The Gang Problem

Russell Michaels

Russell is inside his own mind, a comfortable yet silly place. He is also on Twitter.

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35 Responses

  1. Oscar Gordon says:

    Re: Absent Fathers

    I’m not going to argue the welfare angle, because I’ve seen it in action, so I know that it is a thing.
    But how much of a thing? You need to find some numbers for that. Like polling that suggests single mothers really are having kids solely for the increase in cash payouts. Otherwise you are picking marginal cases and representing them as greater than they are.

    However, an actual significant contributor to absent fathers is the criminal justice system. When you put men in prison for a long time for minor, non-violent crimes (thank you Broken WIndows), or even if your police make a habit of tossing innocent men into lockup for 2-3 days*, just to be safe, you encourage broken families.

    *Getting held for that long is enough time to lose a job, which incentivizes less traditional work. Same with giving people criminal records.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Like polling that suggests single mothers really are having kids solely for the increase in cash payouts.

      That’s too strong a claim, if people are actually making it. It’s not that single women are having children they don’t want just for the money; it’s that they’re having children that they do want because they know that welfare will help make ends meet. Without that option, many would decide to wait and/or to have fewer children.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Fair enough, but that claim still needs some kind of evidence that isn’t anecdotal.Report

        • Swami in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Here is the only data source I have in my records on the subject. It addresses variables such as education, the marital situation of parents or mom, AFDC status, race and so on.

          And this is really old.

          I would just add that the problem started in the 60s, and thus is now an issue that is three or four generations old. I suspect the contributing factors snowball over time.

          I also suspect that studying this topic now is or soon will be sufficient cause to be cancelled. Only the brave or stupid will be studying this going forward.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Swami says:

            Snowballing can really only happen if the state of affairs remains static.

            What you need is a current examination of why people are on welfare and for how long. Neither question should get you cancelled, unless you obviously word your polling to indicate you are looking for welfare queens and generational welfare recipients.Report

            • Swami in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              The snowball comment was meant to indicate that people born of single moms tend to have low incomes, live in poorer neighborhoods, tend to depend on govt assistance, and tend to have kids who do the same, who tend to have kids who do the same, etc.

              After a while the significance of any one of these factors gets buried as poverty becomes intergenerational.

              Of course nobody should be cancelled for doing research. But doing research into things involving race is getting quite risky nowadays especially if it turns out to contradict THE NARRATIVE.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Like polling that suggests single mothers really are having kids solely for the increase in cash payouts.

      Sigh. Some beliefs never die. AFDC was done away with under Clinton, replaced by TANF, which has a lifetime — the adult’s lifetime — limit of 60 months assistance. With a small number of exceptions, usually reserved for people with disabilities. Many poor people now hoard those 60 months, like misers. Are things bad enough this time to be worth using some of the limited stock?Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

        IIRC, Any given state may have benefits that are more generous, but that still doesn’t alter the need for evidence of the claim that it’s a significant issue.

        (Not directed at you, Michael) I’m sure there are some women for which this is true, but I’m betting for most, the problem isn’t welfare, it’s lack of access to BC, or education regarding BC, or just flat out that lots of young men are manipulative bastards and lots of young women are not given the emotional tools to tell them to feck off until they put on a condom.

        Also, back to my original point, it’s really, really hard to hold men accountable for the children they father when they are imprisoned at a young age, creating a higher bar for access to legitimate employment and education when they get out. The court can’t enforce child support payments for men in prison, or men whose income is all off book. If the cost of fathering children is minuscule, what incentive is there for these men to take responsibility for their own birth control?Report

        • Few if any do, because there’s a ratchet effect built into so many of the federal programs. If a state increases its spending of state dollars on welfare, it can never ever decrease that or it suffers federal consequences. One of the possible consequences, never invoked because the people at the federal DHHS aren’t idiots, is loss of one quarter of federal matching on traditional Medicaid for each quarter the state is in violation.

          That said, there are some advantages to TANF. It gives the states a lot more flexibility beyond just “cash assistance.” In parts of Colorado, for example, TANF dollars are used for day care for single mothers in school, and in at least one county for tuition assistance at the community college.

          I may be out of date — it’s been several years now since I had to look at the details professionally — but at least in my state it used to be that if you qualified for TANF you qualified for Medicaid, and B/C was covered.Report

  2. Saul Degraw says:

    And why are fathers absent? Perhaps because of systematic racism and overly punitive prison sentences.

    This is just a bunch of GOP wishpoints going against reality on the ground, complicated sociology and history, and looking for simple answers to serious problems that place no burden on white people or make them feel bad.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Jessica Krug had an excellent rant about this.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

        No linky?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          I was more being snide.

          To be honest, I think that a lot of things like “ending the war on drugs” would address a good chunk of the problems with regards to criminality and the attendant slippery slope (inability to get Pell Grants, inability to get certain entry level jobs and how that prevents you from getting promoted from those entry level jobs) and how everything follows from that.

          Issues with overly restrictive zoning, that sort of thing.

          But the NIMBYs don’t want certain elements diluting the values of their homes and the War on Drugs has a lot of support among people who want to support politicians who support the War on Drugs despite everything else, and that’s without even discussing issues like “culture” or “poverty” (which, let’s face it, will be immediately derailed by a handful of simple answers to serious problems that pretend to solve the problem by merely placing a burden on white people that cannot be addressed via changes in policy).Report

          • Aaron David in reply to Jaybird says:

            Overly restrictive zoning. That is a pretty way to put it. When you remove the employment prospects in a location, the factories, mills, etc. but don’t replace them, you have a pretty serious problem. And when you couple that with something like the war on drugs, that problem takes on a completely new dimension.

            When there are no jobs in an area, people really quickly figure out alternatives for making ends meet. And while I am firmly for ending the war on the drugs, the first step is to make something to replace its jobs. People can talk about coding all they want, but the jobs need to be there for those coders to fill.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Aaron David says:

              Hey, I’m trying to address the gang problem.

              Unemployment in towns where the factory has been outsourced overseas is a big issue, but if we keep demanding solutions for other problems that need to be solved before we stop creating more problems for ourselves with previous bad solutions to problems, we’ll never solve anything.

              Solve what we can. Step back. Reassess. Check out what new problems have arisen and if they’re worse than the old problems.

              If so, go back to the old way. If not, tinker again and keep moving in new and good directions.Report

              • Aaron david in reply to Jaybird says:

                You’re right. Maybe we should try midnight basketball?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Aaron david says:

                Say what you will about Midnight Basketball, at least it didn’t make things worse.Report

              • Aaron David in reply to Jaybird says:

                I kinda think it did. In the “let’s kick the can down the road and feel like we did something” sense.

                But, I am really serious about, as you put it, overly restrictive zoning. Because good intentions pave the road to hell, and zoning, in this manner, is often done in the name of good intentions. If you zone a job source out of an area, something is going to fill it, and the more and more you zone out things that provide jobs and a sense of community, what fills that spot is going to be of a less positive nature. No one wants to be in jail, no one wants to get shot at over a dime bag, but if that is the best option…

                If you are serious about gang abatement, getting something into the area that fills at least part of what ails that community, and lack of work is a pressing issue, is of equal importance to ending the drug war for these communities. It’s a push-pull kinda thing.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Jessica Krug was a Jewish woman from the Kansas City suburbs who posed as an Afro-Latina and got a professorship at GW. She confessed to about two weeks ago on Medium.

          The thing about Jaybird is that he imagines a world where this invalidates all criticisms of structural racism and the broader left supports too.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            The thing about Jaybird is that he imagines a world where this invalidates all criticisms of structural racism and the broader left supports too.

            Hey, have you read the Jacobin article on Jessica Krug? Good stuff!

            Anyway, If I were going to post video, instead of CNN’s, I’d have posted this one:

            For what it’s worth, I don’t think that she invalidates all criticisms of structural racism and the broader left. I do think that Jacobin’s criticism of her is far more interesting than that and, were I to say what I thought she indicated, I’d say that she’s an indicator of how structural racism maintains itself.

            Seriously, read the Jacobin article. It’s a good one. (And, may I point out, it’s a criticism of her that comes from the left.)

            However offensive Krug’s act is — and it is very offensive because it was a front — the demand for her performance is even more offensive. Indeed, the demand for the product Krug was selling merits far more attention than she does. Why? Well, Krug may have done damage to some people herself. But some of the people who bought her performance of blackness will continue to do damage to black and brown people, precisely because Krug tailored her racist performance to mesh with her intended professional audience’s racist presumptions about “black authenticity” — whatever that might be.


      • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:

        This is not a serious argument Jaybird. What Jessica Krug did was exploitative, opportunistic, immoral, and wrong. And you know what? It has been denounced by all center-left publications in the MSM that you deplore so much:

        That does not make the OP correct on levels of policy, ethics, or morality though. Whataboutism is not a serious argument. It is a cheap ass trick from a miscreant who would rather be a nihilist bomb thrower than argue something seriously.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Well, the wacky thing is that what Jessica Krug did was provide answers that placed burdens on white people and made them feel bad. She was, like, *AWESOME* at that.

          As such, I think that the whole “burdens on white people” and “feeling bad” issues are orthogonal to actually solving the problem.

          And, sure, it’s certainly true that there are a plethora of non-solutions that place no burden on white people or make them feel bad, there seems to be a huge hunger for non-solutions that place burdens and make people feel bad.

          Remember those old Scope Mouthwash commercials that mentioned how “mouthwash needs to taste mediciney”?

          There’s a similar prejudice when it comes to social solutions. They need to place a burden on white people and make them feel bad. Otherwise they won’t work!

          And the emphasis is not on what will actually work.

          It just has to taste like medicine.

          Personally, I think that that’s worth mocking.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:


            The entirety of the left which you clearly hate is mortified by Krug and think she did a lot more harm than good. As well as finding her actions indefensible.

            But her actions do not damn or destroy arguments on what is and what is not a cause of crime and joining gangs.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              The entirety of the left which you clearly hate is mortified by Krug and think she did a lot more harm than good. As well as finding her actions indefensible.

              The entirety of the left consists of a lot of people. I certainly don’t have the energy to hate a lot of people. I can barely hate the people I know personally. (Who has the time?)

              I find the “woke” to be mockable. (Not hatable, mockable.)
              I find the ones who are actually trying to make things better by actually trying to make things better to be admirable. We could use more of those.

              Now, I wouldn’t attempt to smear the entirety of the left with Jessica Krug.

              But I would ask that you read the Jacobin article on her to get a closer idea of my criticism of her schtick. I blame the audience more than I blame her.

              It’s a capitalist system, after all. She was just selling what sells.

              The people who drink that stuff up like Kool-Aid? They’re the ones that you should accuse me of hating. (Not that that would actually be accurate this time, but it’d be a hell of a lot further away from “completely wrong” than what you seem to think my take is.)Report

            • George Turner in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              How is what she did wrong? Sean King is white as anybody, and he’s a noted black thought-leader. Colin Kaepernick’s is leading a black movement, and he’d have to dig out a family genealogy book to explain his tenuous connection to black America. Rashida Tlaib loudly proclaims that she’s a “person of color” and she’s probably got the same genetic makeup as Jessica Krug. And then you’ve got Wayne “The Rcok” Johnson who is whatever race he needs to be for a role.

              It’s quite contradictory for the left to simultaneously claim that race doesn’t exist, and to demand that everything has to be based on race, but then logical consistence was never the left’s strong suit.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Pretty much.
      Street gangs, like crime itself or homelessness or poverty, is the symptom of a lot of intertwined societal failures and only responds to deep and committed changes in policy and behavior on the part of the larger society that contains it.

      And most suggested “solutions” end up being wishes and magical thinking which never challenges the proposer.

      Like one thing I’ve noticed about rap culture (meaning the music and videos that get produced) is how they seem to celebrate the most vulgar type of consumerism and greed, where the gangster ethos of stacks of cash and flashy cars and jewelry is held up as the ideal.

      But hey, where does that come from? Isn’t that just a naked version of the same ethos that is usually draped in robes of modesty?
      And broken families, aren’t they found in every social strata? Right now we have a President who has fathered 5 children by 3 different babymamas.

      In other words, we like to tell ourselves that street gangs and poor people have some different sort of moral compass than the rest of us, but they are more like us than we care to admit.
      Its just that when you are affluent and connected to the middle and upper classes, the consequences of bad decisions aren’t so dire.Report

  3. Fish says:

    “America is one of the only countries in the developed world where coding classes are not commonplace in high school.”

    Funny…a few years ago we pulled our youngest boy out of the highly-regarded charter school he had been attending since kindergarten and moved him to the public high school. We moved him because he wanted more technology-based education. The public high school had three+ pages of technology curriculum–front and back–compared to the one page the charter could offer–not to mention the shoddy state of the single computer lab at the charter school as compared to what the public school could offer.

    The biggest difference between these two schools? Access to public funding.Report

    • JS in reply to Fish says:

      ““America is one of the only countries in the developed world where coding classes are not commonplace in high school.””

      Coding classes seem like a weird incantation politicians utter to ward off a changing world. Like coding jobs are infinite, like the right mindset for being a programmer is universal.

      “If we teach coding, it will fix all of this!”.

      No, it won’t. I mean absolutely teach IT literacy — give kids the fundamentals to know things like “What’s a certificate, and what does it mean when my browser says “This certificate is invalid” and why should I therefore not click on that link/download that app without doing some checking”. Teach them to use search engines more effectively, to be able to spot phishing attempts and social engineering, and sure — throw a semester of basic coding at them so they can see what it’s like and whether it’s for them.

      They absolutely need to do know how modern technology — from phones to tablets to PCs — work, to be fundamentally solid users with good security skills, and a lot of schools don’t pass down that sort of required IT literacy.

      But like the “STEM JOBS” mantra, the weird emphasis on coding as some sort of panacea to a world in which knowledge jobs are slowly eroding against expert systems the way physical jobs did against automation is….

      Weird. Like…imagine a world in which American quadrupled the number of coders. How’s that look? How’s that fix anything? What’s the problem that actually fixes?

      Wave a magic wand: My wife can code. My kid can code. Classrooms suddenly sprouting, oh, the equivalent of people with two years of education and experience under their belt. Where’s the win? What’s the upshot? What’s it fix? How’s it change anything other than….create a glut of people with programming skills?Report

      • Fish in reply to JS says:

        Heh. When you put it that way, it makes me think we should be pushing high schools to to teach systems administration instead of coding and make getting a Security + cert a graduation requirement! (But not really a Sec+, becuase fuck CompTIA and the entire “certification” industry. Just…something like it that teaches the useful information from that cert path.)

        But yeah, to your actual point…I get it. My high school offered classes in carpentry, auto mechanics, drafting, woodworking, and one of which could lead directly to an apprenticeship or a career. We forget that engineering and programming and all of that stuff are nice…who’s going to maintain the supporting infrastructure?Report

        • JS in reply to Fish says:

          I mean by all means give options. Hire good guidance counselors to help kids pick, structure classes and curriculum so students get as broad a foundation and as wide an experience as they can.

          But I think the coding push is just a specific example of the ‘MORE STEM’ push, which itself is basically just…BS. It’s not like we, as a nation, are suffering a massive deficit in biologists, mathematicians, and engineers. And having a lot more of them wouldn’t fix the core problems the MORE STEM stuff is supposed to fix.

          It’s like some people think we have millions of unemployed hippies with basket-weaving degrees while simultaneously are dangerously short of structural engineers.

          Frankly, we’re not even short of coders — all those visas are done deliberately. Visa labor can be so much cheaper, which is why the ridiculousness of many ‘coding’ job offerings is a long running joke. “We want 5 years experience with a 2 year old toolset”, for instance — they’re designed to weed out actual applicants so they can go straight to importing someone to work for less.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to JS says:

            I think “STEM” was just advice about signaling.

            Back when only 20% of the country had a bachelor’s degree, it didn’t matter if you had a degree in Underwater Basket Weaving. You had a degree! It sent a signal!

            Once 20% of the country became 33% of the country, it was no longer enough to have a degree in UBW. Get one in STEM! And having a degree in something with weed-out courses sends a different signal than having a degree in something without weed-out courses.

            And it has nothing to do with needing structural engineers.

            It merely has to do with jockeying for position in a world in which you won’t be one out of four people with a degree (like 10 years ago) or one out of five people with one (like 20 years ago) but one out of three with one.

            (And now that we live in a world with credentialism and micro/nanodegrees, you’ve got to do new and different things to tell employers that you’re one in a million. STEM was an attempt to do that. God only knows what it’ll be tomorrow as universities get more and more expensive delivering less and less of a push to the front of the line.)Report

            • George Turner in reply to Jaybird says:

              A simple IQ test, or it’s more focused equivalent, was far cheaper than having everyone try to get a Latin lesbian dance studies degree from Mount Holyoke or Swarthmore. But “we” decided that such tests were racist, so instead we buried students in ridiculous amounts of debt.Report

            • Fish in reply to Jaybird says:

              I know I get weeded out quite a bit for not having a degree. Usually my military service and my experience are enough to overcome that hurdle, but that seems to only work when I’ve utilized my “network” to get an interview. Other times it’s easy to toss my application in the bin on the first sort.Report

  4. You could do some global substitutions and have “Why do white people support Trump?”Report