The conservative silence about poverty
Last week at Cleveland State University, Paul Ryan outlined in broad contours how a Romney-Ryan administration would confront poverty in America.
For followers of this blog—especially Millennials and Gen Xers who watch far too many economic conservatives tiptoe around poverty issues—his 26-minute speech is essential viewing. The speech addresses topics also covered in our current fleet of Values & Capitalism primers: subjects like Social Security, anti-poverty approaches and what conditions actually create wealth and justice.
Congressman Ryan’s speech identifies two important problems. First, despite unprecedented federal anti-poverty spending, “poverty is winning.” Instead of government programs creating a basic safety net (which the vast majority of Americans support), our anti-poverty programs are increasingly becoming a way of life—and one that impedes individuals and communities from flourishing. Many of us have our own firsthand examples, and “inter-generational poverty” abides.
Ryan says that, on means-tested programs alone, we spend over a trillion dollars annually, and yet “in our major cities, half our kids don’t graduate” from high school. Today nearly one in six adults and one in four children still live in poverty. As compassionate citizens and, in particular, Christians who care deeply about economic stewardship, debt being passed on to future generations, and the biblical value of work, we must not idly stand by. We should also be careful not to let liberal candidates monopolize this issue.
Which brings us to the second problem Ryan identifies in his speech: Conservatives need to do a better job applying the American Dream to all strata of society. “My party has a vision for making our communities stronger,” Ryan said, “but we don’t always do a good job of laying out that vision.”
… For American productivity to again become a reality, we must connect humane, compassionate ideals with clear-headed fiscal prudence that affirms the image of God in all persons, the dignity of work, the reality of debt and the value of personal responsibility. This is the secret our founders knew—and it is also critical to the survival and flourishing of our free enterprise system, which has the power to lift millions out of poverty.
There is much more to the article. Read it in full by clicking here.