The poverty campaign
By Thomas E. Brewton
John Edwards's campaign mantra should be, James Carville-style, "It's the capitalists, stupid!"
A recent Wall Street Journal story says that John Edwards may be trailing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but his Johnnie-One-Note hammering on poverty and "the two Americas" is forcing all of the Democratic Party hopefuls to include it in their own campaign promises.
We should remind ourselves about two aspects of Mr. Edwards's program.
First, it comes out of the fundamentals of socialism. Second, it has been tried many times, both at the state and national levels, always with very bad results. The poor wind up in worse shape than before they started.
Look at the pathetically helpless people in New Orleans, still unable to deal with the results of Katrina, because their society has been victimized by the welfare-state mentality started by Huey Long in the 1920s and institutionalized by Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s.
Other examples are New England and upstate New York, once the major manufacturing areas of the nation, now well below the national average, because state and Federal taxes and regulations to redistribute income, along with political pandering to labor unions, have made free enterprise increasingly uneconomic.
Lyndon Johnson, an FDR emulator, rode the socialist pony in the 1960s with his War on Poverty, a theme which President Kennedy had planned to use at the time of his assassination.
President Johnson's campaign originated in 1962’s The Other America: Poverty in the United States, which became required reading for the Kennedy administration’s New Frontiersmen. The author was Michael Harrington, an influential liberal and the chairman and principal spokesman for the American Socialist party. His thesis was that large sectors of the population remained permanently in poverty, no matter how prosperous the general economy.
As had the settlement house socialists at the turn of the century, Mr. Harrington spoke of “structural poverty”, the idea that our society of Jeffersonian individualism had created this poverty and, furthermore, made it impossible for the poor ever to escape poverty by their own efforts. To provide the poor with their Constitutional entitlements required restructuring our political and economic society to place decision-making in the hands of intellectual planners, Harrington declared:
In his 1968 Toward a Democratic Left: A Radical Program for a New Majority Mr. Harrington summarized Senator Edwards's paradigm:
In other words, put all the poor on the Federal payroll.
The real-world results of President Johnson's War on Poverty?
The worst inflation in the nation's history wiped out more than half the purchasing power of people's lifetime savings; unemployment approached Depression levels; education fell off a cliff; cities were gutted by riots and fires; crime rates soared; illegitimate births rose to heights never before experienced in world history; drug addiction became widespread; sexual promiscuity and scatological language became the norm in real life, as well as in TV, movies, and the print media.
And, oh yes, poverty is still with us, if we are to believe Mr. Edwards and his socialist confreres in the Democratic Party.
Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets. His weblog is The View From 1776. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.