Attorney General Loretta Lynch has announced a Justice Department investigation to determine whether the Baltimore Police Department's practices are unconstitutional and violate civil rights; in short, whether or not the police force there is racist. It will come as no surprise if the investigation concludes that it is, because accusing the department of racism diverts attention from the city's real problem: Baltimore, a laboratory for liberal policies, is a failed city that has shortchanged the poor for decades.
Baltimore has received over $1.8 billion in stimulus money from the Obama administration, including $467.1 million to invest in education and $26.5 million for crime prevention. Still, parts of the city remain mired in poverty and despair. There are 16,000 vacant buildings in Baltimore and an unknown number of "vacant" fathers. Between 2000 and 2010, Baltimore lost 5 percent of its population. The liberal solution of raising taxes hasn't worked. Many of those who could escape the city have.
"Every single major urban center in America is run by Democrats -- more specifically, liberal progressives, black or white," writes former Congressman Allen West.
It is undeniable that it is liberal policies that have failed -- from anti-poverty programs, to dysfunctional schools from which they refuse to let the poor escape because of the political donations they receive from teachers' unions.
Yes, Maryland has a history of racist policies, from once denying blacks the vote, to banks red lining minority neighborhoods so people of color could not get mortgages, but many other states share this history. We need to move forward and find a better way, rooting out racist policies wherever they exist. The major problem for the left, however, is that they continue to concentrate on failure and poverty, rather than on success and prosperity. When self-sufficiency is encouraged, you get more of it; when it is ignored or discouraged, you get less. Attacks on "the rich" have done nothing to improve the lives of the poor.
If politicians were sincere about helping people escape their bad circumstances, they would flood neighborhoods with people who tell stories about how they escaped similar circumstances by refusing to accept a life of poverty. Inspiration is the starting point for improving lives. If one hears only about racism and injustice, nothing is gained, but if one hears about alternative paths to a productive life, painful history does not have to repeat itself.
As the song says, "It's not where you start, it's where you finish."
A Johns Hopkins University study by sociologist Karl Alexander found that what "really makes a difference between prison and college, success and failure, sometimes even life and death -- are family and money."
Alexander's stories of people who managed to escape poverty should serve as examples for those left behind. One is about Monica Jaundoo, now of Parkville, Md., about 10 miles outside Baltimore. Jaundoo, a single mother of two, grew up in deplorable surroundings, but vowed her own children wouldn't. She got a job and managed to get them in better schools. They are both on the honor roll and the older one is looking at colleges.
There are many similar stories. Why aren't they the focus of attention instead of racism and increased spending on failed government programs?
The answer is a cynical one, I know, but arguably true: Liberal Democrats might lose a core constituency if more people became independent, or not as dependent, on government.
Republicans and conservatives have a great opportunity to move into Baltimore and other inner cities with a message of hope and success. They might not initially get votes for their efforts, but they will have the satisfaction of improving lives, something government programs and civil rights investigations cannot hope to do.
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Cal Thomas, America's most-syndicated columnist, is the author of 10 books.