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Viewpoint: Haves and have nots: System is deeply entrenched in Delaware


By John Stapleford 

As an economist, seeing the slow growth in jobs, wages and personal income in Delaware, it is baffling to see the legislature focus on such things as plastic bags, dogs in restaurants, and transgender bathrooms. How can our legislators be so out of touch with the breadandbutter issues faced by so many Delaware citizens? 

John Stapleford

Sociologist Charles Murray says in his 2012 book “Coming Apart” that he believes American society has split into two distinct worlds, with those at the top of the income distribution living a completely different life than those at the bottom. The top and bottom have vastly different experiences in vocation (work), marriage, religion, and community. 

The top has more wealth and income than ever before, and this comes with their own queues at airports, restricted floors in hotels, different schools, different food (think Whole Foods), swimming on private beaches, watching different television shows (think PBS) “¦ all with people like themselves 

Those at the top are married and working, while those at the bottom are single and out of the labor force. And the two reinforce one another. Married men are more likely to work, and women are more likely to marry working men. 

More than ever, the politicians tend to live in and hear from the world at the top, including the New York Times and Washington Post. So, the focus of the politicians, especially the Democrats, has shifted from kitchentable concerns like finding a decent job to paying the medical bills and finding a good education for their children to identity politics, abortion, and abstract environmental concerns. 

Could this be true in Delaware?  The data speaks volumes. 

Using Bureau of Census Current Population data for 2016-18 and looking at the differences between households in the top and bottom thirds of Delaware’s income distribution the following emerges. 

With regard to work, 47% of the household heads in the bottom third are not in the labor force, compared to only 18% in the top third. Just 19% of the heads in the bottom third worked full-time year-round, compared to 50% in the top third and 49% of the bottom heads did not work at all in contrast to only 16% of the heads at the top. 

Only 10% of the household heads at the bottom have a bachelor’s degree or more while 35% at the top do. In Delaware a bachelor’s degree pays 70% more per year than a high school degree. 

Only 24% of the bottom households are married in contrast to 49% of the Delaware households at the top. By family type, 33% at the bottom are husband-wife families compared to 79% at the top and 47% at the bottom are female-headed families relative to 11% at the top. 

Twenty-five years of research is clear: Children raised in single-parent families are more likely to drop out of school, use drugs, engage in crime, and have emotional problems. 

Given the data, one can believe that the political class in Delaware is increasingly out of touch with the life experiences and concerns of the one-third living at the bottom of the income distribution. 

It is time to refocus. Two simple suggestions come to mind. 

  1. Engage in substantive reform of public education. Over the past 20 years, two-thirds of Delaware’s public school eighthgraders have consistently tested below proficient in reading and math on the annual NAEP test. Meanwhile, motions at the recent annual National Education Association (of which DESEA is a member) meeting to better train teachers and improve student education were defeated. Supported were motions regarding “white fragility,” individual pronouns, slavery reparation, and the impact of voter suppression. 
  1. Eliminate Delaware’s Health Resources Board with its Certificates of Needs. Research from the Mercatus Center estimates that this would reduce annual healthcare spending in Delaware by $250 million. Delaware currently ranks third among the states in healthcare spending per capita. Delaware’s healthcare industry uses Certificates of Need approval to block competition and reduce access to essential healthcare services in the state. 

No one wants to see growing inequality in the income distribution translate into growing inequality in the opportunities for quality education and healthcare. 

Dr. John E. Stapleford is director of the Center for Economic Policy and Analysis at the Caesar Rodney Institute. 

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  1. Raymond Buranello October 14, 2019

    I am told there are many observable economic cycles and one of them, yet to peak, has to do with what here is called economic disparity. Possibly we should first ask why there are social problems and find an answer before jumping to the brute force approach of social, dare I say socialist, engineering (SE)? We should also not stray from our supposed free society when looking at these problems. Needless to say, SE does not fit into a free economy or society, and I claim that is a fact by definition, not merely an opinion.

    The vanishing of the Middle Class has been happening for many years, driven first by technology, then more by globalism, and now more by SE by corrupt politicians. While technology has been taking labor-intensive jobs since about 1800 the pace is uneven but has now accelerated due to smart machines that take such jobs as welding auto bodies, even medical surgery. After WWII there was a social (not economic) push to bring prosperity to the Third World by a conscious push for global inclusion through trade. Competing with impoverished people’s labor has proven impossible. And, what I called corrupt politicians, interested not in facilitating a natural evolution of society but in ordering society to their own ideals have sold much of the lower income public on SE, which is little more than another term for a command economy/society based not on our Founding Documents, but political ideals.

    One of the outcomes is, as Dr. Stapleford notes, an expensive education system that often does not truly prepare students to successfully enter the work force without much added employer training that they have theoretically already paid for in taxes to support public schools. Another is the observation, besides the legislatures obviously not serving the public well is their being ‘out-of-touch’ with the people.

    I would also say education reform is desperately needed. To 1) get back to making sure students are truly prepared for life after public school; and 2) depoliticize the schools. I claim the schools have dumbed down the curricula to avoid calls of bias when students of various ethnic groups do not do as well as others. Have we forgotten the signature of the universe, the Bell Shaped Curve, is upon everything and reality is, some people will not succeed in school or life as well as others? We (usually) do not question that not everyone is college material, why would we think everyone is High School material? To change this reality into a more pleasant fantasy, the schools became political rather than educational institutions. The failure of fantasy is now apparent. To stop this will take the iron will to get schools back to being educational, regardless of who is able to compete and who is not. Teachers engaging in politics need to be ruthlessly purged as a danger to their students as well as society.

    We need to realize that if legislatures are ‘out-of-touch’ with the people, that is another way of saying our current practice of democracy is not working. One remedy is to cast out of any public office anyone working against their oath to protect, preserve and defend the constitution. Yes, that means for example, if you follow the law of the land as written, no gun laws (Second Amendment) or drug laws (Ninth Amendment) or income redistribution (Fifth Amendment) or SE or other Politically Correct (and therefore factually incorrect) nonsense without a new constitutional amendment. (We tried to constitutionally reduce freedom with the Prohibition Amendment and it was a major disaster that had to be repealed – so much for SE or what at the time was called the Great Social Experiment.) Looking outward, we now have candidates for the presidency in the Democratic Party openly identifying as socialists and attempting to bribe their way into office. One says vote for me and I’ll abrogate $1.6 Trillion (from the economy) in student loans, another promises Medicaid for all, yet another wants ‘free’ college tuition and so on while we are $23 Trillion in debt now and their idea to pay for this is going back to a 70% tax rate for the (undefined) rich which would seem to violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. And that doesn’t count their support for the impossible New Green Deal, estimated to cost $44 Trillion. That these people are not being prosecuted for attempted bribery shows how we have degenerated as a nation. In short Delaware’s problems are part of the nation’s problems. If they cannot all be solved, none will be solved.

    I wish the CRI the best in pursuing these issues,

    Raymond T. Buranello, 2002 candidate, US Senate, Libertarian Party Delaware

  2. Alan Muller March 2, 2020

    Mr. Stapleford calls out the inequality prevailing in Delaware, which he has done as much as anyone, probably, to cause by his relentless advocacy of unfettered, “vulture” capitalism. He is certainly correct that the Delaware General Assembly isn’t addressing these problems (with a few honorable exceptions such as John Kowalko). Just imagine the ranting and raving that would ensue from CRI if the Democrats (forget the Republicans!) actually tried to do so.


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