people raise children that even a society that grants the heroism and recognizes the heroism of a number of people subject to racism victims of poverty and still doing a defiantly heroic job of raising children, even a society that acknowledge that might nevertheless say we think it would be better in general if people didn't have to raise children in those circumstances, but rather raise children in what we used to call intact families. I thought that's what Luann was saying and so Wondering whether there's a disagreement (00:46:15) or a low-end knows far better than I do at the history of afdc and what this country has said the country says, okay. We have poor children. Okay, begrudgingly. We're going to take care of those children to a degree, but we will not support adults. That's basically what we have said well and I guess what I was trying to get to about kids needing more than one stable nurturing person. I don't care if that's mom and dad mom and her sister friends extended family Grandma. You know, I the thing that I think is harming us as individualism and many people feel like it's just me now. I mean if that's the message you had them you raise them. We're not going to give you a tax break. We're not going to give you subsidized childcare. We're not going to help, you know, it would have nothing just figure it out you pay for college education childcare in this community for preschoolers cost more than sending your kid to the U of M 2 2 year olds work part-time to 25 year olds work. It make what 45 year olds make and so essentially because we've tied our economics. I was talking to a aeronautical engineer from Nigeria who now works in Wichita on the plane and he said at home the coming and going of mates had nothing to do with the economic or the family structure that nurtured children. So if you get sick of that mate and ten years and you got a new one you still lived in your same Village and in your same family and stuff basically just went on for the kids. (00:47:44) Okay, folks. It's going to be your (00:47:45) turn now. Isn't a real problem that we have been teaching people that Society is doing this to them and not are that they are individuals and responsible for their own actions and almost any value system teaches the individuals responsible for his own actions. If I am responsible for my actions and I can change things I can get out of this but if Society is then only Society can change (00:48:10) I would just respond to that that okay Luanne they are and let's be quick. They say anybody can be president. No only one president of time the old other 430 million of us have to work in the economic system that about 1% of Us control people are graduating from school and working and working. They're 30 years old. They're making six bucks an hour. They cannot raise their (00:48:29) children. Question from Carol Center. (00:48:33) Yes, I'd like you to answer this match. Would you apply the same question to what is incipient in your question or what is implicit in your question is that you're talking about the lower classes? Obviously, you're you're focusing on the middle class values as if there's some kind of abstract form that you know is unchangeable and the lower classes are what we're concerned about. What about the upper classes does could you apply that same question are we concerned about the character of our upper classes and why not? Why aren't we concerned about the Looting for instance that has gone on in the last 10 years by people like Neil Bush the millions and millions and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars much more by that one person than all that was the that was wrecked in. (00:49:25) Okay. Good question for a mitch. How about the values of the upper class? Well any (00:49:29) number the rich any number? Well any number of folks who broke the law are indeed in jail, they may be in farms and pleasant places but they are in jail. I have no problem with people legally making a lot of money by making a lot of money. One of the things that they are doing is producing a lot of lot of jobs. The sad fact of the matter is though that most people in the upper classes don't fall into the same pathological traps that any number unfortunately poor people do or when they do when rich people do they can compensate better. That's the fact of the matter and they don't wind up participating in drive-by shootings and causing great difficulty for their children. Is it unfair again? Of course, it's unfair, but we can't correct that if I find scurrilous Behavior among rich people it offends me if I find bad behavior among four people it offends me the sad fact of the matter. Is (00:50:31) that the H? I think the question is a little bit different isn't there a kind of unproductive entrepreneurialism that has enabled say the president of some Corporation to make 80 million dollars last year answer is yes and isn't that isn't that then a terrible example to others in the society perhaps causing them to think that a society is perverse that allows that isn't (00:50:53) true answers to answer is number one. There has been I would argue in the medium or criticism of the rich people who are supposedly milking their firms. Then there has been of the kind of behavior I'm talking about and many of the problems I have happened talking about with family's falling apart those Trends started in the 1960s took real root in the 1970s all before the supposedly selfish 1980s and I would argue that those 1980s were not as selfish and his mean-spirited as some critics would (00:51:25) suggest question here from Jim Vin. (00:51:27) I'm disappointed that we haven't dealt with the topic. This is almost turning into A cheerleading special and socialism and class Warfare, but let me let me see if I can get us back to the topic. The topic was does (00:51:38) culture impact poverty (00:51:40) and I gave some thought to this here and I did some reading I couldn't come up with anything in the way of scientific evidence because it's a subject that everything has been done is pretty much been done politically rather than from a social science standpoint. I'm encouraged by some of the work has been done by the man holding the microphone but one thing that strikes me that that needs to be addressed if culture and individual responsibility is not a big factor in poverty. How do we reconcile the fact that black immigrants to this country within one generation have close to two-thirds of the gap between white and black earnings when the only difference is not race is certainly not sex. It has to be culture and attitude towards towards that the only difference is one of them came here from Haiti a generation ago. And the other one is raised in the inner city. I'd be very interested in how we reconcile that if culture is not a big impact on (00:52:27) poverty would like to take a crack at (00:52:29) that first could eat Your father question. I didn't I didn't understand the (00:52:33) question. The question is that culture is influences behavior and behavior to some extent influences, maybe even determines at least influences economic status and that as between different groups of the same race some are doing better than others in this society which suggests that not all of one's economic circumstances is to be attributed to race. (00:53:01) I've always agreed with what he says, I've always agreed that being black does not mean equal poor does not equal crime and the proof of that is that some of the poorest people in the world as you mentioned the people in Haiti have been become some of the most productive. However, I would point out that their circumstances the culture that you mentioned has played a major factor in that because they have not been in a society that has said because you are of a certain race of people you will not succeed. The mechanisms all the messages that are sent that are given to them from the time that they're raised up has told them if you work hard. If you do these kind of things you will make it and whether they be Southeast Asian immigrants or whatever or Haitian immigrants Jamaicans. So many people have seen this. This is why I again, like I said, I always repeat the same message in the in the prisons that the reasons why we're here and see so many people in the prisons. It is in fact because of a set up but once you fall into the Trap, you have to know how to pull yourself out and the trap has been set. So it's not just at the Trap there's no trap that does not exist. The Trap has been set but you just have to learn how to outthink it. You know, I always have believed that black people are not inherently criminal. Otherwise, we'd be better at it by now.


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