9 thoughts on “The War on the War on Poverty”

  1. Dean, today’s GI Bill is not a success. It does not provide enough to cover even a single semester at a decent university. It is fit for people who want to doom their academic careers by attending a second-rate public university. The GI Bill offered after World War II did a lot of good for society by providing reasonable funds, while today’s GI Bill is just a tool to sucker confused young people into joining.

    Similarly, the Pell Grant is for me (from a low-income home) $800 a semester, while a semester of tuition is $16,000. How can one consider the government exceedingly generous when it gives such meagre sums?

  2. Maybe America really is a Christian nation:

    “New Poll Finds Bush Priorities Are Out of Step With Americans” NY Times, March 3, 2005

    “Americans say President Bush does not share the priorities of most of the country on either domestic or foreign issues, are increasingly resistant to his proposal to revamp Social Security and say they are uneasy with Mr. Bush’s ability to make the right decisions about the retirement program, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.”

    Bush’s risky privatization scheme would plunge the nation more deeply into debt, reduce benefits for struugling seniors and exchange the security of the only economic safety net seniors have, for the volatility and uncertainty of Wall Street. Thank God, even with all the artificial sweeterner and food coloring most Americans can smell the strong odor of Snake Oil this time.

  3. The NYT concludes that “Americans say President Bush does not share the priorities of most of the country on either domestic or foreign issues” forgetting that these same Americans gave him a second term. (How come it seems their conclusion wasn’t really part of the poll?) In any case, Robert Novak has a better analysis of the problem.

  4. Note #1: I’ve read some disingenuous characterization of conservative positions but this one really takes the cake.

    Myron Magnet writes:
    “If you want to help the poor … liberate them from dependency through welfare reform; free their communities from criminal anarchy through activist policing; give them the education they need to succeed in a modern economy by holding their schools accountable; and let them enjoy the rewards of work by taxing their modest wages lightly–or not at all.”

    “For the worst-off–those hampered by addiction or alcohol or faulty socialization–let the government pay private organizations, especially religious ones, to help. Such people need a change of heart to solve their problems, the president himself deeply believed; and while a clergyman or a therapist might help them, a bureaucrat couldn’t.”

    And the Left describes this as “a ‘Let them Eat Cake’ policy of benign neglect towards poverty that is offensive and contrary to the teachings of our Christian faith.”

    Only to the Left could liberation and freedom from poverty be interpreted as “contrary to the … Christian faith” and nothing but a “policy of benign neglect.” Yes, it is much more in line with our Christian faith to force people to stand in line before a bunch of bureaucrats for a welfare check, to live behind burglar bars in crime infested neighborhoods, to chain poor children to a failing schools, and abandon addicts to the slavery of drug and alcohol addiction. Yes, that does sound so much more like the Gospels.

  5. #4 – Americans gave Bush a second term because Kerry was worse on so many issues. Simply because Bush won doesn’t mean he is in touch with the American public. In his hubris, I am sure he believes this, but that is simply not the case. Polls tell us that most Americans want to limit outsourcing and close the borders, two things neither Bush nor Kerry were interested in doing. So those two issues just dropped from sight, as neither candidate would seriously address them. There are a lot of other issues that both candidates were almost identical on, and their opinions were completely out-of-step with the American electorate.

    That being said, let’s put government programs in perspective. No socialist state has ever managed to eliminate poverty. In fact, they have only expanded it by making almost everyone equally poor. Those who favor state-run welfare are simply dodging this unpleasant fact. Europe, currently, is suffering a major funding crisis in its desire to continue social welfare programs that are not working and are simply too expensive to continue.

    This doesn’t mean that we are to forget the poor. Locally managed welfare programs have a higher success rate than those run federally. Perhaps as part of a roll-back in federal programs we could look more to states and localities. At the same time, private, religious-based approaches tend to have better results. That doesn’t mean the government should fund them, but rather that the government should get out of the way and let them do their work.

    The U.S. does major problems with poverty. However, 36% of the impoverished population of the U.S. are either immigrant families or the U.S.-born children of immigrants. In addition to directly sucking money out of the system, impoverished illegal immigrants depress wages and directly affect the ability of low-wage Americans to work themselves out of their circumstances.

    If you want to help poor Americans, reduce the burden on tax payers, and run more effective programs – stop the illegal and legal immigration of poor people, kill federal programs, expand local and state programs, and contribute more to private charities run by people who actually care.

  6. Can You Recognize a Ponzi Scheme When You See One?

    A little bit of Economics 101 cures a lot of Leftism
    So should the history of the 20th Century

    Sometimes I think that Leftism amounts to no more than ignorance of economics. After all the economies of Communist countries simply did not work. Proof of this Communist societies fell deeper and depper into poverty until they collapsed.

    Our Federal Reserve Chairman just confirmed in a Congressional hearing that the Ponzi scheme is now broke and needs to be fixed. Limited number of ways folks, increase returns on investment, increase tax, or decrease or delay benefits. There is no such thing as a free lunch and the observation by President Bush that the Ponzi scheme is imploding is not non-Christian, it is simply truthful.

    The proposal is not a “privitization” scheme. Personal accounts would be maintained inside the Social Security system and they would be voluntary, not mandatory. I am not embracing this idea as the sole solution. There may well be other, thoughtful and effective solutions. But a solution is what we need. What is your’s Dean? I do believe that President Bush has publicly stated that he will consider any reasonable alternative, however, he is insisting that we work on a solution.

    If the younger generation of this country fully understood the magnitude of the wealth transfer from the young to the old through Social Security there would be a political tsunami. Please remember that benefits under Social Security were not originally intended to be anti-poverty program. Benefits are NOT adjusted for income, they go to well-to-do persons as well as poor persons. Many people in the public still think that someone that government has been putting their contributions in some small little account with their name on it and letting it grow. Not so, they have been spending today’s tax on today’s retirees. They are used the heavy and regressive taxation of young voters to buy the votes of AARP. In the interests of full disclosure, I no longer quality as a “young” worker.

    Social Security tax is one of the most regressive taxes in the country and has an economic effect nearly equal to income tax. Benefits were granted to retirees through legislation that bore no relationship to the value of the benefits paid into the system. The extra comes from current workers. It is a pyramid scheme, not an investment system.

  7. I find always ironic that there are people who call themselves Christian, and yet support pushing millions of vulnerable, elderly Americans into poverty and destitution. Because pushing millions of vulnerable, elderly Americans into poverty and destitution is the practical result of President Bush’s proposal to eliminate social security and give people a private saving account instead.

    First the social security program is not an investment program, but an insurance program. It’s purpose is to guaranteee that Americans who pay into the program have a guaranteed and defined benefit. If social security is eliminated and replaced with private savings accounts the economic security of Americ’s seniors will be replaced with another system that exposes them to the inherent volatility and riskiness of the markets.

    This change would come at a time when the economic security of Americans is already subject to increasing risk. Outsourcing has placed the job security of Americans at risk. Health care has also become an area of economic risk with medical bills now representing the most common reason for bankruptcy in the United States. The Bankruptcy bill passed by the Republican Congress last week made it more difficult for Americans to seek bankruptcy protection while at the same time making it easier for Credit Card companies to extend credit to the uncredit-worthy and then and then gouge them unbelievable high rates and fees. (My own daughter was sent three credit card applications when she was 3-years old)

    Also this week Democrats in Congress will introduce legislation to raise the minimum wage, which has not been increased in many years, by two dollars an hour. Senator Rick Santorum and other Republicans have announced their intention to introduce a poison-pill that would make a minimum wage increase unpalatable by linking it with other undesirabley conditions. At the same time Republicans want to increase the economic risks faced by the poor and middle class they are doing everything, from encouraging outsourcing, slashing funding for educationn and job training, to and fighting minimum wage increases to give the poor and middle class fewer and fewer resources with which to cope with that risk.

    As Christians we are explicitly charged with protecting the weak and providing for the needy among us. The President’s social security phase-out proposal and other forms of Republican class warfare through legislation eliminate economic protections from the weak and will create more needy and impovershed members of our society.

    Yesterday’s Gospel reading was the well known Matthew 25 in which Christ tells us that what we have done to the poor, weak and vulnerable, we have done to Christ. Because it is so purposefully harmful to the vulnerable elderly the President’s Social Security phase-out proposal is not just antithetical to Christianity, but represents an all-out assault on Christ.

  8. Paul Krugman does a good job today of describing why Bush’s “ownership society” is really a “debt-peonage society”, or as uber-capitalist Warren Buffet describes it a “share-cropper” society.


    Krugman writes: “Today the Senate is expected to vote to limit debate on a bill that toughens the existing bankruptcy law, probably ensuring the bill’s passage. … But the bill also fits into the broader context of what Jacob Hacker, a political scientist at Yale, calls “risk privatization”: a steady erosion of the protection the government provides against personal misfortune, even as ordinary families face ever-growing economic insecurity.

    The bill would make it much harder for families in distress to write off their debts and make a fresh start. Instead, many debtors would find themselves on an endless treadmill of payments.

    …As Mr. Hacker and others have documented, over the past three decades the lives of ordinary Americans have become steadily less secure, and their chances of plunging from the middle class into acute poverty ever larger. Job stability has declined; spells of unemployment, when they happen, last longer; fewer workers receive health insurance from their employers; fewer workers have guaranteed pensions.

    Some of these changes are the result of a changing economy. But the underlying economic trends have been reinforced by an ideologically driven effort to strip away the protections the government used to provide. For example, long-term unemployment has become much more common, but unemployment benefits expire sooner. Health insurance coverage is declining, but new initiatives like health savings accounts (introduced in the 2003 Medicare bill), rather than discouraging that trend, further undermine the incentives of employers to provide coverage.

    Above all, of course, at a time when ever-fewer workers can count on pensions from their employers, the current administration wants to phase out Social Security.

    The bankruptcy bill fits right into this picture. When everything else goes wrong, Americans can still get a measure of relief by filing for bankruptcy – and rising insecurity means that they are forced to do this more often than in the past. But Congress is now poised to make bankruptcy law harsher, too.”

    By the way – the new Bankruptcy bill would make it possible for creditors to sieze assts in the type of social security “personal investment account” that President Bush proposes.

  9. Compassionate Conservatism has been revealed as a cynical joke this week. The Senate Republicans rejected an increase in the minimum wage, which hasn’t been increased in nine years. Currently a person earning the minimum wage would have an income 20% UNDER than the poverty level. Yet, this same Congress has passed tax cuts of an average $246,000 for people earning one million dollars in stock dividends.


    The Compassionate Conservatives also passed a bankruptcy bill on behalf of the credit card industry, that made it much more difficult for average people to recover from financial misfortune. The Republicans refused to make an exception for veterans or national guardsmen, for victims of identity theft, or for people whose finances are wiped out by catastrophic medical emergencies.

    Former White House chief of staff John Podesta writes: “Two million Americans go bankrupt every year?1 every 15 seconds. If current trends continue, 1 in 7 families with children will go bankrupt by the end of the decade. These rising bankruptcy levels directly correlate with rising levels of consumer debt. And those rising debt levels in turn reflect a tectonic shift in our economy?away from a time when families could afford to save, and into a time when their wages are stagnant (+12% since 1978) but the costs of their health premiums (+163% since 1988), their tuitions (+170% since 1978), their mortgages, and their child care have risen dramatically. Because of all these trends, families stand on a precipice, and one sickness or pink slip sends them off the cliff, with no safety net below”


    As we relate these events to Christian values we can see that the Republicans are not following the moral imperative to assist those in need and distress, but quite the opposite, they are changing are nation’s laws to make life more difficult for the needy and distressed.

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