How the War on Poverty Went Awry

Edward C. Banfield

by James A. Bacon

In 1968, nearly five decades ago, Edward C. Banfield wrote a brilliant analysis of urban problems in America: “The Unheavenly City.” Today, his contributions have been all but forgotten. But they are worth resurrecting because of their prescience. While optimists proclaimed that the expansive programs of the Great Society would conquer poverty, Banfield believed the opposite. “Unless lower-class persons display an unprecedented amount of upward mobility,” he predicted, “the lower-class population of the city may grow, perhaps rather rapidly.”

Despite the expenditure of trillions of dollars on the social safety net, urban renewal and anti-poverty programs, poverty is as deeply entrenched and endemic as it was when the Great Society was put into place. Liberals and progressives say the reason is that American society simply hasn’t spent enough money. Just fund pre-K, raise the minimum wage or address the food desert, and we’ll get there. But disciples of Banfield know otherwise, for those programs fundamentally misdiagnose the problem of poverty in America.

Banfield viewed the poverty through the prism of future orientation. He divided society into four classes — upper, middle, working and poor — based upon the ability of people to envision the future, defer present gratification for future reward, and control their impulses. Those who worked for the future would be upwardly mobile; those who lived present-oriented lives would be downwardly mobile. Present-oriented people would tend to collect in the lower economic classes, earning less money. More important than their material poverty, these peoples’ lives would be marked by violence, crime, alcohol and drug addiction, child abuse and all manner of other social pathologies.

The American welfare state has done a reasonable job at ameliorating material conditions of poverty. As Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, Heritage Foundation scholars drawing upon Census Bureau data, America’s poor have access to material possessions once considered luxuries: 80% have air conditioning, 92% own a microwave, nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV, and half have a personal computer; 82% of poor parents reported never being hungry due to a lack of money for food; the average poor American has more living space than the typical non-poor person in Sweden, France or the United Kingdom.

What makes the lives of American poor people miserable is not material deprivation but dysfunctional behavior. As Banfield wrote, “A slum is not simply a district of low-quality housing; rather it is one in which the style of life is squalid and vicious.”

The lower-class individual lives from moment to moment. If he has any awareness of a future, it is of something fixed, fated, beyond his control: things happen to him. He does not make them happen. Impulse governs his behavior, either because he cannot discipline himself to sacrifice a present for a future satisfaction or because he has no sense of the future. He is therefore radically improvident: whatever he cannot consume immediately he considers valueless. His bodily needs (especially for sex) and his taste for “action” take precedence over everything else — and certainly over any work routine. He works only as he must to stay alive, and drifts from one unskilled job to another, taking no interest in the work. …

In his relations with others, he is suspicious and hostile, aggressive yet dependent. He is unable to maintain a stable relationship with a mate; commonly he does not marry. He feels no attachment to community, neighbors, or friends (he has companions, not friends), resents all authority (for example, that of policemen, social workers, teachers, landlords, employers), and is apt to think that he has been “railroaded” and to want to “get even.” He is a nonparticipant: he belongs to no voluntary organizations, has no political interests, and does not vote unless paid to do so.

The lower-class household is usually female-based. The woman who heads it is likely to have a succession of mates who contribute intermittently to its support but take little or no part in rearing the children. … The stress on “action,” risk-taking, conquest, fighting and “smartness” makes lower-class life extraordinarily violent. … In its emphasis on “action” and its utter instability, lower-class culture seems to be more attractive to men than to women.

Banfield goes on to make various predictions that that idealists and social engineers plausibly could deny at the time but seem indubitably true after five decades of failed social policy:

So long as the city contains a lower class, nothing basic can be done about its most serious problems. … Slums may be demolished, but if the housing that replaces them is occupied by the lower class it will shortly be turned into new slums. Welfare payments may be doubled or tripled and a negative income tax instituted, but some persons will continue to live in squalor and misery. New schools may be built, new curricula devised, and the teacher-pupil ratio cut in half, but if the children who attend these schools come from lower-class homes, they will be turned into blackboard jungles, and those who graduate or drop out from them will, in most cases, be functionally illiterate.

Banfield was right. Anti-poverty programs did not end poverty; they entrenched poverty. Source: Heritage Foundation.
Banfield was right. Anti-poverty programs did not end poverty; they entrenched poverty. Source: Heritage Foundation.

How about universal pre-K? Banfield would agree with the premise of universal pre-K that changing the culture of the lower-class child involves intervening in its early years. Lower-class children would benefit from day nurseries, he wrote, but for the fact “that they are at once confused and stultified by what they are (and are not) exposed to at home.” The only way to accomplish the goals that pre-K advocates wish to achieve– to put children on a level educational playing field — is to remove the children entirely from lower-class culture. The implication, he wrote, is that “the child should be taken from its lower-class parents at a very early age” and brought up by people not steeped in lower-class culture. But that idea is a non-starter because the state has no right to take children from their parents to prevent an injury as “impalpable” as its socialization into lower-class culture.

How about job training? “Training programs do not as a rule offer any solutions to the problem of hard-core unemployment,” Banfield wrote, because the same qualities that make a worker  hard-core also make him unable or unwilling to accept training.”

Was Banfield a fatalist? Did he believe that nothing can be done to help the poor? Not at all. But he was a realist who recognized that many anti-poverty programs are either useless or counterproductive. Among his observations:

  • Distinguish between different types of poverty. Some people are poor because of adverse situations, such as the loss of a job. With help, they can get back on their feet. Others are poor because they are radically present-oriented and reject boring, bourgeois lifestyles. Programs that help the former will do nothing for the latter.
  • Anti-poverty programs produce perverse incentives. Programs designed to ameliorate the material conditions of the poor encourage behavior that perpetuates poverty. Why trade immediate gratification in order to complete schooling and acquire skills that might lift one into a marginally preferable working-class lifestyle years from now?
  • Don’t destroy jobs for the poor. Remove impediments to the employment of the “unskilled, the unschooled, the young” by repealing minimum wage, occupational licensure laws and laws that give labor unions monopolistic powers.
  • Stop obsessing about high school graduation rates. “Our cultural ideal requires that we give every child a good education whether he wants it or not and whether he is capable of receiving it or not.” Letting students drop out after ninth grade would free resources and reduce disruption for those students are are inclined to learn.
  • Stop concentrating poor people geographically in inner cities. Don’t let them create a “critical mass” in which the lower-class culture becomes the predominant culture.

Banfield propounded other controversial ideas. Give intensive birth-control guidance to the poor, especially young women, who are less hard-wired toward a present-orientation than young men. Permit the police to “stop and frisk” in high-crime areas, make misdemeanor arrests on probable cause and — the missing element in today’s practice — pay compensation to suspects who are held in jail and later found to be innocent. He also argued idealistically for “guaranteed loans for higher education to all who require them.” He did not foresee the resulting student loan crisis as millions took on student debt to enroll in programs they never completed, leaving them burdened with loans they cannot repay.

Banfield’s skepticism runs counter to the widespread conviction that American society must DO SOMETHING, and that the doing is more important than the results. “The doing of good is not so much for the benefit of those to whom the good is done as it is for that of the doers, whose moral faculties are activated and invigorated by the doing of it. … By far the most effective way of helping the poor is to keep profit-seekers competing vigorously for their trade as consumers and for their services as workers; this, however, is not a way of helping that affords members of the upper classes a chance to flex their moral muscles or the community the chance to dramatize its commitment to the values that hold it together.”

In the final analysis, Banfield focuses on results, not good intentions. Nearly 50 years later, anti-poverty programs have had abundant opportunity to evolve and mature. It is more than time now to measure the results, to see what works, and to dispense with what does not.

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44 responses to “How the War on Poverty Went Awry”

  1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    This article is in two words: Simply Spectacular!!! A Must Read.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    ummm.. in the 50 years of “failed” liberal ideas what have been the conservative ideas other than “you can’t really educate low class people” and oh by the way – education programs are free stuff also”?

    seriously. It took decades for Conservatives to determine that we need ” to measure the results, to see what works, and to dispense with what does not.” ?

    that’s the Conservative approach?

    I’m AGOG!

    1. One day my brother and I each took $1,000 out of our respective savings accounts. He believed that burning the money would appease the weather Gods and prevent any more bad weather. I was less confident. He burned his money with no discernable result. I re-deposited my money back into my savings account.

      Stupidly wasting money is worse than having no plan. At least you have the money that would have been wasted.

      Liberals are very good at wasting other people’s money and then blaming the other people for the waste.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        totally agree.. what’s the Conservative plan?

        do the same things but don’t waste money?


  3. Hill City Jim Avatar
    Hill City Jim

    Mostly excellent however…
    “◾Stop concentrating poor people geographically in inner cities. Don’t let them create a “critical mass” in which the lower-class culture becomes the predominant culture.”

    So the poor person should live next to JAB? How can he or she afford it if they are poor? If he or she lives where there is no public transportation, how will they get to the store if they are poor and cannot afford a car?

    But it is nice to hear from the Heritage Foundation.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    “can’t do much with lower class people” Edward C. Banfield and most Conservatives who followed in his path… apparently..

  5. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    I heard an interesting speaker last evening discussing some of the problems of low-income students in Fairfax County Public Schools. While many of these students are getting 21st Century educations, including vocational education, a significant number of Hispanic students are receiving pressure from their parents (often immigrants) to drop out of school before graduation. Many students do drop out. I will not identify the speaker beyond saying he is active in the county business and education communities. No one had any good ideas how to counter-balance the message from some parents.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      @tmt/others – if you guaranteed any student that passed the SOLs a guaranteed enrollment in a technical school or community college – no matter what the parents said or did – do you think the kids would be tempted to go after that opportunity ?

      seems like I’ve read some stories about some rich guy offering an entire class – free college if they maintained passing grades.. and a very high percentage took him up on it – and passed…

      I’ve said before – we cannot save them all.. some of them are just not going to make it…

      but I do wonder what the Conservative approach is beyond blaming the liberal approach over and over and having no other thoughts.

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        No, Larry, I don’t think guaranteed admission to a tech school or community college would do the trick. Of course, a few would likely be motivated. But the story I heard is that there is strong parental pressure/example for many Hispanic kids to drop out of high school. And many are taking the path. At the risk of being lectured, it sounds to me as if we have a cultural problem for some Hispanic teenagers.

        Guaranteeing free post-HS education would most likely cause costs to increase faster than inflation and even higher tuition. Look at what the colleges and universities have done. Direct or indirect access to taxpayer money yields more spending.

        While we must always realize we are dealing with individuals, we should not underestimate culture. A number of years ago, a Fairfax County state senator was telling me there is strong pressure from parents in SW Virginia that discourages their children from getting post-HS education because of the fear the kids will move away. Sounds like culture to me.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          would you think it would be WORTH TRYING to see how many might do it?

          1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

            No, Larry, I do not think it would be worth while to offer free access to taxpayer-paid, free vocational or community college education. Once the bloodsuckers get access to taxpayer dollars, the funding never stops. As former FCPS superintendent Daniel Dominech once wrote to me “We never eliminate jobs when the economy is good.”

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            so you’d rather, instead be paying for entitlements, prison, and prison “reform” instead?

            what’s the realistic real world solution here?

            denial is not an option.

          3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

            Larry, tell me how to unfund programs that fail? Short of waiting for the next generation that will be more Americanized, there probably is no solution for a subgroup that doesn’t value education. Newly arrived Hispanics in the United States are not stupid. Over time, most will likely value education.

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            unfund programs that fail? do you consider entitlements and prison in that same category?

            do you NOT think there are real costs to you to pay for those who do not receive an education?

            you prefer to pay the entitlements and prison and prison-reform costs instead?

          5. TooManyTaxes Avatar

            Larry, you don’t seem to get this one. The students are dropping out of school due to parental pressure. Adding an incentive for post HS education isn’t going to have any impact because the parents are sending strong signals that formal education through HS is not needed. What do you propose to do – show up at people’s homes and drag their kids to school?

            First, families need to be persuaded that a high school education is necessary. Talking to them about post-secondary high school education is down the road.

          6. LarrytheG Avatar

            @tmt – do you have something that shows that to be a widespread problem ?

            and why would you think any human given the incentive to get a good education would turn it down?

            it appears to me the opposite would happen. Kids are not stupid. They know that training is valuable …

            but if you never try it how do you really know if it works or not –

            and you’d still prefer to pay for entitlements for those who don’t get educated?

            you know what’s missing here. How much entitlements cost… if you knew that number would it affect your thinking?

          7. TooManyTaxes Avatar

            Larry, kids are turning down a no-cost education in an excellent school system that offers a variety of vocational education courses as well. Many Hispanic teens in Fairfax County are dropping out of high school because their parents are telling them to get a job or find a good man and get married. If there is pressure to quit school before HS graduation, how much more pressure would there be not to go to post secondary education?

            For example, a father operates a landscaping company or cleaning service. He’s pushing his son to drop out of HS with say 2 years to go to join the family business. Don’t you think there would be even more pressure not to enter the world of work 4 or 5 years from now? If a parent doesn’t see value for his/her son/daughter in completing the junior year of HS, don’t you think they’d see even less value in adding two or three more years of education?

            We live in a real world, not a Washington Post world.

          8. LarrytheG Avatar

            TMT – you’re going to have to provide some more in the way of proof beyond your personal claim..

            I’ve never heard of such a thing.

            Further – if you listen to JimB and JimW – it’s not the hispanics they are talking about.

            how about to link or two to a news article or oter credible source to back up what you’re saying?

          9. TooManyTaxes Avatar

            OK, Larry, Monday, October 19, 2015. The monthly meeting of the McLean Citizens Association’s Budget & Tax Committee, McLean Community Center. Our speaker was a high-level official from the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority who is also a member of an FCPS business-education committee. His comments about the dropout problem with many Hispanic students were made in response to questions about the business community, economic development, job growth and public schools. I sat next to the woman who asked the questions.

          10. LarrytheG Avatar

            @TMT – that’s most anecdotal views.. can you show me a study, some data… something credible that shows a pattern across the state for all economically disadvantaged.

            And TMT and others.. if you disagree with the current approach or the proposed approve from the pesky liberals…

            how about you get on the table with your ideas ?

            you can’be be blaming liberals and walk away with no alternative ideas.. and consider yourselves interested in solutions.

        2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          We have several disturbing trends going on at the same time.

          More and More kids are “dropping out” in several ways:

          1/ More and More are dropping out of school altogether, i.e. leaving the school premises and programs, and

          2/ More and more kids also are attending schools (elementary, secondary, and post 12th grade), and dropping out of the task of learning at those schools, or are learning very little or next to nothing in those schools while they receive passing grades, often As & Bs.

          3/ More and More kids who are dropping out of school altogether now also declined or refuse to work, and thus drop out of work altogether.

          4/ These drop out of work kids include more and more kids who have dropped out of secondary schools and/or higher education before they have graduated, and more and more kids who have graduated from college now also decline or refuse to work.

          As a result:

          Every year more and more employers even in this slow economy are having trouble hiring competent and willing workers. This includes all categories of younger workers whatever their formal education level.

          Given all this:

          Would not a program of free higher education only acerbate these problems unless there be imposed strict admittance and performance standards that have theretofore been proven to work?

          And should not these performance standards be imposed in any and all cases if only to force students either to learn and/or to work, as increasing more and more young Americans seem inclined to do neither?

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            ” Would not a program of free higher education only acerbate these problems unless there be imposed strict admittance and performance standards that have theretofore been proven to work?

            And should not these performance standards be imposed in any and all cases if only to force students either to learn and/or to work, as increasing more and more young Americans seem inclined to do neither?”

            I’m still of the view – if you tell kids that they WILL BE TRAINED to get a job – and it begins in elementary – where they WILL become competent at reading, writing, and arithmetic – period. If it takes year-round to do it – for some kids -then so be it.

            That means the schools MUST HIRE teachers who are SKILLED in teaching – the harder-to-teach kids – AND those teachers who perform successfully WILL GET bonuses and stipends… for their success.

            we’re degraded into a country of excuses and blame… and …denial.. of what happens if we don’t do this.

            when we find ourselves talking about spending 100K per kid to rescue them from the juvenile justice system – we should think about cheaper ways to help that kid NOT end up costing tax payers 100K….

    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      TooManyTaxes –

      The speaker last evening might check in for leads on solution models for those issues mention with the Annie C Casey Foundation found at:

      The foundation is head-quardered locally.

  6. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “This article is in two words: Simply Spectacular!!! A Must Read.”

    This is the highest of praise. Why is it deserved?

    It escapes stereotype. It transcends ideology. It’s grounded in a keen understanding and appreciation of human nature.

    It is also full to the brim with charity, grace, and wisdom. It is highly original and independent. It is right on target. Its speaks powerfully to the solution of a great problem. And It breaks apart, busts through and explodes conventional thinking, myth, lie, and personal animus.

    Hence the insights in this article are precious and rare. They are worthy of and able to upset the Status Quo. Hence every effort has been made in the past and will continue to be made to ignore and bury these insights, and to demonize them, trash and fight them. So these insights are simply spectacular. A must read.

    Why a Must Read? Because the insights contained within this article will be buried again unless people of principal and conviction take heed and advantage of the wisdom in this article. This requires action!

    With regard to the article and some of its insights:

    What do we mean by saying “It escapes stereotype. It transcends ideology?”

    To delve into this question let us provide historical examples. Those who should be considered to have met this test by their actions? Here is my list.

    1/ Daniel Patrick Moynihan (Democrat, 1927-2003).
    2/ Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson (Democrat, 1912-1983)
    3/ Harry S. Truman (Democrat, 1884 – 1972)
    4/ Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Democrat, 1882- 1945)
    5/ Theodore Roosevelt (Republican / Progressive, (1858 – 1945)

    These men, when the chips were down, far more often than not:

    Escaped stereotype. Transcended ideology. Were grounded in a keen understanding and appreciation of human nature. Were full to the brim with charity, grace, and wisdom. Were highly original, and independent. Were right on target. Spoke powerfully to the solutions of a great problems. Broke apart, busted through, and exploded conventional thinking, myth, and lie. Were precious and rare, worthy and able to upset the Status Quo.

    Thus every effort was made in their time to ignore these men, to demonize, trash and fight them. So they were simply spectacular. A must read. And the vast majority of people are often afraid to unset the Status Quo, sometimes for good reasons, and other times for very bad reasons.

    Here some perspective is in order. These five men were human. As such, they made great mistakes on the road to their great achievements.

    After his “New Deal,” FDR saved most of the World from a New Dark Age, only to abandon Eastern Europe to Stalin and fuel the Cold War that ensued.

    Teddy Roosevelt cleansed the Western Hemisphere of European Colonialism, a feat that outlasted the full 20th Century. He also lead his nation into the most successful Progressive Era of the 20 Century, only launch a quest for a 3rd term via his wild concoction of the Bull Moose Party, bringing Woodrow Wilson into power, allowing Wilson to unravel much of Teddy Roosevelt’s greatest achievements.

    (In fairness, there is truth to the claim that all three men – TR, FDR, and Woodrow Wilson – at their end were overcome by the minefield of age.)

    This leads us into another minefield:

    Stereotype, Ideology, Hubris, Lust for Power known as blinding ambition.

    All five of these men – Moynihan, Jackson, Truman, FDR, and TR – each one of them escaped this Minefield of Deadly Sins on the roads they each took to gain their great achievements against overwhelming odds.

    Two men, however, with the same potential for greatness failed this test:

    1/ Lyndon Baines Johnson (Democrat, 1908 – 1973)
    2/ Woodrow Wilson (Democrat – Progressive, 1856-1924)

    These two men for brief periods dominated their enormous stage at the height of their power. Both men held the potential for greatness. Both men instead brought long lasting misery, despair and misfortune down on many people worldwide. Both nearly broke their nations military. And they did so in part by reason of their own deep seat animus against their own militarily. And they also did so in part by reason of their own blind ambition for power and domination of everything and everyone they became involved with, no matter the cost to those other people.

    Woodrow Wilson’s tool of destruction was his own rigid, self righteous and ultimately totally blind ideology. Hence he made wild claims, and he pursued vast ambitions, and he conjured up great stereotypical enemies to gather power without putting in place the means to achieve his ambitions or defeat his enemies.

    Instead Woodrow Wilson relied (and forced his nation to rely) on:

    1/ his own personal virtue,
    2/ his own personal and unassailable grand vision,
    3/ the unassailable righteousness of his cause, and
    4/ an his own manufactured and false view of reality that he sold to others by means of illusion, deception, and too often outright lies.

    A Four of these Absolute Truths, Woodrow Wilson forged into his own quest that he in turn built on an illusion built in his mind, one that his mind then reinforced with the certain believe that it now possessed a Summons from God or Mandate from History. This is the divine brew that would drive Woodrow Wilson to victory over all obstacles, opposition and reality.

    This of course was fantasy. What Woodrow Wilson achieved instead was the receipt that lead to World War 11.

    Lyndon Baines Johnson was a horse of different color.

    Grand insecurity on a vast scale drove LBJ on a blind quest for domination of and absolute power over other people. His keen insight into the pragmatic solutions to problems and opportunities, his keen insight into the weaknesses of human nature (both as to groups and individuals), his great talent for manipulation, and his prodigious energy in pursuit of his quests drove him to great and long lasting achievements (civil rights for example) and even greater failures that bedevil and haunt us to this day.

    A war, for example, on the far side of the world that poisoned American society at home, nearly wreaked America’s military, and a war on poverty at home that has led to the ongoing destruction of the American family.

    So what about the rest of the men of the original great five.

    Daniel Patrick Moynihan (Democrat, 1927-2003), at great personal risk stood against the tide of destruction that LBJ built to overwhelm him. And Moynihan had must to risk – for he was the greatest liberal thinker and policy maker of his time, and a politician of enormous probity and integrity.

    Edward C. Banfield analysis of urban problems in America “The Unheavenly City” as revealed now by Jim Bacon adds in its own unique way to Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s grand legacy.

    Now Banfield’s analysis can be expanded on the basis of hindsight to show that the legacy of LBJ’s War on Poverty is now also not only despoiling our nation’s poor, but it is also despoiling our nation’s middle and upper middle classes, whether it be their families, their jobs, their education, their safety and independence, our indeed our entire future.

    So in these times we also need people like Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson (Democrat, 1912-1983), and Harry S. Truman (Democrat, 1884 – 1972). These great men also transcended their own perilous times to save their nation from them.

    FDR looked down on Harry Truman, the haberdasher from Missouri. Some haberdasher. Harry Truman unlike FDR stood up to Stalin. In doing Truman saved FDR’s reputation, and he also set the great stage that won a War that converted both Japan and West Germany (now East too) into peace loving nations that have last now 70 years. This alone was a fabulous achievement given that Germany and Japan amounted to ISIS on steroids, thanks in no small part to Woodrow Wilson. And if that were not enough, Truman set the Grand Stage that won the Cold War 30 years later.

    This is our perilous time to remember history and act on that remembrance. Edward C. Banfield analysis of urban problems in America called “The Unheavenly City” helps us do that. Thank you, Jim Bacon.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      With regard to further comments of mine on the FDR / Truman Relationship please see my comments below Jim Bacon’s article “Hiroshima and Nagasaki: the End of the Carnage found on this website at:

    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      With regard to my further comments on Lyndon Johnson please see my comments beneath Jim Bacon’s article “Who Are They to Hate Now?” found on this website at:

  7. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    As Daniel Patrick Moynihan (Democrat, 1927-2003), at great personal risk stood against the tide of destruction at home that LBJ built to overwhelm him, so Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson (Democrat, 1912-1983) stood up against the tides that LBJ built to overwhelm the US Military and our national strength abroad.

    In so doing Scoop Jackson set the stage for the remarkable revival of the US military in the 1980s. Thus, in the darkest of times, Scoop Jackson kept the light and hope alive in the US Military, the Halls of Congress, and in the hearts of many of the American people, despite the efforts of far too many Americans to destroy the US military to a point beyond repair.

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    The thing about all of this is that one can take the view that the
    “War on Poverty” has “failed”.

    I don’t think it has – myself – but I’ll admit that we have not “won” or come close…

    but the thing is – if you want to stop programs – that you feel don’t work – I’m fine with that also – but that does leave you with coming up with other things.

    In other words – a “solution” is not to stop the programs then walk away

    but that’s what you sorta get out of those who say programs don’t “work”.. they never really get to :

    ” we should be doing this instead”.

    I’m be TOTALLY FINE with that approach and yes.. we should instrument each program and demand that it be effective or we stop it.

    TMT opines that parents don’t want kids to finish school..

    we might remember that when this country started public schools – they had to compete for the kids who were family farm labor.. and especially so at harvest time.

    But the very same farmers – they DID want their kids to get educated. They are the ones who actually paid taxes for the schools.. there was no Fed or even State funding initially – it was all local.

    I don’t think I’m buying the “parents tell kids to quit school” idea until I see a couple of credible links showing that this is true.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      It appears now that everyone who disagrees with Larry must be making up stuff. Fairfax County has no Hispanic dropout problem because there is no research study. Immigrant parents could not be urging their children to drop out of school because their is no research study. Since there is no study, School officials must be inhaling because they fear there is a cultural issue among a large demographic group that is discouraging completion of a high school education. What is better – being politically correct or trying to understand and address a problem where some parents are discouraging their kids from completing high school? I don’t get it.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        not at all.. I’m asking for more than folks impressions in things they say they heard.

        beyond that – we’re talking about more than one demographic group in one county.

        where do we see evidence that minorities in general are telling their children to get out of school?

        it makes no sense.. Many minorities complain that they are not getting education resources they need.

        Conservatives even agree and advocate public money spent on vouchers so parents and kids have more choice.

        I see this as just more denial of the issues and an excuse to walk away from it rather than deal with it forthrightly…

        in other words – the excuse -our entitlement burden is not fixable and it’s okay to have more people in prison than any other country in the world – in no small part because uneducated folks tend to be unemployable and drift into illegal activities to support themselves.

        some of us are apparently willing to accept those costs rather than try to deal with them.

        we have gotten to this point by denying the problem – we’re still not addressing it .. and now we want to blame others to excuse our own refusal to deal with the issue.

        this is NOT a MORAL ISSUE.

        It’s a FISCAL issue where we ARE going to pay huge financial penalties for our own irresponsible actions.

        anyone who wants to pretend that entitlements are going to get cut and prisons are cheap is simply in denial of the realities.

        This is not about “helping” people – it’s about damaging taxpayers…fiscal interests. Ascribing this to “leftists” and “liberals” is comical.

        we absolutely have these costs – and they very much come out of our own pockets… and these costs – are going up – not down.

      2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        TooManyTaxes –

        You are right. Given the illiteracy and semi-literacy in many of our homes today, and given the illiteracy and semi-literacy rampant in many of our communities today, and given the poor quality and anti-academic environment rampant in of many of our schools today, given all of this it hard for any child to learn to read and write in many of our schools today.

        But these problems compound if the child does not live in an English speaking and writing world outside of school. Then it is doubly hard for such a child where English is not spoken in his home and by those close around him daily, and where the dominant culture that he must learn is alien to his culture.

        These problems easily spiral out of control for Hispanics who have not learned to read and/or write by the 6th grade as earlier explained. The fall irrevocably behind and lose all confident, with no way to catch up.

        See, for example, my comments found at:

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          Correction to last sentence of last full paragraph;

          “Those Hispanic students then fall irrevocably behind and they then lose all of their confidence, without any obvious way for them to catch up.”

        2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          RF – that’s my only point. Fairfax County School and business officials have seen a disturbing trend within a significant number of Hispanic immigrant families – parents are pressuring their kids to drop out of school prior to graduation from HS. If there was a simple solution, the problem would be fixed. It may be a generational thing, posits some who have been looking at the issue.

          These parents would not be the first “new Americans” to hold a low value for education, most especially since many don’t have high school educations themselves. Bringing in poorly educated people just to satisfy some business people who want low-wage laborers and politicos trolling for votes is having a negative impact on the United States from this perspective.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            is this a local Fairfax issue ONLY with Hispanics and NOT with blacks or is this a Statewide phenomenon with most all minorities and economically disadvantaged?

            can we clarify?

        3. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          See also article and comments found at:

      3. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Sad as it is to say, the child’s dropout in this context makes sense:

        If a child can no longer benefit from sitting in a classroom all day learning nothing because he or she does not possess the tools to learn, and the system refuses or is unable to furnish those tools, and create an environment that facilitates that learning with those tools, then in such a combination of events, should not one of two things happen, namely:

        The Child is kept back at the six grade level until he does learn the skills he needs to advance to the next grade and this rule remains in place until he or she honestly receives the education to earn a 12 grade graduation,

        Or alternatively, the child drops out of school by reason of his failure advance honestly to the next grade and undertakes employment outside of school if it is available to support his family and to give him the best opportunity to learn skills on the job, and gain the pride and inherent dignity of earning a living for one self and ones he loves or should love.

        Surely this is a better alternative to our current system that forces a child to sit in school all day learning nothing while getting bogus passing grades that he has not earned, and while at the same time he loses his confidence and self respect, and is prevented from learning skills outside the classroom that are now necessary for him to possess so as to support himself and family out in the real world. Such a horrible system borders on the criminal. And it is precisely the system what we are forcing onto many of today’s kids. Why?


        Because we would rather hide the true of what we are doing to our kids rather than admit those truths and changing the system into one that confronts those truths. Why is this? It’s because we do not have the courage, values and honestly, and the convictions and integrity to confront these ugly facts that are the result of our own irresponsibility.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          Thus, what I am suggesting here is a three tier system to replace our current one tier system of K through 12-

          This system would include –

          A/ The current 8 am through 3 pm (roughly) school day Sept to June.

          B/ The supplemental “after school and summer Support system” described in my comments to Jim’s article found at:

          C/ And the third tier that might be loosely described as a combination of:

          1/ totally private outside employment, 2/ something akin to the highly successful 1930’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) that produced tremendous results for the unemployed, and 3/ the Apprentice System (Huntington – Ingalls Model of Higher Ed) described in Jim’s article and comments to it found at:

          Obviously some kids would require only a standard school day.

          Others would require that regular school as supplemented by after school and summer programs,

          And others would enter apprentice learning on the job which is real learning out in the real world as opposed to the highly destructive fraudulent learning that our corrupt school systems now imposes on so many of our failing and dropping out of learning students today.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Actually Reed’s proposition is thoughtful and I pretty much agree with it.

            Some kids need a more regimented life than their parents provide.

            Used to be they could go into the military and get “trained” in more ways than one. For example learning what it means to do a good job – correctly rather than blowing it off. But the military basically doesn’t want them anymore. They want better qualified and folks who want to join.

            So Kudos to Reed – he HAS responded to the challenge … I threw down.

            much much better than walking away and blaming “liberals”!

            Now if we can only get a few others to do the same!

  9. RF, thank you for a fine selection of men worth remembering. Each a hero in his own way, withstanding a popular tide.

    Where are the like of those heroes today? Where is the recent body of literature elaborating on Banfield’s seminal work? It strikes a discordant note that we are celebrating Banfield’s insights from the 1960s today not only because in hindsight he has proved prescient, but also because he has proved so unique.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Acbar –

      Thank you for your thank you.

      With regard to your questions, there are two very fine books and just published books that might help shed some light on this complex subject.

      1/ Philosophy Between the Lines by Arthur M. Metzler, and
      2/ Not in God’s Name, Confronting Religious Violence, by Jonathan Sacks

      Here both are discussed extremely briefly:

      Philosophy Between the Lines –

      This learned book sets out to prove that most all great Philosophers (from Homer, Plato and Aristotle down until very recent times) often wrote to hide most of what they truly believed, weaving those truths deep within and below the obvious and plain meaning of their words as written on the page.

      So the great Philosophers hid the great truths of their beliefs for only deep readers to find. Namely, those with the great learning and keen sensitivities to unearth, discern and assemble from hints, traces, nuance and shadows of literary, scholarly and psychological expression that were left on the surface of the page.

      Thus the creator’s overall work was designed to mislead and neutralize and obscure and satiate most of its readers while it lead the important readers into depths on and within many different levels and codes beyond the reach of most all other readers, including most in authority and all suffering ignorance.

      Paradoxically, the hiding of truth was long deemed by great scholars and learned men to be critical to preserving the real meanings of their work for its future impact and success over time. As well well as for the survival of those few who not only created that work but were tasked to carry it into the future.

      Why? The forced suicide of Socrates illustrates powerfully one reason. But the reason are very many and complex. Stated, in an incomplete nutshell that does not do the book justice, some base reasons for this hiding of critical truths were:

      1. Great Truths worth telling typically upset the Status Quo. It threatens the survival and success of conventional wisdom maintained and promoted by powerful interests to dominate and maintain advantage over all others.

      2. Thus, to speak the truth plainly too often sets up the speaker for a fall. The consequences of that fall depend on the culture dominate at the time. Thus those result might include for the author:
      a/ death by assassination (off with his head, perhaps his family’s too),
      b/ his life spend in a dungeon, his wife and daughters a sex slaves,
      c/ his exile from home, hearth, family and friends to a hostile strange and far away place, while those dear to him suffer horrible fates.
      d/ his shunning at home that socially and financially destroys his family, livelihood, and future ability to tell the truth and influence people by it.

      In addition such obviously and plain stated truth might educate ones enemies to take action that does great damage and reversal of the current society and Status Quo.

      Witness, for instance, how Liberty and Equality for All gave France its “Grand Revolution.” There the truth ignited crude and ignorant minds into acts of appalling destruction from which France has yet to recover. Hence France’s vehement protestations to the contrary.

      To be Continued.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        The hidden knowledge revealed by Philosophy Between the Lines leads the reader on a journey of astonishing revelations.

        Here I will mention only two.

        Suddenly this book opens up before the reader with the ability to discern it, a whole new and strange sea of forgotten learning. One of wisdom and knowledge about the worlds of our very deep and even relatively recents past, worlds that are now seemingly strange worlds that are ancestors inhabited and build on the ground and in the minds of men. Whole worlds that we should have inherited, but somehow lost. And have recently be unable to regain despite its obvious presence.

        How do we know these vast worlds were lost to us?

        Mr. Metzler shows us in powerful ways that this hidden knowledge was well known, understood and appreciated by many learned men who inherited these great books from their creators after these books were handed down through generations, and/or lost and found again, over thousand years down to the European Enlightenment.

        Then something very strange happened.

        The tools that brought us the enlightenment – reason, logic, deduction, empiricism – and the new world that those tools built over time worked over time to push aside the these hidden meanings. Its as they that new enlightened world worked to blind us to the very existence of this hidden knowledge within the great works of the past. This blindness hardened into ideology, a stubborn refusal to see the obvious.

        At first the idea of this happening comes as a great surprise. Until we read history. And learn that such lose of the past wisdom and refusal to see what is in front our own individual and collective noses in a common trait and gross failing of mankind and the human psyche since our consciousness first arose.

        To be continued.

      2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Not in Gods Name was published 35 days after Philosophy Between the Lines. Yet these two masterful works, one with its inflection towards secular philosophy, the others focus on the workings of Biblical Theology and religious violence, both of these works that are the product of towering intellects, fit together like Yin and Yang.

        Take, for example, How In Gods Name highlights so powerfully the corrosive consequences of our great loss (collectively and individually) of history, its deep stories and wisdom and ritual and belief, all collected and assimilated by our ancestors over untold generations, how all that fabric and structure that supported their lives and health and welfare, is now evaporating at an alarming rate under the onslaught of rapid and fundamental change, destroying our sense of the meaning in our lives. The terrible consequences this foretells.

        And, of course, Not in Our Times also reaches back into history to explain how all that loss and terrible consequence ensued, ushering in two centuries of horror and death, wiping away societies in violent times of war before our world finally settled back into normality two hundred years later.

        And all of its started with the invention of the Printing Press.

        These two books, taken together, their relevance to explaining today’s world, what ails it, what is happening to it and what horrors our futures may hold on the road to final solutions, are quite profound.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          PS – the 3rd paragraph immediately above should begin with”

          “And, of course, Not in our NAME …”

          Sorry also for other typos within these comments.

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            Proper title is “Not in God’s Name”

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