Back to the Plantation

Back to the Plantation

One of the vestiges of the plantation system which depended on slavery for its existence was the racial divisiveness perpetrated by economic elites to maintain their power and control over both blacks and whites. In simplest terms, this translates to “divide and rule.”

“You are kept apart that you may be separately fleeced of your earnings,” Georgia populist leader Tom Watson told a gathering of white and black laborers in 1892. ““You are made to hate each other because upon that hatred is rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both.”

Lyndon Baines Johnson, who rose through the ranks of Texas racist politics to become the president who, after decades of helping block civil rights legislation in the House and the Senate, fostered passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, once related essentially the same theory to Bill Moyers. In classic LBJ style, Johnson told Moyers, a Johnson staffer before he became White House Press Secretary and, later, a journalist, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

Women March on Washington
Women March on Washington, August 28, 1963. Library of Congress.

This was a theory I first learned in the aftermath of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It made sense to me then, and it still makes sense to me, though the nature of those elites have changed during the intervening half century, as have their tools. And it wasn’t just white populists who laid out the theory, plain as day for anyone who cared to look.

The white liberal and the new plantation

The white liberal is the worst enemy to America and the worse enemy to the black man.”

That’s not a quote from Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh. It’s a quote from Malcolm X, the black liberation theology leader and firebrand, who said it about the same time LBJ was getting the civil rights theology and launching his War on Poverty, and not long before Malcolm X’s assassination on February 21, 1965.

The white liberal aren’t white people who are for independence, who are moral and ethical in their thinking. They are just a faction of white people that are jockeying for power,” he said. “The same as the white conservative is a faction of white people that are jockeying for power. They are fighting each other for power and prestige, and the one that is the football in the game is the Negro, 20 million black people. A political football, a political pawn, an economic football, and economic pawn. A social football, a social pawn.”

Malcolm X
Malcolm X. Source unknown. Used under Fair Use.

Malcolm X’s message – it’s worth reading the full quote, which is quite long – was that blacks need to solve their own problems and not depend on whites of either persuasion, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, since for either of them it’s just a game of power and control.

The worst enemy that the Negro have is this white man that runs around here drooling at the mouth professing to love Negros, and calling himself a liberal, and it is following these white liberals that has perpetuated problems that Negros have. If the Negro wasn’t taken, tricked, or deceived by the white liberal then Negros would get together and solve our own problems.”

Now, 55 years later, Malcolm X’s message still hasn’t gotten through to many African Americans, much less to both white and black people who continue to pursue and support policies that effectively keep blacks, and all people of the underclass, down on the new plantation. I’m reminded of his message watching the multi-millionaire Nancy Pelosi and her hypocritical House Democrats kneeling in Kente cloths draped around their necks, and as trendy young white people proclaim on social media that they “stand against racism,” as if any right-thinking person doesn’t stand against racism, any less than someone might stand against kicking puppies or drowning babies. Or as politicians, lacking as much in balls as brains, call for disbanding the police, when it is black people who will be the main victims of the lawlessness, violence, and vigilantism that inevitably would ensue.

Look at what people do, not what they say

By way of disclosure, I’ve never considered myself a liberal, even during my radical phase (aspects of which persist). Like Malcolm X, I’ve never trusted self-proclaimed liberals who always have struck me as having ulterior motives or who operate under some sort of misplaced guilt or, at best, a Pollyannish view of the world. I tend to discount what people say in favor of what they do and, even more, the results they obtain through their actions and policies. This is highly relevant if you want to see the principle of “divide and rule” at work in contemporary liberal politics.

Consider this crucially important fact: While the U.S. has spent somewhere north of $22 trillionthat’s trillion, as in a thousand billion or a million million dollars, 22 times over (by some estimates, depending on how you count it, it’s closer to $27 trillion) – since LBJ declared the War on Poverty in his 1964 State of the Union address, the percentage of the population living in poverty has hardly changed at all in the past half century. Given that in the most recent normal year total U.S. GDP was just over $21 trillion, that’s a powerful lot of money to garner zero real reduction in the poverty rate. How can this be, you ask?

Look at the charts, below, to get a visual picture of the reality. What we see is that poverty was in major decline beginning in 1959, five years before Johnson’s declaration of his war on it. That decline continued for another five years, running through 1969. Beginning in 1970, a full 50 years ago, there has been essentially no long-term change in the poverty rate even as the country threw trillions of dollars of the national treasure at it.

As is visible, there have been blips up and down through both Democratic and Republican administrations and congresses, but the same overall reality persists across the span of a half century. As the third chart demonstrates, the African-American poverty rate has shown, marginally, the most improvement, especially when compared with the Hispanic and general poverty rates. But an interesting and undeniable reality emerges when you look at the first and third charts: The highest recent poverty levels in all three key categories – African-American, Hispanic, and the general population – peaked during the Obama administration, and all three reached historic lows during the Trump administration. How can this be, you might ask, given that Obama is painted as a friend of the poor and minorities and Trump is portrayed not only as their enemy, but as an out-and-out racist?

Like I said, get below the rhetoric and the reality emerges. Clearly taking the brakes off the economy and creating jobs that lower the unemployment rate and empower individuals and families, as Trump did in stark contrast to the effect his predecessor’s policies had on the economy, provides a road map for reducing poverty. Jobs are a key factor, if not the only one, in poverty reduction. There are other factors at work, too, and we’ll look at them toward the end of this piece.

Follow the money

Follow the money” is a phrase that we learned from Deep Throat during the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. It’s salient to our discussion here.

I had a sociology professor when I was an undergrad at Rutgers University sometime in the late 1960s. I don’t recall his name, but he was a black man, and I always looked forward to his classes. One thing about him was that he was straightforward and honest in his discussion of social issues and didn’t try to promote any ideology, something that seems to have become a hallmark of more recent sociological education (I can say this having since been a professor of sociology myself and seeing the ideological blather in the text books, and ostensibly believed by other professors, that is fed to students in the field).

In any case, my professor had previously worked with an anti-poverty agency on Long Island in New York. He told us how this agency had spun its wheels “studying” how to provide low-income housing to people, how much money passed through it, how it debated one approach and another approach, and in the end, not a single unit of housing was built. My professor said that, had the money the agency spent been given to the people it ostensibly had been set up to help, every one of those families could have gone out and bought their own house.

Sadly, my professor’s example is far from a unique case, given the trillions of dollars spent on “helping” poor people over the intervening five decades without any real effect (a similar calculation was made for FEMA’s spending after Hurricane Katrina when it was determined that the money the agency spent bureaucratically could have paid for a new house and two new cars for everyone who lost their home in the storm, and that, too, is far from unique).

If you still have any doubt that the vast bulk of the money spent fighting poverty doesn’t go to the people in poverty, the chart below should dispel that doubt. As per-person spending has climbed inexorably over the past six decades, it certainly hasn’t gotten to those in need of the funds. As per-person spending approaches $20,000, the poverty level this year for a family of four is set at $26,200. If the preponderance of the money went to that same theoretical family, they’d be receiving nearly $80,000, a long, long way from the poverty level. Needless to say, that’s not where most of the money goes.

When you look at the sheer volume of money involved, is it any wonder that those into whose hands, and pockets, it passes want to be sure to keep their constituents in poverty? In this context, what is said about one party in particular, the Democratic Party, that it depends on the existence of a permanent underclass for its very existence, begins to make sense and takes on credibility. Looking strictly at the numbers, the existence of poverty, maintaining as many people as possible dependent on the largesse of what passes for anti-poverty spending, bolsters its electoral power and, more, furthers the interests of its power brokers while favoring their influence and their wealth. They are the new plantation masters.

Down on the urban plantation

It’s a clever ploy, a revival of “divide and rule” for more than half a century, and the Democratic Party continues to rely on this strategy, keeping its black constituents down on the urban plantation, well into the 21st Century. Consider for a moment these facts:

  • Democrats run 35 of the nation’s 50 largest cities (37 if you count the “Independent” mayors of San Antonio and Las Vegas, both of whom ran with Democratic support).
  • Democrats run 15 of the 16 cities ranked the worst-run cities in America in 2019 by WalletHub, including Washington, D.C., which came in 150th out of 150 cities ranked. Other cities in the bottom 16 include Los Angeles (ranked 135th) , Philadelphia (137th), St. Louis (139th), Chicago (140th), Cleveland (141st), Oakland (144th), Detroit (145th), New York (146th), Chattanooga (147th), and San Francisco (148th). Gulfport, Miss., ranked 149th, is the only one of the worst-run cities with a Republican mayor. The only big city to rank in the top 10 of best-run cities was Oklahoma City, also with a Republican mayor.

    Detroit decay
    Detroit decay. Pixabay.
  • All of the top 10 most dangerous cities in the country, including Detroit, St. Louis, Oakland, Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta, Baltimore, Stockton, Cleveland, and Buffalo, have Democratic mayors. Of the top 25 most dangerous cities, most are controlled by Dems, and have poverty rates between 18 and 39 percent, compared with a 2019 national average of 12.3 percent. As gun violence runs rampant in these cities, most have strict gun control laws, giving meaning to the phrase, when guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns.
  • All but two of the 10 cities rated “least healthy” on two different lists are run by Democrats.
  • All 10 cities with the highest numbers of homeless residents, led by Los Angeles with an estimated 58,000 homeless people, are Democratic-run sanctuary cities which provide refuge to illegal immigrants, disadvantaging lower-income legal residents of those cities and creating unsafe and unhealthy conditions for all residents.
  • The Democratic virtual one-party state of California, with one of the largest and most prosperous economies in the world, has the highest poverty rate of any state in the union, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure.
  • Six of the 10 least educated cities in America are in the same Democratic one-party state of California. In Democratic stronghold Baltimore, which ranks fourth in per-student educational spending in the nation, not a single student in 13 public high schools is proficient at math, and nine of 10 black boys in the city’s schools can’t read at grade level. Meanwhile, thousands of consultants, contractors, and administrators are paid salaries in excess of $100,000 a year by the city’s school system.
  • Many of the cities run by Democrats haven’t elected a Republican mayor in more than 100 years. That’s the case in Newark, N.J., ranked the fifth worst city in the nation to live in. Detroit, once the wealthiest city in America and the one LBJ planned to be the “Model City” of his Great Society, and which today is ranked the country’s worst city, hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1957, about the
    Detroit decay
    Decay of Detroit, the “Model City.” Daniel Lincoln/Unsplash.

    time its golden era began its swan song. Chicago, one of the country’s most segregated and violent cities, elected its last Republican mayor in 1927. St. Louis, one of the nation’s most dangerous and poverty-stricken cities, has been electing Democrats as mayor for 71 years. Philadelphia, for 68 years. Baltimore and Oakland for more than half a century. In Flint, Mich., Dems have been mayors for 88 years. In New Orleans, mayors have been Democrats since 1872 – 148 years, longer than most countries have been in existence. What do all these cities have in common, besides being Democratic fiefdoms? They’re all wracked by poverty, crime, corruption, and urban decay. If anyone cares to argue that the Democratic Party, the party that in its history supported slavery and Jim Crow, has changed over all those decades, if anything the change has been for the worse where these cities’ residents are concerned and as their condition has continued to deteriorate over the decades.

So where have all those trillions of anti-poverty dollars gone? That would be a good question to ask these mayors, city councils, state governments, their Congressional backers, and those running the various anti-poverty agencies and failed school systems, spread from coast to coast to coast. And maybe their bankers and investment brokers and real estate agents, too.

And don’t buy into the argument that other developed countries spend more on anti-poverty programs than the U.S. (for the most part, they don’t), or on healthcare (they don’t), or education (they don’t). Money, at least not its lack, isn’t the problem. Misguided programs, corrupt officials and politicians, and just plain bad policies are. Given the dismal results of those policies over such a long period of time, one has to assume that malice of intent more than just bad judgment lies at the heart of their failure. Divide and rule: Keep those poor folk down on the plantation and rake in the big bucks. Follow the money.

Martin Luther King Jr. march on Washington
Martin Luther King, Jr., leads the march on Washington, August 28, 1963. Library of Congress.

What things work and how the plantation masters work against them

There are some things that are known, at least empirically, to help people get out of poverty. The plantation masters know this, and they work against them methodically, often under cover of some sort of politico-babble. We’ll look, briefly, at them here.


Getting a decent education and at least a high school diploma – and, better, a college degree — is one of the known routes out of poverty. Educational choice, through vouchers and charter schools, in many cases have been shown to offer low-income people a better education than often available in the normal public school system. Even Barack Obama said “The best anti-poverty program is a world-class education.” So why do he and so many of the urban plantation masters oppose both vouchers and charter schools (while putting their own kids in private schools)?

Two-parent families

Two-parent families are another antidote to poverty. The overall child poverty rate is 17.5 percent. For children in homes headed by a single mother, it’s 50 percent. In 2015, 77.3 percent of non-immigrant black births were to unmarried mothers. For Hispanic immigrants, it was 48.9 percent. For whites, it was 30 percent. In 1965, the rate was 24 percent for black babies and 3.1 percent for white babies. There are many factors involved in this differential, the role of welfare rules that favor single mothers, households without a man or father, being just one of them. Whatever the reasons, the economic impact is significant.

Helping black men improve their situation

A better educational environment, improved employment opportunities, and staying out of trouble with the law help black men improve their situation, which overall has a positive impact on reducing poverty among African-Americans. Trump’s answers have been improving employment prospects, economic opportunity zones in under-privileged communities, and criminal justice reform. The answer of at least one Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders, is to help African American, Latino, and Native American communities “start businesses selling legal marijuana.” Yup, keep those poor folks in the drug culture. After all, it’s been such a big help to their communities over many years.

Full-time employment

Finding and keeping full-time employment Is another of those elements that are basic to getting out of poverty. Rather than depending on public assistance, becoming self-sufficient is a critical step in upward mobility, and its efficacy is evidenced by the relation between a declining unemployment rate and declining poverty rate. But the new plantation masters would rather depress employment, shutter whole industries and send jobs to China, thus increasing dependency on them.

These are not the only things that impact on poverty, but they are some of the bigger ones. By now, 56 years on, it’s time to declare America’s longest war – the War on Poverty – a lost cause, and to begin to empower all people in poverty, and most especially African-Americans, as Malcolm X said, to solve their own problems, and to send the new plantation masters packing. All the signs are that they won’t go easily, and they’re already figuring out new ways of fleecing the populace and keeping folks down on the plantation. Divide and rule is as relevant today as it was in 1892, and as long as people buy into it, its impact will be as pernicious and long-lasting.

Featured image: Sugar Cane Plantation. North Wind Picture Archives/Alamy Stock. Used under Fair Use.

4 Replies to “Back to the Plantation”

  1. Awesome article. But I am 110% sure that the Democrats will not, or never will, get “it”. The “agenda” is too strong for them EVER to take a step back and see the big picture clearly. We need “agenda-free” teachers (who aren’t in it for life or in politically corrupt unions), more emphasis on American history and the Constitution, and more “skilled-labor” training. Until people take more responsibility for their own situation – I am not particularly encouraged where we are currently heading in this country (and I’m generally an optimist). A further change for the worse if dim-wit Biden gets in.

  2. Thanks. I agree with everything you say, except the last part. If Biden gets in, it won’t just be a change for the worse. It will be a complete disaster for the country and I can’t even imagine how bad it will be. Basically the end of America as we know it. It will empower all those who wish to destroy our way of life. We’re already on that path.

  3. This reminds me of why I did Things I’d like to Say. If I became mayor of New Orleans, one of the first things I will do is have every single agency, council member, bureaucrat, etc. investigated, audited, tried, and sent to prison, Including Marlin Gusman and Leon Cannizzaro, Jr. Followed by massive deregulation, bureaucracy abolitions, implementing a 4% flat tax, etc. (I have no respect for either political party in LA, along with the law enforcement and religious establishments.)

  4. I bet you’d get a slew of convictions. I don’t need to tell you that Louisiana is one of the most corrupt states, though you have to share that distinction with New Jersey (my home state) and Illinois, and maybe a couple of others. Yes, all Dem states. It goes with the territory, though corruption can and does cross party lines.

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