The Mystery of Poverty in a Land of Riches

by Robert Arvay, Contributing Writer

In a recent speech, Barack Obama accused conservatives of unfairly blaming poor people for their poverty. In particular, he accused Fox News of insulting them. Here is an excerpt of that speech.

OBAMA: “I think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leeches, don’t want to work, are lazy, are undeserving got traction. And look, it’s still being propagated.
I mean, I have to say that if you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu — they will find folks who make me mad. I don’t know where they find them. They’re all like, ‘I don’t want to work. I just want a free Obamaphone,’ or whatever.
And that becomes an entire narrative that gets worked up and very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress, which is much more typical, who’s raising a couple of kids and doing everything right but still can’t pay the bills. And so if we’re going to change how John Boehner and Mitch McConnell think, we’re going to have to change how our body politic thinks, which means we’re going to have to change how the media reports on these issues and how people’s impressions of what it’s like to struggle in this economy looks like and how budgets connect to that.”

Obama either fails to recognize, or refuses to acknowledge, that the insults from conservatives are not directed toward the poor, but toward the government, and in particular, those government policies which help perpetuate poverty. A biased person might easily miss, for example, what Bill O’Reilly is saying when he says that among the true causes of poverty are poor education, addiction, irresponsible behavior, and laziness.

That may sound like an indictment of poor people, but O’Reilly puts his money where his mouth is, by helping to fund an inner city school which not only educates children of the poor, but instills in them high standards of educational excellence, hard work, and self-discipline. Absent these, poverty is all but inevitable.

Liberals also fund schools, but they do it with your money. In their schools, they teach children to blame others for their unfortunate circumstances, and to demand reparations from people who are not to blame.

Which approach do you think leads to helping poor children out of their poverty?

I have personally met immigrants (legal) who came to this country and lived for several years in poverty before lifting themselves from it. During those several years, they lived in ramshackle dwellings, worked seventy hours or more per week, and saved every penny they could. They then risked their savings to start a business— more seventy hour weeks—enduring failures and setbacks, some of which were due to ridiculous government regulations. When they finally paid off their debts and were able to buy a house and send their children to college, they were accused of being greedy, of not giving back to the community. They were told by the president, you did not build that business, someone else did that for you. The implication is that, you do not really own your business, the government does. Give it to the bureaucracy. Hand it over.

One remark I heard an Asian immigrant make was, in a country this rich, how does anyone manage to be poor?

Obama points to the hard working waitress who cannot support her children. I have met such people also, not only waitresses, but janitors, salesmen, and indeed, even government workers. Their lives are hard. They struggle. They seem unable to save a penny, much less invest.

While I have never been in poverty, I am very far from being rich. My twenty years in the armed forces left me with a retirement that pales in comparison to retired people who thrived in the private sector. I get a monthly social security check. I eat three nourishing meals per day, but even though I live only an hour’s drive from Orlando, Florida, a Disney World vacation is out of my reach. Still, I am content.

Obama would point to all that and claim that without government checks, I, too, would be in poverty.

From my perspective, I accept my own faults and flaws which prevented me from starting my own business, from climbing the corporate ladder, from skillfully investing in the market, and so forth. There is no one else to blame but me. I sometimes reflect on how narrowly I missed destroying my own life with bad habits and credit God with His miraculous interventions in keeping me from doing more harm to myself than I did. But for that, I would be living in poverty.

Obama’s final line in the excerpt above is, “how budgets connect to that.” Clearly, Obama is single-mindedly focused on his belief that only more taxpayer funded government programs can lift people from poverty. He seems completely oblivious to the fact that, as President Ronald Reagan pointed out, government is not the solution, government is the problem.

Government’s proper role is not to lift people from poverty, but to get out of their way, so that they can lift themselves. It is to enforce laws, such as anti-trust, anti-fraud, and contractual obligations, that make the free market free not only for the rich, but for the poor.

The problem is that when people are set free, and are no longer poor, they no longer need government programs. Government budgets could then be cut. Government power and privileges would then be reduced. Government would have fewer duties, but would be more accountable to the public. Lazy, incompetent and corrupt officials would then be fired, including many legislators who pass laws that keep people poor.

Does it now become more clear why there is poverty in a wealthy nation?

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