Is the CBC rattled?
The tea party, according to Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, would "love to see us as second-class citizens" ... and "some of them in Congress right now with this tea party movement would love to see you and me ... hanging on a tree." Of the tea party's influence on Congress, Carson called it an "effort that we're seeing of Jim Crow." Another CBC member, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said, "The tea party can go straight to hell."
This was too much for Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., the only Republican member of the CBC. Another black Republican, Tim Scott, R-S.C., pointedly declined to even join the CBC. Given the hard-left views of the CBC, one wonders why West joined in the first place. West, presumably, thought he might change the CBC's "blame whitey" approach to the problems and concerns of black Americans.
West wrote a letter to the chairman of the CBC, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., to denounce the comments by Carson and Waters: "I believe it is incumbent on you to both condemn these types of hate-filled comments, and to disassociate the Congressional Black Caucus from these types of remarks. Otherwise I will have to seriously reconsider my membership within the organization."
Does West really think the CBC intends to condemn racial rhetoric, the very rhetoric CBC members routinely use? Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., a founding member of the CBC, said of the 1994 GOP House: "It's not 'spic' and 'nigger' anymore. They say, 'Let's cut taxes.'" Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., another founding member, was once asked why a largely Arab area outside of Detroit flourished economically, while a mostly black area nearby continued to suffer. "Racism," said Conyers.
Does West really think the CBC cares whether West wants to "seriously reconsider" his CBC membership? In the '90s, another black Republican, Rep. Gary Franks, R-Conn., joined the CBC over the objection of other CBC members. Because of Franks' opposition to race-based preferences, CBC member Rep. William Clay, D-Mo., said, "It would probably be better for all concerned if you did resign ... admitting you never should have joined the ranks of black legislators who fight to protect the rights of black people."
West represents a direct threat to the CBC's worldview — that the problems of "Black America" stem from racism, and more government spending remains the answer.
How racist is a country that elected a black man as president with a greater share of the white vote than either John Kerry in 2004 or Al Gore in 2000?
Waters, the California CBC member, before the recession demanded that banks lend to "underrepresented" borrowers — even if the applicant could not come up with a down payment: "We ought to be encouraging our financial institutions to have more products where you have no down payments. When you look at the philosophy behind down payments, it just does not make any sense anymore. There are people who will never have a down payment (saved), who make their rental payments on time, and they would be just fine if they could get a (mortgage)."
Then came the crash. On what does the CBC now blame for the higher-than-national-average black unemployment and the number who face foreclosure? Racism, of course.
"The black community is experiencing a great recession," said CBC member Frederica Wilson, D-Fla. "And all of the growth in the past 30 years, we see it slipping away. From home ownership, the middle class; it's slipping away from our hands. And it has a lot to do with ... racism."
Meanwhile, Rep. Carson stood by his tree-hanging comments. "The tea party," said his spokesman, "is protecting its millionaire and oil company friends while gutting critical services that they know protect the livelihood of African-Americans, as well as Latinos and other disadvantaged minorities. We are talking about child nutrition, job creation, job training, housing assistance and Head Start, and that is just the beginning. A child without basic nutrition, secure housing and quality education has no real chance at a meaningful and productive life."
Carson is right: A child needs basic nutrition, secure housing and quality education. This is the job of the parents. People have no business breeding if he and she cannot provide these basic needs. The question that Allen West uncomfortably brings up is whether the "anti-poverty" policies endorsed by the CBC, including public welfare, actually encourage bad behavior by subsidizing and rewarding it.
Public policy expert James Q. Wilson said to avoid poverty one must do three things: finish high school, delay marrying until after the age of 20 and marry before having a child. West believes CBC policies create perverse incentives to do the opposite.
Is the CBC rattled by West's threat to leave to the point of reconsidering some of its policies? Please. "Rep. West," members will happily say, "don't let the door hit you on your way out."