The Reader Crowned with Flowers (Jean Baptiste Camille Corot)

The Reader Crowned with Flowers
(Jean Baptiste Camille Corot)

This week, I offer discussions of some important ideas currently in the public debate: protected liberties, poverty, and justice. In “What ‘Liberties” Does the Constitution Protect?,” Hadley Arkes challenges what we mean (or have meant) by “liberty” or “liberties” in this country. Researchers Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield present their findings in a study of poverty in the US in “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?” (from 2011). In “The Meaning of Justice,” Russell Kirk presents a history of the many ways societies have defined “justice.” (This last is an older article, but worth reading.)


We need to measure success by results. – Congressman Paul Ryan, 2014

Republicans are often criticized for “not having a plan” as an alternative to the big-government, deficit growing programs they don’t like. But Congressman Paul Ryan (R, Wisconsin) always has an alternative plan, at least when it comes to fiscal matters. (He should. He is the chairman of the House Budget Committee. It’s his job to have a plan.)

Congressman Ryan’s assessment of poverty in America is correct. Poverty has gotten worse over the last two decades and is getting worse by the year. His plan is a simple approach he calls the Opportunity Grant. Ryan provides a short explanation of the plan here.

Ryan is not the only Republican addressing poverty. Senator Marco Rubio (R, Florida) has ideas for combating poverty, as does Senator Rand Paul(R, Kentucky).

Would any of these plans eliminate poverty in the US. Of course not. Poverty is systemic in our society, and must be dealt with systematically over time. But Ryan and Rubio and Paul are not afraid to discuss poverty and consider new ideas to combat it. And as a nation, we shouldn’t be afraid to do so either.

Read more on the history of welfare in the US.

Take a look at this chart:

Click for more details

Click for more details

President Obama should be talking about income inequality. It’s gotten a lot worse under his leadership. His policies and programs, such as Obamacare, have benefited the rich and the non-working poor at the expense of the working classes. The President needs to fix the problems he has made worse. Focusing on minimum wage increases and legalizing immigrant workers will do nothing to create good paying jobs. And what our country needs more than anything is more full-time jobs paying a living wage. Unfortunately, this is the one thing the President’s policies seem unable to give us.

Arthur C. Brooks offers a challenging, intriguing discussion of Conservatives and Poverty. Conservatives are usually pretty clear about what they are against, and Brooks demonstrates this is mostly correct. But what are Conservatives “for”? How can a philosophy of limited government and a focus on maximum individual freedom help those who have little to begin with? The article is long and may challenge Conservative readers, but it is well worth the time and thought the article demands.

I don’t agree with everything Brooks says, and while his diagnosis seems accurate to me, his prescription is weak on specifics. But imagine if our Conservative leaders really turned their attention to this question. What if we locked Paul Ryan and Rand Paul and Scott Walker and Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and, yes, Chris Christie in a room and didn’t let them out until they could clearly explain what a Conservative is “for” and how that can help the poor? I bet it wouldn’t take them too long.

Hopefully, in the upcoming Congressional election and subsequent Presidential election, Conservative candidates realize that the real goal is to help everyone improve their lot in life, but especially to help those below move into the American Middle Class. What we should want to “conserve” most of all is the American Dream for all.