Obama’s rhetoric on poverty doesn’t match per­for­mance

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY RALPH Z. HAL­LOW BY DAVE BOYER

In an un­prece­dented show of op­po­si­tion to abor­tion, Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Reince Priebus is de­lay­ing the start of the party’s an­nual win­ter meet­ing so he and other com­mit­tee mem­bers can join the March for Life on the Mall, The Wash­ing­ton Times has learned.

Mr. Priebus, a plain-spo­ken Greek Or­tho­dox lawyer from Wis­con­sin, will join mem­bers of his party’s na­tional com­mit­tee and thou­sands of other abor­tion op­po­nents in the an­nual right-to-life march sched­uled for Jan. 22, the an­niver­sary of the Roe v. Wade de­ci­sion that de­clared abor­tion a con­sti­tu­tional right.

“I saw that there was a real in­ter­est among a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of our mem­bers to at­tend and sup­port the Rally for Life,” Mr. Priebus said in an email to The Times. “This is a core prin­ci­ple of our party. It was nat­u­ral for me to sup­port our mem­bers and our prin­ci­ples.”

Mr. Priebus, in his sec­ond term as elected chair­man of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, chose to de­lay the start of the four-day win­ter meet­ing of the GOP gov­ern­ing body, also sched­uled in Wash­ing­ton, to al­low him­self and RNC mem­bers to at­tend the march. The de­lay is un­prece­dented for a ma­jor U.S. po­lit­i­cal party, sev­eral state Repub­li­can Party chair­men and other RNC mem­bers said in tele­phone in­ter­views.

Mr. Priebus also de­cided that the RNC will char­ter a bus to and from the march for those among the RNC’s 168 mem­bers who wish to at­tend, he said.

“I will at­tend the March for Life and am mak­ing a few sim­ple mod­i­fi­ca­tions of the sched­ule and en­sur­ing that the mem­bers have safe and ad­e­quate trans­porta­tion to and from the rally,” he said in his email.

In an email cir­cu­lated among other mem­bers, Alaska RNC mem­ber Deb­bie Joslin said, “I have served un­der a num­ber of chair­men and not one of them ever made any op­por­tu­nity for us to at­tend the March for Life, and they al­ways sched­uled crit­i­cal meet­ings for the same time as the March for Life. Big thanks to Reince for stand­ing up for the un­born!”

The chair­man’s ac­tion is an ex­am­ple of the in­creas­ingly bot­tom-up in­stead of top­down way the RNC func­tions.

On pa­per, the RNC is quite demo­cratic in struc­ture — it is made up of an elected state party chair­man and an elected com­mit­tee man and a com­mit­tee woman from each of the 50 states and five U.S. ter­ri­to­ries. But for al­most its en­tire his­tory, the na­tional chair­man, in an in­for­mal al­liance with the GOP con­gres­sional lead­er­ship and top fundrais­ers, has called the shots. But this act was dif­fer­ent. “When Reince got wind of what mem­bers were plan­ning on their own, he emailed that he would shift our RNC sched­ule so we could at­tend, and he of­fered that the RNC would get trans­porta­tion for us,” Missouri GOP Chair­man Ed Martin said.

Ok­la­homa RNC mem­ber Carolyn McLarty, an evan­gel­i­cal Protes­tant, said the sched­ule change had its ori­gins in an email re­minder about the march from Vir­ginia RNC mem­ber Kathy Hay­den “about a week ago and that we could prob­a­bly at­tend at least part of it prior to the start of the RNC meet­ings. … Things have snow­balled from there.”

She said West Vir­ginia RNC mem­ber Melody Pot­ter had “con­tacted the bus com­pany and the emails started fly­ing with mem­bers want­ing to at­tend.”

“I am pumped at the op­por­tu­nity that we have as a party,” Mrs. Pot­ter said. “There is noth­ing that we can­not ac­com­plish to­gether. We are Repub­li­can for a rea­son.”

Fifty years af­ter Pres­i­dent John­son started a $20 tril­lion tax­payer-funded war on poverty, the over­all per­cent­age of im­pov­er­ished peo­ple in the U.S. has de­clined only slightly and the poor have lost ground un­der Pres­i­dent Obama.

Aides said Mr. Obama didn’t plan to com­mem­o­rate the an­niver­sary of John­son’s speech in 1964, which gave rise to Med­i­caid, Head Start and a broad range of other fed­eral anti-poverty pro­grams. The pres­i­dent’s only pub­lic event Tues­day was a plea for Congress to ap­prove ex­tended ben­e­fits for the long-term un­em­ployed, another re­minder of the per­sis­tent eco­nomic trou­bles dur­ing Mr. Obama’s five years in of­fice.

“What I think the Amer­i­can peo­ple are re­ally look­ing for in 2014 is just a lit­tle bit of sta­bil­ity,” Mr. Obama said.

Al­though the pres­i­dent of­ten rails against in­come in­equal­ity in Amer­ica, his poli­cies have had lit­tle im­pact over­all on poverty. A record 47 mil­lion Amer­i­cans re­ceive food stamps, about 13 mil­lion more than when he took of­fice.

The poverty rate has stood at 15 per­cent for three con­sec­u­tive years, the first time that has hap­pened since the mid-1960s. The poverty rate in 1965 was 17.3 per­cent; it was 12.5 per­cent in 2007, be­fore the Great Re­ces­sion.

About 50 mil­lion Amer­i­cans live be­low the poverty line, which the fed­eral gov­ern­ment de­fined in 2012 as an an­nual in­come of $23,492 for a fam­ily of four.

Pres­i­dent Obama’s anti-poverty ef­forts “are ba­si­cally to give more peo­ple more free stuff,” said Robert Rec­tor, a spe­cial­ist on wel­fare and poverty at the con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion.

“That’s ex­actly the op­po­site of what John­son said,” Mr. Rec­tor said. “John­son’s goal was to make peo­ple pros­per­ous and self-suf­fi­cient.”

The pres­i­dent’s ad­vis­ers de­fend his poli­cies by say­ing they res­cued the na­tion from the deep re­ces­sion in 2009, saved the auto in­dus­try and re­duced the job­less rate to 7 per­cent from a high of 10 per­cent four years ago.

Gene Sper­ling, the pres­i­dent’s top eco­nomic ad­viser, said Mr. Obama has pulled as many as 9 mil­lion peo­ple out of poverty with poli­cies such as ex­tend­ing the earned in­come tax credit for par­ents with three or more chil­dren and re­duc­ing the “mar­riage penalty.”

“There are things that this pres­i­dent has done that have made a big dif­fer­ence,” Mr. Sper­ling said Mon­day.

The White House again is push­ing for an in­crease in the fed­eral min­i­mum wage, this time ad­vo­cat­ing a Se­nate bill that would raise the hourly rate to $10.10 from its cur­rent $7.25. Mr. Sper­ling said that ac­tion would lift another 6.8 mil­lion work­ers out of poverty.

“It would make them less de­pen­dent on gov­ern­ment pro­grams. It would not add to the deficit one penny, but it would re­ward work and re­duce poverty,” he said.

The pres­i­dent is ex­pected to use his State of the Union ad­dress Jan. 20 to pres­sure Congress to raise the min­i­mum wage. He made the same pitch a year ago.

Democrats are ad­vo­cat­ing is­sues such as un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits and the min­i­mum wage es­pe­cially hard this year as the class-war­fare rhetoric heats up to frame the con­gres­sional midterm elec­tions. House Repub­li­can lead­ers op­pose in­creas­ing the min­i­mum wage and want un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits to be paid with sav­ings else­where in the bud­get. Mr. Obama is in­sist­ing that the ben­e­fits be ex­tended with­out off­sets.

The pres­i­dent last month de­clared the widen­ing gap be­tween rich and poor as “the defin­ing chal­lenge of our time,” and Demo­cratic can­di­dates are ex­pected to pick up that theme on the cam­paign trail rather than de­bate deficits and the com­pli­ca­tions of Oba­macare.

In spite of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s an­tipoverty ef­forts, how­ever, the gov­ern­ment re­ported this week that poverty by some mea­sures has been worse un­der Mr. Obama than it was un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush. The U.S. Cen­sus Bureau re­ported that 31.6 per­cent of Amer­i­cans were in poverty for at least two months from 2009 to 2011, a 4.5 per­cent­age point in­crease over the pre-re­ces­sion pe­riod of 2005 to 2007.

Of the 37.6 mil­lion peo­ple who were poor at the be­gin­ning of 2009, 26.4 per­cent re­mained in poverty through­out the next 34 months, the re­port said. Another 12.6 mil­lion peo­ple es­caped poverty dur­ing that time, but 13.5 mil­lion more fell into poverty.

Mr. Rec­tor said the war on poverty has been a fail­ure when mea­sured by the over­all amount of money spent and poverty rates that haven’t changed sig­nif­i­cantly since John­son gave his speech.

“We’ve spent $20.7 tril­lion on meanstested aid since that time, and the poverty rate is pretty much ex­actly where it was in the mid-1960s,” he said.

The lib­eral Center on Bud­get and Pol­icy Pri­or­i­ties said in a re­port that some trends have helped re­duce poverty since the 1960s, in­clud­ing more Amer­i­cans com­plet­ing high school and more women work­ing out­side the home. But the group said other fac­tors have con­trib­uted to per­sis­tent poverty, in­clud­ing a tripling in the num­ber of house­holds led by sin­gle par­ents.

Mr. Rec­tor said too many gov­ern­ment anti-poverty pro­grams still dis­cour­age mar­riage, fac­tor­ing into sta­tis­tics that show more than four in 10 chil­dren are born to un­mar­ried par­ents.

“When the war on poverty started, about 6 per­cent of chil­dren were born out­side of mar­riage,” he said. “To­day that’s 42 per­cent — catas­tro­phe.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.