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  • Morning Bell: The Left Still Doesn't Get Poverty

    ‘Culture of Poverty’ Makes a Comeback reads the headline from this past Sunday’s New York Times. Patricia Cohen goes on to report: “[I]n the overwhelmingly liberal ranks of academic sociology and anthropology the word ‘culture’ became a live grenade, and the idea that attitudes and behavior patterns kept people poor was shunned. Now, after decades of silence, these scholars are speaking openly about you-know-what, conceding that culture and persistent poverty are enmeshed.”

    At first, this may seem like the left is finally ready to make a major concession to reality about their decades-long War on Poverty. But a closer reading of Cohen’s source materials, a recent symposium on poverty in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, shows the opposite is true. The left is just as clueless about poverty as it has ever been. Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies Robert Rector writes at National Review Online:

    One might imagine that experts researching the “culture of poverty” would examine how marital collapse, eroded work ethic, and indifference to academic study contribute to financial poverty. Guess again.

    Instead, editors of The Annals firmly declare that the main cause of poverty is “material deprivation itself.” In other words, the cause of poverty is poverty: The cure for poverty is to artificially boost the incomes of the poor through welfare payments, free food, housing, medical care, and so on.

    This is nothing new. Liberals always have insisted that poverty causes dysfunctional behaviors rather than vice versa. But, if having a low income caused problem behaviors (such as illegitimate births and eroded work ethic), then most Americans in the 19th and early 20th centuries (whose incomes were far lower than those of today’s poor) should have been drowning in dysfunctional behaviors. Of course, they were not.

    As Rector has amply documented before, the left’s continued blindness to the cultural underpinnings of poverty have undermined civil society and bloated our federal budget. Since 1964, the U.S. has spent $15.9 trillion on means-tested welfare programs. After adjusting for inflation, welfare spending is 13 times higher today than it was in 1965. Welfare spending has grown more rapidly than Social Security, Medicare, education, and defense. And what do we have to show for these efforts? According to the Census Bureau, a record high 3.7 million Americans fell into poverty in 2009. The out-of-wedlock birthrate is now 40% and the African American out-of-wedlock birthrate is 72%. When the War on Poverty began the out-of-wedlock birthrate was just 7%.

    The collapse of marriage is the root cause of child poverty in the U.S. today
    . It is far past time to reboot our poverty programs to promote work and encourage marriage in order to control costs and promote greater self-reliance. Among Rector’s recommendations:

    • Slowing the growth of the welfare state: Congress needs to establish reasonable fiscal constraints within the welfare system. Once the current recession ends, aggregate welfare spending should be rolled back to pre-recession levels. After this rollback has been completed, the growth of welfare spending should be capped at the rate of inflation.
    • Promoting personal responsibility and work: Able-bodied welfare recipients should be required to work or to prepare for work as a condition of receiving aid. Food stamps and housing assistance, two of the largest programs for the needy, should be aligned with the TANF program to require able-bodied adults to work or to prepare for work for a minimum of 30 hours per week.
    • Ending the welfare marriage penalty and encouraging marriage in low-income communities: Current means-tested welfare programs penalize low-income recipients who get married; these anti-marriage penalties should be reduced or eliminated.

    During the administration of President Bill Clinton, conservatives successfully reformed one welfare program in the 1990s: replacing the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with the new Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). But President Barack Obama’s failed economic stimulus gutted those reforms. And his budget proposal would spend $10.3 trillion on means-tested welfare over the next decade. Before the current rise in poverty, that was enough to give $250,000 to each person currently living in poverty in the U.S., or $1 million for a poor family of four. Our nation can’t afford another 10 years of failed War on Poverty thinking.

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    29 Responses to Morning Bell: The Left Still Doesn't Get Poverty

    1. Ken Jarvis - Las Veg says:

      Nice TRY – HF,

      but we ALL know the GOP is the PARTY OF THE RICH

      AND HF is just another

      GOP VOICE.


    2. Lil, San Diego says:

      Even more damning for the Left is the insidious nature of "welfare" and how this attitude condemns the recipients to generations of poverty! This "welfare" or charity keeps groups from ever achieving their full potential as contributing citizens. This is how the Left keeps a base of democrat supporters and voters!

    3. Albert, Vallejo, CA says:

      Leftists "don't get" poverty only if one assumes that they truly intend to end poverty. This would be a false assumption. Leftists NEED poverty and they create and expand poverty, because it is good for politics. It is a Marxian myth that history is a series of struggles between the very rich and the very poor. The very rich and the very poor have always had a symbiotic relationship, going back at least as far as ancient Rome. The very rich in government support the very poor economically, and the very poor support the very rich politically. This has not changed. Democrats provide free food, free housing, and subsidies of various kinds to poor people, and they expand the poverty rolls by punishing people who actually try to exit poverty. Democrats have created multiple generations of welfare dependents who will never escape poverty and live in crime ridden, filth infested slums. In return for this "support" the people who live in these dumps vote Democrat, thinking Democrats will help them, when in reality, Democrats put them in poverty deliberately and keep them there. Democrats understand poverty all too well, and use it to gain political advantage. Don't make the mistake of assuming that Democrats actually want to end poverty and are just mistaken in their methods. Democrats need poverty to get elected.

    4. gerald skey, princet says:

      I culd not agree more with the comments regarding the "Culture of Poverty". But I would add a specific program that highlights the problem and that is Headstart. This program has been with us for many years and I would not quarrel with the original concept of giving pre-school age children a real foundation upon which they could build as they entered school. However, study after study has shown that Headstart, while it demonstrates some success in the 1st grade, by the time Headstart students reach the 3rd grade, there is no evidence – none – that they have benfitted at all from Headstart. And yet, we continue to throw money at this program.

      Secondly, we tend to savage teachers for the dismal statisitcs regarding high school dropouts and the failure of some schools to gain decent scores on various tests to determine whether students are reading or accomplishing at their grade levels. I literally want to scream at those people who blame the teachers as the real culprit is our social standards – there are none. Youngsters routinely come home to parentless homes where there is no assistance with homework and no standards of bahavior and no standards the failure of which leads to real consequences. We do not seem capable of grasping the notion that success for students begins at home as does failure. Show me a mediocre teacher with students from stable homes and engaged parents or an engaged parent who set standards and expectations and I wil show you a successful school. Show me the greatest teacher in the world and a student body with no assistance at home and you will have a failed school. It is that simple but we – somehow – refuse to accept it. And, of course, we continue to throw millions of dollars into these well intentioned and yet failed programs and still wonder why the studens continue to fail anad drop out.

    5. KC - New Mexico says:

      Governor Regan used the same approach in California and the quantity of welfare “takers” decreased substantially. Those who really needed the welfare did work for it and received it. Those who did not need it did not want to work, so they dropped off the rolls. I think this approach for having those who need welfare work for their entitlement funding is a great idea. There is a lot that can be done in every community.

      On a side note regarding Obummercare – in comparing my healthcare insurance premium for 2011 to this year, it has jumped up 48%. I guess I’ll be paying for someone’s healthcare – probably someone who drinks, smokes, and is overweight. Oh well! Oh, and then I’ll get to pay more income tax on the healthcare costs that the company that I work for pays for me – that is the “benefit” tax for 2011! Much thanks to the democrats and BO – looking forward to the November elections!

    6. Drew Page, IL says:

      You have to understand that liberals are not moved by facts, only feelings. This doesn't make them bad people, just ignorant. Save the facts and figures for those who are capable of being swayed by them. You are trying to teach pigs to sing. All you end up doing is wasting your time and annoying the pig.

      To liberals anyone who has earned money somehow isn't entitled to it as long as there are those who don't have any. Whose fault is it that there is poverty and ignorance in the world? Why it has to be those big, unfeeling corporations who stole people's money making them poor. It was the big corporations that encouraged people to have children out of wedlock. It was those evil corporations who convinced kids in school not to bother to pay attention in class, not to do homework or take an interest in improving themselves.

      Liberals do not believe in personal responsibility. If there is something you don't have, it's always someone else's fault and it's up to the government to provide it for you.

    7. Rebecca, GA says:

      "Idiocracy" coming true before our own eyes. There's lots to be said about the gov't wanting to keep certain members of the population on the dole. It's ironic that the "Man" continues to keep certain cultures down by the illusion that they are helping them out with handouts, programs and benefits. When the incentive to hard work, effort is outweighed by a better handout–how can you change things. So keep having babies, getting food stamps to buy ammonia for making meth in your kitchen. That's where the real money is. LOL

    8. Don S. Spokane, Wash says:

      Most of us older Americans have known this since we were children. What baffles me is why we need a study to tell us that which we already know. 40 years and trillions of dollars later we finally are aware of the progressive scheme to make us dependent on the Government for our existence.

    9. Sue Marie, Detroit says:

      Great Article but learned nothing new. I knew this all my life and the article is correct. The left do not want to acknowledge the root cause of poverty. The left would loose their power base if discipline and moral behavior and proper education (not indocternation) were encouraged. My mother who is 84, grew up durning the depression, said the popular trend in those days was self reliance and good moral behavior. These virtus save people alot of grief and improved their lives over time. The left want a ruling class and a serf class. There are too many educated serfs who have skills and can read and write books and know the left are out to steal wealth and pull the majority of people into a miserable exsistance.

    10. Margaret Mueller, Ro says:

      I was thirteen when Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty began.

      For more than forty years the American taxpayers have poored trillions of dollars into lifting our less fortunate brothers and sisters, especially those in the black community, into better housing through 'projects' (which turned out to be a nightmare, subsidized rents, and sub-prime loans to unqualified buyers (which crashed our economy), better food through food stamps and school breakfast and lunch; better education through Headstart, after school & evening activiteis, desegregation, affirmative action admissions to colleges and universities and grants/scholarship assistance; and Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which grew the numbers of fatherless households exponentially [obliterating the socially and economically stablizing influence of a male in the household].

      What have we got for our investment in the poorest of our nation? An entitlement attitude and continued dependency. The impoverished have not assimiliated into our economy and our culture, and have imagined the basest, racist thoughts and motivations of the hard-working, generous Americans who support them. It's time for a change, and I don't mean the kind Obama supports.

      I envision yet another generation of well-intended Americans contributing their tax dollars to continuing this dependency out of a sense of honor and commitment the way we have, and only expanding the numbers of people who expect to be supported far beyond their basic needs. We can't help the poorest and most deserving of our disabled while paying the capable to stay home.

    11. Freddel, Walnut Cree says:

      Nearly one-third of welfare cases are in California. Pressures causing a higher than normal incidence of poverty include elevated immigration (predominately hispanic), a higher unemployment than nationally, and fraud. Lenient immigration policies, a failure to enforce our immigration laws, and an inability to assimilate foreigners through education (civic, ESL, and work skills) all contribute to the problem facing our welfare state.

    12. Dale, Okla. City says:

      The left are NOT "clueless" about poverty. THEY DEPEND ON IT!

      The left don't know how to teach a man to fish ( look to our public schools

      for that proof ). They just keep giving them the fish.

      Only instead of fish, think crack. They get them hooked or addicted

      to government goodies ( "entitlements" ), and then get payed back by getting

      or at least depending on their votes to keep them in power. Democrats have

      created an entitlement / slave mentality. And ironically the head slavemaster

      is the black man in the White House.

      The right is clueless in that they think that the left is clueless about

      poverty. Wise up GOP, before it's too late!

    13. teyetus says:

      The endless push and pull about poverty as if it is uniquely an American experience. Poverty has been an issue worldwide as far back as written history goes. I wonder why no one has found a solution. I certainly don't have the solution, but agree that it has somewhat of a self-fulfilling profacy rooted in the culture of poverty. It is hard to get out. We, of course, need to work on minimizing poverty, but blame games and child-like "I'm right" "No I'm right" get little done. I have some ideas that focus on teaching people how to fish versus giving them the fish, but they will have to wait for a different time.

    14. KLIMAX Baltimore, Ma says:

      We created this monster and we must take responsibility for it !!! I have seen this approach on construction jobs if you have a problem you can't resolve "THROW MONEY AT IT" it may help but most times it doesn't !!! This "Throw Money" attitude must stop and a policy of rewards for self improvement should take it's place !!! Give the people on "Welfare" the minimum amount they need to just survive and if they pass a course that will help them become self sufficient give them a small bonus to encourage them to continue to better themselves and the lives of their children !!!

      This can not happen over night and it might take several years to get a program like this up and running but after it starts working people will feel what it is like to have their self esteem grow and make them proud of their accomplishments !!! I'm sure some people will fight the idea of getting a job and become self supporting after getting all their benefits for free year after year but these people will have to become involved in the program or find themselves having their "Benefits" reduced gradually over time down to Zero !!!

      These entitlements are a "PRIVLIGE NOT A RIGHT" and the sooner everyone realizes this the better the Program will be for everyone !!!

      Just for everyone's info I am currently homeless using the benefits I wrote about so I know first hand how the system works !!!!!!!

    15. Jeanne Stotler says:

      I've heard this rhetoric all my life about Reps. being party of the rich, yet no one in my familygoing back 4 generations or anyone I know that is a Rep. is or was rich. Most of us are lower middle class, not poor but sure as HE__ not rich and we need to and do work everyday. Maybe this is why we cherish our rights and believe in God and his supremicy. I was brought up to work for what you want, I was and my family as well lucky during the depression, my Dad was a manager of a food store, my granddad was a Lt. Col. in USA, we had indoor plumbing and food. WWII was different, regardless of what money you had, food, shoes, gas etc. was rationed. Your stamps were given by the number of people in your family, gas was determined by your job classification, you had a sticker on your car, A,B,or C. A was the least and B if you had a job defined as essential to the war effort, and C if you were a farmer. I don't know what it is to be rich, I do know what it is to face life and all it's ups and downs, and work hard. I am almost 79 and I still work.

    16. Ben C. Ann Arbor, MI says:

      Ken – on what facts do you base your assertion that Republicans are the party of the rich? Remember the TV show "Dragnet?" – "just the facts maam, just the facts."

    17. ROY S. MALLMANN II S says:

      Almost every "charge" that the Democratic Party levels against the members of The Republican Party, in truth, are things that they themselves are guilty of. The Democrats keep telling everybody that will listen, that The Republican Party is the party of the rich. The facts speak otherwise. The wealthiest 2% of the American People always, ALWAYS, vote Democrat. ALWAYS! T. Boone Pickens, George Soros, Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Zuckermeyer (facebook), plus almost all movie and television stars, athletes, all are Democrats and yet the Media looks, the other way every time The Democrats make the charge. It is not rocket science. It is also interesting that the Obama Intelectuals tie the "Rich Wall Street CEO'S to the Republican Party. Maybe these "Rich Ceo's are just ingnorant because why would they give roughly 90% of all their campaign contributions to Obama and the Democrats? If you will just read and research the facts you will find out the truth. If you let someone else spoon feed you their version of the truth, without checking it out, then you are probably a Democrat. Read and do research and make up your own mind!

    18. Penny Maynard, Coeur says:

      Excellent write-up. Having been a Home Health Nurse for years gave me more than a birds' eye view of a system way out of control. Patients who had private insurance and were responsible for co-pays worked hard to improve so they could get off the service as soon as possible. However, the ones on Medicaid, for the most part could care less. They were not responsive to teaching, took for granted and/or demanded more services than they needed and historically failed to be at home for the scheduled visit. They took no responsibility to improve their condition or health and when they got sick expected a response from providers at the snap of their fingers. God I wish we had a Ronald Reagan again.

    19. Peter A. Costanzo Sr says:

      I agree wholeheartedly with the assessment described in this article. It makes many very valid points.

    20. Chroma41, California says:

      This is typical; treat the symptom, not the cause.

      My background is in Quality Engineering where one of the tools we use is called "Root Cause Analysis" while originally designed to resolve mechanical failure, it is aplicable to any systemic failure such as to how the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs has completely failed and ObamaCare will also fail because they were designed to! Each of these approaches attempt to treat the symptom rather than the cause and that NEVER works!

    21. jim cowen westlake v says:

      the simple method to buy votes is to send funds on a regular basis to a certain group, be it poverty stricken or someone else.. when you are dependent on the govt. for your basics , plus you have a low paying job, you will not bite the hand that feeds you.. eventually the haves are out numbered by the have nots who need funding assistance.. simple math which explains the liberal process for buying votes..


    22. Warren, Roanoke, VA says:

      Government has made poverty worse and added more to the dependency class while weakening others income and currency to the point where they require assistance themselves. We need to sour the milk and somehow reduce the cost of living or increase buying power. That means we need to accomplish this goals without direct government intervention and reducing the red tape.

      "Government is not the solution to the problem: Government is the problem." Ronald Wilson Reagan.

    23. Al Kholos Winnetka C says:

      The Left has always been "Poverty Farmers." They love the poor so much they will stop at nothing to keep them that way. If there aren't enough poor folks in one country, like France or Germany, say, they will import them from elsewhere.

      The Left is also not interested in creating wealth (or jobs – for that matter), just redistributing it.

      Having our Democratic leadership in charge of this nation's wealth is like handing your children over to pedophiles as babysitters. This parallel is particularly apt in that pedophiles often claim that kids like and need sex too; that the pedophile's actions are actually good for kids!

      Ken Jarvis' comment that the GOP is the party of the rich is a repeated lie.

      And a lie repeated often enough is presumed by marginally intelligent people to be true. Check out the net wealth of congressmen by Party affiliation, and you'll see which is the Party of the rich. Also consider the wealthiest cities and communities – they are all Liberal enclaves. It's the middle America so disdained by Leftists that are Republicans. Jarvis can believe whatever he wants but he can't make up his own "facts."

    24. Dale, Okla. City says:

      What the right still doesn't understand is that the left totally understands

      poverty. Who do you think they buy or bribe their votes from in return

      for government goodies / "entitlements"? The left depends on the votes

      from the"disenfranchised" because they expect that tehy will votes

      for Democrats because Democrats would rather keep giving people

      free ( tax payer funded ) fish, rather than teaching them to fish. Call it

      getting them hooked, much like a crack dealer creates a dependency

      from their customers by getting them addicted to crack.

      Democrats have been slowly returning this country to economic slavery

      for decades now. It's ironic that the head slavemaster now is a black man

      in the White House.

    25. sal says:

      What really needs to stopisthe government trying to do all the social engineering ! Limit the scope of government entirely, let freedom ring !

    26. Mike, Chicago says:

      Welfare reform made things worse. Now, some people can work and still receive public aid. Furthermore, because of the earned income tax credit they don't pay their fair share of taxes either. Public aid and the earned income tax credit should be abolished in most cases

    27. Tom, Pennsylvania says:

      The far left for over 40 years has used the welfare state to enslave millions to the government. That is how they keep themselves in power. If people are not allowed to dig themselves out of a hole, they will never bother because they know the bleeding heart liberals will continue to give them handouts for their votes. It is a sickening system that has enslaved millions but since the newsmedia is the propaganda arm of the Progressives and Socialists, the people will never hear the truth from them.

    28. Frances in the norht says:

      As a divorced mother of 5, essentially abandoned by my spouse, I have struggled in poverty for 10 years. I have a strong work ethic. I also have a strong sense that it is my responsibility to raise my children. I am constantly torn between providing for my family and raising my family. Things that keep me in poverty? Inability to find a job with a living wage that has enough flexibility to allow me to raise my children. Lack of knowledge and funding to start a business of my own. Rules and regulations about the use of my home for business purposes, especially when I don't own my home. I am trying to dig my way out of this hole. I have returned to school, to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering, but trying to provide for a family, raise a family, and get an education all at the same time is quickly deteriorating my physical well being. Would someone please tell me how to get out of this trap?

    29. Jenny, Indiana says:

      This article is a breath of fresh, realistic air. I am in trenches in education in an inner city high school. It is all about test scores and how teachers need to improve, be graded and get pay based on their students' test scores. In our school there is one teacher, only one that does not do the job he should. Everyone else gives 110%. Yet the kids that need to improve could care less because they are not taught to care at home. These same children are lazy, skip school, are tardy, don't do homework or assignments in class. All teachers come in early or stay after school to help students who are struggling. We offer tutoring before and after school and no one comes. We offer practice SAT tests, we teach test-taking skills. We have group counseling for every issue under the sun. It is an impossible situation. Our society is in a shamble. The average person has no idea. Our girls get pregnant before they turn 18 so they can continue to receive benefits. They receive free formula, free health care, food stamps, Welfare, and an apartment to live in if they wish. It is all about getting as much as they can and continuing to get it. The other day a student was talking about her great-great-grandmother. I thought, "What! My great-great-grandfather was born in 1850!" These students come from families that have a new generation every 15 years or so. They see no reason to change any of this. They are a society of women, because they don't marry and the men are off robbing, dealing drugs and getting shot or thrown in jail. The boys have NO male role models and are angry and explosive. When I was in school if I got in trouble I would be in double trouble when I got home. Who will correct the kids now at home? There is no discipline, at home or at school. At least there is none that is effective. Do you know the difference between public and charter schools? Charter schools are allowed to discipline and kick kids out if they will not behave. They can choose their students. How can public education compete with that? I could go on for another 10 pages but perhaps you get the picture.

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