Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Today's BoBo Blather

In his bi-weekly opportunity to offer the literary output you might expect after an hour or so of gazing at your navel, David Brooks finds himself a bit torn today as he decides whether or not to chide the anti-poverty proposals of Democratic presidential candidates John Edwards or Barack Obama (here). He finally decides that he dislikes what Obama proposes less, and here is why…

The Obama policy provides more face to face contact with people who can offer praise or disapproval. Rising out of poverty is difficult – even when there are jobs and good schools.
Speaking from firsthand experience, I’m sure…

It’s hard to focus on a distant degree or home purchase. But human beings have a strong desire for approval and can accomplish a lot with daily doses of praise and censure. Standards of behavior are contagious that way.
So…making those in poverty feel like the dregs of the earth and then telling them, “but, really, you’re profoundly important dregs of the earth, and never forget that” is the way to go here?

It’s a little funny – but pathetic, ultimately – to watch conservatives concoct pejorative nonsense like this as opposed to discussing policy as a solution that would, at some point, involve the effective application of the fully functioning and representative government that they so utterly despise.

The main reason I want to mention what Brooks said, though, is because of this…

(Concerning Obama’s plan)…The problem here is that there are few historical examples of neighborhoods being lifted up all at once. There are 4,000 community development corporations around the country and they have not lifted residents out of poverty. The positive influences in the center get overwhelmed by the negative peer influences all around.

The organizations that do appear to work, like the Harlem Children’s Zone (there’s no firm data yet)…
Then how does Brooks know that it “appear(s) to work”?

...tend to have charismatic leaders like Geoffrey Canada who are willing to fight teachers’ unions and take on bureaucracies. It’s not clear whether their success is replicable, let alone by the federal government.
(This tells you more about Geoffrey Canada, by the way – interesting story.)

Ahh, so Brooks likes the Obama plan because it involves fighting the teachers’ unions – the truth discovered at last! Fortunately, Ezra Klein reminds us here that it’s the job of Brooks and our other elite pundits to find every opportunity to flay this scapegoat as completely as possible.

Over and out, Bobo.

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