Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


July 6, 2015: Maybe We Can Learn from the Lessons of ISIS

By Rob Tenery, MD on July 6, 2015

When the former State Department spokesperson, Marie Harf, said “we need to go after ISIS’s root causes, like the lack of job opportunities”, she may have gotten the principle right, but the population wrong. It may arguably be true that if the ISIS recruits were gainfully employed, many would not join in the Islamic revolution. However, ISIS soldiers are not from just the unemployed ranks, but from all strata of society. A better description of the ISIS recruits is that most are either religious zealots or social ‘misfits’. Finding no place in their normal society, they look for acceptance where they can find it. Unfortunately, their choice will cost many lives and probably their own lives at well.

The population Ms. Harf should have been referencing are black males, who are predominantly from single-parent homes. Black families, with children under 18 headed by a single mother, have the highest rate of poverty at 47.5% compared to only 8.4% of black married couple families. Children raised in these single parent homes are 3X more likely to end up in prison and 50% more likely to be poor as adults, according to the Heritage Foundation. “Young black males commit homicides at a rate 10x greater than white or Hispanics combined,” stated Bill O’Riley.

With limited job opportunities available in the ghetto communities, crime offers more than the limited wage. But to be eligible for opportunities that will raise them out of the ghetto, dramatic changes need to be made in our education system--- more targeted to preparing them for the work force that matches their talents and teaching how to succeed through honest means. Basic elementary education to prepare them to enter society at the level they are best suited for, but with opportunity to go onto levels of higher education.

The rise in single parent families is not just seen in the black community, but is more prevalent. The reasons fall into three categories--- social, religious and economic. Past religious traditions of marriage and the commitments that come with it are becoming more aberrations than the norm.

In 1963, only 6% of all American babies were born out of wedlock. That number has now risen to 41% of all populations and 72% of the black population. The stigma of being born out of wedlock is gone, just as the institution of marriage as a prerequisite before moving in together. Without the formal commitment of marriage, many, if not most, of these relationships fail. Far too often one parent is left with all the responsibilities and the financial burdens that come with raising children.

The social entitlement programs of Medicaid, CHIP, food stamps, and Chapter 8 housing, are all intended to help those in poverty. But they lack the needed incentives to lift those who come to rely on them out of their impoverished existence. In 2005, the poverty rate in this country was 12.6% and it has increased to 14.5% today, even though over $4.5 trillion has been spent on these anti-poverty programs during that time.

It’s not just where individuals come from but their opportunities when they are employable. William A. Darity Jr. of Duke University claims, “that blacks are the last to be hired in a good economy, and when there’s a downturn, they’re the first to be released.” A 2010 Currant Population Survey agreed that blacks in the work force were the first fired in a weakened business cycle. But early in the business cycle, if they unemployed versus nonparticipants in the labor force, the irony is they are frequently hired first.

There are answers to these growing problems that are turning many of our major cities into poverty riddled ghettos, where federal entitlement programs are the only hope and crime is the best means survival. It must come in three areas--- education, morality and opportunity. At the early ages, students must be set on realistic pathways--- trade schools and on-the-job mentoring versus gearing everyone toward a traditional college education. Instilling the moral concept of doing good for others, even is there is no direct benefit--- that it’s not always just about me.  Finally, realistic opportunities to move out of their impoverished communities.

In early 1973, it was announced by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird that no further draft orders would be issued. It could possibly be time to bring it back. On first look, conscription (another form of the draft that pertains also to peacetime programs) is an idea that could deal with the multiple problems that State Department spokesman, Marie Harf, was referencing when she used the term opportunities. According to the latest numbers in 2011, 64 countries still had some form of conscription, which predominately targets young males. Conscription increases opportunities because it teaches certain skill sets that are not all military oriented.  It also teaches respect for authority, discipline and personal responsibility--- disciplines that are missing in many single parent homes today. Israel and Switzerland are two countries that exemplify that there should be a price to pay to grow up in the United States and not just wait for the next welfare check and food stamps.

Optimistically, becoming part of something that is bigger than their next ‘hit’, instills loyalty and raises hope that the life they go back to after their service is over, can be made better than the one they left.





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