Tuesday, October 11, 2005

War on Poverty

Ezra Klein over at TAPPED (the American Prospect's blog) makes a very good point regarding conservatives' recent rediscovery of poverty (and frankly, the whole nation coming eye to eye with it for the first time in a long time) and offers some ammunition to back it up:

There's little serious argument over whether or not conservative solutions to poverty work. They do not. The Great Society, while it had its problems, was quite effective in cutting serious impoverishment. But with Reagan's ascendance and the temporary triumph of supply-side economics, massive inequality rendered poverty "sticky", which is to say unresponsive to changes in the economy. Indeed, while poverty used to be tied to growth, the last three years of economic recovery were the first to ever coincide with unbroken increases in the poverty rate.
In 1960, pre-Great Society, poverty loomed at 22.2 percent. By 1969, after Lyndon Johnson's supposedly "failed" war was waged, it had nearly halved, plummeting to 12.1 percent. At the end of Jimmy Carter's term, the poverty rate was 11.7 percent. Ronald Reagan, who famously said that we fought the war on poverty and poverty won, set about proving it, pushing the poverty rate back up to 12.8 percent. His successor, George H.W. Bush, presided over a recession that saw it shoot to 15.1 percent. Along comes Bill Clinton and, after eight years of Democratic policies and economic growth, we see poverty fall back to 11.3 percent. And now? George W. Bush has boosted it back up to 12.7 percent. My, he really is Reaganesque.

There's a reason conservatives talk like liberals when it comes to poverty. The response, of course, is for liberals to talk about the conservative record on poverty. As Reagan once tried to say, facts are stubborn things, and in this case, the numbers really do tell the tale.


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