When NRO’s homepage highlighted a new article by Linda Chavez in the New York Post as “The Dems take the wrong approach to poverty.”, I was tempted to title this post, “News from 1933”, ala James Taranto’s running gag in “Best of the Web“. But Chavez makes some great observations that shouldn’t be dismissed away with snark:
In a nation as rich as ours, argue Obama and Edwards, one-in-ten American families living in poverty is simply unacceptable. I agree, but the numbers reveal a lot more complexity than either man is willing to acknowledge.
First, many of those living below poverty today are new immigrants, both legal and illegal. They are newcomers who lack the education and skills to attain a middle class life, at least initially. The poverty rate for non-citizens, 20 percent, is twice the national average, but it has declined substantially since 1993, when it was almost 30 percent; this despite the fact that there are many more immigrants here now, including substantially more illegal aliens.
Second, neither Obama nor Edwards addresses the issue of family breakdown and its relationship to poverty. The poor are disproportionately made up of women and their children. Poverty rates for families headed by a single white woman with children under 18 were 25.3 percent in 2005; for similarly constituted black families, the rate was a shocking 42 percent. But for married couple families, the comparable rate for whites was just 6.1 percent, and for black families it was only 8.3 percent.
So why aren’t Obama and Edwards talking more about marriage as an antidote to poverty? From all accounts, both men have wonderful, even inspirational, marriages of their own. But many Democrats are worried they might not seem inclusive or might even be viewed as intolerant if they talk up marriage.
It’s a lot easier to offer to increase government spending. My suspicion is, however, that most Americans understand that the War on Poverty won’t be won by throwing their tax dollars behind more failed programs.
And speaking of 1933, Suzanne Fields makes a great suggestion:
John Edwards has finished his celebrated poverty tour, making obligatory stops in hurricane-ravaged neighborhoods in New Orleans, decrepit Delta towns in Mississippi and Arkansas, up through Appalachian backwaters and finally home to Washington.
Now he ought to sit down for a good read with “The Forgotten Man,” a new book by the economist Amity Shlaes.
Tough to argue with that.
Update: Speaking of Edwards, oh to be a fly on the wall when Esquire’s art department reconvenes on Monday.