Lost in all of the hoopla this week over the "State of this" and the "State of that" was a report from UW-Milwaukee that found just 45-percent of working age African-American men in the Milwaukee actually have a job. When the economy was "better" in 2008, that percentage was still just 53-percent. The study blames the exodus of manufacturing jobs out of Milwaukee, high incarceration rates for black males in the metro area and a lack of transportation options to the suburbs--where most of the jobs are now available.
When you consider that "working age" is 18-60, that represents nearly three entire generations of African-Americans that have basically dropped out of society--becoming comfortable with living on the dole--or choosing to make their livings outside the law. That would explain the 5,000 black men who are incarcerated in the Milwaukee area every year.
So, what is the solution? I have three radical suggestions.
Option 1: A complete takeover of the African-American community by the government. Every unemployed black person will be assigned three "state guardians". Those guardians will work rotating eight hour shift making sure that their "customer" is trying to get a job, showing up to work if they get a job, driving them to the job, making sure that they are doing what they are getting paid to do, keeping them from being disrespectul to their bosses, making sure they aren't wasting whatever money they make on alcohol, drugs, weapons or 20-inch rims, ensuring that they get to bed early enough to be well-rested and that they aren't engaging in unprotected sex--thereby not adding to the number of single-parent families.
To ensure future generations don't get themselves in the same mess. We should assign three guardians to each child in the Milwaukee Public School District. They will make sure that the kids actually show up for class, pay attention in class, eat their school breakfasts and lunches, do their homework, don't bring weapons or drugs to school, don't spend all their free time running the streets, playing video games or chatting on the internet, not being mistreated at home, and aren't engaging in unprotected sex--thereby not adding to the number of teen parent families.
Milwaukee schools should be rebuilt to provide the same opportunities as those in other parts of the state--meaning every school should have a multiple-function fieldhouse, a performing arts center, a solarium ( like at Bay Port) and a planetarium (like they have at Wausau West). And transportation needs to be improved--so buses need to run up and down every street every ten minutes--and we should probably add some light rail and some trolleys as well. I would put the cost of Option 1 at about 1 Trillion dollars--annually.
Option 2 (and remember we are being radical in our thinking here): Legalize illicit drugs--but only allow African-Americans licensed by the government to sell them. This is the same approach the Government took with an equally-depressed Native American population back in the 1980's when it gave them the right to operate casino gambling. When you consider that two guys who moved from Chicago to Oshkosh were able to move $2.5 million dollars of heroin and cocaine in less than three years, this is probably the most lucrative option for the black community. The drop in drug-related prison and jail sentences would save taxpayers a ton of money as well.
And then we have the most outrageous idea: Option 3: Have those in the African-American community in Milwaukee stand up and say "We are sick of this" and take action to demand more from their brothers and sisters. They could certainly do most of the steps I outlined in Option 1--without being paid to do it. Unfortunately, I think we will hear far more calls for Options 1 and even 2 before we see any action on Option 3.