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Black lives matter — so stop supporting policies that have failed Black communities

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“Black lives matter.” It is perhaps the single most important slogan of 2020, one that could greatly impact the November elections and, by extension, the future of the country.

Although some of the leaders of the best-funded Black Lives Matter organizations seek to move the United States toward socialism and impose other far-left goals (the co-founder of BLM, Patrisse Cullors, acknowledged in a 2015 interview that she is a “trained Marxist”), millions of others who identify with the BLM movement merely want police and criminal justice reforms and greater racial equality. 

Improving African American communities is, of course, a noble goal. But it’s exceptionally difficult to fix a problem if one doesn’t identify its cause. And it seems, based on some of the rhetoric from the BLM movement, that many have failed to realize that an important reason why so many Black communities remain impoverished is that liberal politicians have imposed destructive policies on them for decades.

History shows that many liberal policies implemented in minority-majority cities over the past half-century have hindered the families living there.

Consider Detroit and Flint. In 1950, these two Michigan cities were booming metropolises. Even as late as 1980, they were among the wealthiest for young workers. But in the years that followed, government programs, taxes, regulations and pro-union policies contributed to destroying commerce and driving out businesses. Many of those businesses fled for greener economic pastures featuring reduced taxes and a lower regulatory burden.

Instead of correcting their mistakes, Detroit and Flint – both of which have long been dominated by liberal politicians – doubled down on their failing policies.

As Jarrett Skorup noted in 2018 for the Michigan-based Mackinac Center, “Michigan’s largest city [Detroit] relies heavily on government jobs. It has the highest income and property taxes in the state and more regulations than any other city. For 60 years, the city has focused on a central planning economic model — most notably redirecting money to the politically well-connected by subsidizing large developments, big companies and big league sports teams.”

These policies, which remain core tenets of the Democratic Party, pushed Detroit and Flint even further off the economic cliff. Despite decades of massive government social programs, Detroit and Flint are among the nation’s most impoverished cities.

These problems are not limited to Michigan, either. Most of America’s largest impoverished metropolitan areas have for a generation or more been run by liberal Democrats who refuse to acknowledge that their policies have failed to help poor Americans.

These failures have affected most racial groups in the United States, but they have been particularly detrimental for African Americans, who have suffered with higher-than-average poverty for decades. 

From 2000 to the present, trillions of dollars have been spent on liberal government welfare programs, and more than $20 trillion has been spent since President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, enacted his “War on Poverty” in the 1960s.

Yet, despite these investments, government has largely failed to reduce poverty rates nationwide. In 2000, the black poverty rate was 22.5 percent. Sixteen years later, in 2016, it was 22 percent, a decline of less than a single percentage point. The fact is, if government programs could substantially alleviate poverty, it probably would have happened long ago. 

It’s not enough, though, to say that liberal policies have failed to help African Americans escape poverty; they have, in some cases, had the opposite effect. For instance, the design of many welfare programs has made it extremely difficult for enrollees to work their way out of poverty, because programs often sharply cut benefits once an income threshold is reached, discouraging some people in poverty from finding higher-paying jobs.

Democrats have also fought against work/volunteer requirements for welfare programs, which provide people with job experience and skills training while they are enrolled in a welfare program such as food stamps or Medicaid. Instead, Democrats have designed their programs so that enrollees receive benefits regardless of whether they are working, receiving job training or volunteering, giving millions of people little incentive to find a job, the best path out of poverty. 

Liberal Democrats have also been some of the fiercest opponents of education reforms that would help African Americans – and everyone else, for that matter – escape failing schools, which are especially broken in many urban areas.

While conservatives have fought for every parent to have the right to move their children to the school of that parent’s choice – whether it be a private, public, charter or home school – liberal politicians, including former Vice President and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, have opposed school choice.

Liberal governments have also made it extremely difficult for many minorities to start new businesses or pursue many skilled professions by imposing oppressive licensing rules that act as barriers for aspiring entrepreneurs. 

A 2017 report by the Institute for Justice (IJ) found that “the licensing laws for 102 lower-income occupations require nearly a year of education or experience, one exam, and more than $260 in fees.”

All told, it often costs thousands of dollars to gain the licensing mandated for many of today’s professions, a reality the IJ researchers said “presents particular burdens for minorities, the less educated and those with fewer financial resources at their disposal.”

By driving businesses out of communities, keeping children in failing schools and making it difficult to start a business or get a license for a new profession, progressives have done significant damage to black communities.

Until these public policy problems are addressed, racial equality will never truly be realized. 

Justin Haskins ( is editor-in-chief of and the editorial director of The Heartland Institute.

Tags Black Lives Matter BLM Detroit Flint Joe Biden Michigan Poverty Poverty in the United States Social programs in the United States War on poverty Welfare dependency Welfare in the United States

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