This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.
For conservatives, poverty and eroding economic security for middle income families are not simply social problems, but moral problems as well. Beyond the economic and budget struggles poverty creates, we have an “obligation to help the vulnerable,” to borrow from Arthur Brooks at the American Enterprise Institute. And the lack of ability to enter and remain in the middle class diminishes the meaning and value of freedom for society, not to mention inviting greater dangers by suggesting to people that a free society is perhaps not in their best interests.
Because of the social and moral problems presented by poverty and middle-class insecurity, various political and intellectual conservatives have begun proposing new policy approaches to these issues. For instance, the American Enterprise Institute recently published a compilation of work in a booklet called “Poverty in America, and What to Do About It.” Congressman Paul Ryan published a draft report from the House Budget Committee titled “Expanding Opportunity in America.” And our own U.S. Senator Mike Lee just released a booklet titled “An Agenda for Our Time” detailing his approach to what he calls “the opportunity crisis” faced by the poor and middle class in America.
The renewed focus on poverty and middle-class issues on the right is long overdue. While charitable giving and volunteerism are indisputably good things espoused by conservatives, events such as the recession and the weak economic recovery illustrate that they simply are not enough in the face of a weak economy. A consequence of conservatives’ praise of markets and civil society has been to leave welfare policy largely to the political left, which has turned into unending promises for economic salvation, combined with an unending inability to do much for the poor. Read more