New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gave a St. Crispin’s Day speech for progressives at his New Year’s Day inauguration ceremony. He evoked a city ravaged by a crisis of inequality. What Rudy Giuliani was to out-of-control crime, de Blasio wants to be to rampant inequality — its scourge and vanquisher.
Yet for all his impassioned egalitarianism, the new mayor neglected the great equalizers, those qualities that are the bedrock of success in America and the key to mobility. Like so many others on the left, de Blasio is loath to detract from the false but ideologically congenial narrative of the rich dispossessing the poor. So he gives short shrift to the basics of marriage, education and work — all grounded in an ethic of personal responsibility — that make it possible for people to escape and avoid poverty.
Anyone can be a victim of bad luck — especially in a weak economy — but the essential formula for eluding poverty isn’t complicated: Graduate from high school, get a job and get married before having children. Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution writes in the journal National Affairs, “Census data show that if all Americans finished high school, worked full time at whatever job they then qualified for with their education, and married at the same rate as Americans had married in 1970, the poverty rate would be cut by around 70 percent — without additional government spending.”
The breakdown of marriage, in particular, drives impoverishment. The poverty rate is about six times higher for single-parent families than two-parent families. About 70 percent of all poor families with children are single-parent families. According to Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation, if single mothers were to marry the fathers of their children, about two-thirds of them would no longer be poor, in a stupendously effective anti-poverty program.