Earlier this week, in an editorial published on The Huffington Post titled "'Missing In Action': Congress Ignores America's Poverty Crisis", a reporter argued for additional stimulus spending and against a comprehensive approach to federal budgeting. The author went so far as to imply that those who support a more balanced approach are insensitive to our nation's growing levels of poverty. I strongly disagree with both points. The solutions I support empower individuals to pursue the American dream.
Let's start with an obvious omission. While entitled "Missing in Action," the article fails to note that as of 2011 the federal government had 122 different anti-poverty programs. One Congresswoman is quoted as saying Congress is not doing "enough" but she apparently forgot that seven Senate committees and subcommittees, 11 House committees and subcommittees, seven cabinet departments and eight other agencies oversee antipoverty programs. That is hardly "missing in action."
Since declaring "war" on poverty in the mid-1960s, taxpayers have spent $15 trillion, yet the number of Americans on food stamps and other programs have increased and today close to 50 million Americans live below the federal poverty line. It is therefore somewhat amazing that the last 40 years of experience, and the trillions and trillions of dollars spent, have done nothing to alleviate poverty. Which begs the question, have anti-poverty programs supported by Republicans and Democrats for decades been a colossal failure?
I am a member of the Republican Study Committee, a group that has initiated anti-poverty initiatives that promote personal responsibility, healthy family relationships, and civil society institutions that are needed to reduce the causes of poverty and social breakdown. Anyone who thinks simply raising the minimum wage will "cure" poverty misunderstands both basic economics and human nature.
While I believe in a safety net, as a nation we cannot view these programs as a solution, but rather as their intended purpose, a stopgap. Real solutions include comprehensive reforms to the current system to promote individual responsibility and discourage a culture of long-term dependence. Often these are programs which are community based and not overreaching federal monstrosities.
The article states conditions are worsening for the poor and that the solution is "another stimulus." We only need to look at the data from the last massive stimulus: poverty rates increased. It is increasingly clear that temporary spending programs do not create lasting opportunity. We must also acknowledge that our tax and spend efforts are what has contributed to the tanking of our economy. Out-of-control government spending resulted in a recession, our nation's credit rating being downgraded, and debt for generations to come.
We need the anti-poverty program known as economic growth, so we can jump-start the economy by keeping as much money in the pockets of the American people that create jobs. Sending hard-earned taxpayer dollars to Washington, for politicians to spend recklessly, does not create wealth or expand opportunities.
With more than 46 million Americans living below the poverty line, 50 million on food stamps, and 90 million out of the workforce there should be no doubt -- we need a rising economic tide to achieve a pro-growth and prosperous economy, reviving opportunity for those in search of the American dream.
I am a strong believer in the power of the free-market to help Americans lift themselves up the economic ladder and to create prosperity for all. When we focus on stabilizing the dollar and growing the economy, the old saying that "a rising tide lifts all boats" would once again ring true and we all would share in the benefits.
This post is in response to "'Missing In Action': Congress Ignores America's Poverty Crisis" by Huffington Post political reporter Jennifer Bendery.