Poverty is a Self-Inflicted Disease

A few years ago, in the business section of USA Today, a story appeared that described how businesses are returning to some inner cities to set up shop. The article is encouraging. Real estate is plentiful and prices are low. Many who work downtown also live there. That’s the good news.

Of course, once these companies become successful, politicians will tax the daylights out of them. It’s these taxing policies that end up killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

In addition to the upbeat nature of the story of small companies of trying to make it big downtown, there was an educational statistic that was shocking:

“The inner harbor of Baltimore has a 20% poverty rate and a 50% high school dropout rate.”

Uneducated teenagers have few marketable skills. They can’t work to learn new skills because (1) wealth transfer payments via welfare make it unprofitable to work and (2) minimum wage legislation prices them out of the job pool, especially in this tough economic climate.

Further in the article we learn that “unemployment and poverty were at least 50% higher than in the surrounding area.” These conditions can mostly be attributed to government taxing policies. This is why poverty is a self-inflicted disease.

The irony here is that if the inner cities are to be saved, it will be the inner cities that will have to do it. Jobs could be plentiful and high paying. Of course, this will require skilled, mostly college educated workers. But companies cannot survive on computer programmers and engineers alone. They need a diverse work force.

One of the companies has started a mentoring program for at-risk Baltimore high school students. None of the students has dropped out. Where government education and public policy programs fail, private enterprise succeeds. Time will tell if these inner city businesses will make it. Politicians, social theorists, special interest groups, and unions are perched like vultures ready to pick the place clean if the inner cities ever become prosperous again.

Winston Churchill wrote that “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

Envy is not the same as jealousy or covetousness. The covetous person says, “I wish I had what he has, and I’m miserable that I don’t have it.” Envy is quantitatively different.  The envier thinks to himself and votes accordingly: “I’d like to have what he has, but I know I can never get it. Nobody should be allowed to have it or at least that much of it. If I can’t have it, neither should anyone, and if I can’t make this happen, I’ll make sure it costs him a lot of money to own it. I’ll work to destroy people who can afford these things. Maybe I can get the government to make it illegal to own or too expensive to keep.” This is why the Bible describes envy as “rottenness of the bones” (Prov. 14:30) and the despoiling of cities.

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