The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

On Poverty

Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias both have had a really good post on poverty in the last few days. Klein's is more of a praise of John Edwards' most recent speech on poverty while Yglesias writes about the successes we've had on the war on poverty and how much further we need to go. I would classify both as must reads.

I tend to agree with the assertion that the America of the early 21st century is a less harsh place for those in poverty than the America of the middle 20th century. There are certain safety nets now in place, ie, Social Security, Food Stamps, WIC, Medicaid, Head Start, TANF, etc. Alot of those safety nets have gaping holes in them, but they are still there. Contrast that to 1950s America, and you get a much starker picture. But America is still a pretty damn hard place to get by in if you're poor.

If I'm a true lefty on any issue it's poverty. Not defense, social issues, or any other cause one may bring up. It always strikes me as odd the number of people shouting at the President for sending thousands of our soldiers off to Iraq 'to die', when there are millions of people living in poverty on their doorstep. Our soldiers had as much choice in being sent out to war as nearly all who live in poverty had a choice in being poor. I don't have any statistics whatsoever to back this up, but I'd venture a guess that the number of people who succumb to death because of poverty- and its secondary effects- in this country, annually, is incredibly more than the number of soldiers who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since both war's inception. As a matter of fact, I'd argue that all the time, money, effort, and planning that goes into peace marches and rallies would actually make a more positive impact on this country and the direction we're headed in if it were concentrated on battling poverty. Yet we never talk about it, in large part because we always seem to allow the other side to choose which battles we fight.

This issue is largely why I found John Edwards to be such an attractive candidate in 2004. Who knows, maybe it's because out of what became the three major candidates in 2004, he and his family were the only ones to ever have to worry about where they would find the money to go to college or have to work with the worry about how their family would financially survive should something happen to his mother or father.

You want a true issue that will unite the base and root out all the true compassionate conservatives? Talk about Democratic programs such as CHIPs or the Earned Income Tax Credit. Talk about welfare to work, job training for all the jobs we're losing to outsourcing, and a higher minimum wage so that all who do put in a hard day's work will find a paycheck they can actually live off of waiting for them at the end of their shift. Fund a education system that allows all who are willing to do the work get the sort of education that would make them the envy of the world.

America doesn't work unless it works for all of us. Too often, the party for which this slogan- or some variant of- should be their rallying cry, seems to forget this.