Obama and poverty: National Review explains it all for you

I’m not sure exactly why NPR.org is running content from National Review Online, but if they’re all as unintentionally funny as this one, I’m all in favor of it.

In today’s story, Michael Tanner of the arch-libertarian Cato Institute (one of the Koch brothers family of thinktanks) sets out to explain why the Obama administration is at fault for keeping Americans in poverty. Argument #1:

For example, few things are as important in helping people escape poverty as education. High school dropouts are more than twice as likely to end up in poverty as those who complete at least a high school education. They are less likely to find jobs, and if they do their wages will be low. In inflation-adjusted terms, wages for high school dropouts have declined by more than 23 percent in the past 40 years.

An excellent point, and one I’ve made myself in the past. So is Tanner going to argue in favor of allowing people to go to college while receiving welfare benefits, thus allowing them to pull themselves up by their libertarian-friendly bootstraps?

Not exactly:

Yet Obama and the Democrats, in thrall to the teachers’ unions, steadfastly resist proposals to give parents more control over their children’s education. Washington, D.C., has a public-school system that, despite spending more per child than almost any other system in the nation, still has a dropout rate of more than 50 percent. Yet one of the first actions of the president and congressional Democrats was to kill the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which offered vouchers to permit poor children to opt out of the city’s rotten public schools.

That’s right: The reason poor people are poor is because they don’t have enough charter schools. And never mind that charter schools aren’t any better on average than traditional public schools (or, for that matter, that D.C.’s school system is run by one of the nation’s loudest charter advocates, soon-to-be-replaced “Waiting for ‘Superman’” star Michelle Rhee).

On to argument #2:

And, of course, nothing is more important in fighting poverty than jobs. Yet the Obama administration is overtly hostile to the entrepreneurs and job creators in our economy. The wealthy are demonized rhetorically. Every other day seems to bring a new proposal to raise their taxes. Just look at the barrage of political commercials and presidential speeches that sneeringly denounce the Bush “tax cuts for the rich.” But, as former Texas senator Phil Gramm once noted, “No one ever got a job from a poor man.”

Phil Gramm has a Ph.D. in economics, which just makes that quip all the sadder: Anyone who runs or works for a business that sells products to the masses — which is to say, most people who are not economics professors — has “gotten a job from a poor man” in the very real sense that without the spending of the non-capital-owning classes, their company would be out of business. (You may have personal experience with this of late.) And it’s more than a rhetorical point: Economists consistently score tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy as lousy economic stimulus measures in terms of how much bang you get for your federal buck. (This is known around my household as the “you can only buy so many yachts” principle.) The best alternative? Giving money to those damn poor people, who you can at least count on going out and spending it.

There’s more, but it involves privatizing Social Security as a way for poor people to reap the riches to be made by playing the stock market, and I’m laughing too hard already. So kudos to NPR for its new humor column; I just hope no overly gullible readers take it seriously.

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