"Rising Poverty Rate Shows Holes in Safety Net"

A U.S. census report said that, currently, almost 1 in 6 Americans are "living in poverty." The title of this post is MSNBC’s headline informing us of that grim news. A few comments seem appropriate.

The government, of course, defines who is living in poverty, and that is determined by a certain level of income. That, in itself, is fallacious. People move above and below the "official" poverty line all the time; that movement is very fluid and a lot of crossover takes place. But I would also insist that not everybody below a certain income is living in "poverty." Back in 1994-95, I returned to graduate school full-time and we lived off what Debbie made. Officially, her income was "below" the poverty line, but I don’t recall us ever bemoaning the fact that we were "living in poverty." It was a choice we made, for the time being and for a certain cause. We aren’t the only people like that.

Of course, our situation doesn’t describe everybody whose income is "below" the poverty line, but I do think it’s fair to note that a lot of that current 15.1% might be there by their own choice and not because the government hasn’t provided them enough benefits. Debbie and I didn’t take one thin dime of government money when I was in graduate school. We didn’t even think about it. Neither of us considered it somebody else’s responsibility to support me while I went back to school. I didn’t think I was "entitled" to other people’s hard-earned money. But then, I’ve never considered myself a "victim" of anything, either.

But further, I find MSNBC’s headline a fascinating insight into liberal thinking. Rising poverty indicates that government isn’t doing enough—there are "holes" in the "safety net." Obviously, to the liberals at MSNBC (and that’s a redundancy), those "holes" must be filled by more government programs. I know this is liberal thinking because when I first saw that the "poverty rate" had risen, I didn’t think of the "safety net" at all; I thought of the two things God has provided mankind to lift us and keep us out of poverty—marriage and hard work. Liberalism is doing everything it can to destroy the former (unless the two wanting to be "married" are of the same sex), and can anybody tell me the last time you heard a liberal say, "If you want to get out of poverty, quit fornicating and having babies out of wedlock and go out and get a job"? Frankly, I’d like to hear a few more Republicans have the guts to stand up and say it.

It’s important to realize, however, that MSNBC is trying to set the stage for the coming debate. If MSNBC has its way, the debate over "ending poverty" in America won’t be couched in terms of marriage and hard work, but on the government not doing enough. As the election nears, liberals will trot out a ton of sad sack cases of people (mostly single mothers) who don’t have health care, who can’t find a job, who are about to lose their homes, etc. etc. etc., and the answer, of course, will be more government money. The hard-hearted Republicans, who care only about the rich, want to cut the programs that would help these poor, defenseless poverty-enslaved souls. Another four years for Obama is what’s needed (let’s ignore the fact that this high poverty rate is during his administration and after two years of solid Democratic control of Congress). Anyway, what MSNBC is doing is nothing new and to be totally expected, and many Americans are no longer fooled by it.

I certainly believe in helping the poor, those who are truly down on their luck and need a hand to get their lives back on track. But that’s not the government’s job and never has been, and the inability of government to do it is a matter of historical record. How many TRILLIONS of dollars have been spent on the "safety net" over the last generation—and the poverty rate is still in double digits, and has been rising in recent years. Just for comparison’s sake, in 1964, right before all of Lyndon Johnson’s "Great Society" "war on poverty" measures had been passed, the poverty rate was 19%. Forty-three years and countless trillions later, the poverty rate is 15.1%--trillions of dollars spent to lower the rate 4 percentage points (incidentally, the rate in 1959 was over 22%, so it had been dropping before the Great Society programs). This is one of the clearest examples of the utter, complete failure of liberal doctrine—economically AND morally, for it is certainly immoral to propagate ideas and programs that engender vice, "victimhood," and dependence, and to keep people under the thumb of an elite whose sole reason for existence is the power they get by creating classes of people dependent upon them.

The best answer to the "poverty" problem starts with virtue, not money.