Jewish World Review April 1, 2003 / 28 Adar II 5763

Clarence Page

Clarence Page
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Remembering Moynihan's mind


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | I knew, as an African-American baby boomer, that I was not supposed to like Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

After all, he wrote that inflammatory work, "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action" (1965), which singled out the breakup of black families as a major impediment to black advancement.

Liberal academics and black activists savaged the book and Moynihan, calling both "racist" and other impolite epithets.

As a college freshman, I, too, thought the book's generalities were a bit too sweeping. Sure, we had a poverty problem in black America, but civil rights reforms were opening new opportunities that would drive black poverty down from more than 60 percent to about 30 percent over the next two decades. I defy you to name any other major racial group on the planet that progressed so far, so fast.

Family breakdown seemed to be too simplistic of an explanation for black poverty. On the other hand, poverty certainly makes it harder to keep a family together.

Nevertheless, I appreciated Moynihan for bringing up the issue. I didn't always agree with what he thought, but he always gave me something to think about.

Moynihan, who died last Wednesday at 76, eagerly invited criticism. Not the name-calling sort of criticism that you hear sometimes on radio call-in shows, but the genuinely constructive criticism that advances ideas, not just arguments.

He was, among other distinctions, one of the most important and controversial minds and voices on the front lines of racial, ethnic and social policy in post-World War II America.

On year after passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, he shifted the debate on race from one about rights to the role of family in predicting a lifetime of poverty.

In 1963, he co-authored "Beyond the Melting Pot," which exposed the durability of ethnic identity in the United States despite widespread assimilation and set the stage for today's "celebrate diversity" movement.

A few years later, as an aide to Richard Nixon, he persuaded the Republican president to give a speech advocating a downright radical idea, the Family Assistance Plan. To stop fathers from leaving home so their families could qualify for welfare, the plan would provide guaranteed income to the unemployed and supplements to the working poor.

Nixon made the speech, sent the legislation to Capitol Hill, astonished Democrats by appearing to snatch a key issue away from them, then, he let it die, with the impoverished still waiting for aid.

Nevertheless, Moynihan's concepts would lead years later to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the welfare reform legislation of 1996, which, characteristically, Moynihan, as a fourth-term senator from New York, strongly opposed on principle, despite its being promoted by Democratic President Bill Clinton, because it imposed time limits on job-seeking welfare recipients.

News of Moynihan's death saddened me because it brought his inquiring mind to a halt just as he was pursuing more research into the relationship between marriage and poverty.

Perhaps the fact that he made a success of himself the hard way after being abandoned by his dad and reared by a single mom during the Depression gave him special sympathies for the subject.

But, during two interviews with him over the past two years, he sounded as puzzled as ever over the relationship between family breakdown and poverty and what other factors might lead to each.

The alarms he sounded when 26 percent of black children were being born out of wedlock are now being sounded over white out-of-wedlock birth rates, which are higher than 26 percent and getting higher, while the black rate has leveled off at 69 percent. Yet, curiously, no one that I know of refers to the problem as "pathological" among whites the way Moynihan did when he was studying blacks.

Out-of-wedlock birth rates are climbing throughout the industrialized world, he also found. But they are not always accompanied by growth in poverty. In Scandinavia, for example, more than half of all births are to unmarried mothers, but a much larger percentage of them live in stable relationships with the men who fathered their children. Generous government family support programs, even more generous than those Moynihan proposed, appear to be replacing the traditional breadwinner role of fathers.

When I presented these paradoxes to Moynihan, he did not argue. He nodded and, with a twinkling smile, admitted that the topic cried out for more study. Pat didn't always have the answers, but he seldom failed to raise the right questions.

"And now, goodbye," he told Nixon's White House staff when he left in 1970. "It really has been good to know you."

You, too, Pat.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.



Comment on Clarence Page's column by clicking here.

Up

03/27/03: A fog of war words: Shocking and awesome
03/21/03: A Moranic moment bites peace movement
03/18/03: Viewers beware when tv networks don't care
03/14/03: Powell's battle for Bush's ear
03/10/03: 'Embedded,' but not 'in bed with'
02/28/03: Bridging the black gender gap
02/19/03 Braun vs. Sharpton: A Dem dilemma
02/14/03: Bush's clean-up man
02/11/03: How feds fooled marijuana trial jurors
02/06/03: Time to re-think space shuttle's value
01/31/03: Why corporations like diversity, too
01/28/03: Shaq vs. Yao, a new world diss-order
01/23/03: Affirmative action will be remarketed under new name
01/13/03: Bond movie offers clues to Korea crisis
01/07/03: Dr. Frist to the rescue … of his party
01/02/03: Feeling a 'draft,' but not much
12/17/02: To rob a burning cross of its power
12/03/02: Closing black-white test-score gaps
11/19/02: Uncle Same wants your data
11/15/02: Marriage vs. 'player' impulse
11/11/02: How Oz can help the Dems
11/05/02: We reserve right to be complicated
10/22/02: What the pro-gun lobby and anti-gun lobby have in common
10/18/02: Take Sharpton seriously? For Prez??
10/15/02: A beauty and the bullies
10/08/02: Time to start 'fingerprinting' bullets
10/08/02: Poet laureate hater fell for Internet hoax
10/04/02: Keeping it real, despite howls from black 'leaders'
10/01/02: Revisiting the 'Jogger' horror
09/27/02: Sometimes freedom is a necessary nuisance
09/13/02: Foil Fidel with free trade
09/10/02: Measuring the myth of 'super weed'
09/06/02: A year later: A reality-check
09/03/02: Make better choices before some jury somewhere does
08/20/02: Bid farewell to the Cigarette Century
08/16/02: Rights matter, even in circus trials
08/09/02: Jousting with Rumsfeld's fog of wit
08/06/02: Covert action is cool again
08/01/02: Powell's premature obituaries
07/30/02: A common sense tip on internal snooping
07/18/02: Jacko plays race card badly
07/12/02: Last flight for a pioneer airman
07/08/02: Dems will miss Watts, too
06/28/02: 'Supreme Court reads polls, too
06/25/02: 'The Body' bites, then bows out
06/21/02: Punishment first, then the crime?
06/18/02: Reporting still risky for Haiti's press
06/14/02: Bush's security plan leaves large gaps
06/04/02: Fix FBI's culture gap first
05/28/02: Fidel's new apartheid for tourists
05/21/02: Now McKinney's lunacy sounds like the Democratic Party line
05/19/02: A paradox of historical proportions
05/14/02: 'Murphy Brown' revisited in age of Ozzy
05/10/02: America looks like a model of tolerance and inclusion
05/07/02: Forget it, Bill, you're no Oprah
04/26/02: Mapping out ethnic and racial change
04/23/02: A game of another color
04/19/02: It's high time to open up pot-law debate
04/11/02: 'Osbourne' family values rock, aging Ozzy quakes
03/22/02: Zimbabwe election leaves world sleepless
03/19/02: A slur? Where is thy sting?
03/15/02: A Pearl of wisdom for reporter's unborn son
03/12/02: Army race and gender policies on trial
03/08/02: A short list of losers to be left behind
03/05/02: Revenge of the 'mediasaurus'
02/26/02: Jihads aren't just for Muslims
02/26/02: It's hard to be 'objective' during wartime
02/19/02: Hollywood's new villain: Your HMO
02/12/02: Father of 'Manchild' leaves lasting message
02/08/02: $nookering the reparations crowd
01/31/02: Prisoners of a War of Words
01/29/02: One more Enron woe: Al Sharpton & company
01/25/02: Searching for slaves in bin Laden's attic
01/22/02: Andrew Young's newest 'friend'
01/08/02: Hard-earned lessons from 9-11
12/18/01: Whatever happened to questions about the birds and the bees?
12/14/01: The "White Negro" Taliban?
12/07/01: Jackson's turn to gloat
11/27/01: Friendly warning from a lover of liberty
11/21/01: The face of hunger is changing
11/15/01: Our troubled sense of trust
11/08/01: Lessons about terror from the 'hood
11/06/01: Getting used to the 'new normal'
11/02/01: Wicked ways to make them talk
10/30/01: It's not just about bin Laden
10/26/01: More than mail fell between the cracks
10/23/01: Terrorists threaten urban recovery, too
10/18/01: Sometimes, assassination warranted
10/15/01: Self-censorship rises again
10/12/01: Contradictions illustrate the complicated nature of the new terrorism
10/05/01: Look who's 'profiling' now
10/01/01: Don't trash liberty to save it
09/28/01: Life, love and cell phones during wartime
09/24/01: How to catch an elusive terrorist
09/21/01: The war I was waiting for
09/17/01: When rage turns to hate
09/13/01: Terror attack tests US, let's give right response
09/06/01: U.S. should have stayed and argued
09/04/01: Columbine killer's parents get upclose and personal
08/31/01: Virtual kids? Log me out
08/28/01: Two Africans, one black, one white, same fight
08/23/01: Sharpton for president
08/20/01: Shaking up the rules on keeping secrets
08/16/01: Bush's u-turn on racial goals
08/09/01: Outsider Bubba comes 'in' again
08/06/01: Not ready for 'color-blindness' yet
08/02/01: Immigration timing couldn't be better
07/26/01: Summer of Chandra: An international traveler's perspective
07/17/01: Overthrowing a régime is only the beginning
07/10/01: Big Brother is watching you, fining you
07/05/01: Can blacks be patriotic? Should they be?
06/19/01: Get 'real' about marriage
06/12/01: Amos, Andy and Tony Soprano
06/07/01: Getting tough with the Bush Twins
06/05/01: Bringing marriage back into fashion
05/31/01: "Ken" and "Johnnie": The odd-couple legal team
05/24/01: Sharpton's challenge to Jackson
05/22/01: Test scores equal (a) MERIT? (b) MENACE? (c) ALL OF ABOVE?
05/17/01: Anti-pot politics squeeze the ill
05/15/01: Was Babe Ruth black?
05/10/01: U.N.'s torture caucus slaps Uncle Sam
05/08/01: 'The Sopranos' a reflection of our times
05/03/01: 'Free-fire' zones, then and now
05/01/01: War on drugs misfires against students
04/26/01: Another athlete gets foot-in-mouth disease
04/23/01: 'Slave' boat mystery reveals real tragedy
04/19/01: McVeigh's execution show
04/12/01: Not this time, Jesse
04/05/01: Dubya is DEFINITELY his own man, you fools!
04/02/01: Milking MLK
03/29/01: The candidate who censored himself?
03/22/01: "Will Hispanics elbow blacks out of the way as the nation's most prominent minority group?"
03/19/01: Blacks and the SATs
03/15/01: The census: How much race still matters in the everyday life of America
03/12/01: Jesse is a victim!
03/08/01: Saving kids from becoming killers
03/01/01: Parents owe "Puffy" and Eminem our thanks

© 2001 TMS