Blame Welfare?

| Mon Sep. 12, 2005 4:54 PM EDT

Here we go. John McWhorter blames New Orleans' problems, and the inability of people to evacuate the city, on… welfare:

The poor black America that welfare expansion created in 1966 is still with us. Poor young blacks have never known anything else. People as old as 50 have only vague memories of life before it. For 30 years this was a world within a world, as is made clear from how often the Katrina refugees mention it is the first time they have ever left New Orleans.

Welfare recipients, he says, lack "survival skills." Okay… question. How many New Orleans residents are actually on welfare these days? Poking around on this state government site, we find that in the Orleans area, 9 percent of residents received some form of cash welfare in 2003. That amounts to some 42,000 people—far fewer than the total number of New Orleans residents stranded after the flood, I believe, which was estimated in the hundreds of thousands. (In fact, even that 42,000 number seems high; according to the Department of Health and Human Services, only 60,000 people received TANF funds in the entire state in 2002, and only ten percent of Louisiana's population resides in New Orleans.) Meanwhile, the U.S. census counts 27 percent of people in the city sitting below the poverty line. A distinct minority of the poor in New Orleans, then, was receiving welfare, and one would assume not all of those recipients were black. Fixing the blame for post-Katrina problems squarely on cash assistance (and white leftists!) seems like a bit of a stretch, unless you want to argue that the people who were once on welfare rolls and now aren't somehow have lingering social problems that made them incapable of evacuating. (Rather than, you know, the fact that most people lacked the physical means to leave the city.) Perhaps that's what McWhorter's arguing. But it might help if he could actually point to examples of this sort of thing rather than just speculating.

On what is no doubt an entirely unrelated note, read this post from Digby.