Blame Welfare?

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Here we go. John McWhorter blames New Orleans’ problems, and the inability of people to evacuate the city, on… welfare:

The poor black America that welfare expansion created in 1966 is still with us. Poor young blacks have never known anything else. People as old as 50 have only vague memories of life before it. For 30 years this was a world within a world, as is made clear from how often the Katrina refugees mention it is the first time they have ever left New Orleans.

Welfare recipients, he says, lack “survival skills.” Okay… question. How many New Orleans residents are actually on welfare these days? Poking around on this state government site, we find that in the Orleans area, 9 percent of residents received some form of cash welfare in 2003. That amounts to some 42,000 people—far fewer than the total number of New Orleans residents stranded after the flood, I believe, which was estimated in the hundreds of thousands. (In fact, even that 42,000 number seems high; according to the Department of Health and Human Services, only 60,000 people received TANF funds in the entire state in 2002, and only ten percent of Louisiana’s population resides in New Orleans.) Meanwhile, the U.S. census counts 27 percent of people in the city sitting below the poverty line. A distinct minority of the poor in New Orleans, then, was receiving welfare, and one would assume not all of those recipients were black. Fixing the blame for post-Katrina problems squarely on cash assistance (and white leftists!) seems like a bit of a stretch, unless you want to argue that the people who were once on welfare rolls and now aren’t somehow have lingering social problems that made them incapable of evacuating. (Rather than, you know, the fact that most people lacked the physical means to leave the city.) Perhaps that’s what McWhorter’s arguing. But it might help if he could actually point to examples of this sort of thing rather than just speculating.

On what is no doubt an entirely unrelated note, read this post from Digby.

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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