Fighting the obstacles to economic growth will do more for lifting more poor out of poverty than fighting Republicans, Christians, Fox News, and the wealthy.
At a recent Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit, President Obama used the issue of poverty to pummel his favorite punching bags. Employing his usual tactics, he put up straw-men of questionable accuracy and knocked them down with weak but emotionally compelling arguments.
For example, he criticized Christians for not doing enough for the poor because for they were spending too much time opposing gay marriage and abortion. Yet he ignored the fact that Christian efforts for the poor (rescue missions, education, health care, food pantries, micro-loans, etc…) dwarf any secular private sector efforts.
Blaming his perceived enemies for the plight of the poor is good political theater but it does not address one of the biggest contributors: President Obama’s policies. The results are in and they are not pretty. Under his six and a half years, a record number of working-aged Americans are not participating in the workforce, a record number of Americans are on food stamps, and the income gap between the rich and the poor has gotten wider.
The economic status of African Americans has been particularly hard hit by the Obama administration. Black unemployment has increased 60%, the Black/White wealth gap is at a 24-year high, and African Americans who live in poverty have increased to 27%. Black-owned businesses have suffered too. Only 1.7% of SBA loans went to Black businesses, compared to 8% under the administration of President George W. Bush.
Poverty has gotten worse. If you want a different result, different policies are needed, not doing more of the same.
One of the main problems is that while government programs provide relief to the poor, it does not transition the poor up the economic ladder. Jobs do. When the economy grows, jobs are created in the private sector due to increasing demand and in the public sector due to increasing tax revenue. But while the job market getting better in this modest economic recovery, it is still a shadow of its former self. Imagine how many poverty-related problems go away at 4% growth instead of 2%.
Most Republicans and Democrats can agree that the biggest tool in the real fight against poverty is economic growth. Where they disagree is how to get robust growth. After almost seven years of increased government centralization, more taxes, more regulations, and more government spending, economic growth has peaked at an anemic rate and is starting to get wobbly.
Instead of doubling down and getting more of the same, it is time to change strategies: decentralize with less taxes, fewer regulations, and decreased government spending.
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