Friday, July 29, 2011

Culture Watch: Effectively Helping the Poor While Controlling Government Spending

“If you read our recent dueling blog posts, then you know that how the Federal Government handles compassion for the disadvantaged is a hot topic. Check out this email from Heritage Foundation that I think really hits the nail on the head regarding the Federal Government’s role in helping the poor. Also check out this link: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2011/05/Does-Advocating-Limited-Government-Mean-Abandoning-the-Poor


Will Estrada

July 28, 2011

Effectively Helping the Poor While Controlling Government Spending

As Congress turns itself in knots this week trying to resolve the looming debt crisis, some religious leaders are demanding that the President and congressional leaders exclude anti-poverty spending from budget talks. Leaders from 12 Christian organizations met with President Obama last Wednesday to discuss the Circle of Protection, an ecumenical document that insists federal welfare programs be left out of negotiations to get government spending under control.

The Circle of Protection declares that “budgets are moral documents” and calls policymakers to “resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people.” However, such statements are overly simplistic and miss the point of reforms that can truly help the poor.

As Heritage’s Ryan Messmore writes, “The budget is indeed a moral document, but it is also a morally complex document. Protecting ineffective programs doesn’t protect the poor, and reducing the debate to simplistic catchphrases doesn’t foster informed public discussion.”

The Circle of Protection claims to defend poor Americans. But insisting that government funding continue for policies that have failed to reduce poverty rates is fails to help those truly in need. The belief that poverty is merely a problem of material need that will be solved by increased funds has seriously distracted policymakers from eliminating wasteful, ineffective programs and allocating resources to those truly experiencing destitution.

As Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield point out in a new report on the actual living conditions of the poor in the U.S., “exaggeration and misinformation about poverty obscure the nature, extent, and causes of real material deprivation, thereby hampering the development of well-targeted, effective programs to reduce the problem.”

So far, this week’s debt talks seem to continue the status quo of inefficient spending on government assistance. Neither the Gang of Six’s plan nor the Boehner Plan has adequately addressed the unsustainable spending on federal welfare programs.

Policymakers should begin to accurately assess the root causes of poverty and implement policies that promote self-sufficiency. Truly helping the poor will require anti-poverty policy to reflect the importance of marriage and work - not indiscriminately demand a hedge of protection around ineffective and inefficient government welfare programs.

Read more about how policymakers can get government spending under control while truly helping the poor >>

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