If you’re in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 26, don’t miss our IWF all-star panel: Katrina and Poverty (check it out from our home page). Our Our four panelists are top names: Charles Murray, who needs no introduction as the first public intellectual to notice, and to analyze systematically, the fact that welfare doesn’t help people but instead breeds a debilitating culture of dependence; John McWhorter, the UC-Berkeley linguist and blunt critic of the black underclass; Star Parker, former welfare mother and current welfare-reform activist; and New Orleans-based Nicole Gelinas, who has written article after article for City Journal about her native city’s dysfunctional economy and political culture that are the chief reasons why New Orleans remains largely a devastated, depopulated ruin more than a year after last August’s catastrophe.

This is a function not to be missed. We’ll be serving light refreshments starting at 5 p.m. in our offices at 1726 M Street N.W., 10th floor, and our panel will start at 5:30. Our president, Michelle Bernard, will moderate. See you there!

As everyone knows, media coverage of Hurricane Katrina revealed that New Orleans contained a huge population of chronically impoverished, chronically unemployed citizens, most receiving public assistance and living in public housing and most of them African-Americans; they were the hardest-hit by the ruin left in the flooding’s wake. The  The ruling theory among our intellectual and media elites is that their plight was the fault of racism or a post-industrial economy that had left them behind. Our theory is that long-term poverty is due to a culture of poverty, fostered by welfare dependence and our society’s blitheful indifference to the consequences of ignoring such middle-class values as willingness to work and getting married and staying married.

And for a blunt look at the culture of poverty, our blogstress-friend Bookworm sends this link to Gerry Charlotte Phelps’s online book about the 18 years she spent running homeless shelters in Bakersfield and San Jose, Calif., in the process moving politically from radical-left to conservative right. Here are some excerpts from her chapter titled “What Poor People Are Like”:

“[M]ost of the adults who passed through the shelter had, on the average, about 25 outstanding traffic warrants.  If they were ever stopped by the police for any reason, it was straight to jail.

“Another such detail was that many of our clients used more than one name.  Why?  There were many reasons.  But a big one was that they could get more than one welfare check that way….

“We had a licensed day care center, but it was not big enough for all our pre-school children.  The parents of the children in our day care center had to work.  But parents of the other pre-school children did not have to work, since they had no child care.  So they sat in our dining room all day with their children, watched their soap operas on TV and coffee-klatched with the other moms….

They did not talk to [their children].  They did not read to them or play with them, despite the large supply of children’s books, records, games and toys.  They did not arrange for them to busy coloring or drawing or playing with games or toys, even by themselves.  They did not arrange for them to play with the other children.  They did not seem to notice when one child was abusing another or doing something destructive….

“One instructive detail was that there were certain groups of people that we never saw among the homeless.  Among these were any Asians, Mormons or Seventh-Day Adventists.  And only one Jew.  These groups not only have a strong work-ethic, but they also stick together and help each other.    

“Notably, for the women, being homeless had a lot to do with the kind of man in their lives.  We never saw a homeless mom whose man was willing to work, except very briefly.  We also never saw a homeless mom whose man was not only willing to work, but also did none of these:  drink, use drugs, abuse her or the children, run around with other women or commit crimes.  Most of them, sadly, had one or more of these problems.  In fact, a homeless woman might count herself lucky if he did only some of these things, but not others….

“Whatever they told us, there was almost always a man in the house, usually a boyfriend.  Usually he did not contribute financially to the household.  If fact, he was usually a financial parasite, living off the mother and often other welfare girlfriends as well…..

“His attitude about working was that it was beneath him.  That jobs that he could get were too undignified.  He scorned friends who worked at entry-level jobs for ‘chump change.’  He usually lacked the concept of starting in a low-level job and working his way up.”

Great preparation for attending our panel.