Eric Holder stirred up a hornet’s nest the other day, whining to a mostly black crowd about the ill treatment he received from a Congressional Committee. Holder seemed to imply that he and President Obama have come in for rough treatment because they are black.
It was a stunning comment. This is, after all, Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States. The same Holder who grew up with two middle class parents, graduated from the elite Stuyvesant High School, went to Columbia Law School and has notched up a notable list of achievements since. His road would appear – in contrast to millions of other Americans – to have been remarkably smooth.
Note to Holder: get over it. You received no better and no worse treatment from Congress than Kathleen Sibelius, Hillary Clinton, or ex-CIA boss Mike Morrell. You got off light compared with poor Edward Liddy, who volunteered to manage a bankrupt AIG through the financial crisis for a salary of $1 a year, and received not only a mauling from the Hill for his trouble, but death threats as well. Your self-pitying (“What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?”) is embarrassing.
But, it is not surprising. President Obama, for political reasons, has cultivated a culture of grievance among Americans. He tours the country convincing women that they are treated unfairly, telling them incorrectly that they’re earning only 77 cents for every dollar paid their male counterparts. Obama tells the poor that income inequality is the reason they have a hard time making ends meet, and reminds minorities that they have “not received a fair chance in life.” It is a calculated means of assembling a supportive coalition, and turning out the vote. But -- it is costly to a country trying to regain its optimism and can-do spirit after a terrible recession.
Obama’s message is not only cynical, it is also mostly false. Any number of studies have shown what we have all observed in the workplace – some women do earn somewhat less than their male counterparts because many take breaks to have children, choose to work fewer hours, and often retire altogether in order to manage their home-life. The Washington Post Fact Checker says BLS data show that women who do not get married have virtually no wage gap; they earn 96 cents for every dollar a man makes.
Joni Hersch, professor at Vanderbilt Law School, studied high-achieving women and found “the presence of children is associated with far lower labor market activity among married elite graduates.” An economist with the Federal Reserve, Stefania Albanesi, reports that college-educated women frequently exit the workforce when their husbands’ earnings top their own. It is against the law for employers to pay women less than men for the same work; but managements cannot buck biology. That’s just how it is.
As for the poor, it is certainly not the existence of the uber-wealthy that has left some people behind. Blame absent fathers, terrible schools, and technology that has eliminated huge swaths of middle class jobs. Just don’t lay it all at the feet of the one percent. Indeed, a growing body of academic studies absolutely denies the correlation between income inequality and upward mobility.
As for the hurdles faced by minorities, some would argue that the black community needs to play a greater role in eradicating the poverty and violence that characterize their own neighborhoods. President Obama has himself made this case, as when he told Morehouse College grads that “too many of our young people just can’t be bothered” to get an education, or when he exhorted young blacks to “reject the cynicism that says the circumstances of your birth and the lingering injustices of society define you and your future…no excuses.”
To his credit, President Obama has pushed for solutions, noting, for example, “We know that boys who grow up without a father are more likely to be poor, more likely to underperform in school….If you’re African American, there’s about a one-in-two chance you grow up without a father in your house — one in two.” Actually, some studies indicate that an African-American youngster has only a one in six chance of growing up with both parents. Some 83 percent of black parent couples either never marry or get divorced, compared to 45 percent of whites and 36 percent of Asians.
Two respected advocates in this field, Ken Blackwell and Pat Fagan, wrote last month in The Washington Times, “We know that when you remove marriage as a factor, there is virtually no difference between whites and blacks on graduation, employment and staying out of jail.”
If that is true, instead of whining about an assertive Congress, why doesn’t Holder try to aid the black community by advocating marriage and stable families? Or push for school reform? Or…. does that not bring out the vote?
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