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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cruel Follies: Fighting Poverty The Republican Way, With Fresh (And Not-So-Fresh) Ideas

Cruel Follies: Fighting Poverty The Republican Way, With Fresh (And Not-So-Fresh) Ideas

Listening to Republican politicians these days, as they talk (and talk and talk) about poverty and inequality, can be a poignant experience. They want us to know they’re worried about the diminishing economic prospects confronted by so many Americans. They hope we will admire their shiny new solutions. And they are so eager for us to believe that they care.

But however concerned those Republican worthies may be, they still insist on promoting the same exhausted and useless ideas favored by their party for decades.  The sad result is that almost nobody believes that they care at all – and their “anti-poverty initiatives” tend to be dismissed with a snicker as public relations rather than public policy.

Of course, it would be easier to feel sorry for these would-be saviors of the poor if they tried just a little harder. How long have conservatives been advising the poor that their lot would improve if only they got religion? That pious attitude dates back beyond Dickens — but Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, House Budget Committee chair and Mitt Romney running mate, seems to feel it qualifies him as a deep and sensitive thinker. (As a Catholic, however, Ryan should note that Pope Francis doesn’t think prayer will suffice for the excluded and the impoverished. Instead His Holiness urges governments to act boldly on their behalf.)

The latest example of rhetorical failure is Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican whose eager quest for national relevance has yet to achieve traction. Marking the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of the “war on poverty,” Rubio delivered what aides billed as a major address on the topic, filled with fresh and brilliant policy alternatives to “big government.”

What little content could be gleaned from Rubio’s speech — leaving aside the worn homilies about the land of opportunity and his toiling ancestors – was a Reagan-era plan to devolve federal anti-poverty programs to the states, as “block grants,” plus a vague scheme to transform the successful Earned Income Tax Credit into something different, with details to arrive someday.

The entire speech consisted of such thin and indigestible gruel, which the worst workhouse would have hesitated to serve its downtrodden clientele a century or so ago. Even the undeserving poor deserve better.

Much as conservatives like Rubio repeatedly tell us that local and state programs are always better than federal, there isn’t much evidence to support the claim. They should listen to their own constant complaining about the unacceptable quality of public education, which is almost entirely administered by towns, counties, and states – and contrasts nicely with Social Security and Medicare, the two most effective remedies for poverty ever devised in this country.

Does Rubio propose that the government should turn those popular and efficient programs into block grants, and send the money to the states? He would be chased out of Florida with tar and feathers if he dared.

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  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    First, I really do not like this new layout for this site. It is too cumbersome. Now, to the meat of the article. The Republican party has been in denial about poverty since the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the resultant Depression. Even though they supported LBJ in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, they did not support Medicare and Medicaid any more than they supported the Social Security Act. They have been opposed to minimum wage laws and unions since the 1880s (with the exception of the Roosevelt Administration), and in general have shown their lack of concern for the needs of the people.

    • dtgraham

      Agree on the site.

    • daniel bostdorf

      Lets commend Joe Conason and the web gurus here for the new design and fixing glitches so quickly.

      This has allowed for a healthy free exchange of ideas about GOP

  • jmprint

    I totally agree about the layout of this site, I liked it better before.

    My opinion is: Here you have a young unexperienced lawyer, straight out of college and wants to tell people who have been in the workforce and contributed to the betterment of this nation. Some people are at the right place at the right time, but that doesn’t make them smarter. He is clueless of what makes a great country. His vision is strictly the path to presidency. There is no concern about anything and anybody.

    Being in business 33 years, I have encountered numerous ambitious young men who have ideas, but with no experience, they are gambling with other peoples life. I once lost out on a very important loan, because a young straight out of college loan officer, who at the time (I found out later) was doing cocaine. He sat there with the light dimmed, kept sniffling and blowing his nose all while I’m explaining my business strategy, he turned it down saying it would bury us. My CPA was furious, because we PLL was outstanding. We went to another bank and got approved, but the point is. Just because a young college graduate is ambitious doesn’t necessarily mean they know what is good for us.

    • dtgraham

      I’m only making a post to agree with you and disqus about the site. I also liked the layout much better before although at least the major problems seem to have been corrected. For a while there, I thought Joe had hired the original team to redesign the site.

      • daniel bostdorf

        No he didn’t hire CGI the GOP realted cronies in Canada..

        I am an owners of a website that had to roll out a redesign…and…your test beta site may work….but when you go “LIVE” thats a whole another game….

        it is a wonderful site….cant wait for more livestream!

        • dtgraham

          That was just a joke on the temporary problems daniel. No, I didn’t think that he literally hired CGI.

          • daniel bostdorf

            got it….on same wavelength…. 🙂

  • Bill Thompson


    • docb

      What happened to disqus?

  • Bill Thompson

    What is going on with this site

    • Sigrid28

      Friend, I think I know what is going on. The new site is designed to discourage comments from the great unwashed by a media source that no longer cares what people like us say or think. Never mind that there was a NM following that used to converse on the NM comment threads. We could show our likes and dislikes about specific comments–no more.

      It seems you can no longer go back a day later and edit a piece you posted on a NM comment thread–a misspelled word, for example. Authors of articles probably can, but not the devalued readers who post on the comment threads. Our accuracy or better thoughts don’t matter.

      Note that some comments have been dropped–and others kept–from threads on articles published prior to today. For example, the National Memo’s comment judges dropped on of mine: a polite, progressive post I wrote without using any dubious grammar or vocabulary on the topic of the article. I just didn’t win NM’s new COMMENT CONTEST, which is meant to make us all friends–Don’t you think? I for one always liked the core of people who commented here.

  • daniel bostdorf

    Lets commend Joe Conason and the web gurus here for the new design and fixing glitches so quickly.

    Disqus is back.! Flag the trolls! ullies and off topic TROLLS!