Why America Is Losing the War on Poverty
1 year ago
Bailouts, welfare and other programs aren’t helping
Recent figures about poverty in America paint a grim picture about the living conditions of a large majority of Americans. Not only is poverty spreading rapidly, but the chances of escaping it are becoming more difficult, if not impossible. For instance, Timothy Smeeding wrote a recent New York Times article entitled, “Living the American Dream (in Canada),” in which he stated, “Of all the consequences of rising economic inequality, none is more worrisome than the possibility that a growing gap will make it harder for children of low-income and middle-class families to climb the economic ladder.” Smeeding’s argument about children is especially troubling. In 2010 the U. S. Census reported that one in five children now live in poverty in the U.S. Overall, the increased number of Americans living in poverty is at an all-time high.
Charles Moore, an urban and regional planner who lives in Albany, N.Y., asserts that policymakers are to blame for the dramatic rise in poverty. In a statement via email, Moore stated, “Coming at it from a policy or governmental perspective I would argue that it largely fell off the screen of many politicians and policymakers and therefore there has been a conscious choice to ignore it rather than fight to fix the causes and symptoms of poverty.” According to Moore this is especially problematic when “over 49 million people are living in poverty and nearly one in two Americans are now in poverty or classified as low-income.”
With so many Americans struggling to make ends meet and who are jobless, there is a collective awareness that the American Dream and a middle class lifestyle, at one time perhaps taken for granted, is no longer within reach. This means politicians are being forced to contend with growing income inequality and the dramatic spike in poverty. Indeed, as soon as the GOP primaries began, candidates began addressing these problems. But many of them appear to blame those who are in poverty. This stance is oftentimes racially charged as well. For instance, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum was recently taped saying, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them someone else’s money.” That statement is reminiscent of President Ronald Reagan’s claim that “welfare queens” deliberately committed fraud and took advantage of government programs. This negative picture led to the pejorative notion that black women expected “handouts” from the government. Reagan’s idea – despite scant evidence of this occurring – was firmly planted, and the belief remains to this day.
Santorum is not the only GOP contender making Reaganesque comments about welfare. Former Speaker of the House and GOP candidate New Gingrich recently said, “I will go to the NAACP convention, and tell the African American community why they should demand paychecks instead of food stamps.” Gingrich has also been quoted calling President Obama the “food stamp president.” Interestingly, actual data shows that most welfare recipients are white and from non-urban areas.