Star Parker is an anomaly as syndicated columnists go. She is Black, she is female and she is unapologetically conservative.
Not many of those around.
But Parker regularly makes thought-provoking arguments that undoubtedly rile the Black base of the Democratic Party.
She did so the other day, taking to task the Poor People’s Campaign for its focus on ending the Senate filibuster, passing legislation to protect and expand voting rights, and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Parker says none of those initiatives will make people less poor and one of them could actually make their lives worse.
The Poor People’s Campaign is fixated on the Senate filibuster because it believes the legislative maneuver is a major impediment to getting its priorities accomplished. As Parker rightly notes, the filibuster, rather than an affront to democracy, is actually a safeguard of it. It blocks tyranny by the majority by requiring most legislation to command at least 60 votes in the 100-member Senate in order to pass. The math forces legislators to seek compromise and keeps any one party from running roughshod over the other. As Parker rightly notes, Democrats may not be keen about the filibuster at the moment, since they possess thin majorities in both chambers of Congress as well as control the White House, but they will be keen about it when the pendulum shifts and Republicans are in control.
As far as voting rights, Parker doesn’t weigh in on the current partisan debate over voter fraud vs. voter access. What she does question, however, is what this fight has to do with poverty.
She cites the following statistics: In 1972, there were fewer than 1,500 Black elected officials nationwide; today there are more than 10,000. In the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, both won by Barack Obama, Black turnout was higher than white turnout. Yet, the disparity in poverty remains stubbornly large, with the Black poverty rate more than 2½ times higher than the white poverty rate.
“There is little evidence that Black poverty has persisted over the last half-century because Black Americans have not been able to accumulate political power or express their will on election day,” Parker writes.
As for doubling the minimum wage, Parker agrees with most conservative economists that such a dramatic change would create fewer low-wage jobs, as employers adjust by reducing staffing levels. Fewer jobs would create more poverty, not less.
Rather than these politically motivated distractions, the Poor People’s Campaign, according to Parker, should focus instead on what is statistically irrefutable as a poverty fighter: marriage.
The average poverty rate in 2019 in Black households headed by a married couple was just 6.4%, compared to 29.5% for those headed by a single woman. As long, however, as the percentage of Black households headed by single women remains so high — 41% nationally and nearly double that in some of the nation’s most impoverished areas — it will be nearly impossible to reduce the Black poverty rate by any significant degree.
Those are uncomfortable truths that progressive organizations such as the Poor People’s Campaign would rather ignore. Provocative thinkers such as Parker make it harder for them to do so.
- The Greenwood Commonwealth