Monday, November 2, 2015

Can We Discuss Poverty Like Grown-Ups?

Oren Cass, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, takes New York Times' Eduardo Porter, to the woodshed for his latest article questioning the sincerity of conservative anti-poverty strategies.

The City Journal:

“You don’t care about the poor” is a serious accusation. The charge should carry a particularly high burden of proof when leveled at an entire political party or policy approach. Yet Eduardo Porter made a remarkably thin case in his most recent New York Times column, “The Republican Party’s Strategy to Ignore Poverty.” If the left-wing response to serious conservative ideas for tackling poverty is going to involve ear-covering and shouting “la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you,” constructive bipartisan discussions will grow increasingly rare.

Porter centers his argument on the landmark (and bipartisan) welfare reform of 1996, which converted the traditional federal program of cash welfare to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a block grant of funds for states capped at about $16.5 billion. Because that cap was not indexed to inflation, and because states were given flexibility in the use of funds, welfare rolls have declined significantly. “Welfare was essentially made irrelevant to the lives of the poor,” writes Porter, proof that “the block grant strategy . . . allows the assistance to wither while poverty survives.” Except that “welfare,” in the form of the cash payments block-granted in 1996, is a fraction of total government assistance to the poor. Porter knows this. Indeed, he once explained in his column that “welfare reform in the mid-1990s, to a large extent, replaced cash payments with food stamps and an expanded earned-income tax credit [EITC].”

Read the full article HERE.