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In the political wars, Democrats like to paint Republicans as white male chauvinist christian bigots who are in the pocket of rich people and don't give a single crap about the poor. Democrats paint themselves as the compassionate good people who are fighting for the rights of the little guy against those same evil Republicans. On this battlefront, the Democrats are winning (though not as much as they were when they controlled ALL the media), because that perception is pretty widely accepted. But who really helps the poor the most ? Painting with the broad brush, and granting that there are many exceptions, the solutions of the two parties to poverty are these: Republicans believe economic growth leads to expanded opportunity, for the poor along with everyone else. It's the principle of the rising tide that lifts all boats. The Democrats believe in more government intervention in the form of government programs to assist people out of poverty. I'd say both sides believe education is key to lowering poverty.
In 1965, president Lyndon Johnson launched the War On Poverty. 17.3% of americans lived below the poverty line in 1965, according to the poverty tables of the US Census. In 2006, 12.3% lived below the poverty line. So, poverty dropped by 5% over 41 years. It's good poverty dropped even a little, but I'm not sure whether I should laugh or cry, because a 5% drop doesn't sound like a real victory in the War On Poverty to me. That sounds like it's gone about as well as the War In Iraq the last few years, only marginal improvement. Plus, since we have more people now than we did in 1965, we actually have MORE people living in poverty. In 1965, there were 19,141,300. In 2006, there were 29,645,000. That's over ten million more people living in poverty than when the War On Poverty started. I'm also thinking that the estimated 12 million illegals aren't all showing up in the Census data either, which would drive the poverty number higher yet.
The question to ask is: Did all those Great Society social programs have any effect on poverty, or was it the opportunity in the Land Of Opportunity that caused the percentage drop ? Of note is the fact that the numbers of americans in poverty was dropping sharply before the big government Democrats began their 1965 round of big government programs. According to the same Census poverty tables, in 1959, 22.4% lived below the poverty line, so in the six years BEFORE LBJ's Great Society program began, the poverty rate dropped by 7.1%, more than it has in the four plus decades since. To me, those numbers say that it was the opportunity from economic growth that decreased poverty the most, not any big government anti-poverty programs. I would explicitly exempt educational and job training programs from that judgement, because those ARE valuable. Education IS the key.
We all know what was accomplished by those other types of government programs that were supposed to help the poor by subsidizing them with our tax dollars. The welfare state was created, which not only didn't help people out of poverty, it kept them mired in it for generation after generation. We gave the poor food stamps, virtually free housing, assistance with utility bills, a monthly stipend. We increased the stipend for each child the poor had. In short, we removed individual responsibility, promoted irresponsibility, destroyed the work ethic of many, and it wreaked havoc. The family unit disintegrated, out of wedlock births soared, crime became rampant, drug use skyrocketed. Those 'compassionate' Democrats had created an unmitigated disaster. The Democratic response to the nightmare they had unleashed on the poor communities ? Why, MORE government programs, of course. Some people never learn.
Finally, in 1996, something positive happened. Bill Clinton, after twice vetoing welfare reform packages from his Republican congress, reached a compromise agreement with them and signed welfare reform into law. It was Clinton's greatest achievement, and to accomplish it, all he had to do was agree with what Republicans were saying all along. Liberals widely denounced Clinton at the time for being a sell-out, because, well, they're liberals, they're wrong about almost everything. Immediately, the poverty rate began to drop, particularly among black people. In 1995, the poverty rate among blacks was 29.3%. By 2001, it was 22.4%. In 2006 it still stood at 24.3%, and that was after a recession, 9/11, Katrina, and war. Now that the success of welfare reform has been so obviously displayed, liberals like to pretend they were in favor of it from the start, because in addition to being nearly always wrong, they are also shameless liars. Liberals also never mention that it was the Republican congress that initiated welfare reform. They like to pretend it was all Clinton's doing, since he's a Democrat. Like I said, liars. Shameless. They never met any history they couldn't try to reinvent.
In the end, what is best for the poor is also what is best for the rest of the country. A strong economy, a good educational system, low taxes. That leads to opportunity, and opportunity is what lifts people out of poverty. The endless attempts of the left to foment class warfare and division among us in order to consolidate their political power and push socialism is counterproductive. Everyone believes in a safety net for the poor and unfortunate, but that safety net shouldn't become a way of life, it should be a transitional period. We should always take care of the disabled and the elderly. I don't think anybody disagrees with that either. But if the big government cradle-to-grave nanny state policies were going to cure poverty, it would have already happened. They aren't going to, so let's try to minimize them as much as we can, leave people's money in their own pockets rather than the government's pockets, and go about the business of creating good jobs and prosperity. That will be more effective than any of Hillary's million hare-brained wealth redistribution schemes.