Honoring King: Economic Justice for All
The gap between the rich and poor has reached Depression-era standards. Corporate CEOs now make nearly 400 times the average worker. African Americans earn less, die earlier and are imprisoned at disproportionate rates than whites. Even in the Age of Obama, young black men are more likely to be locked up than graduate from college, and the leading cause of death for black men under 30 is homicide.
Liberal policies of welfare, mostly focused on racial minorities who are poor, have led to a mindset of waiting for the government check, having children so the check will be bigger, don't work lest you lose the check, don't worry about being a real Daddy to your kids because the government will send the kids and their mothers checks, and hate the people who have worked to get out of the poverty and no longer rely on the government checks. And if you hate the rich white guy whose taxes fund the checks, all the better.
And, in typical liberal fashion, Sojo blames those who work for the problems. They cite CEO salaries, as if one man's wealth much equal another man's poverty. They cite minorities being arrested, without asking why that is--that perhaps, for example, their welfare policies have taken incentive away from all but the most determined.
The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina exposed in stark and shameful ways America’s enduring racial and class inequalities. Our government has spent more than $1 trillion on the Iraq war even as our inner cities crumble and 40 million Americans live in poverty.
So, helping Iraqi's out from under a dictatorial rule and back on their feet is an unworthy goal? Sure, yeah, whatever.
Remember the "War on Poverty"?
Democrats' War on Poverty Has Failed
Nor is the problem that we have failed to spend money generously. The public expenditure on the variety of governmental schemes devised in the last forty years to eliminate poverty has been extraordinary. Since 1964 we have spent $8–10 trillion on antipoverty programs. In 1996, at the midpoint in the Clinton administration, the federal government expended $191 billion on poverty programs, fully 12.2 percent of the federal budget. President George W. Bush actually increased the effort. The 2006 budget, at the midpoint of Bush’s administration, calls for a massive increase in poverty programs, increasing the expenditure $368 billion to 14.6 percent of the federal budget.7 The Bush administration oversees a host of continuing poverty programs that includes Medicaid, food stamps, supplementary security income, temporary assistance to needy families, child day-care payments, child nutrition payments, foster care, adoption assistance, and health insurance for children.
The conclusion is virtually inescapable: if the availability of nearly an unlimited amount of money and the determination of countless government bureaucracies were the necessary and sufficient conditions to eliminate poverty, then in 2004 we should not still have more than 12 percent of the U.S. population—nearly 37 million people—in poverty.
From the moment the Great Society conceived of the War on Poverty, it was a bad idea to believe that we could eliminate poverty by allowing a government bureaucracy to distribute massive amounts of public money to the poor. In the antipoverty efforts of the last four decades, we have witnessed one of the largest income redistributions from the taxpayers to the poor that the world has ever seen. Still, we have not eliminated poverty. Why should we believe that continued or expanded, new, and “improved” government programs, spending more trillions of dollars, will ever achieve more?
In a very real sense, the Sojo writer pretty much admits the failure of the "War on Poverty" and the ideas behind it, though good luck in getting anyone at Sojo to admit it.
Why the War on Poverty Failed
The war-on-poverty activists not only ignored the lessons of the past on the subject of handouts; they also ignored their own experience with the poor. The case of Harrington himself is especially revealing.
In the early 1950s Harrington worked at the St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality, a shelter for the homeless in New York’s Bowery district. The philosophy of the shelter was pure handout. Beds, food, and clothing were given out, as Harrington proudly reported, on a “first come, first served” basis. The shelter didn’t require anything in return: not small amounts of money, not work, not any effort at self-improvement. In The Other America Harrington described at length the tragic lives of the alcoholics served by the shelter, the degradation, exposure, disease, theft, and violence that made up their lives. Yet he didn’t report having any strategy to uplift them, and didn’t report rehabilitating a single one. Though he became friendly with some of the street alcoholics, he never saw his friendship as a platform for mentoring them, as a way of guiding them to recovery. He simply watched these suffering men go in and out of their drunks, and gave them handouts as they went along. Summarizing his experience, he concluded that alcoholic poverty was not an economic problem but “deeply a matter of personality.” In a revealing aside, he added, “One hardly knows where to begin.”11
For someone so ready to hector others about how easily poverty could be “abolished,” Harrington was astonishingly unreflective about his own performance. His failure as a social worker among the homeless never led him to question his handout approach, and his personal knowledge that poverty was not an economic problem never shook his ideological conviction that it was. The rest, as they say, is history. The man who “hardly knew where to begin” in treating the problems of poverty—and who failed when he tried—became the guru for a massive array of government handout programs that, as even the New York Times now concedes, only deepened the culture of poverty.
Demonizing the one who has will not help the one who has not. Demonizing the one who works to gain will not help the one who lacks because of lack of work, either through choice or through lack of opportunity. That isn't saying the rich are good and poor are bad, we know some rich can be poor bastards and some poor can be saints, and vice versa. But Sojo does employ such simplistic thinking, citing the CEO's salary as if the CEO is responsible for the poverty of the poor man and woman.