An article in today’s San Antonio Express-News reported on a federal program – so-called 8(a) certification by the SBA – that is designed to help socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs gain access to the economic mainstream of American society. That sounds like an unassailable program even for a conservative for me. I have long argued that affirmative action by colleges in favor of minorities should be replaced by affirmative action for kids who are socially and economically disadvantaged, such as those with parents who are poor or uneducated, and this sounds like a move in the same direction.
But the devil is in the details. Upon closer examination, I learned that the federal program presumes you to be socially and economically disadvantaged if you have at least 25% membership in one of the following groups:
- Black Americans
- Hispanic Americans
- Native Americans
- Asian Pacific Americans
- Subcontinent Asian American
It would have been simpler to designate who is not eligible – i.e., white people. To ensure broader, self-serving support, the program includes women as potentially disadvantaged, but actually requires women to provide some evidence of personal disadvantage.
As in the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the government develops a language that is specifically designed to mislead the people, America’s government has determined that affirmative action for minorities is no longer defensible. But instead of ending affirmative action for minorities, the government simply changes the language. Minorities become, by definition, social and economically disadvantaged individuals.
The Express-News article quotes an individual who describes the 8(a) certification as a wonderful windfall:
- “The 8(a) is an important certification for a small business. It’s kind of like getting into Harvard.”
Although 8(a) says nothing about affirmative action or minority set-asides, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck….