Right Question

Asking the right question is usually more productive than trying to prove the right answer.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Conservative Approach to Poverty

For as long as I can remember, the Democratic Party has claimed that Republicans don't care about the poor. For as long as I can remember, the Democratic Party has offered no new ideas to help the poor. For as long as I can remember, the Democratic Party has gone to the mattresses to stall, stop or sabotage any new conservative idea to help the poor.

In the wake of his recent address on rebuilding New Orleans and the rest of the recently storm-ravaged region, the President has received a great deal of criticism for his proposals of huge new spending programs. Others have noted that his proposals uniformly represent conservative free-market approaches to rebuilding and helping people -- not the "do-nothing' proposals of the Democratic Party's strawman of conservatism, but real conservative solutions that really work. Want to increase employment -- let the market, not bureaucrats, dictate wages; want to stimulate business in a depressed region -- provide tax incentives to all businesses in the region, not grants to businesses which grease the right palms; want to improve education for our children -- set standards, provide financial rewards for exceeding them, and let private industry do what it does best.

Pundits and opinion bloggers from the left seem to have caught on. Today's Washington Post editorializes: "there is also talk -- still vague -- of spending $7,500 per displaced student, regardless of whether they choose public or private education. ... Any "emergency" bill that has the potential to turn into a long-term federal subsidy for private schools must be quashed." And blogger Josh Marshall's lastest crusade is against what he calls the President's "Wage Cut" proposal -- his insistence that the construction companies restoring the region's devastated infrastructure pay wages the market will bear, rather than the inflated wages demanded by unions.

At some level, these arguments sound right. We certainly shouldn't be using a national tragedy to gain traction for partisan political programs. However, this argument (or insinuation, perhaps, since it's not explicitly stated) gets it completely wrong.

Conservatives have known for some time that there were better ways to help people than the often very poorly-thought-out programs of the ironically named "Great Society". And we should not now, when people require our help, consider it a virtue to give them the foolish and counterproductive "help" which the government has given them time and time again in the past. It is morally incumbent upon us to help those who need our help in the best way that we know how. That the Washington Post can both acknowledge that vouchers may indeed be the best way to help Katrina victims with their educational needs and at the same time demand that we not do it, because of the risk that this superior program might also be provided to other Americans in need, should be seen as a strong hint that it's not the Republicans proposing this that are allowing partisanship to taint their response to the hurricane.

FDR and LBJ each instituted enormous changes in the way our government interacts with those who need help. Some of those programs were successes and others were failures. It's time for GWB to add his name to that list -- and demonstrate conclusively how the free market can strengthen any government program: partial privatization of Social Security, tax cuts to spur local entrepreneurship, relaxing some of the more harmful employment requirements to spur employment, giving support money directly to individuals in the form of "vouchers" for job training and medical costs and education, empowering individuals as consumers with a choice rather than as passive "beneficiaries" of large, ineffective government bureaucracies. As some, or perhaps all, of these proposals prove themselves with the recovering victims of Katrina, perhaps we will see more people in need reacting like these (hat tip: Michelle Malkin) and demanding similar effective programs for themselves.

3 Comments:

Blogger A Person said...

You're preachin' to the choir here. People need to feel empowered, not beholden.

If something doesn't work, we have to try something else. If it doesn't work, well, it already wasn't working. But we have to try.

7:37 PM, September 23, 2005  
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8:07 PM, November 21, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is amazing that the right keeps up this false idea of the free market. The free market is NOT going to save us. One of the key arguments that the conservatives leave out of the discussion is China. If China and the rest of the world don't play the free market game then it can never work. Why would they play fair? They are winning!!! Conservatives also fail to acknowledge that poverty is a reality of Capitalism. It's like if you have Socialism, you will have dictatorship. It is import that we look at different models and determine what is working and what is not. It is also important that we don't dismiss other ideas just because they don't fit your world views. There is no exact formula that is matter of fact. Let's be honest, the private sector can and will only do so much. It will look at it's own short term interests and the employees (never those who have the power) will suffer. Maybe if we just put all of the poor and unemployed in fenced off compounds, then we won't know that they exist? I think that was a Start Trek DS9 episode? Things don't just work themselves out. The free market will always try to find ways to cut jobs and labor costs. I guess those who "didn't work hard enough" will just have to hope that the winners will roll down their window and give a few cents. Oh yea, the churches and charity will step in; that is after a few operating costs.

9:29 AM, April 23, 2010  

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