More spending won’t reduce racial poverty divides

Nov 25, 2021 by

The Biden administration and its allies, continuing their claims that anything and everything under the sun is racist, have a new target: infrastructure.

We are told our very highways themselves are racist and, guess what, more government spending is the apparent solution. Two congressmen wrote earlier this year: “By investing in this critical work to reconnect communities, we begin to deconstruct a structurally racist highway system. … But much more is needed, including sustained, long-term investment, to make our urban landscapes more equitable.”

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg says that massive government spending is needed to “deconstruct the racism that was built into the roadways,” also repeating a debunked claim that overpasses were racist.

The idea that more federal government spending is needed to reduce racial equity gaps, whether that spending is on infrastructure or anything else, is simply not supported by the facts. Even though the federal government has spent more than $22 trillion since the 1960s attempting to eliminate poverty, poverty rates have remained largely unchanged since that time.

In fact, the fastest increase in black homeownership in American history occurred between 1880 and 1930, before federal government spending programs for poverty or housing were adopted. Meanwhile, the black homeownership rate today is about the same as it was in the 1960s. Another study shows that Housing and Urban Development Section 8 housing vouchers actually increase rents for the poor who are not receiving the vouchers since the increased rental demand created by the vouchers ends up increasing rents for everyone.

A concrete example of the futility of government spending to reduce poverty in the city of Los Angeles’s recent initiative to build housing for the homeless, Proposition HHH. A report by the LA Controller’s Office on the efficacy of the program showed an average cost upwards of a stunning $600,000 per unit to build housing for the homeless. Units were being built at a far slower pace than was promised by proponents. What’s worse, a significant portion of the funds was going to middlemen such as syndicators, underwriters, and lawyers, not to the actual housing developments. Such is the fate for the vast majority of government spending programs.

The Biden administration’s economic justice agenda of spending away racial inequity is actually hurting the vulnerable and poorest more than it is helping. The effects of inflation are disproportionately greater for poorer people. The national average for gas is $3.41 — that’s $1.29 more than a year ago. Yet, instead of pursuing policies that can alleviate the stress at the pump, this administration is spending billions on their pursuit of environmental justice.

So if government spending doesn’t help to address poverty, what does?

To start, children born to two-parent married families have much better outcomes in nearly every measurable area. In fact, young people who graduate high school, get married, and wait until they are married to have children have less than a 2% chance of becoming poor. Increasing the share of two-parent married families is a critical policy solution to reducing poverty.

Such a solution could encompass reforming means-tested programs that penalize marriage among lower-income couples. One politically palatable way to do this could be to adopt a solution that is already in use, by the military, of promoting marriage by prioritizing married couples in benefits programs. Addressing the decimation of manufacturing, which has had a particularly devastating effect on all working-class people but especially black communities, must also be addressed.

Do not be misled. The Democratic Party’s favored anti-poverty programs are largely designed for the financial and political benefit of their advocates. Let us reject these schemes and instead promote evidence-based solutions to address racial gaps in poverty.

Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2017 to 2021, is the founder of the American Cornerstone Institute. 

Source: More spending won’t reduce racial poverty divides

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