Lousy Brooks

Mark Schmitt has a great takedown of Brooks' latest trifle. In the column, Brooks fabricates a magical John Edwards who thinks giving cash to the poor is the only way to alleviate poverty. Brooks pities his theoretical Edwards: for being stuck in a Democratic party time warp, unable by virtue of his liberal-robot commitment to income transfer programs to understand the enlightened ideas Republicans have come up with for fixing poverty over the years. How can you just offer the poor cash without job training programs, educational opportunity, or day care, without encouraging work and breaking dependency? Cruel Edwards, do you not know the harm you cause?

First of all, as Schmitt points out, it is kind of naive of Brooks to think Edward was only talking about the technically poor and the government programs that pertained to them. Maybe Brooks has missed this since he's been spending all that time in the exurbs, but the 'working poor' is a big problem these days, and I'm thinking that's why Edwards message about those two Americas resonated so strongly .

But maybe I heard wrong. Maybe he was talking about the 34.6 million officially poor people. In that case, I seem to remember it was a certain Democratic president who finally moved welfare reform ahead, in a way that tried to honestly reform the program, rather than destroy it (despite the final problematic compromise), and created broad public enthusiasm for all those 'support programs' that Brooks wails just aren't there. Republicans, on the other hand, have spent the last 20+ years injecting venom and misinformation into poverty reduction issues, and only marginally because a sizable group (no matter what 'compassion' meister Brooks thinks) literally want to get rid of every program for the poor. The bigger reason has been strategic: Republicans made poor-bashing good politics, and it paid pretty handsome dividends right up until Bill Clinton actually engaged the issue.


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