POWELL: Connecticut just postures when it calls poverty racism

Published on Monday, 11 January 2021 16:30
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Does any state do more posturing against racism than Connecticut does only to get such meager results?

A week ago West Haven's City Council joined the 19 other municipalities in the state that have declared racism a public health emergency. Tolland's Town Council is being asked to do the same.

But who exactly are the racists? None are ever identified.

And what exactly are the racist public health policies? Seldom are any identified, and the policies cited in West Haven's resolution aren't health policies are all, nor are they particularly racial - educational disparities and exposure to environmental hazards. Rather these problems are the consequences of poverty.

Of course poverty and educational disparities are disproportionately racial, and poverty and educational policies fail to elevate many poor people to self-sufficiency. But there is no clamor to examine this failure, perhaps because the perpetuators of poverty and educational policies are in government office and bestow much patronage.

Yes, many Connecticut towns obstruct construction of inexpensive housing through exclusive zoning. To facilitate economic and racial integration, state law should end this. But the motive for the obstruction is perfectly reasonable: Impoverished households impose great public expense, especially because of their child neglect and abuse. They raise school costs, reduce performance, and increase crime.

As long as state policy is merely to spread poverty around rather than to eliminate it, most people won't want it nearby, and complaints of racism will be misleading and ignored.

Much poverty results from federal government policy, like the failure to enforce antitrust law against the reduction of competition in major sectors of the economy. This failure reduces demand for labor and wages. Meanwhile the deregulation of investment banking has taken huge amounts of money out of the productive economy.

Much poverty also is a matter of the perverse incentives created by education policy, like social promotion, which rewards failure, and by welfare policy, which subsidizes childbearing outside marriage, destroying the family.

Getting at these causes will require returning to basics - like restoring the Glass-Steagall Act to get banks under control and stopping their high-frequency trading and market rigging, as well as holding parents accountable for their child neglect and abuse.

Last week the Connecticut Mirror inadvertently hinted about how elementary some remedies should be. The Mirror reported about a single woman in Bridgeport with two children. Her son had become an early reader and she was warned by his teacher that if she didn't get him out of his neighborhood school he would quickly fall behind like his disadvantaged classmates.

The woman said she couldn't afford to move out of Bridgeport and indeed could barely afford an apartment there. "Rents are a lot of money, especially for single parents," she said. "I don't know how people do it."

Just as banks apparently don't know they shouldn't rig markets, the Bridgeport woman apparently didn't know that having children outside marriage is expensive and reduces one's housing options. Or maybe the banks and the Bridgeport woman do know they shouldn't do what they did but figure they can get away with it. After all, when government subsidizes institutions and individuals no matter what they do, why not behave badly?

Fortunately the woman's son won admission to a school in Westport, but his former classmates are still stuck.

For that matter, why shouldn't state government employees behave badly? There is seldom any serious penalty.

A Judicial Department marshal, Edward Finlayson, was fired in December 2019 for two incidents of misconduct. First he thwarted the arrest of an immigration lawbreaker by federal agents at the courthouse in Derby. Then he obstructed Shelton police in their attempt to arrest two other people there.

But Finlayson appealed and his firing was reduced to a 45-day suspension. He appealed again and the suspension was reduced to 10 days. Despite his subversion of law enforcement he was back on the job within weeks.

News organizations reported his dismissal but not his quick reinstatement, which became public only a few days ago when a curious citizen asked that it be looked into.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Column, Editorials on Monday, 11 January 2021 16:30. Updated: Monday, 11 January 2021 16:33.