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NUGENT: Poor parental choices make poor children

Personal initiative is best way to beat childhood poverty

- - Friday, December 16, 2011

The truth can be very ugly, rather discomforting and downright painful, but it remains the truth, whether you like it or admit it or not. The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that the number of American children living in poverty is on the rise, with almost one-third of American children living in what the bureau defines as poverty. Let's make one thing perfectly clear: This is not the fault of the kids.

The fault is with the parents or, often, the lack thereof.

The majority of people who are poor in America are poor because they knowingly have made poor decisions. That may be ugly and uncomfortable to the soulless, politically correct masters of denial, but it's the truth nonetheless.

Being poor is largely a choice, a daily, if not hourly, decision. If you decide to drop out of school, fail to learn a skill, have no work ethic or get divorced, a life of poverty is often the consequence. The children of parents who choose a life of poverty quite often pay a horrible price, and so does all of America.

Poverty rates among college graduates, those who learn a trade or skill and parents who stay married are much lower than the rates among those who choose opposite paths. As author William J. Bennett pointed out a number of years ago in his book "The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators," children of single parents are much more likely to be involved in crime and premarital sex, to drop out of school and to get involved with drugs. Ugly and uncomfortable as that may be, it's the truth.

The question is: What to do about lowering the poverty rate?

First, we need a government that respects the free market and private sector instead of spitting on them. The more our government embraces the private sector, the more opportunity there is available for people who choose it. That will be good for kids.

Second, we need to punish poor decisions instead of rewarding them. We cannot continue to offer a safety blanket to those Americans who make poor choices. The fewer social welfare programs, the better. This, too, may be ugly and uncomfortable, but we must make hard choices that force people into making smart, responsible decisions.

Third, we must encourage churches and civic organizations to step up and do what is necessary to help children living in poverty. Instead of building larger, more ornate churches, I say we encourage churches to take on a much larger role in their communities. The same goes for civic organizations. They need to step up in a big way.

Fourth, our schools need to be dramatically restructured. I advocate that our kids go to school year-round from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. We need to make it easier to fire poor teachers and reward good ones and bust up the National Education Association.

Fifth, if you can't afford to have kids, quit having them and expecting the taxpayers to pay for them. Men and women with no visible means of support other than the taxpayer dime shouldn't be having children. That may sound ugly and controlling, but it's much uglier to expect the taxpayer to pay for mindless baby-making machines, which guarantees the cycle of poverty.

As country crooner Lynn Anderson sang 40 or so years ago, I never promised you a rose garden.

Never reward poor choices unless you want more of them. That's so simple, it's stupid.

Ted Nugent is an American rock 'n' roll, sporting and political activist icon. He is the author of "Ted, White, and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto" and "God, Guns & Rock 'N' Roll" (Regnery Publishing).