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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

'On Fighting the Last War (On Poverty)'

Paul Krugman:

On Fighting the Last War (On Poverty), by Paul Krugman: ... I wanted ... to say something about the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. ...
The narrative in the 1970s was that the war on poverty had failed because of social disintegration: government attempts to help the poor were outpaced by the collapse of the family, rising crime, and so on. And on the right, and to some extent in the center, it was often argued that government aid was if anything promoting this social disintegration. ...
But that was a long time ago. These days crime is way down, so is teenage pregnancy, and so on; society did not collapse. What collapsed instead is economic opportunity. If progress against poverty has been disappointing over the past half century, the reason is not the decline of the family but the rise of extreme inequality. We’re a much richer nation than we were in 1964, but little if any of that increased wealth has trickled down to workers in the bottom half of the income distribution.
The trouble is that the American right is still living in the 1970s, or actually a Reaganite fantasy of the 1970s; its notion of an anti-poverty agenda is still all about getting those layabouts to go to work and stop living off welfare. The reality that lower-end jobs, even if you can get one, don’t pay enough to lift you out of poverty just hasn’t sunk in. And the idea of helping the poor by actually helping them remains anathema.
Will it ever be possible to move this debate away from welfare queens and all that? I don’t know. But for now, the key to understanding poverty arguments is that the main cause of persistent poverty now is high inequality of market income — but that the right can’t bring itself to acknowledge that reality.

    Posted by on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 09:52 AM in Economics, Income Distribution, Politics | Permalink  Comments (18)

          


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