What drives me crazy is when rich liberal single parents think they have legs to stand on when speaking on behalf of low-income single parents. I certainly understand the defensiveness, and no doubt they have some shared experiences. But the most infuriating problem with elite culture is its refusal to understand that it can afford its sins — or if you prefer something more secular, its mistakes.Share
People with lots of financial and social capital can afford to make bad choices that would be devastating for others. Rich single parents can afford nannies and tutors and play groups and summer camps. And parenting is only one aspect of it. The elite can afford rehab. If they get a DUI, they can afford a good lawyer. If they lose their license, they can take Uber. In terms of social capital, they get second and third chances from judges, schools, employers, landlords, et al.
When Hillary Clinton & Co. talk about how “it takes a village to raise a child” they’re invoking wisdom from what P. J. O’Rourke called the “ancient African kingdom of Hallmarkcardia” to make the case for vast new federal bureaucracies, taxes, programs, regulations, etc. But the phrase itself contains a lot of truth. Unlike bureaucrats in Washington, neighbors, teachers, pastors, coaches, coworkers, and friends can help raise your kids, in ways large and small. Real communities involve extended networks of trust and goodwill. Fake communities have regulations, fees, subsidies, and checklists.
It is perhaps liberalism’s most grating rhetorical trick: deliberately conflating small and important truths about local community and family with large new federal initiatives. This bait-and-switch is the very heart of Obamaism. Obama talks about unity and community as if they have anything — and everything! — to do with initiatives from Washington. Remember when he explained why we need to raise taxes? Because it would be “neighborly.” The “Life of Julia” was nothing more than an argument for the federal government to replace the functions once performed by family and community. His most recent push to make community college “free” while raising taxes on college-savings plans perfectly illustrates his hostility to the idea that other institutions should take the lead instead of the federal government. (Read more.)