Saturday :: Oct 1, 2005

Bill Bennett, bottom-feeder

by eriposte

UPDATE: See Max Blumenthal at Huffington Post as well.

I guess people who know the real Bill Bennett wouldn't have been shocked by his racist and bigoted remarks this week, followed up by more of his trademarked bottom-feeding using a lie to justify himself. For a compulsive and casual lying liar with a reported penchant for compulsive gambling (among other things), these are things that are par for the course. Indeed, the death of outrage occurred when Bill Bennett (R-Immorality) entered the public sphere as a "moralist".

However, I was disturbed by the defense of Bennett by Brad DeLong and Matthew Yglesias. Markos Armando has written a critique of Brad's and Matt's posts - based on how African-Americans may react to the whole episode. But this is a rather weak rebuttal because it makes this about feelings alone, rather than facts. Interestingly enough, Matt acknowledges the basic point proving Bennett to be the racist that he is, but spins it completely to avoid calling a spade a spade.

Here's the point - and this is what I wrote in the comments section of Brad's post response to his defense of Bennett:


Your defense of Bennett is totally off the mark.

Bennett said:
" could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down..."

He could have just as easily said the following without changing the point he was trying to make:
" could abort every baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down..."

See the inclusion of the word "black"? It was a racist dig which aimed to convey the impression that its only (or largely) blacks who commit crimes. In a country with a white majority - with a large percentage of criminals being white, why would Bennett choose to refer only to blacks?

This is the kind of crap that does not need a defense and should not be defended.

In fact, Matt goes so far as to make the point that:

...the empirical claim here is unambiguously true. Similarly, if you aborted all the male fetuses, all those carried by poor women, or all those carried by Southern women, the crime rate would decline.

Matt astoundingly fails to acknowledge or notice that Bennett did not say that you could abort all "male fetuses" or that you could abort all "fetuses carried by poor women", or ... He chose to use the phrase "black baby". Why in the world would Matt ignore the facts staring at him?

Anyway, Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt wrote a response to Bennett in which he also points out the following (bold text is my emphasis):

2) Race is not an important part of the abortion-crime argument that John Donohue and I have made in academic papers and that Dubner and I discuss in Freakonomics. It is true that, on average, crime involvement in the U.S. is higher among blacks than whites. Importantly, however, once you control for income, the likelihood of growing up in a female-headed household, having a teenage mother, and how urban the environment is, the importance of race disappears for all crimes except homicide. (The homicide gap is partly explained by crack markets). In other words, for most crimes a white person and a black person who grow up next door to each other with similar incomes and the same family structure would be predicted to have the same crime involvement. Empirically, what matters is the fact that abortions are disproportionately used on unwanted pregnancies, and disproportionately by teenage women and single women.
4) When a woman gets an abortion, for the most part it is not changing the total number of children she has; rather, it is shifting the timing so those births come later in life. This is an important fact to remember. One in four pregnancies ends in abortion and this has been true for 30 years in the U.S. But the impact of abortion on the overall birth rate has been quite small.
7) There is one thing I would take Bennett to task for: first saying that he doesn't believe our abortion-crime hypothesis but then revealing that he does believe it with his comments about black babies. You can't have it both ways.

eriposte :: 10:54 AM :: Comments (17) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!