WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama won re-election in 2012 largely on the promise that, with him as president, all the existing federal welfare and entitlement programs protecting the poor would be safeguarded.
Protect the safety net
He won the day by convincing millions of Americans that the mean-spirited Republicans were going to destroy America’s sacrosanct “safety net”. According to the Obama campaign, Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan were determined to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other measures aimed at supporting indigent single mothers, poor children, and what not.
Addressing the poor and the struggling middle class, Obama essentially said: “Vote for me, and you will be fine. I’ll take care of you. Vote for Romney-Ryan and you will be in real trouble”. And he won. There is no doubt that the voters bought all his scary predictions about what would have happened if the Republicans got into the White House.
Welfare programs do not work
Fine. Except that now it is becoming more and more obvious that the extremely expensive social safety net fiercely protected by the Democrats in the name of “social justice” and “fairness” at best provides some economic relief.
However, all these programs do not accomplish their stated objective: reduce poverty. Thanks to various forms of welfare, the poor are subsidized, and so that they can get by. But their basic conditions do not change.
The fact is that all these programs do not create real opportunities for the poor to get out of poverty. Their net effect is to “stabilize” poverty, so that the poor do not become destitute; but they do not help eliminate poverty.
Indeed, under this supposedly enlightened and benevolent system, most of the poor stay poor and will stay poor.
And, to make things worse, just as before, the poor are mostly minorities. While the overall poverty rate in America is 15%, For Blacks it is 27% and for Hispanics it is 24%.
A good education is the only real path out of poverty
At the cost of oversimplification, here is my assessment. Welfare programs fail because they focus mostly on income support.
But, while helping people to get by is important, the truth is that in most cases poverty begins at birth. And it is clear that if you are a poor child in America the only real path to get out of poverty is not welfare but access to a good education. Welfare is about survival. Education is about having a future.
And here I emphasize access to a “good” education. A little, so-so education will not cut it.
It is a well known fact that in today’s ultra-competitive and super specialized economy the good jobs go only to the highly skilled. Everybody else gets what’s left. If you only have a little education, you get the scraps. And if you have no education, you get essentially nothing. Most poor children in America’s receive little or no education. And this enormous disadvantage practically guarantees that most of them will stay poor.
So, here is my point. Unless poor children have real, practical access to a good education, their chances to get out of poverty and climb up the socio-economic ladder are practically zero.
Income support does not change anything
You can provide all the income support subsidies you can think of. However, the only real ticket out of poverty and into the main stream is to get into the productive economy as a real player. And you cannot get there without a good education that includes truly marketable skills. Without the skills that allow them to compete for good jobs, the poor will stay poor.
Sure, thanks to costly government handouts, the uneducated poor will not starve. But they will stay poor, in most cases for ever.