Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why Does Conservative Policy Look So Disconnected from the Facts?

Family leaving a food bank in Hertford, North Carolina. Like the majority
of the poor, this family is white. (Rarely acknowledged fact.)

Because it has to be. If conservatives looked to facts to support their "personal responsibility" memes, they'd come off as heartless bastards who don't understand what poverty does to people. According to a report in U.S. News, poverty has bad effects on brain development:
Children who are exposed to poverty at a young age often have trouble academically later in life. But according to new research out of the Washington University School of Medicine, poverty also appears to be associated with smaller brain volumes in areas involved in emotion processing and memory.
Other reports, this time from Bloomberg News, back up the widely studied phenomenon of the stress of poverty:
Children raised in poverty or in orphanages experience chronic stress early in life that can have long-lasting effects on the brain, setting them up for future mental and physical ailments as adults, two studies found.
The stress of poverty may affect regions in a child’s brain that control emotion, according to research published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A second study found that children who had lived in an orphanage were more anxious than those who hadn’t.
In childhood, the brain is still immature and developing rapidly so it is more sensitive to high-stress situations than an adult brain, said Pilyoung Kim, lead study author of the childhood poverty study. The findings from both papers suggest that early intervention programs to address chronic stress may benefit these children, the authors said.
Of course, you never hear of conservatives who wish to get as much aid as possible to the children who suffer this degradation that can cripple them for life. Also, where are the conservatives who understand that the effects of the stress of poverty are generational, with a continuous line from grandparents to parents to children and grandchildren? Instead, we get this:

Turn poor children into janitors. How? Eliminate child labor laws. Good one, Newt.

Paul Ryan is now chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He has a solution to poverty: Don't expand the safety net, expand opportunity!

Got it. More than 50 percent of public-school children are at or below the low-income level that qualifies them for free or reduced lunches at school. So, after our children undergo the stress of poverty that wrecks their brains, let them be janitors. If they then get through school, offer them more opportunity!

Then they'll be makers, not takers. Up by their own bootstraps.

Conservatives remain disconnected from the facts of life in low-income America, with masses suffering the scourge of poverty. To acknowledge the facts is to lose a policy meme that has worked for years. Makers and takers!

Note. Going back to Gingrich and Paul from 2012 is a go-to move of mine that might make it look as if I've got no current examples. So, I wand to counter my own defect. Here's Rand Paul in late 2014:
I have no intention to scold, but escaping the poverty and crime trap will require more than just criminal justice reform. Escaping the poverty trap will require all of us to relearn that not only are we our brother’s keeper, we are our own keeper. While a hand-up can be part of the plan, if the plan doesn’t include the self-discovery of education, work, and the self-esteem that comes with work, the cycle of poverty will continue.
It's up to you, poors. Trouble is research says, well, you know from above what the research says.

Here's Ted Cruz at the 2012 Republican convention:
Government is not the answer. You are not doing anyone a favor by creating dependency, destroying individual responsibility. 55 years ago, when my dad was a penniless teenage immigrant, thank God some well-meaning bureaucrat didn't put his arm around him and say let me take care of you. Let me give you a government check and make you dependent on government. And by the way, don't bother learning English. That would have been the most destructive thing anyone could have done.
Instead, my parents worked together to start a small business, to provide for their family and to chart their own future. That's the American dream.
To restore America, to get Americans back to work, we must rein in the leviathan. We must stop spending money we don't have and turn around our crushing debt. Each of you comprises the fabric of our nation. Together, we must revive our many-century love story with liberty and restore that shining City on a Hill that is America.
Cruz' example concerns immigrants, but his case is the same. The government can't fix you and shouldn't even try. On the surface, I wouldn't refute that. Able-bodied individuals should have the stuff to chart their own future. Heaven knows I'm a self-made man (except for all the help I got from schools, not-broke parents, libraries, and the general affluence and confidence I was surrounded by in the private university I was able to attend). Yes, I "made" myself, but I was given all the tools and never experienced a hungry day in my life.

But I'm observant enough and conversant enough with the science to know that leaving out the effects, the ravages of poverty, out of the the set of things we know that should inform public policy is, yes, willful ignorance, bad science. So why do conservatives do it?

Our America can't be all it can be without dealing with our problems. To say "You're on your own" isn't effective policy, and it derives from a lack of compassion, a lack of empathy. Those words drive conservatives insane, but good public policy needs words like that, which are reality-based so much more than the plot lines of Ayn Rand novels.

To pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, first you need boots. Let's at least pass out free boots, and, if necessary, food and a safe place to live. Then, if they don't pull themselves up, at least we can say we tried. Our America will be the better for it.

Two final examples, both from this Huffington Post report on John Boehner and Paul Ryan and their recent comments that essentially decry government assistance.  First, Boehner:
Boehner then lamented "this idea that has been born, maybe out of the economy over the last couple years, that you know, I really don't have to work. I don't really want to do this. I think I'd rather just sit around. This is a very sick idea for our country."
America has one of the weakest safety nets in the developed world. So where are these people who "just sit around?" Now Ryan:
During a talk-radio interview, the Wisconsin Republican spoke of a "tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value of work."

Ryan later said his remarks were "inarticulate."
Inarticulate. Do you think??

Whites lead all groups of those in poverty (page 13 of the report):
Whites: 25, 659, 922
Blacks: 9, 472,583
Hispanics: 11,197,648
Asians: 1, 899,448
Measured by poverty rate, black and Hispanic numbers run higher than whites. But the point is almost 26 million whites aren't a result of a "tailspin of culture in or inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value of work."

Many of us, myself included, not only acknowledge that racism is a fixture of the Republican Party (with remarks like Ryan's amounting to a vivid smoking gun) but also acknowledge that implicit institutional racism is carried within and practiced by almost all of white America, again myself included. Given that, answer me this:
What is the Republican policy preference for getting whites out of poverty? Making them janitors at twelve?
I was a paperboy. Does Boehner get that this another vanishing bootstrap?

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