By Nick Diamantides
Star Parker remembers what it was like to be a single mom on welfare. Looking back on those years, she strongly believes that many government programs which were aimed at helping the poor actually keep people in the cycle of poverty by punishing behavior that would enable them to live prosperous lives independent of government assistance. Now Parker is the Republican candidate for California's 37th Congressional District, and she hopes to unseat incumbent Democrat Laura Richardson in the Nov. 2 election.
"Having Laura Richardson represent the people of the 37th District is unacceptable in a free country that is so rich with opportunity," she said. "For that reason, I had to come back to the district to challenge her."
According to Parker, the United States is not simply in an economic dilemma-- it is at a critical crossroads where long cherished freedoms are threatened with extinction. "We have to make a decision as to who we are going to be as a people," she said. "Either we are all going to be government dependent or we are going to be free people."
Parker noted that it is commonly known that as a young woman she was on welfare. "But after a Christian conversion, I changed my life," she said. "I completed college and started a business." She explained that after earning a bachelor of science degree in marketing from Woodbury University in Los Angeles, she launched an urban Christian magazine, but that business was destroyed by the 1992 LA riots.
Then she began serving on various boards and commissions focusing on welfare reform and alternative solutions to fight poverty. She also authored two books and currently works as a syndicated columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service.
About 15 years ago, Parker founded the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE), a Washington think tank, and she is currently the president of that organization. "We look at market-based solutions to fight poverty," she said. "We share ideas with governmental officials that we believe will help move people away from government dependency and poverty." As a columnist and speaker, she shares the findings of that organization with millions of people every year.
Parker stressed that possibly the main issue before the voters this November is whether America should become a Socialist society. "Are we going to have a heavy-handed government in every part of our lives, or are we going to try to find local solutions and family solutions on how we can live and build community," she asked.
Parker said there are two ways of looking at economic stability. One is to take money from businesses and people who work and give it to the poor. The other way is to encourage people to become more responsible. "The first step out of poverty is self-government," she said. "People need to understand that they have a responsibility to the rest of us to be self sufficient, to be responsible with your choices. When people do that, we need less dollars in our government coffers."
She asserted that Richardson has consistently voted for government handouts that will create a tax burden so great that no working family will be able to survive without governmental assistance, and once that happens, America will cease to be a free country.
Parker stressed that what welfare programs have done to black families and communities should serve as a warning to America. "There were studies conducted many years ago that showed that if we engineered a War on Poverty or Great Society, we would see black family life collapse," she said. "It was a vulnerable community looking for educational and employment opportunities, but the government's method of helping did far more harm than good."
Parker explained that in the 1960s, the out-of-wedlock birthrate was 22 percent in black America and about three percent for the rest of the population. Then, according to Parker, the welfare program set up during the Johnson administration gave financial rewards to mothers who had no job, no husband, and little or no money in the bank. "It was not a deliberate thing, but it did collapse the black family," she said. "Over time, it became an incentive for many young women to not work and not get married. If they did either of those two things, they would lose their welfare checks." She said that led to the collapse of the black family and eventually the collapse of the black community. "Today, the out-of-wedlock birthrate in the black community is seven out of 10," she said.
Parker said she wants to reverse that process in the black community and stop it from progressing in other communities. "Now the Hispanic community's out-of-wedlock birthrates are at about 48 percent, and the white community's out-of-wedlock birthrate is 33 percent," she said. "Wherever we see welfare, we see all the other pathologies: low educational aspiration, high drug rates, high crime rates and more out-of-wedlock birth rates. That is true across the board."
According to Parker, communities need three things to be healthy and vibrant. "First of all, they need engaged people who understand personal responsibility, and, secondly, they need a strong business community that provides employment opportunities," she said. "The way you make businesses strong is you reduce regulations that make it difficult for businesses to thrive."
The third thing communities need to be healthy and vibrant, according to Parker, is strengthened charities. "There are people who really cannot help themselves, and local charities are the best way to meet the needs of those people," she stressed, adding that said volunteerism and financial donations are necessary for charities to be strong. "We need to pass legislation that provides tax credits-- dollar-for-dollar tax deductions-- to people who give to local charities," Parker said.
She explained that private charities are more efficient at helping the needy because people freely give their money and time to the work being done. "It's not the government taking somebody's money and giving to a poverty program that operates under regulations established in Washington DC," she said. "It's local people who know how best to meet the needs of the people in their region, and it's volunteers giving their time to help people in need."
She insists that the welfare state has taught millions of able-bodied, mentally competent people to believe that they cannot survive without tax-funded governmental assistance.
Parker said that she and many others are very alarmed about what is happening in American society today. "The increasing dependency on government is the wrong direction for our nation to take," she explained. "If you have a field that nobody owns, but everybody is allowed to come in and graze off of, pretty soon there is nothing left."
Parker insists that America must reverse that trend. "We can't do it overnight. We can't just abruptly cut people off of welfare, but we must start taking steps toward creating healthy communities, by encouraging people to take personal responsibility," she said.
According to Parker, Richardson has yet to come up with or support creative strategies that would actually help individuals and families climb out of the grip of poverty without burdening workers and businesses with heavy taxes. "Laura Richardson even voted against Race to the Top legislation, which provides federal grants to states that come up with strategies for improving their educational systems," Parker said.
Although Parker has maintained her Southern California residency for more than 20 years, she lived mostly in Washington DC after founding CURE. She moved to the Bixby Knolls section of Long Beach in April of this year and has a grown, married daughter.