CHRIS POWELL: Baby bonds' won't provide the crucial human capital

Published on Friday, 23 April 2021 21:13

State Treasurer Shawn Wooden has brought to Connecticut a proposal that has been floating around the country for a few years now. Wooden would have state government endow "baby bonds" for poor children, opening $5,000 savings accounts for them at birth with the proceeds made available to them at age 18 for purposes including college education, home ownership, starting a business, or retirement savings.

The idea is pending as legislation in the General Assembly, and at a meeting in Waterbury this week Wooden argued that it would break down "structural racism." Such fashionable cant seems obligatory with many policy proposals these days, but it may be silliest as it tags along with "baby bonds," since their premise is that people are most disadvantaged not by racism at all but by poverty.

Good for the "baby bonds" idea at least for recognizing that much. But the proposal fails to recognize the primary cause of generational poverty. It is not racism or the lack of financial capital but rather the lack of human capital.

Most of the “babies” who would be targeted by "baby bonds" are born into homes without fathers, and sometimes without mothers as well as they are left for a grandparent to raise. These children seldom have any mentors. Because of their lack of parenting and Connecticut's pernicious educational policy of social promotion, these children graduate from high school without having mastered even elementary school work. They are not prepared to be self-sufficient adults, much less to start and operate a business with "baby bond" money – and most new businesses fail anyway.

As for college, young people from poor minority households who have performed well in high school are likely to get scholarships for college anyway quite without having to rely on "baby bond" money, and if they perform well in college and have developed job skills, they will have no trouble getting hired by major corporations.

But throwing money at a problem seems to be the only solution of which liberalism is capable anymore.

Poverty, not racism, is the country's biggest problem and the biggest problem of racial minorities, and Connecticut's worst "structural racism" is that of its welfare and educational systems, which, far more for racial minorities than for whites, destroy families by subsidizing childbearing outside marriage and substituting self-esteem for learning.

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LET ADULTS ‘VAPE': As the General Assembly approaches legalizing and commercializing marijuana, Connecticut may be realizing that drug criminalization is futile. But meanwhile the legislature seems about to outlaw sale of flavored "vaping" fluids used with electronic cigarettes. So what gives?

The argument for the latter legislation is that most young people who use tobacco started with electronic cigarettes, which lure them with candy-store flavorings. True enough, perhaps, but then marijuana also is a "gateway" drug, an introduction to more addictive drugs like heroin, cocaine, and prescription painkillers.

Of course alcoholic beverages long have been beyond the capacity of many people to handle, but outlawing them a century ago made the problem worse.

Decades of public health campaigns have sharply reduced tobacco smoking. Unfortunately, such campaigns against intoxicating drugs have not been successful. Many people crave intoxication, since life isn't so enjoyable for them. But "vaping" fluids don't intoxicate and have some benefit for people trying to break tobacco addiction.

If the attack on "vaping" products means to discourage tobacco smoking, young people who "vape" will run into the anti-tobacco campaigns eventually. Even before that they might encounter a parent or mentor and get some counseling about healthy living.

Besides, just as the ingredients for making alcoholic beverages remained legal and widely available during Prohibition, the ingredients for making "vaping" fluids are legal and will remain available, too. The government won't be able to eliminate them much better than it has eliminated illegal drugs. Instead government mainly will run up the price and thereby enrich some clever entrepreneurs.

Government fairly enough can prohibit the sale to minors of goods that might endanger them. But a country that would be "the land of the free and the home of the brave" shouldn't treat adults like children.

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

Posted in The Bristol Press, Column on Friday, 23 April 2021 21:13. Updated: Friday, 23 April 2021 21:15.