by Lowman S. Henry | December 19, 2007

Decades of liberal social and economic policies must be reversed

Governor Ed Rendell is demanding more gun control laws. Black lawmakers from Philadelphia have walked off the floor of the state House of Representatives in protest over the failure of the legislature to pass such laws. None of them are going to get their way. And they should not.

They are not going to get more or tougher gun control laws because a bi-partisan majority of legislators won’t support them. They won’t support them because they are at once unconstitutional and unnecessary.

The fact of the matter is guns are not responsible for the surge in violence in Philadelphia. What is responsible is decades of failed liberal social and economic policies that have contributed to hopelessness and despair. Philadelphia’s schools are failing, businesses have fled the city because of a regressive tax structure, families have disintegrated, social services are overwhelmed and ineffective, and law enforcement cannot cope.

Rendell and company are attempting to treat the symptoms rather than the disease. Given that those perpetrating violence with guns are already breaking the law, what makes anybody think they are going to obey new laws handed down from Mount Harrisburg? The fact is any new gun laws will be as widely ignored as those already on the books. Not one Pennsylvanian will be safer because of the proposed new gun laws, but all will have their constitutional rights – both state and federal – trampled in the process.

Rather than stomping their feet and acting like spoiled children because they are not going to get the new laws they seek, Rendell and all of Philadelphia’s political leadership should begin the process of addressing the root causes of the problem.

For example, a debate is raging over the lack of inclusion of blacks in the city’s construction industry. The Philadelphia City Council is so frustrated by the lack of progress in improving minority employment that a move was actually made to allow non-union companies to bid on contracts to expand the Pennsylvania Convention Center. A major battle erupted when union officials refused to provide minority membership statistics. The refusal is borne partly out of arrogance by unions who feel accountable to no body, and partly from the strong likelihood the number of minority union members is embarrassingly low.

Access to family sustaining blue collar jobs is the first step toward economic empowerment for any community. If the black and other minority populations of Philadelphia are shut out of such jobs they have little hope of improving their quality of life. Such hopelessness is a breeding ground for despair and ultimately violence. To overcome that two things must occur: Philadelphia’s unions must become more open and accessible to black members, and non-union shops – clearly most hospitable to minority employees – must be given a level playing field to compete for government contracts.

The city must also address its regressive tax structure and poor business climate. Mayor-elect Michael Nutter, speaking in New York during the recent Pennsylvania Society weekend, talked of the need to cut taxes and make Philadelphia more attractive to business. That is a responsible, reasonable, and likely successful approach to solving the city’s crime problem. Nutter knows that lower taxes means more businesses will locate within the city limits. More businesses mean more jobs. More jobs mean more opportunities. Opportunities create hope. Hope reduces violence.

Decades of destructive public policies will not be reversed overnight, nor will the effects of those policies. Philadelphia’s problem with violence is real and growing. The time has come for politicians of all stripes to take off the blinders, put aside their foolish bid for more gun control laws, and begin taking the steps necessary to again make Philadelphia worthy of the title City of Brotherly Love.