Friday, February 3, 2012

Not Enough Charity to Fix the Holes in the 'Safety Net'...

By now you've heard it...

Governor Mitt Romney's statement (misspoken, of course). You know, the one where he says he's doesn't care about 'the very poor'.  I listened to the statement and, yes, it's taken out of context - somewhat. The fact is, the way he's taken his fellow GOP candidates statements out of context, not to mention President Obama, any claim of unfairness should fall on deaf ears.

But if you examine the logic behind the statement, it's still disturbing. That's because he is espousing the same 'trickle down' economic theory that has never worked in this country.

Never...

Romney, who also said he's not concerned about 'the very rich' because he's doing just fine, also wants to cut the taxes of the very rich. The assumption? The rich, with more disposable income, will create jobs. Those jobs will go to the struggling middle class. The middle class, along with the rich, will supplement the government's 'safety net' for the poor.

Here's the thing though...

This logic, expressed as a campaign policy, is a tacit admission that at this time, 'the very rich' haven't created the jobs. As a matter of fact, if you exclude the era of Obama and go back to the Bush era, job growth was in decline and wages were stagnant...in spite of tax cuts, which are now said to be essential to economic recovery. The 'safety net' for the poor, also, he suggests, might have holes in it (ya' think?!). The general, conservative 'fix it' strategy for the holes in the safety net, is usually charity.

But there's a problem there as well...

The more income Americans make, the less charitable they are!

In fact, according to McClatchey newservice, the poor are actually more charitable than Americans of means.


They fact that we are even having this conversation shows how superficial our politics has become. How many of our candidates for office are actually talking to poor people? How many of them are citing surveys and polling data about poverty and who is actually in a neighborhood where the poor live?

There are very generous people who are rich. There are very generous people who are very rich. But their generosity has to also be characterized. Because 'donations to charity' cover a broad spectrum. Are they giving to an after school program, or an arts museum? Are they giving a hospital or are they giving to a homeless shelter? And what is the impact of the donation, relative to the need being addressed?

At best, there isn't enough charity to go around. And what is needed is not a 'safety net', but a floor below which we don't let people fall. That's a commitment of public funds - a commitment from which we shrink at our peril, if we 'don't care about the very poor'...

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