September 20, 2012
The September issue of St. Anthony Messenger
features a “special report” on poverty.
The magazine, published since 1893, is online, and “goes out to
more than 350,000 subscribers across the country and around the world.” It’s
disappointing that a publication with a rich history and so wide a reach egregiously
bungles such a weighty issue.
But getting poverty wrong is time-honored convention for the religious
left. Faith-based liberals played a big role in the creation of the Great
Society, and nearly five decades later, they defend the social-welfare
complex as reflexively as do their secular allies.
In one sense, LBJ’s
dream has been achieved. The humorist Fred Reed, penning a rare serious
column, offered an incontrovertible assessment: “America has precious little
poverty, if by poverty you mean lack of something to eat, clothing adequate to
keep you warm and cover your private parts, and a dry and comfortable place to
sleep. In the ‘inner cities’ or, as we used to call them, slums, there is
horrendous cultural emptiness, yes, and the products of the suburban high
schools are catching up fast. But poverty? The kind you see in the back streets
It barely exists in the United
“We’ve won the War on Poverty,” Robert Rector, a scholar with the
Heritage Foundation, told The Los Angeles Times in 2004.
“We’ve basically eliminated widespread material deprivation.”
Douglas J. Besharov, a professor at the University of Maryland
School of Public Policy, averred that while “there is still some real hunger in
it is found predominantly among people with behavioral or emotional problems,
such as drug addicts and the dysfunctional homeless.” Rector’s research
reveals that 80 percent of “poor” households have air conditioning, two in
three enjoy cable/satellite television, half own a personal computer, half own
a videogame unit, and “31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.”
The vanquishment of abject indigence isn’t mentioned by the Messenger. And the Catholic activists
the magazine interviewed certainly don’t cite any improvement. They’d rather
discuss helplessness. Sheila Gilbert, president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, told reporter
Carol Ann Morrow that the “poor are those who do not have good choices to make.
The only choices they have are bad ones.”
Asked to finger the parties responsible for what Morrow claims
is an “epidemic” of poverty, Gilbert plays the collective-guilt card: “I think
we have to admit that every single person in this country has contributed to
the situation we have today, some more directly than others.”
What nonsense. Is Gilbert unaware that since the 1960s, dozens
of programs have been crafted to address what “experts” considered root causes?
Housing, healthcare, preschool, K-12, higher education, daycare, energy
assistance, legal services, job training -- the spigot was opened wide, and
trillions of taxpayer dollars flowed.
Yet low-income households remain, and will persist, as long as
young adults make two mistakes that sentence them to lives of chaos and
despair: bearing/fathering out-of-wedlock children and failing to cultivate
noted, is “almost never” due to “a lack of access to birth control, and
generally [is] not the result of purely accidental pregnancies.” Surveys show
that marriage is desired by unwed parents, but it’s not a goal worth making
anything but minor sacrifices to achieve. Mothers have babies first, then think
about landing a husband. Despite good intentions early on, the men who
impregnate them rarely hang around to provide the
vital, day-to-day contributions of fatherhood.
As for employment, it’s nearly impossible for a family to meet
the federal government’s definition of poverty if either its husband or wife
works full-time. PK-12 is “free,” college- and university-level educations are so
heavily subsidized that they are essentially entitlements now, and vocational
traineeships are ubiquitous. If you’re not severely disabled, there’s no excuse
for not finding an employer willing to bring you on. (Considerable slack should
be cut, it need be said, for job-seekers during the Bush-Obama
Sadly, poverty-fighters appear to know very little about the actual
sources of the problem they claim to combat. The Messenger’s “special report” hews to the narrative that struggling
individuals and families are victims of a merciless economic system and an inadequate
With the exception of comedian-podcaster Adam Carolla, no figure in popular
culture regularly inveighs against the nation’s sagging work ethic and crisis
of out-of-wedlock births. Politicians and bureaucrats run from the subjects.
The legacy media is AWOL.
going to ignore the truth about its underclass for another half-century?
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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