Monday, September 07, 2009

There's underclass, and then there's just low class

There are some problems with the connection to the intertubes here at Chez Spot, so light posting until that is fixed. Spot didn't want to miss the chance, however, to give Katie a shout out for her hatchet job on Ted Kennedy. She refers to Mary Jo Kopechne, of course. But the best part for Katie is undoubtedly her chance to trot out her favorite canard:

No doubt, Kennedy's efforts regarding the poor were unique and significant. He was, after all, one of only two U.S. senators still sitting in 2009 who were present for the construction of the entire infrastructure of the modern welfare state.

First elected in 1962, Kennedy was a lifelong advocate of the vision that animated Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and War on Poverty. These initiatives ushered in decades of welfare policy predicated on the belief that every social problem is best addressed by a massive, costly government program. [just a bit of an exaggeration, don't you think, boys and girls?]

In fact, policies of this kind have been a disaster for the poor. Far from helping low-income people join the middle class, they created a permanent underclass, hobbled by crippling habits of dependence. By subsidizing self-destructive behavior and discouraging work and marriage, these policies contributed to soaring out-of-wedlock birth rates (5 percent in 1960, 39 percent today) and rampant crime and drug use, and helped to make fatherless families the norm in the inner city.

By 1996, President Bill Clinton was promising to "end welfare as we know it," and many Democrats joined him. The resulting reforms emphasized work for recipients of aid to dependent children, and made government assistance temporary. Kennedy fought this new paradigm ferociously, and denounced it as "legislative child abuse."

Clinton-era reform succeeded so well that, within a few years, welfare rolls had fallen by 60 percent. If Kennedy's "consistent, passionate voice" had prevailed, many of America's poor would be substantially worse off than they are today.

Welfare rolls fell, dear Katie, merely because people were cut off. The logic of equating that with improved quality of life for poor Americans is logic so flimsy that only Katie would use it. Here's a little different picture:

A report released in October 2008 by the Working Poor Families Project reveals that more than 28 percent of American families with one or both parents employed are living in poverty.

The report, "Still Working Hard, Still Falling Short," is based on data for the period from 2004 through 2006 gathered from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey and the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.

The report finds that 9.6 million households can be described as low-income or "working poor"—defined as families that earn less than 200 percent of the official poverty level. There were 350,000 more such families in 2006 than in 2002. More than 21 million children now live in low-income working families—an increase of 800,000 in four years.

In 2006 there were more than 29 million jobs in the US that paid below the official poverty level—defined as $9.91 an hour for full-time labor—an increase of nearly 5 million poverty-wage jobs from 2002.

Family income inequality also increased rapidly between 2002 and 2006, the report says. In 2006, the top 20 percent of US households earned on average 9.2 times as much as the bottom quintile.

The report notes that working poor families "lack the earnings necessary to meet their basic needs—a struggle exacerbated by soaring prices for food, gas, health and education." About 60 percent of low-income working families are forced to spend more than one-third of their income on housing, and nearly 40 percent lack health insurance for one or both parents.

Things have gotten worse since 2008, don't you think, boys and girls? Here's the permanent underclass, right where we left them.

If Katherine Kersten would just write that she doesn't care about poor people, that would be one thing. But to be so transparently dishonest about it really compounds the felony.

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