Thursday, September 22, 2005

RICH LOWRY OF THE NRO blames the plight of impoverished black and immigrant residents of New Orleans on the welfare state. Well, I blame the welfare state, too -- the one that's funneled a king's ransom to multinational corporations and the wealthiest one percent of Americans.

Of course, Lowry's not talking about that welfare state.

According to nearly every journalist in America, our consciousness has been raised about the invisible scourge of poverty in this country, and nothing is too much to ask when addressing the plight of the disadvantaged evacuees of New Orleans. They should get every form of aid possible — except, that is, assistance that might help give them more control over their lives.

"More control over their lives" to Rich Lowry means vouchers for private schools that poor black and immigrant children would not have a snowball's chance in hell of getting into even if they have a sackful of vouchers. These are Rich Lowry's thoughts on how to give control to New Orleans residents who had precious little to start with and have lost even that:

The unemployed now get 26 weeks of federal unemployment benefits, which are often extended and also supplemented by various state programs. This is a social safety net that can become a trap. The longer and more generous benefits are, the less incentive someone has to find work (see Germany in particular and Western Europe generally for examples of the phenomenon at work). The Bush program would establish accounts that unemployed people could use as they see fit for education, training programs and child care to support their job search. If they find a job within 13 weeks they can keep up to $1,000 of the $5,000 account.

Woweee! Five thousand dollars to fund the education, training programs, and child care needed to get and hold a decent-paying job? Lowry must not have checked out the cost of college tuition lately, even for two-year programs. And what about medical care? What about finding a place to live and being able to pay the rent? What about paying for gas and electric and the cost of a car, to get to that training and that job? What about the costs of relocating? And if a job is found within 13 weeks, what is the reward? Having $4,000 of that $5,000 taken away while you struggle to get settled!

This doesn't give poor people any meaningful choices at all. It just puts them on a treadmill they will never get off of.

If Lowry and other conservatives really want to give poor, black victims of Katrina control over their lives, they need to rebuild the infrastructure and fund the institutions and services that poor people need to make real choices and control their lives. All people need these institutions and services; the only difference between poor people and people who are middle class or wealthy is that the latter have the money to pay for those services.

When my car was repossessed, before I sold my house, I was able to get to my job because, even though I could not afford my car payments anymore, I did have the money for bus fare. And even more than that, there actually were bus lines within walking distance of my home that took me to my job. How is $5,000 in a government account going to help you get to work if there are no bus lines or trains?

And I love this statement, too:

New Orleans was partly a catastrophe of the welfare state, which has subsidized inner cities with countless billions of dollars throughout the past 30 years, with little to show for it except more social breakdown.

The U.S. war against Iraq has cost Americans almost $200 billion in just the two and a half years since Bush invaded -- with nothing to show for it except almost 2,000 Americans dead, thousands of Americans maimed for life, at least 100,000 Iraqis killed (mostly women, children, and the elderly), and with Iraq itself in a state of near-civil war, with suicide and car bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, summary executions, endemic torture, and more hatred of America and support for terrorist groups than ever before.

If spending hundreds of billions of dollars, indefinitely, for a war that has led to nothing but total social breakdown for Iraqis and more danger for Americans, is not a waste of money in the view of people like Rich Lowry, then why would a few billion dollars to rebuild the Gulf Coast and to help Americans get back on their feet be a waste of money?

Hat tip to CN Todd at Freiheit und Wissen, who, in addition to his other comments, points out how disgraceful it is for Lowry to be comparing Bush's proposed Katrina relief plan to FDR's New Deal:

Rich should be ashamed of himself to enlist Roosevelt to his cause. Bush's proposed "relief" would continue to undermine 60 plus years of progress on behalf of the nations poor, undoing the legacy that Roosevelt attempted to create.

Then again, it's understandable that Lowry would claim an American president who embodies socially progressive public policy to justify his socially regressive ideas. Who else is Lowry going to use as a model? Herbert Hoover?

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