There’s a school of right-wing thought that as Jesus said the poor are with us always, there’s no point to helping them. We’re not going to end poverty, we may not be able to help everyone, so what’s the point?
Of course by that logic, there’s no point to paying for police. We’re not going to get rid of all crime,we’re not going to catch all criminals, so why not just give up? But people do grasp that stopping crime is a good thing, even if you don’t bat 100 percent. I dont’ think poverty’s any difference. Helping one person who can’t get medical care (the topic in the link above) does make a difference. And Jesus wasn’t saying don’t bother to help the poor because you can’t end poverty. He’s quoting an Old Testament passage, the point of which is that poverty enduring is a reason to be generous, not to just give up.
There’s a right-wing school of thought that not only is it bad to help the poor with tax dollars, it’s bad to help the poor period. Homeless shelters are bad because they give homeless people less reason to get a job and afford rent. What they need is to suffer so that they’ll have an incentive to get off their lazy asses. Because that’s the real problem, isn’t it? A variation on this idea is that what poor people really need is not charity but jobs, so capitalism is the real charity. John Stossel, for example, wrote some years back that putting your money into a new business would do far more good than putting it into charity.
Of course that ignores that increasingly money flows to the stockholders, not to paying employees jobs they can live on (see here for more). Nine out of 10 jobs in Silicon Valley pay less than they used to. It’s worth remembering that capitalism by itself has a mixed record at best of helping out the poor and downtrodden. Wages were good in the 20th century because of unions and government support for labor rights, moving us away from the Gilded Age where the worker had no rights at all.
Nevertheless, Kevin Williamson (yes, Kevin “kill women who get abortions” Williamson) takes that ball and runs with it, and runs roughshod over Christiantiy. Sure, Jesus said that if you have two coats, you should give one to someone who doesn’t have one. But you know what? Capitalism mass-produces coats! If you open a coat factory, you can hire people, pay them well and they can afford their own coats! Besides, what if he needs food more than a coat, huh? While Williamson also acknowledges that charity is important, it feels like lip service as he gets to the important point, reassuring rich people that just by running businesses they’re making the world better.
And of course, there’s still the standard war-on-the-poor tactics: Arkansas requires Medicaid recipients report their work hours to keep coverage. But it makes it very hard for them to do so, for example only allowing online reporting.
Rep. Paul Ryan is leaving office getting plaudits for fighting the deficit. But his budgetary priorities increased it. He only cared when it justified slashing the social safety net.
Will Congress start holding banks accountable for misdeeds?
A couple of economists continue insisting that supply-side economics works. They’re wrong.