A Swift Kick In the Bennett

Bill Bennett, Good Morning America
8.6MB QT movie of Bill Bennett segment on Good Morning America, featuring interviews with Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) and Robert George (New York Post)

On Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes, Bill Bennett blusteringly defends his comment that “…it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down” by saying:

This is like Swift’s “Modest Proposal.” Uh, for people who remember their, their literature, you put things up in order to examine them. I put it up, examined it, and said that is ridiculous and impossible no matter who advances it.

Sadly, the man who was the Secretary of Education seems to have missed a few lessons in his literature classes. Swift wrote “A Modest Proposal” as an indictment of the poverty the Irish were forced to endure under the control of one of the richest nations on the earth: England. Swift argued that the landlords of Ireland had sucked so much life out of the poor, they might as well go ahead and eat the flesh of their children. That “the want of venison [due to over-hunting] might be well supplied by the bodies of young lads and maidens, not exceeding fourteen years of age nor under twelve.” That this culling of the unwanted Irish herd would not only reduce the number of papists, but that it would provide an income for adults (from the sale of their children to the butcher), that it would induce marriages and pregnancies, and “prevent those voluntary abortions.”

The difference between Bennett and Swift couldn’t be more vast. Bennett believes his line about killing every black child reducing the crime rate. He hasn’t apologized for saying that. He said it would be a reprehensible thing to do, but that could simply be because his process involved abortion.

Swift, on the other hand, was mocking the people who were ignoring the suffering of the poor on their own doorsteps. He wasn’t discussing the feasibility of a scheme that he was “examining.” He was jabbing a knife in the unprotected back of the upper class who simply let the suffering go on and on. His proposal didn’t end (as Bennett’s did) with “That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.” Swift wrapped up with an alternative to eating the children of the poor:

After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any offer proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual. But before something of that kind shall be advanced in contradiction to my scheme, and offering a better, I desire the author or authors will be pleased maturely to consider two points. First, as things now stand, how they will be able to find food and raiment for an hundred thousand useless mouths and backs. And secondly, there being a round million of creatures in human figure throughout this kingdom, whose whole subsistence put into a common stock would leave them in debt two millions of pounds sterling, adding those who are beggars by profession to the bulk of farmers, cottagers, and laborers, with their wives and children who are beggars in effect: I desire those politicians who dislike my overture, and may perhaps be so bold as to attempt an answer, that they will first ask the parents of these mortals, whether they would not at this day think it a great happiness to have been sold for food, at a year old in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have avoided such a perpetual scene of misfortunes as they have since gone through by the oppression of landlords, the impossibility of paying rent without money or trade, the want of common sustenance, with neither house nor clothes to cover them from the inclemencies of the weather, and the most inevitable prospect of entailing the like or greater miseries upon their breed for ever.

So. Bill Bennett’s not just a racist talk show host, former drug czar, and former Secretary of Education, but he’s a stupid, racist talk show host, former drug czar, and former Secretary of Education. That’s Readin’ down. ‘Rithmatic was pretty much shot by his prediliction for slot machines. Only one R left, but I sure as hell ain’t gonna read any of his books.