I heard an interview of Ted Cruz recently when he said that it was time to “admit that the big government war on poverty has been a failure”. Lost in the discussion about income gaps between the rich and the rest of us exponentially growing , there has been the downward shift of people lapsing into poverty. Much of the increase in poverty is due to the large number of unemployed people, however there is a growing number of women and children in poverty. Cruz and his Tea Party conservatives want to claim that “big government” has failed, but once again reality is at odds with the conservative philosophy.
Here are the facts. Until the Presidency of Reagan the rates of poverty steadily DECREASED from the advent of President Johnson’s “Great Society”. Beginning with Reagan the rate of poverty remained the same and then suddenly began to decline during the Presidency of George W. What happened during these Presidencies that would reverse a decades-long decline in poverty? Republican tax policies and social policies began to simultaneously change the tax rates to favor the ultra-rich and the social safety net (that got and kept people out of poverty) were dismantled. In other words, the “war on poverty” was replaced by Republicans with a war on the poor.
Martin Luther King Jr. on prophetically said that a nation that spends more on weapons to destroy than programs of social uplift was morally bankrupt and doomed. Conservatives have been gifted at convincing middle-class Americans that the money spent on anti-poverty programs was coming out of their pockets, even as they were constructing a massive welfare system for the rich. Big government was WINNING the war on poverty, until Conservatives began their war on the poor.
Many Americans could not care less about the poor, until they become poor. I think most Americans are caring and simply need to understand that in terms of poverty and unemployment, Government IS the solution, not the problem. At some point the rhetoric of the Right will have to bow to reality. Until then…