Five Things That Are Killing America
Cowardice, Dishonesty, Ignorance, Sloth and Mush
What really explains why the country is in the state it’s in, with inflation, worker shortages, propaganda replacing education, race huckstering galore, and Oprah-style gooey sentiment getting poured over everything?
I can’t answer that in one post, but I can at least begin. Our reaction to COVID is a good place to start. COVID was a new and ominous disease, and a good deal of caution was justified when we were first dealing with it. But it soon became clear that it posed significant mortal danger only to old people and those with serious health problems to start with. There was some danger to people under 60 but not much, and next to no danger to children, teenagers, and people in their twenties.
Nonetheless, we were seized with fear. We shut down schools, where COVID’s danger was minimal, telling parents that education would proceed via Zoom (or, you know, whatever). That was false. An entire generation of kids lost major ground in their education, as Paul has documented elsewhere on Ringside.
We also shut down the economy, even though for the great majority of workers and consumers, that was an obvious overreaction. Because workers were at home, and not earning paychecks at their jobs, they got sent government checks ($1400, if I recall correctly — I never got one) for doing nothing. Then they got sent a second round, also for doing nothing. The may have been sent a third; I’ve lost track.
What happens when you pay people for doing nothing? Well, two things to start with. First, they get used to getting paid for doing nothing, so they’re in no big rush to get back to work, and haven’t. Hence worker shortages from coast to coast, and masses of those still employed are still, even now, allowed to “work” from home on, say, Mondays and Fridays. If you think a loss of productivity is a big surprise when millions of people are “working” from home for 40% of the workweek, I have this bridge……….
The second thing that happens when you print of millions of fat government checks that correspond to no goods or services getting produced is inflation. No surprise there either: The very definition of inflation is expanding the money supply without a corresponding expansion of real wealth.
In other words, while alarm and caution were plainly justified initial reactions to COVID, they ballooned into something resembling national cowardice, then stuck around longer and in a more stringent form than even arguably warranted, producing disastrous effects for the education of our kids and our national wealth. A principal reason they stuck around was dishonesty. The dangers of COVID were relentlessly fearmongered and overhyped; any questioning of this orthodoxy was condemned and suppressed, including on social media; and there was never anything approaching an honest accounting of the enormous and probably years-long cost of the shutdowns, lockdowns and authoritarian stay-at-home orders.
(For those who might think that this is easy enough for me to say because I’m young, well………..ummmmmm………..I’m actually 76 and immune-suppressed because of a transplant. I also had my own bout with COVID. Too bad. People need to grow up and understand that when you get old, you’re going to have health problems and some of them are going to be serious. That’s a good reason to be cautious. It’s no reason to live your life in fear, much less try to force others to live theirs in fear).
In future posts, I hope to say more about the astronomical cost we’ve paid for cowardice, dishonesty, and the other vices I noted in the sub-head. But what I’ve said up to now is only by way of introducing a piece by Andrew Sullivan in The Weekly Dish. Sullivan is far to my left on policy questions, but wonderfully honest and straightforward in calling out the devastation Wokeism has wreaked and is wreaking.
It will come as no surprise to Ringside readers to hear that Wokeism lives on dishonesty, ignorance, race huckstering, and bullying. What may come as a surprise is the extent to which children, and black children in particular, are its victims. What Sullivan shows is that our inability or unwillingness to quash Wokeism has betrayed black children, first by the mushy Leftist propaganda we shove at them as “education,” and then by murdering them in grossly disproportionate numbers.
Here’s how the Sullivan piece starts:
In my web-reading this week, I stumbled across two statistics that made me sit up straight. The first came from a devastating story last September about my home city’s public schools. I had just watched a slick new video from DC Public Schools about their new “equity” push, which aims to go “beyond students’ academics” and “call out inequities.” The video is full of vague-sounding pabulum — they never define what they mean by “equity,” for example, apart from invoking Ibram X Kendi’s term “antiracism” — but the message is very clear: “equity” is now the central focus of the school district. And it’s a bright new day!
Now check out the data on how the DC Public School system is faring. A key metric is what they call “proficiency rates” — a test of whether the kids are passing the essentials of reading and math at every stage of their education. Overall, only 31 percent of DC students have proficiency in reading and just 19 percent have proficiency in math. Drill down further in the racial demographics and the picture is even worse: among African-American kids, the numbers are 20 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Among black boys, it’s 15 percent and 9 percent. Which means to say that DC Public Schools graduate kids who are overwhelmingly unable to do the most basic reading and math that any employer would need.
Moral of story: You won’t learn long division or reading, but you’ll learn that white people are rapacious oppressors and black people are entitled victims. In other words, you’ll learn stuff that’s even more poisonous than it is false.
This is not a function of money. In the most recent federal analysis: DC spends far more per student — $30,000 a year — than any other state, double the amount in many states across the country.
Let’s put it this way: if this were a corporation, it would be in liquidation. If it were a house, it would be condemned. But since it’s a public school system, it can avoid this catastrophic failure by emphasizing “equity”!
There are more important reasons the country is 30 trillion or so in the hole, but spending $30,000 a year per student to learn essentially nothing useful has to be on the list, too.
Call this the woke dodge. As they fail to educate kids in the very basics, they brandish a shiny object over there — “Diversity! Equity! Inclusion! ” — to distract us. Or they claim that these scores are caused by “white supremacy” or “systemic racism.” Or they argue that now, they are educating “the whole child.” From the DCPS video: “The racial equity lens is a critical component of ‘whole child’ for us because being a ‘whole child’ means thinking about all of your identities, but certainly the racial identity is a gap in what we’re discussing as a country.” Anything but do the basic job of teaching math and reading as they are supposed to do.
That nails it as well as it gets nailed.
Still, there’s something even worse than keeping children, and black children in particular, ignorant of anything that might help them succeed in the adult world. There’s killing them before they reach the adult world.
Then there’s the other stat that blew my mind — on the post-BLM surge in murders of African-Americans, including many children. The rise in homicide has cooled off somewhat, as Robert Verbruggen notes. But check this out:
Between the 2018–2019 and 2020–2021 periods, the black homicide rate went up by about 40 percent and the white one by 15 percent — already a glaring disparity. But since the black homicide rate started out so much higher than the white one, this translated to an increase of just 0.4 per 100,000 for whites and 9.7 per 100,000 for blacks — nearly 25 times as large. The increase in the black homicide rate was greater than the total homicide rate for the nation as a whole.
Read that last sentence again….
[W]hat is the response of the DC Council to this sort of crisis? Roughly what the completely broken school system has done in the face of its catastrophic failure: distract the public by getting even woker, by lowering sentences for violent crimes, and giving alleged murderers more tools to dodge or delay justice. The woke dodge again.
It’s all true. Over the very liberal Mayor’s veto, and in the face of some of the ugliest crime statistics in the country, the DC City Council enacted bill going even softer on criminals than is the (scandalous) case now.
Worse, the DC Council is clearly sending a signal not only that we are not in a crisis, but that, if anything, we need to be more lenient on criminals, and let the kids fare as best they can. Because “equity.” And for good measure, the woke dismiss or try to cancel anyone who dares to make these obvious points. Or they accuse us of bad faith. Or even being racists because we care about this stuff. (You are racist if you don’t care about this, but also racist if you do — see how that works?) Or that the color of our skin means we have no standing to talk or write about this at all.
But hear this racist out: wouldn’t it be an improvement if schools focused on reading and math to the exclusion of almost everything else, if crime against black people were treated like crime against white people, and if there were a focus on “equity” for black victims of crime rather than for the criminals themselves?
You can say I’m a dreamer — but someone’s got to be.
Great piece, Mr. Otis.
[Authoritarianism], Cowardice, Dishonesty, Ignorance, Sloth and Mush = Government + Ruling Class = Communism.
"Give me your kids for four years..."
Fantastic, concise summary with zero vitriol. I want to know more about you!