Scholar Charles Murray warns that America as we know it may disappear if voters give in to the populist, anti-Wall-Street rhetoric emanating from the White House.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, the best-selling author talked about his book “Coming Apart, The State of White America, 1960-2010,”
which occupies the No. 9 position on The New York Times’ hardcover-nonfiction list.
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Given the growing turmoil over the European debt crisis, Newsmax asked Murray whether he could see the United States following the downward spiral of Greece. More than 120 people were injured in Athens after new austerity measures touched off widespread rioting and arson.
“The difference between Greece and America, that I’m very happy about, is that it is coming first to Greece,” Murray responded. “I think one of the best things that can happen to the United States is that we will have a chance to watch what happens in Greece as the extensive social welfare state grows out of control, and it’s not going to be pretty.
“We’re going to have the examples of countries like Greece, but many other countries down the road, that cannot sustain the welfare states they’ve set up,” he said. “Maybe it will cause people to come to their senses in this country, across the political spectrum, and will be willing to do some of the basic changes that are required.”
Murray, an American Enterprise Institute fellow who also co-authored “The Bell Curve,” said he is unhappy with both parties’ responses to reforming entitlement spending.
“The entitlements are it,” he said. “If you aren’t willing to reform the entitlements in a big-time way, which will mean benefits being changed across the board [and] everybody’s going to have to take a hit — unless politicians are willing to do that, we will go down the European road.”
Newsmax also asked Murray whether he believes that President Barack Obama’s populist diatribes will enable him to win re-election.
“I’d be on kind of false ground if I tried to answer that question, just because this is not a specialty of mine,” he confessed. “I read the newspapers like anyone else. I’m not fond of that populist argument, I hope it fails. It is not in the American tradition to be envious of the rich.”
Yet in some ways, the wealthy have only themselves to blame, he said.
“I think there’s a lot of unseemliness in the behavior of wealthy Americans lately that has contributed to the popularity of Obama’s issue,” he said.
Murray, a libertarian, added that it will be a bad sign if the crusade to disparage the wealthy succeeds.
“If it does not fail, then America is in for profound change,” Murray told Newsmax. “Because, if there is one thing that has differentiated us from Europe, it is that Americans have generally been enthusiastic when their fellow Americans have gotten rich, and said, ‘Hey, maybe I could do that,’ or ‘Maybe my kids could do that.’ If we go down the road of envy that characterizes Europe, America is no longer going to be the country we’ve known.”
Murray’s book focuses on Caucasians to eliminate variables that otherwise might be attributed to racial or ethnic strife. He uses two fictional towns, which are based on real sociological data, to show the growing disparity between upper-middle-class whites and working-class whites from 1960 to 2010. He names the wealthy town Belmont and the poor burg Fishtown.
The differences are startling. In 1960, 94 percent of the residents of Belmont were married, compared with 84 percent of Fishtown’s inhabitants. But by 2010, the institution of marriage in Belmont remained strong, with 83 percent married, wedlock in Fishtown had plummeted to just 48 percent.
By virtually every social measure, the welfare of Fishtown residents had plummeted, while Belmont residents continued to do well.
The percentage of Fishtown children living with their biological parents, for example, fell from 96 percent to 37 percent. The percentage of Fishtown men who were “disabled and unable to work” jumped fivefold. The number of violent-crime arrests per 100,000 residents rose from 125 to 592, while the same statistic for Belmont residents dropped from the 17 recorded in 1960 to 16 by 2009.
Secularism, defined by not attending religious services more than once a year, showed a sharp rise in both towns, but it was much worse in Fishtown. In Belmont, secularism rose from 27 percent to 40 percent between 1972 and 2010. But in Fishtown during that same period, it rose 35 percent to a whopping 59 percent.
Murray uses his data to assert that the real problem America faces is cultural rather than economic inequality.
He blames part of that on upper-class elites who no longer feel confident enough in their own values to urge those further down the social ladder to adopt them. In other words, the upper-middle class should preach the values it practices, he says, rather than obey the mores of a society that finds itself “in the grips of nonjudgmentalism.”
Among Murray’s other conclusions:
- There is no evidence that simply redistributing wealth, as President Obama and others have advocated, will resolve the cultural problems associated with poverty. “I think income inequality is largely a red herring.”
- Upper-class children grow up in “enclaves,” attend the same elite institutions, and then move into ZIP codes where people of wealth gather in enclaves of their own. The result is an upper class that is increasingly out of touch with the realities of the vast majority of Americans at the base of the pyramid. This helps explain the tea party and Occupy Wall Street movements, he said.
- Obama “has been in a bubble” ever since he attended an elite prep school in Hawaii, went on to Columbia, then to Harvard, and later worked at the University of Chicago.
- “The degree to which he [Obama] has been around only people who share his views is pretty substantial. And the degree to which he has not been exposed to the rest of America, leads to a false sense of, ‘These ideas are really, really popular with everyone I know. Surely we can sell them to the American public.’ I think that you’ve had people in the White House the last three or four years [with] a terrific lack of perspective on mainstream America.”
- His conclusions would be no different, he said, had Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain been elected in 2008. “I could have written this book without changing a word, because the problems I’m talking about were with us before that election occurred.”
Murray added that upper-class citizens should reconsider whether they want their children to live their lives in isolated enclaves that shield them from others. “I think that the first thing we have to do is start a conversation.”
Editor’s note: To get a copy of Charles Murray’s new book, “Coming Apart, The State of White America, 1960-2010,” at a good price at Amazon — Go Here Now.
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