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Bridget Johnson

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November 13, 2013 - 11:36 am
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Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) today unveiled a plan for a conservative-led effort to fight poverty, arguing that the right needs to offer alternatives to failing programs instead of just criticizing them.

Noting that the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s famous “War on Poverty” speech approaches, Lee highlighted last week’s Census Bureau report stating more than 49 million Americans still live below the poverty line.

“Today, a boy born in the bottom 20% of our income scale has a 42% chance of staying there as an adult. According to the O.E.C.D., the United States is third from the bottom of advanced countries in terms of upward economic mobility,” he said at the Capitol Hill forum sponsored by the Heritage Foundation.

“…I believe the American people are poised to launch a new, bold, and heroic offensive in the war on poverty… if a renewed conservative movement has the courage to lead it.”

Lee said the War on Poverty was launched not in 1964, “but in 1776: when we declared our independence, and the self-evident and equal rights of all men to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The senator argued for a community spirit in battling poverty, saying “the conservative vision for America is not an Ayn Rand novel; it’s a Norman Rockwell painting, or a Frank Capra movie: a nation ‘of plain, ordinary kindness, and a little looking out for the other fellow, too.’”

“Organic communities formed within the free market and civil society’s networks of opportunity are not threats that poor families need more protection from. They are blessings that poor families need more access to,” Lee said. “Poor farmers and trappers in Lincoln’s Mid-West were no worse at their trades than their more affluent counterparts back east. They just didn’t enjoy the same access to networks of human, social, and economic capital. In the same way, poor children today do not lack the ability to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to flourish in our market economy and civil society. But they absolutely lack the same access to the networks of human opportunity where that knowledge and those skills are acquired.”

Lee also blamed government policies that “unintentionally discourage almost every positive step underprivileged families can take toward social mobility and economic security,” including a system that “penalizes low-income workers for making more money by drastically reducing benefits at arbitrary points along the income-scale.”

To “first and foremost” help the poor, he said, “we should at least pledge to do no more harm.”

“There is no good reason the federal government should maintain 79 separate means-tested programs. There is no good reason why almost none of these programs feature the kind of work-requirements that helped transition millions of Americans into jobs after the 1996 reform. And there is no good reason federal policy should reward states for higher spending rather than improved results,” the senator continued. “…Second, just as we cannot spend our way out of poverty, we cannot really cut our way out, either. We need to fundamentally fix the system so that every dollar we do spend actually connects underprivileged families to new opportunities in the free market and civil society.”

“In Utah, for instance, our legislature has created a special task force to study the prospects of ‘charity care’ – affordable medical services for poor families provided not by government but by individuals, businesses, non-profit groups, and local communities. That model might not work in every state – but every state should have the freedom to solve problems their own way, according to their own values and priorities.”

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Top Rated Comments   
Just what we need, another "Great Society" boondoggle......run by the Republicans this time around. Didn't they learn anything from LBJ's historic screw-up?

When will these idiots understand that government should stay the hell out of our lives?
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
"79 separate means-tested programs"

All of which are full employment programs for Ivy League graduates to feel good about themselves while earning high salaries and great benefits.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (23)
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my classmate's aunt makes $62/hr on the computer. She has been unemployed for 10 months but last month her pay was $21044 just working on the computer for a few hours. go to this site....... http://www.Bay95.com
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
Lee is saying some pretty good things here, I think. "We need to fundamentally fix the system so that every dollar we do spend actually connects underprivileged families to new opportunities in the free market and civil society." And "…I have no idea if empowering poor families – regardless of what they look like – to overcome poverty through the cooperative communities of the market economy and civil society will help the Republican Party. But I do know it will help the American people – which is what the Republican Party is supposed to be for.”
It doesn't sound like he's talking about throwing money at the problem or embracing the failed great society programs. He recognizes that perverse incentives created by the federal government have caused much of today's poverty.
I don't think that we can survive as a nation much longer without somehow convincing much of the underclass to rejoin the economy as productive people. If Lee can figure out how to start doing this, more power to him.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
Umm .. we can start by discouraging out-of-wedlock childbearing in the strongest possible terms.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
OK, Mike, where's your plan? Let me see your specific proposals and how you plan to get them through Dingy Harry's Senate, and past the Prevaricator in Chief.

I'm with you, Mike, but rhetoric is one thing. Real substantive changes that work are another.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
We certainly should undo the worst of the damage from the Great Society, such as getting rid of the perverse incentive in welfare where we pay them more if the dad is out of the house. Conservative values and practices would make people's lives better and we should be pushing that.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good luck getting Libertarians on board with "making people's live better." They see that as the essence of the Nanny state.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
Which is exactly what it is........
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
As someone referenced below, I thought the Republican party was about helping people help them themselves, not about providing a perpetual hand-out. You know, the 'teach a person to fish' philosophy.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually, the Great Society boondoggle really worked! See the following from Tim Worstall, a contributor at FORBES:

“We really cannot compare the US poverty rate over time.

Way back when, poverty alleviation was almost entirely done by simply giving poor people cash money. This obviously made them less poor so it was a very effective strategy. However, it was felt that this wasn’t quite the right thing to do and therefore the system has changed over the years to one of sometimes giving money, but not very often, plus giving benefits in kind (Section 8, Medicaid, SNAP) and aid through the tax system (EITC). The US is now spending a great deal more on poverty alleviation (after inflation of course) than it used to but by the official measurement of poverty pretty much nothing seems to have changed.

The reason for this is that we don’t actually count benefits in kind or aid through the tax system in our definition of poverty: although we do count just giving poor people cash money. The upshot of this is that in the old days what the poverty line was really measuring is the number of people who were poor after the things we did to reduce poverty. Today that same poverty line is measuring the number of people who are poor before all the things we do to reduce poverty.”


If this is actually true (I have yet to check it out) that we now measure poverty levels BEFORE we account for everything we do to lift people out of poverty...then the real After-Benefits poverty is pretty much zero!

Now, if we want to talk about how to get people weaned off the benefits and into self-sufficiency...that is a discussion I'd love to be a part of.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have relatives who have been at the poverty level for 50+ years. They are inculcated in the culture of poverty. Nothing less than removing their children from their charge will break the generational cycle.

You can't help those who won't help themselves. They don't want a hand-up they demand a hand-out.

23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just what we need, another "Great Society" boondoggle......run by the Republicans this time around. Didn't they learn anything from LBJ's historic screw-up?

When will these idiots understand that government should stay the hell out of our lives?
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
The best way to alleviate poverty (like death and taxes it can never be totally eliminated) is to stop declaring "war" on it as if it was a conflict that could be won. Some percentage of the population will always be in poverty, whether because of ineptitude, circumstances, or sheer bad luck. (And the fact that if you define poverty as being in the lower X% of the income range, somebody will always be there even if the lowest-paid individual makes $1 million/year).

Rather, work to remedy those conditions that keep people in poverty: the high minimum wages and unionization that discourage beginning workers; health insurance and other regulations that tie people to specific jobs and discourage movement between employers; laws and regulations that encourage the breakdown of the family and its support system and promote dependence on government "anti-poverty" programs. Promote laws and regulations that encourage (or perhaps remove laws and regulations that discourage) entrepreneurship and small business and remove the various taxes and other burdens that take money away from businesses and their employees.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
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