by Daniel J. Mitchell • Foundation for Economic Education
Hillary Clinton has an editorial in the New York Times entitled “My Plan for Helping America’s Poor” and it is so filled with errors and mistakes that it requires a full fisking (i.e., a “point-by-point debunking of lies and/or idiocies”).
We’ll start with her very first sentence.
The true measure of any society is how we take care of our children.
I realize she (or the staffers who actually wrote the column) were probably trying to launch the piece with a fuzzy, feel-good line, but let’s think about what’s implied by “how we take care of our children.” It echoes one of the messages in her vapid 1996 book, It Takes a Village, in that it implies that child rearing somehow is a collective responsibility.
Hardly. This is one of those areas where social conservatives and libertarians are fully in sync. Children are raised by parents, as part of families.
To be fair, Hillary’s column then immediately refers to poor children who go to bed hungry, so presumably she is referring to the thorny challenge of how best to respond when parents (or, in these cases, there’s almost always just a mother involved) don’t do a good job of providing for kids.
…no child should ever have to grow up in poverty.
A laudable sentiment, for sure, but it’s important at this point to ask what is meant by “poverty.” If we’re talking about wretched material deprivation, what’s known as “absolute poverty,” then we have good news. Virtually nobody in the United States is in that tragic category (indeed, one of great success stories in recent decades is that fewer and fewer people around the world endure this status).
But if we’re talking about the left’s new definition of poverty (promoted by the statists at the OECD), which is measured relative to a nation’s median level of income, then you can have “poverty” even if nobody is poor.
For the sake of argument, though, let’s assume we’re using the conventional definition of poverty. Let’s look at how Mrs. Clinton intends to address this issue.
She starts by sharing some good news.
…we’re making progress, thanks to the hard work of the American people and President Obama. The global poverty rate has been cut in half in recent decades.
So far, so good. This is a cheerful development, though it has nothing to do with the American people or President Obama. Global poverty has fallen because nations such as China and India have abandoned collectivist autarky and joined the global economy.
And what about poverty in the United States?
In the United States, a new report from the Census Bureau found that there were 3.5 million fewer people living in poverty in 2015 than just a year before. Median incomes rose by 5.2 percent, the fastest growth on record. Households at all income levels saw gains, with the largest going to those struggling the most.
This is accurate, but a grossly selective use of statistics.
If Obama gets credit for the good numbers of 2015, then shouldn’t he be blamed for the bad numbers between 2009-2014? Shouldn’t it matter that there are still more people in poverty in 2015 than there were in 2008? And is it really good news that it’s taken Obama so long to finally get median income above the 2008 level, particularly when you see how fast income grew during the Reagan boom?
We then get a sentence in Hillary’s column that actually debunks her message.
Nearly 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 will experience a year in poverty at some point.
I don’t know if her specific numbers are accurate, but it is true that that there is a lot of mobility in the United States and that poverty doesn’t have to be a way of life.
Hillary then embraces economic growth as the best way of fighting poverty, which is clearly a true statement based on hundreds of years of evidence and experience.
…one of my top priorities will be increasing economic growth.
But then she goes off the rails by asserting that you get growth by spending (oops, I mean “investing”) lots of other people’s money.
I will…make a historic investment in good-paying jobs — jobs in infrastructure and manufacturing, technology and innovation, small businesses and clean energy.
Great, more Solyndras and cronyism.
And fewer jobs for low-skilled workers, if she gets here way, along with less opportunity for women (even according to the New York Times).
And we need to…rais[e] the minimum wage and finally guarantee… equal pay for women.
The comment about equal pay sounds noble, though I strongly suspect it is based on dodgy data and that she really favors the very dangerous idea of “comparable worth” legislation, which would lead to bureaucrats deciding the value of jobs.
Then Hillary embraces a big expansion of the worst government department.
…we also need a national commitment to create more affordable housing.
And she echoes Donald Trump’s idea of more subsidies and intervention in family life.
We need to expand access to high-quality child care and guarantee paid leave.
And, last but not least, she wants to throw good money after bad into the failed Head Start program.
…we will work to double investments in Early Head Start and make preschool available to every 4-year-old.
Wow, what a list. Now perhaps you’ll understand why I felt the need to provide a translation of her big economic speech last month.
The moral of the story, based on loads of evidence, is that making America more like Europe is not a way to help reduce poverty.