Saturday, January 11, 2014

The GOP's War on the Poor

Paul Krugman sets the right tone about the 50th anniversary of LBJ's War on Poverty:
The narrative went like this: Antipoverty programs hadn’t actually reduced poverty, because poverty in America was basically a social problem — a problem of broken families, crime and a culture of dependence that was only reinforced by government aid. And because this narrative was so widely accepted, bashing the poor was good politics, enthusiastically embraced by Republicans and some Democrats, too.
Yet this view of poverty, which may have had some truth to it in the 1970s, bears no resemblance to anything that has happened since.
For one thing, the war on poverty has, in fact, achieved quite a lot. It’s true that the standard measure of poverty hasn’t fallen much. But this measure doesn’t include the value of crucial public programs like food stamps and the earned-income tax credit. Once these programs are taken into account, the data show a significant decline in poverty, and a much larger decline in extreme poverty. Other evidence also points to a big improvement in the lives of America’s poor: lower-income Americans are much healthier and better-nourished than they were in the 1960s.
Furthermore, there is strong evidence that antipoverty programs have long-term benefits, both to their recipients and to the nation as a whole. For example, children who had access to food stamps were healthier and had higher incomes in later life than people who didn’t.
Now, what is the GOP's response? The War on Poverty is a total failure, evidence notwithstanding. Marco Rubio's idea is to give the federal money to the states in the form of block grants -- only he wants to be all stealthy about it by calling them "flex funds" -- because, I don't know, states or something. He doesn't say anything about reducing the impact on the federal budget except, I don't know, states or something. Good grief.

Just for good measure, he says raising the minimum wage -- essentially giving the working poor more money for their labor -- is a bad idea because, I don't know, if that would have really helped, we would have done it by now. Of course it hasn't helped by now because we didn't do it. Logic loop, anyone?

Uh, no it isn't, Rubio.

Okay, Rubio, here's a totally fresh idea: What if, instead of lowering taxes on rich people for over forty years and leaving the minimum wage to stagnate, we instead did the opposite? What if we left the tax rates at 1980 levels and raised the minimum wage -- in fact all wages for the lower and middle classes -- in line with productivity gains during the same period? Huh? Would that be fresh instead of stale?

Here's a look at median income -- not minimum income:

There's your magic "stale" moment, Rubio. To raise the median income, two things are in order. First, lower the income of the higher classes. Second, raise the income of the lower classes. For good measure, raise the level of income of the middle class, too.

Voila. Fresh! And fair, I might add. Or fairer, anyway.

Rubio's fresh idea? Block grants to the states!

Here's Sen. Hank Brown (R-Colo.) on Sept. 7, 1995 (watch the first minute to get the drift):

Rubio, get some new ideas before you knock Obama. Remember, the dirty little secret about block grants to the states is there's always a clause saying "spend this on welfare first, okay, but if you absolutely have to, spend it on whatever you fucking want."

And don't get me started on Cantor or, God forbid, Reince Priebus.

No comments:

Post a Comment