Response to Mayor Abed’s UT Commentary of Oct. 26, 2013

October 26, 2013

Editor, UT San Diego

At his October 9, 2013, town hall meeting, Escondido Mayor Sam Abed effectively said that, “parents who don’t have the time to raise their children and depend on government help to raise them should not have children in the first place.”[1] The obvious criticism to this statement is that Abed seems to believe that poor people shouldn’t have children. Now he has changed it to, “a parent who doesn’t make time for their kids shouldn’t have them.”[2]

The scathing criticism of his first statement seems to have registered with Abed, a bit. His second statement narrows his criticism to those parents who make the choice not to spend time with their children. Of course, someone working three jobs just to keep food on her children’s table, might find taking time or the money to take them to recreational activities not a viable choice. Literally, not a viable, “capable of living”[3], option.

If a poor woman wants to be responsible, and not have children, Abed and his Republican cohorts are the first to deny such a woman ready access to birth control, or, should she have access to birth control and that birth control failed, access to an abortion. Because, Republican love for the fetus will always abide though their love for poor children is remarkably missing in action. Does Abed believe that poor people should forgo sex in order not to have children?

Republicans object to the teaching of sex education—where youngsters might learn about what causes pregnancy, and how it can be avoided along with STDs. They prefer the teaching of “abstinence only”, a concept that only makes sense in a Fundamentalist fantasyland.

Abed’s basic notion that parents should be responsible is not unreasonable, but irresponsible parents are often the progeny of irresponsible parents. Back in the Nineteenth Century, people figured out that schools were cheaper than jails. Free public schools could allow underprivileged children to improve their station. What was true in the Nineteenth Century is true today. Why should children suffer for their parents’ lack of means, education, or character?

For over thirty years this nation has been experimenting in supply-side-, trickle-down-, or Voodoo economics. Call it what you will–it does not work. Since 1981, the top one-percent of income earners’ share of the total national income has grown from 9% to 23.5%. During that same period, average Americans saw their incomes stagnate.[4] The USA has dropped to eighth in the world in social mobility. It is easier for a poor man in any Scandinavian country, Canada, Germany, and France to become wealthy than it is for an American.[5] Countries with more progressive income-tax systems, like the USA used to have before our experiment with voodoo economics, have lower social inequality. [6]  Republicans repeat ad nauseam that lowering taxes will decrease unemployment, even though a study by the Congressional Research Service directly contradicts this notion.[7]  Republicans like Abed continually rail against the notion of redistribution of wealth. Where is their criticism of the redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich that has occurred over the last thirty years?

Abed said “Our society would be better off if we endeavored to strengthen families, and expect personal responsibility from parents, rather than making it easy for them to give up their basic parental responsibilities.”[8] So, in Abed’s mind, shutting down the East Valley Pkwy. Branch of the Escondido Public Library was a good thing, because now parents couldn’t just allow their children to walk to the library after school, they would have to “make time” to take them to the main (and now only) Escondido Public Library. And, raising fees for recreational activities is a good thing, because now parents will have to be more responsible and pay more?

Abed has forgotten that basic truth realized in the Nineteenth Century, schools are cheaper than jails. Libraries and recreational opportunities as cheaper than graffiti removal. Abed has often stated his goal of increasing income levels in Escondido. He appears to want to accomplish that by making things more difficult for the poor, hoping they’ll move away. What he is accomplishing is alienation of half the population. They won’t move away, but they may vote in the next election.


Margaret McCown Liles


8 thoughts on “Response to Mayor Abed’s UT Commentary of Oct. 26, 2013

  1. Nova

    Thank you Margaret, for starting this blog. What I have seen in the past several years is the movement of my country to third world status, in part because we have lost much of our community cohesiveness, and the belief that it is only together that we rise as a people. In the media and in the mouths of so many politicians, there is a steady drumbeat of denigration of the poor, and the deification of unbridled capitalism and the “I did it all by myself” entrepreneur.


  2. patricia borchmann

    It’s such a good idea, that you’ve created your own new blog to post your views !

    Your observations are always so accurate, and express the thoughts of a wide audience. Your work always conveys a powerful message, and reflects the intellectual muscle of a MVP athlete in Escondido.

    Thank you for spending much of your own personal time, working on articles for your blog! Always anxiously waiting for next one.
    Patricia Borchmann


  3. Patrick Coony

    Margaret…. I’ll look forward to following your blog. Clearly Mayor Abed comments belie an overall insensitivity to the poor who by necessity must disproportionately rely on government services. But it is not surprising that his emphasis on “parental responsibility” and by extension “personal responsibility” strikes a popular chord and for reasons that many of us don’t fully appreciate.

    My view is that our society has suffered immensely from several generations of television commercial propaganda which essentially keeps telling us to indulge ourselves and behave irresponsibly. The result? Rates of recreational drug use which far exceed the negligible rates during the pre-television era and which cause significant social damage, especially for families and children. The decline of the two parent family. A “sex is everything” social mentality. Record divorce rates. Even our dismal voting participation statistics.

    The classic liberal response to these trends has been a continuing call for tolerance even though virtually every politically liberal activist I know conducts his or her life with a high degree of personal responsibility.

    So I would suggest that it is unwise to reject out of hand Mayor Abed’s call for parental responsibility even though your criticisms are quite valid. Don’t we all a society that reflects more “responsibility” than does our current culture?


    1. mmliles Post author

      Pat, as usual, your comments are very informative. I do not disagree with you about the tendency of our culture to make instant gratification some sort of norm. I did say… “Abed’s basic notion that parents should be responsible is not unreasonable, but irresponsible parents are often the progeny of irresponsible parents.” I think you and I would agree that education is the key, and perhaps the key to education is pre-school education and parental education—something that is provided in most other first world countries, and sadly lacking in our own.


    2. May

      The argument between 2 sides is usually because each side tends to point out solutions from their perspective. We all know that a big problem usually takes several solutions, combined, to solve the problem. So what happens is that the 2 sides spend all the time criticizing the other side, saying the other side is so one-sided, instead of adding to the other side’s point of view and come up with a comprehensive solution.

      This way, we come up with a complete picture, and we build consensus so we can work together to solve problems, instead of spending time arguing about who is more “right”.

      Successful corporations spend most of their energy solving problems and creating solutions. The corporate goal is not to spend most of their resources killing off the other point of view because the other side is “evil”. If politicians can put aside the desire to be in control, and instead aim to make the country better, we can get out of this gridlock.



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