Summing Up Differing Approaches to Poverty
Nathan Smith at TCS daily offers this contrast between how President Bush and Sen. Jim Webb view the poverty question:
President Bush has proposed an array of policies that confront different aspects of real deprivation as experienced by the poor here and abroad: bad education, lack of legal status and fear of deportation, lack of health care and disease. Of course, also critical to poverty alleviation is the ongoing success of the US economy, which, as the president mentioned, has created 7.2 million jobs since the beginning of the current expansion. Jobs are both the best way out of poverty and, as presidential aspirant John Edwards has said, a source of “dignity and self-respect.” By calling for a balanced budget in five years, without raising taxes, President Bush made a bid to preserve a business climate in which prosperity will continue.
While the president is interested in dealing with specific aspects of poverty and deprivation, he is not interested in the position of poor people relative to others. Senator Webb is. “When I graduated from college,” remarks Senator Webb, “the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it¹s nearly 400 times.” Or again, “Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth.” In each case, the statistic he cites is a ratio: the average worker’s wages compared to those of the CEO; wages and salaries compared to national wealth. That the average worker is much wealthier in absolute terms than he was thirty years ago does not seem to interest Webb much: what matters is that his relative wealth has decreased.
In short, it’s the rhetoric of class warfare and “envy” (Webb) versus the rhetoric of “altruism” (Bush). Read the whole thing for a further explanation.