The Widdershins

Archive for January 14th, 2014

It is mid-January, it isn’t freezing and the blizzards are at bay — such are the things of wonderful Tuesdays.  At least I hope it is for all the Widdershinners.

I love seatbelts, but they choke me sometimes...

I love seatbelts, but they choke me sometimes…

Remember Thamsandqa Jantjie?  He was the guy at Mandela’s funeral — the one who seemed to keep signing, “I love to put on seat belts, but they choke me sometimes.”  At $85, he was the low bidder for the funeral gig.  The Magic-8 ball is still out on whether or not Thamsandqa is schizophrenic, but his self-awareness is robustly intact.  Upon leaving the psychiatric hospital he promptly called a press conference and proclaimed, “I am a great fake.”

Last week I was reminded of Thamsandqa when I heard Marco Rubio  talking about poverty.  Rubio made sympathetic noises about poverty and then with inspired chutzpah glibly advocated policies harmful to the poor.

There is nothing new in Rubio’s plans.  For that matter, there is nothing new with any Conservative plan in the last fifty years since they all proclaim the War on Poverty was and is an abject failure.

Let’s dissect the flights of fantasy represented in those thoughts.  First and foremost, there has not been a 50-year War on Poverty.  There was a five-year full-on War on Poverty between 1964 and 1969, but then funding began to dwindle in order to service the Vietnam War.

Even with the cuts of Nixon and then Reagan, the two pillars of the War on Poverty, Social Security and Medicare, have been unparalleled successes.  Among other things, they have reduced the 44% of seniors living in poverty in 1964 to approximately 9% today.

Poverty Rates 1967-2012Another lie fertilized with the manure of talking heads is the measuring stick used by conservative “think tanks” to measure the effect of poverty programs.  These “think tanks” use the 1963/64 affordability of food index for a family of 3.  This index purposefully inflates the number of people living in poverty without factoring in such things as food stamps or the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Both these programs greatly reduce the level of poverty.  In 2012 alone, food stamps kept 41 million Americans out of poverty including 9 million children.

So when you see the Cato Institute or the Heritage Foundation throwing around a Reaganesque statistic showing government intervention had no effect upon the poverty rate — know this one thing — their statistics are completely meaningless and are the product of endgame political manipulation.  Political sloganeering is not policy.

While shrinking the size of government and reducing taxes are the primary, if not only, pillars of conservative thought today there is another inextricably intertwined issue in the poverty debate — morality.  Political judgments on poverty are little more than ideological and moral Rorschach tests.

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