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February 28, 2015

Hammocks and Ladders: The Poverty of Republican Thinking on the Poor

In general Republican thought, poverty is not something caused by society into which some people are unfortunate enough to fall. Rather, poverty is something people fall into by their own failures, and it is also something that they can leave behind by climbing the ladder of success. If poverty persists, the argument goes, it is not because that ladder is somehow absent but because poverty persists whenever political and social conditions conspire to prevent a sufficient number of people from climbing the ladder of success with all the levels of skill and vigor necessary to the task. And the big criminal here, for many Republicans, is invariably the federal government itself. But if the Republican presidential hopefuls are genuinely concerned with the plight of the least well-off among us, they will need to consult more widely than simply economists drawn from libertarian and conservative think-tanks.

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