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January 2 2014

The De Blasio Inauguration: Teen from Dysfunctional Family Used as Prop for "Inequality"

Charlotte Hays

Yesterday’s mayoral inauguration in New York almost made me miss Nanny Bloomberg.

Former mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose nanny state ways were indefensible, is beginning to look better in contrast to his successor, Bill de Blasio, who represents the extreme left of the Democratic Party.

New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin, who was dismayed that de Blasio & Co. didn't even give Nanny B. a nice call out yesterday, commented in general on the festivities:

The lack of grace and wisdom among the new officials is a bad omen. They talk of uniting the city when, in truth, their course can only further divide it. And, very likely, take it backwards ­after 20 years of true progress.

Neither de Blasio nor his mini-me sidekicks, Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer, exhibited a modicum of the sense necessary to lead a complex, world-class city.

They are the new Red Brigade, and you are either with them or you are their enemy. They declared war not on problems, but on people.

Their speeches were so full of tub-thumping nonsense that it would be hard to declare any one moment the lowlight, but this one from Stringer will do: He promised a future “that puts shared prosperity above individual success.”

Whatever, comrade.

James, a graduate of Howard University Law School, talked about “million-dollar condos” with such a sneer that she might be suffering apartment envy. She brought along a human prop, the girl named Dasani featured in a New York Times ­series on homeless children.

James saluted Dasani’s parents without mentioning that they have drug and alcohol problems and children they can’t support, but that would take her into the taboo realm of personal responsibility.

Writing in the wake of the inauguration, Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute has also taken note of the prominence of the 11-year-old who was presented yesterday as a symbol for what Mayor de Blasio called “the economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love.” Except that she isn’t a victim of an economic abstration known as "inequality."

She is the victim of something much closer home--in fact, at home: irresponsible parents. Irresponsible is a polite world, as you'll see, for Dasani's mother and step father.

Dasani and her family were originally introduced to the public in a New York Times piece, headlined “Invisible Child.”  Written by Times reporter Andrea Elliott, it depicted a family in parent-inflicted chaos.

Dasani’s mother, Chanel, has six children by three different men and is often “listless from methadone.” She does not have a job. Chanel’s husband Supreme--who is not Dasani’s father--also has a serious drug problem. Dasani, in fact, is the primary caretaker of the family, which includes seven other children. Dasani gets up early to feed the baby, her half sibling, and get the other kids off to school. She is consequently late to school herself.

It appears that the family has sometimes had opportunities that, if responsible adults were in control, might have provided a toehold in a more normal existence. For example, Chanel inherits $49,000 when her mother dies. But the money evaporates, and Chanel is left wondering where it went. Chanel’s mother, Joanie, reportedly turned her life around after welfare reform, got a $22,000 a year job and managed to save the money that Chanel managed to blow.

Hymowitz notes that Elliott is an honest enough reporter to admit that there is “parental dysfunction” in the household. But the reporter said that she wanted to avoid “the politics of blame,” by which apparently she means Chanel and Supreme’s remiss childrearing style.

Hymowitz writes:

Like most progressives, Elliott seems immune to the lessons of Joanie’s success. If Chanel and Supreme both worked full-time at minimum wage, she tells us, their combined salaries would come to only $2,300 per month—just enough to cover “the average rent for a studio in Brooklyn.” Not only does she wildly exaggerate rental costs (the New York City Department of Housing and Preservation reports median rent for all vacant apartments, not just studios, in 2011 as $1,100), but her calculations also don’t take into account the Earned Income Tax Credit; Social Security; food stamps; nutrition programs for women, infants, and children; and Supreme’s widower benefits, among other public sources of aid.

It might not add up to much, but it would mean giving life to what Elliott calls “abstractions like . . . self-reliance.”  

Some parents nevertheless do struggle to rear their children well in adverse conditions. Of these brave souls, Hymowitz notes:

Ironically, by blurring Bloomberg-era inequality with the perpetual carelessness of Chanel and Supreme, the Times diminishes those workers who are genuinely struggling with stalled median wages, working poverty, and poor skills.

Dasani’s story is heartbreaking. But de Blasio and his progressives have drawn the wrong lesson. Dasani is not the victim of "inequality." She is the victim of her own parents' irresponsible actions, actions absolved by progressives but harmful to children such as the courageous Dasani.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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