Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Recalling Dellums Will Not Help

A number of people have called for Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums to resign or be recalled, thinking this will somehow solve the city's problems.

In truth, removing Dellums, or any city politician for that matter, will have little effect, for the simple reason that whoever takes the job will do exactly the same sorts of things that Dellums has done. Oakland faces problems that the government cannot solve. They are problems which drive well-meaning people to suggest solutions such as increased school funding, more police, social programs, affordable housing, etc. They are also problems which none of these policies can solve.

The first thing to realize is that a substantial portion of Oakland operates as a high-income, white-collar suburb of San Francisco. For this portion of the city there appears to be nothing wrong with the policies of the city government, other than the high taxes which plague to all Bay Area cities. Several of this region's schools rank of the top of of the state achievement tests. People can walk the street at night in safety. My point is simply that nothing the city government is doing has prevented these areas from prospering.

Obviously, there are other regions of the city overrun with violence. And these are the regions that Dellums and everyone else in the city seems very worried about. Let's take a look at a few of the demographic differences between two representative zip codes:
Zip 94611 94607
Population 36,508 21,048
Median Income $ 68,853 $21,124
High School Graduates 95.6% 62.5%
Non-English Speakers 17.1% 40.9%

[You may have noticed I didn't mention race, and this may surprise you. This is because I consider it irrelevant and refuse to even mention it. Here is an example of why. I'm happy to debate that if someone would like to.]

Each of these numbers helps explain the problem. In 94607, a portion of West Oakland, we have a set of people with low incomes, below-average education levels, with a large number of English learners.

Now, I am lucky enough to not be in this demographic of people. But if I were, I would be looking for some way to get my hands on a reasonable income, in a capacity that did not require significant education and maybe didn't even require being able to speak English. Given that situation, I'm pretty sure I would turn down one of several criminal paths: robbery, drug dealing, pimping, whatever.

This shows the first basic problem with using government to tackle poverty and crime. You can fund schools all you want, but when a person looks around his neighborhood and sees that his most likely path is one of poverty and disenfranchisement, it would be irrational for him to care much about school. You can put money into social services and low-income housing, but all this does is encourages people to accept the status quo. This leads me to a basic rule:

1. You cannot expect a person living in abject poverty to be satisfied with his life. People are too smart and ambitious for that, and they will do whatever they can to plow around whatever system you set up.

So what then? Perhaps the government should offer some low-paying entry-level jobs? Offer welfare payments to people who stay clean?

In essence this is what we've come to. The government comes up with all sorts of ways to move money into impoverished areas, even though it's pretty clear to everyone involved that the money will be accepted, but not used in the "intended" way. Instead, the recipients will opportunistically look at how to better their lives. If there's enough money involved, maybe the recipients will just be satisfied with doing nothing all day long. This leads to another rule:

2. Leftists like social programs because they keep poor people out of their neighborhoods. I see this play out time and again in the East Bay. Wealthier residents grudgingly support giveaways to try to keep a lid on the problem for as long as possible. In my opinion, this strategy is unethical and immoral.

So what should be done? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Accept that government is not the solution, it is the problem. Instead of recalling Dellums, we should drain away money from the city government to prevent spending it on social programs and giveaways.

  2. Severely curtail government's power to manage the city's economic development should be . Oakland lies at the doorstep to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Numerous industries and jobs would locate here if they did not have to live in fear of city government cutting them off at the kneecaps with taxes and fees once they show up here.

  3. Schools should be funded appropriately, but not to excess. Motivated students will learn given a reasonable environment. The government cannot replace parents, and no matter how much money is thrown at the situation, a student who would rather do something else rather than school will find a way to do that. <b>Oakland should also put in place a magnet school program</b>, so that smart/motivated kids, no matter their economic background, can succeed.

  4. Oakland should stop policing drug dealers and users, to the extent possible. Oakland should also advocate for national drug legalization (good luck). The goal here is to decrease the profits available in this profession by making drugs commonplace. Yes, a city can actually accomplish this, as is demonstrated by the success of pot clubs.

  5. Don't be afraid to make poverty somoene else's problem. Oakland spends altogether too much time trying to figure out how to keep its poverty problem around, when instead it should allow economic growth. No, this will not reduce diversity. Take a look at New York City for an example.

1 comment:

  1. I live in 94606. Not quite the killing zone, but we have lots of problems. I moved here because I believe all people are equal. Eight years later, I can tell you lots about the problems.

    The root cause of the problems is that some of the people who live here don’t accept our cultural values. The leftist do-gooders make the problem worse with what they want to do because they support this multicultural community. Ever drive behind someone who doesn’t have a driver’s license and goes maybe 5 miles an hour? And doesn’t speak English so can’t understand the traffic signs? And doesn’t know any of the rules of the road?

    Another major problem is that some parents were not raised properly, and as a result have no idea how to raise their own children. Ever deal with an unruly child who is destroying your property and have the parent threaten you as well? Ever go to a restaurant and see a parent punch a 5 year old in the face?

    The simple answer is that the community needs to demand that people follow our laws and accept our cultural values. They need to demand that parents take responsibility for their children, and raise them properly. We need all parts of society to demand this. The schools, the newspapers, the City Council, the Mayor, the TV stations, everyone.

    In my neighborhood we have little police presence. This leads to contempt for the rules of society. There’s just no point in complaining about lawbreakers who aren’t actually killing someone, because there’s no response from the police. This makes the problem much worse, since the people who are not following our rules, bear no consequences. In fact, they do what they do because it benefits them somehow. So they are better off this way.

    I never read about anyone pointing out that the problems in Oakland come from the people who live here. It is always the fault of the police, or the schools, or the government or George Bush!