Rich Lowry: Paul Ryan's white hood

What incorrigible racist said the following?

“Fewer young black and Latino men participate in the labor force compared to young white men. And all of this translates into higher unemployment rates and poverty rates as adults.”

“In troubled neighborhoods all across this country — many of them heavily African-American — too few of our citizens have role models to guide them.”

“We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households. ... We know the statistics — that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of school; and twenty times more likely to end up in prison.”

“We know young black men are twice as likely as young white men to be ‘disconnected’ — not in school, not working.”

As you might guess, Paul Ryan said none of these things. Barack Obama did — in heartfelt speeches at a Chicago church in 2008, at Morehouse College in 2013 and at the White House a few weeks ago.

In his instantly notorious interview with radio talk-show host Bill Bennett, Ryan discussed fatherlessness and the importance of role models. “We have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular,” he said, “of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.”

For this offense, Ryan was awarded an honorary white hood by the liberal commentariat. When Barack Obama says such things, which are undeniably correct, he is a brave truth-teller; when Paul Ryan says them, he is making an odious play for racist votes, via a “dog whistle.”

In literally the next sentence, Ryan urged the civic-minded to help out in what President Obama calls “troubled neighborhoods.” That almost none of his attackers noted this part of his answer tells you everything you need to know about their credibility.

More evidence of Ryan’s alleged malign intent was a mention of Charles Murray. Murray’s book “The Bell Curve” will forever be controversial for its treatment of race and IQ, but Murray’s latest work, “Coming Apart,” is about the struggles of the white working class. Notably, Ryan also mentioned Harvard social scientist Robert Putnam, whose recent work also has focused on class divisions and social isolation.

These are the scholarly name-checks of someone who is thinking about the unraveling of civil society, not how to become the next George Wallace.

Ryan’s critics hate the word “culture,” as if it’s a concept that right-wingers came up with to justify nefarious doings rather than one that is central to understanding how the world works.

In The New York Times several years ago, Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson wrote a column against the “deep-seated dogma” that rejects “any explanation that invokes a group’s cultural attributes — its distinctive attitudes, values and predispositions.”

He argued that the economic boom of the 1990s created millions of jobs yet “jobless black youths simply did not turn up to take them. Instead, the opportunity was seized in large part by immigrants — including many blacks — mainly from Latin America and the Caribbean.” Patterson blamed it on “the cool-pose culture” of many young black men.

Fortunately, Orlando Patterson is not the Republican chairman of a House committee, or he could never show himself in polite society again.

As for Paul Ryan, he is such a callous dog-whistler that he has been touring urban neighborhoods as he formulates a new conservative agenda on poverty. Ryan wants to reform welfare programs to incentive work and to encourage institutions of civil society to fight social breakdown. His antagonists want to pour more money into the same welfare programs that have failed to address the root causes of poverty for decades.

After his interview caused a firestorm, Ryan said he had been “inarticulate,” in a good-faith gesture to his critics. He would have been entirely justified in telling them simply to go to hell.

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

More

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 22:53

What others say: Obama’s legacy a mixed one

President Barack Obama leaves office Friday after eight years as the most consequential Democrat to occupy the White House since Lyndon Johnson. And unlike that Texan, whose presidency was born in tragedy and ended in failure, Obama will not have the ghost of the Vietnam War haunting his days and eating his conscience as LBJ did all the remaining days of his life.

Read more

Op-ed: Trump won the news conference

Donald Trump should do press conferences more often. Not for the country’s sake, certainly not for the media’s sake, but for his. He really shouldn’t have waited 167-plus days to hold one, because the man gives great sound bite. Although I’ve participated in probably thousands of these staged encounters as a reporter, they’re not my favorite way of getting news — you almost never get any. The guy at the podium controls the proceeding. He can get his message out with little challenge from the assembled journalists who are limited to a question and a follow-up, maybe. Politicians can bob and weave through that without any of us landing a blow. And that’s our job: to penetrate the canned responses to their version of the controversy du jour and get at whatever truth they are hiding. Besides, Trump — who uses contempt for the media as a weapon, his preferred way to discredit reporting that displeases him —has a wonderful forum to do that. At the very least he should hold these confrontations as a supplement to his Twitter tirades. And frequently. It’s his opportunity to hold the media hostage as they cover live his rain of abuse on them.

Read more

Good luck in Juneau

The 30th Alaska Legislature gavels in on Tuesday, and we’d like to take a moment to wish our Kenai Peninsula legislators good luck over the coming months in Juneau.

Read more

Ready to weather the storm

If there’s a bright spot in the recent headlines regarding Alaska’s economy, it’s this: on the Kenai Peninsula, the bad news isn’t nearly as bad as it could be.

Read more