Frenemies of the Poor

The 50th anniversary of the President Johnson's declaration of a War on Poverty has provoked strong views on whether it has succeeded or failed. The truth lies somewhere between. [Credit: Huffington Post]

The 50th anniversary of the President Johnson’s declaration of a War on Poverty has provoked strong views on whether it has succeeded or failed. The truth lies somewhere between. [Credit: Huffington Post]

It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that right now Republicans are doing all they can to hurt the poor, and they would have inflicted vastly more harm if they had won the 2012 election. Moreover, GOP harshness toward the less fortunate isn’t just a matter of spite (although that’s part of it); it’s deeply rooted in the party’s ideology.  Paul Krugman, “Enemies of the Poor,” January 12, 2014

The 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s War on Poverty has occasioned a good deal of moral exhibitionism. Liberals heap praise on the programs and flatter themselves for supporting the transfer of an estimated $20.7 trillion (in 2011 dollars) in cash and non-cash benefits from those who earned it to those who did not. And they are relishing the opportunity to denounce conservatives as enemies of the poor, motivated by ideology and spite.

Some conservatives, like the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector, are using the anniversary to declare the War on Poverty lost. Rector recently was quoted as saying that “the War on Poverty has been a complete catastrophe.” Continue reading

Politics as the Art of Spurning Compromise

It may take a bigger gavel for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his Senate counterpart Patty Murray (D-WA) to hammer out a budget agreement.  (Credit: Swampland Times)

It may take a bigger gavel for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his Senate counterpart Patty Murray (D-WA) to hammer out a budget agreement. (Credit: Swampland Times)

Budget negotiators have struggled for nearly two months to find agreement on the outlines of a spending bill that would fund the government after January 15.  The target date for a deal is next Friday. They hope to meet it.

The agreement that continues to elude them, if it comes at all, would be a small one. Gone are aspirations for a “grand bargain” that would reform entitlements and the tax code and replace future across-the-board cuts with something less mindless. Changes to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other “mandatory” spending programs, which together constitute 63 percent of non-interest government spending, are off the table.  So, too, are taxes. Continue reading

Budget Wars: Can They Bridge the Health Care Gap?

Budget debates make good political theater. Each party forces recorded votes designed to score political points and embarrass members of the opposing party. The House had fun yesterday with some amendments before adopting the Republican proposal written by Paul Ryan (R-WI). The Senate began debate on its proposal last evening and is bracing for Friday’s “vote-a-rama” – a day of recorded votes on dozens of politically-barbed amendments advanced by members of both parties. Continue reading