Liberals exploit poverty to benefit their campaigns

Matt White

Poverty is an issue starved for understanding and overstuffed with misrepresentation.

Americans are a caring, compassionate people who are appalled when they hear horror stories about starving and homeless people. We want an answer for those who are in need, and we want it as quickly as possible.

And this is exactly why so many liberal politicians are able to exploit so many good people.

Former Democratic vice-presidential nominee John Edwards – the candidate who references the “two Americas” in his speeches – is exactly this sort of manipulative, power-hungry politician. He promises an answer and then fails to deliver.

Edwards and other liberals paint a very dark picture, and then propose a government solution. Creating new jobs – not government programs like Edwards would do – is the answer, but Edwards isn’t truly interested in solving the problem.

He’s interested in convincing people to vote for him year after year.

Poverty is a sad condition, but it has to be understood outside the context of shameless electioneering.

According to economist Robert Rector, who helped shape welfare reform in the 1990s, “the Census Bureau tells us each year that there are about 37 million people living in poverty, and when the average citizen hears that, they think that these are people who don’t have enough food to eat or don’t have clothes for their kids, or so forth. But, actually, from the government’s own number nearly all poor households have air conditioning, microwave ovens, two-thirds of them have cable TV. If you ask the poor parent did you have enough food for your family, they will say ‘yes,’ were you able to obtain medical care for your family, ‘yes,’ did you have enough money for all your essential needs, they will say ‘yes.'”

In short, when Americans hear the “two Americas” rhetoric, it isn’t an accurate picture. Instead, it is something that tears at our emotions. It’s misrepresenting a family living at the poverty line as a family living in abject poverty, such as exists in third-world countries.

Bringing honest and accurate attention to the plight of poor Americans is a good thing, so long as it’s done with the goal of providing a hand-up instead of a handout. But, for liberal politicians, who depend on poverty to bring them votes every election, helping too many poor Americans means the issue loses its effectiveness.

The real problem is that liberal politicians like to institute government programs that supposedly help the poor but actually trap the poor at the same level.

Michael Tanner, author of The Poverty of Welfare, illustrates this problem in Louisiana, where the federal government has provided cash welfare, food stamps, public housing, Medicaid, Child Care Development Funds, Social Service Block Grants and more than 60 other federal anti-poverty programs.

Tanner states: “We’ve spent well over $10 billion fighting poverty in Louisiana (since the start of the Bush administration). If all that spending didn’t cure poverty, then surely more spending isn’t the answer. Indeed, maybe it’s the problem. Welfare and other aid programs ensnare people, leading them to become dependent on their monthly check rather than finding jobs and starting businesses.”

It’s a basic question of incentives. Welfare provides a degree of support for people who demonstrate they’re looking for work, unfortunately, it’s enough support they don’t actually find that work.

Matthew White is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].