Negative Outcomes, Negative Income

Andrew Yang is a Democrat campaigning for president with a universal basic income as his central policy plank. He likes to cite a similar plan passing the House years ago.

President Richard Nixon’s 1969 Family Assistance Plan (FAP), replacing AFDC with a guaranteed income, passed a full vote in the House in 1970 before dying in the Senate Finance Committee.

Moynihan sold Nixon on the policy, a version of Milton Friedman’s “negative income tax”


Nixon’s FAP might have put the then exploding class of race hustlers and welfare bureaucrats out of business early on. This appealed to Nixon, eager to address public outrage over the rapidly expanding welfare state. But it’s notable it also must have affected the liberal Moynihan’s thinking. By the close of the sixties, after having worked for Lyndon Johnson to implement the Great Society, he came to see the burgeoning civil rights industry as a mortal threat to the Union.

His role in the Nixon White House as adviser to the President with cabinet rank was approvingly described by John Ehrlichman in his Witness to Power as “the President’s counselor and resident thinker…” there “…to rove from subject to subject as he wished, stimulating our intellects and crying alarms.”

His 1965 Report on the Negro Family will live on in increased infamy for calling out black illegitimacy, but it was a memo four years–four years of expanding welfare rolls, black violence and race-hustling–later, solicited by President-elect Nixon, that suggests a growing disillusion with black potential that may have influenced his thinking regarding basic income

Two weeks before his inauguration Nixon had asked Moynihan to “sit back” about once a month and give him a general view of a particular area of public policy. On March 19, Moynihan dispatched a 28-page “Report to the President” on the state of race relations. In it he pictured the Nixon presidency as a turning point between stark alternative futures. One was grim: a “calamitous interlude during which the incapacity of ‘middle America’ to govern was once and for all established.” The other was glowing: a Nixon administration that was “an extraordinary and wholly unexpected success out of which grew the miraculous disappearance of race as a central problem of American life.” 

Moynihan found some encouraging evidence for the latter possibility in recent black gains in income and education. But hidden behind the race problem, he warned, was a class problem. That is, there was no longer a black community in America, there were two. The black poor was a too well known entity–heavily southern in their crippling pathology, abnormally dependent, demographically under siege, unusually self-damaging in their behavior, soaring toward a rate of illegitimacy that was approaching half of all black births. Their level of educational achievement was appalling, but the topic was “extremely sensitive.” 

Black apologists and white ideologues attempted to explain away this crippling learning gap as entirely the product of external discrimination and suppression. But, as Moynihan cautioned, “the facts would seem to be otherwise.” Recent research in urban IQ decline had showed an alarming trend: “a Negro intelligence distribution sharply skewed toward incompetence.”  

Moynihan alluded to the work of Arthur R. Jensen of Berkeley, which he’d had recently shared with the President, and with whom he was then in correspondence in a collegially courteous but substantively noncommittal fashion. Moynihan included a table showing that the percentage of Negro children with IQs under 75–the point of retardation–was 42.9 percent compared with 7.8 percent for whites in the lowest quintile of socio-economic class. In the two highest SES categories, the black-white ratio in retardation was a devastating 13.6 to 1. 

Moynihan acknowledged the recent scholarly revival, “in impeccably respectable circles,” of genetic explanations for these persistent racial discrepancies. He volunteered his own opinion that “I personally simply do not believe this is so.” But he acknowledged that as a matter of scientific dispute in light of divided evidence, “it is an open question.”

Moynihan identified the crisis of a black middle class–much of it employed in the race hustle and paid by government–using black urban terror as a bludgeon and means of looting the system.

“The chief danger of this situation, to Moynihan, was that a politicized and violent negro poor have given the black middle class an incomparable weapon with which to threaten white America.” This had been “an altogether intoxicating experience,” because the rising black middle class had created a new caste problem, a psychological demand for “equality of self valuation.” Behind the courteous optimism of the black middle class lay “volcanoes of hate and rage”–including self-hate as much as anything.” Thus the existence of a dependent, alienated, black urban lower class “has at last given the black middle class an opportunity to establish a secure and rewarding power base in American society–as a provider of social services to the black lower class…. 

“The era of equal opportunity, nondiscrimination, integration and such,” Moynihan concluded, “is coming to an end. But Moynihan seemed to be of two minds about this. in the universities, he said, there “is no trued Negro intellectual or academic class at this moment. (Thirty years ago there was: somehow it died out.)” Books by black authors were “poor stuff for the most part,” and the new Black Studies programs tended toward “the worst kid of ethnic-longings-for-a-glorious past.”

Wakanda! Moynihan had a vision–good for him he had no idea how bad it would get–of our world. He’s only deficient or maybe just discreet in calling out only the black class of race-hustlers, arguably then, but undeniably now less important than their Jewish allies.

The logic of these distortions was relentless: “before long blacks will be demanding Eleven Percent of all public places and services–in universities, civil services, legislatures, military academies, embassies, judges. This is not what the civil rights movement expected to come about, or hoped to see, but it does appear to be the outcome nonetheless .” On the other hand, given his own impeccably Irish, Hell’s Kitchen credentials, Moynihan historically observed: “What building contracts and police graft were to the 19th century Irish, the welfare departments, Head Start programs, and Black Studies programs will be to the coming generation of Negroes. They are of course very wise in this respect. These are expanding areas of economic opportunity. By contrast, black business enterprise offers relatively little.”  

Hugh Davis Graham, The Civil Rights Era, Origins and Development of National Policy, 1960-1972

Moynihan doesn’t mention it here, but part and parcel of this process was black violence. Throughout the sixties black rioting drove policy. Programs were devised and rushed into law or perpetuated explicitly to mollify black rage, with increased urgency each time summer rolled around:

In contrast, OEO [Office of Economic Opportunity] liberal supporters saw its program as relieving social frustration before it exploded into disorder. A 1965 memo from OEO head [Sargent] Shriver to [President] Johnson noted “that the most significant single thing combating potential riots this summer is your war against poverty.” 

A summer 1965 letter from NYC Mayor Robert F. Wagner to Johnson stressed that a threatened Neighborhood Youth Corps fund cut “could result in explosive consequences.” 

A December 1966 memo from Vice President Hubert Humphrey urged Johnson to restore proposed OEO cuts since “local officials are desperately afraid of what is going to happen this summer. 

A February 1968 memo from Shriver asked Johnson for a supplementary appropriation because “there is much more which could be done to ease tensions and at the same time provide hope and justice for the millions who will be seething in the cities.” 

Emergence and Defeat of Nixon’s Family Assistance Plan (FAP); Neuberger, Leland G., Boston University

I suspect Moynihan had lost faith in blacks’ ability to raise themselves out of poverty, as had Nixon, leading to their frankly bold and innovative policy proposal. In this recording of the two talking about the dread Race and IQ problem that surfaced a couple of years ago Moynihan mentions his Family Assistance Plan:

Conservative Republicans finally killed the FAP in the Senate but Moynihan blames the liberal race hustlers for its ultimate death.

Nixon might be now considered a liberal Republican–note here how he accepts the logic of school integration and boasts of increasing it in the South–if not for the mutual disdain with which he and the Eastern liberal elite held each other. Perhaps he and Moynihan saw eye-to-eye because of their shared working class origins.

I assert Pat Moynihan’s enthusiasm for a universal income tax was influenced by his lack of enthusiasm for black America’s human capital. He wanted to “dissolve” poverty not just to help the poor, but to take away this nuclear fuel rod of perpetual demagogy, powering our now stifling diversity state (the metaphorical uranium here isn’t just black poverty but black crime and general misery, which is a neat trick).

His grim prospect was realized. Another grim prospect–automation–resurrects his idea. But could a guaranteed income–replacing AFDC, for starters–have some beneficial effect in gutting the Diversity hustle?

I don’t know if it’s a good idea, but it’s an idea whose time has come.

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