The End of Equality, by Mickey Kaus
Mickey Kaus’s new book of social policy, The End of Equality, has become a testament for Democrats who have seen tragic follies committed in their name and who now seek new governing strategies. A New Republic contributing editor, Kaus focuses here on the growing breakdown of urban civility and the collapse of our cities’ once-functioning institutions. He laments what he sees as the country’s loss of community and its growing tendency to segregate itself by race and class. In the process of formulating new answers to these seemingly intractable problems, Kaus engages in a committed—but ultimately failed—effort to define a new vision for American liberalism.
Kaus first mounts a savage criticism of such liberal icons as income-redistribution programs, labor unions, and a welfare system which exerts no demands on its recipients and destroys them in the process. To Kaus, the present welfare system has nurtured a growing urban underclass whose pathologies make social progress impossible. In particular, he blames Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) for the “explosion in numbers” of single-parent households, for having “subsidized and sustained a demoralizing lower-class culture in the ghettos,” and for having “anchored” a black underclass to its present fate. He also blames such post-1966 liberal sacred cows as Medicaid and Food Stamps for inducing millions to “take advantage of the dole.” Finally, he laments the stopgap measures that have been proposed—such as the 1989 reforms sponsored by Senator Daniel P. Moynihan (D., NY)—because their “soft” workfare component has only abetted the downward spiral of the underclass.
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