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Jewish World Review April 24, 2000/ 19 Nissan, 5760

Larry Elder

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The eternal government quest for crises -- SO MANY "PROBLEMS," so many Feds needed to "solve" them.

Fighting exhaustion from having invented the Internet, Al Gore strikes again. He seeks to conquer that age-old, cruel, unfair dilemma --- whether to work outside the home or stay home and raise the children.

The "motherhood penalty," Al Gore calls it. When a spouse stays home, he or she, of course, makes no contribution into Social Security. This means the stay-at-home spouse earns fewer benefits than the one working outside the home. Al Gore wants taxpayers to credit the stay-at-home's Social Security account as if he or she worked a $16,500-a-year job outside the home.

Never mind that having a child, like everything in life, involves trade-offs. Most people defer things -- like having children -- until they can afford them. But Gore deems it unfair to suggest a trade-off between planning for a family, and having one regardless of circumstances, relying on others to help make ends meet.

Not to be outdone by the Veep, President Clinton proposes spending billions to solve another new 21st century problem -- closing the "digital divide."

Clinton calls this the "gap" between the computer savvy and the computer ignorant. The computer ignorant lack the financial resources to join the parade, maintains Clinton, so taxpayers must chip in. And what is a 21st century crisis without a racial component? In "PC Computing," writer Paul Somerson quotes the State Department, "We not only have a digital divide today; we now also have a 'racial ravine.'" So not only do we have hordes of computer illiterates, doomed without government help, but that group contains lots of minorities. Somebody, quick, do something!

The problem, writes Somerson, is that there is, well, no problem. Or at least no problem that government can solve. According to a study by researchers at the Stanford Institute for the Qualitative Study of Society, there is no "digital divide." There is, however, a gap between those who care about and spend time on reading and learning, versus those who do not.

The study concluded, "By far the most important factors facilitating or inhibiting Internet access are education and age, and not income -- nor race/ethnicity or gender, each of which accounts for less than a 5 percent change in rates of access and is statistically insignificant."

And let's not forget the "wealth divide," the unfair gap between the greedy rich and the needy poor. To help close the "wealth divide," Sen. Ted Kennedy intervened in the Los Angeles janitor's strike.
Why can't I have a computer,
and make more MONEY, racist!?
The strikers, averaging $6.80 per hour, plus benefits, want a dollar per hour raise for each of the next three years. Bullhorn in hand, Kennedy pronounced the janitors struggle a "civil rights" issue! After all, Kennedy said, most strikers are "people of color." Oh. So when the majority black NBA goes out on strike, boom -- you've got a "civil rights" issue.

There's another crisis the government thus far spends little on --- the personal responsibility gap. This represents the division between those who assume responsibility for their behavior and do not expect taxpayers to subsidize their lifestyles, versus others who expect the state to feed and nurture them.

My friend, Frank, lives in the heavy Hispanic and Asian midtown Los Angeles area. "Larry," he said, "come down, and let me show you something." I met him at the corner of Olympic and Vermont. There stood a small, dingy public library. The building was on an incline. In front of it, a half dozen Hispanic kids took turns doing incredible tricks on skateboards. They did imaginative spins, flips, and other intricate maneuvers that could impress Michael Jordan.

"Now," Frank said, "let's go in." Inside the library, standing room only.

Every table, every seat was occupied by Korean-American children and their mothers. Not a single Hispanic in the building.

Any questions?

America, above all nations, represents freedom. This means freedom to live our own lives as we please, to the fullest extent possible. This means freedom to reap the rewards of our own efforts. And this also means freedom to show compassion by giving to and helping others in ways we think most effective and most humane. And freedom's flip-side is personal responsibility, the willingness to accept the consequences of one's own actions.

"Motherhood penalty," "digital divide," calling labor strikes "civil rights" issues -- all say to America, "Don't take initiative. Don't accept responsibility for your actions, for life is unfair. If you are black or brown or poor your fate is sealed. Unless, of course, government comes to the rescue." No, the "divide" is between believers in self-empowerment versus the victicrats.

But as the library at Olympic and Vermont shows, money is not the issue. And government is not the solution.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate