Just let poor blacks split the $400 million

April 17, 1996|By GREGORY KANE

The A-C-To-Hell-With-You got its wish last week, when it bamboozled federal lawyers into making official a plan to "desegregate" Baltimore's public housing.

Under details of the plan, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development will kick in $300 million to build new public housing units and move two-thirds of 3,200 poor black families to predominantly white, middle-class neighborhoods. The state of Maryland will kick in $65 million and Baltimore another $35 million.

Let's have some truth-in-advertising here. This is not desegregation. It's social engineering, some $400 million worth. It is based on the curious premise that all poor black folks need to escape the dreariness of their lives is to be placed in the healing presence of middle-class white people.

Which, I contend, must come as a shock to middle-class white people. Somewhere today, some of them must be saying, "If we had that kind of power, we wouldn't be middle class. We'd be multibillionaires."

Please note that the A-C-To-Hell-With-You -- which considers itself a Friend-of-the-Negro organization -- holds no such notions about middle-class blacks. In Baltimore and surrounding counties, there exist stable and functional middle-class black neighborhoods. No one has suggested that moving poor white families on public assistance to these neighborhoods would be beneficial to those families. Poor white families are considered functional despite their poverty. They can get out of poverty where they are. Poor black families are defined by their dysfunction. They, according to liberal dogma, can only end their dysfunction through desegregation.

Poor blacks in public housing apparently can't escape by their own efforts: by working hard, saving money and getting educated. At least two of my white left-of-center friends have told me in the past two weeks that these values -- along with the ever-dangerous notion (to liberals) of personal responsibility -- hTC don't mean anything. Anybody still wondering why conservative Republicans drop-kicked liberal Democrats from Congressional power in 1994?

Maybe conservatives cherish the ideals of hard work, thrift, education, personal responsibility and, yes, freedom, more than liberal Democrats. Because freedom is the essential element absent from the A-C-To-Hell-With-You settlement. Those families that want to move are restricted from moving to areas with a certain poverty level. Should they want to move there, that's simply tough luck.

So let's try another social engineering experiment. Just split up that $400 million and divide it equally among those 3,200 families. That comes to $125,000 per family. Because our federal, state and local officials are committed to spending the money anyway, I think it would be interesting to see just what the families would do with it.

Some poor folks might use the money to move to a state that has shown economic growth. Like, say, Virginia. Fiscally conservative Virginia. (Maryland, still under the thumb of the liberal Democratic horde, has shown no growth.)

Some will blow the money. Some will enter a job-training program or return to school to get a degree or training that will lead to a better job. Some may not return to school, but may send their children to a private school that may assure them of a better chance at a college education.

Still others might opt to move, but not necessarily to those areas approved by government officials and the A-C-To-Hell-With-You. Some might not want to tolerate another winter like the one we just had and move to the friendlier climates of Southern California, Florida or Hawaii. A few -- alarmed at America's passion for violence -- might even opt to move abroad.

Do we dare think that some might actually invest the money or start their own businesses? That may sound unlikely, but it's possible. The bottom line is that these poor families will be given a jump start out of poverty and the freedom to use $125,000 either wisely or foolishly. And that's just as inviting a proposition as some bureaucrat telling us and 3,200 poor black families now living in Baltimore how he or she thinks our tax money should be spent.

The issue, dear A-C-To-Hell-With-You friends, is not segregation vs. integration. Black people settled that problem when we were still Negroes, back in the 1960s. The issue is empowerment. Those who want to empower poor blacks should consider empowering them with some money.

Beginning April 21, Gregory P. Kane's column will appear three days a week -- Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Pub Date: 4/17/96

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