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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Washington Post Uses Poverty Data to Promote Its Fairy Tale View of Politics

Washington Post Uses Poverty Data to Promote Its Fairy Tale View of Politics

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Friday, 17 September 2010 05:42

The Washington Post used the release of new Census data on poverty to promote its fairy tale view of U.S. politics. According to the Post: 

"The statistics have quickly become fodder for a debate on the proper role of government in combating economic downturns."

It is not clear what the Post thinks it means by this assertion. Immediately following this statement the article presents two quotes from conservatives who argue that it is important to get the economy growing to combat poverty. It then notes that Congress approved increased jobless benefits over the summer.

It is almost certainly the case that all of the proponents of increased jobless benefits also believe that stronger economic growth is the best way to combat poverty. It is also true that the vast majority of economists agree that increased jobless benefits in the middle of a steep downturn, like the current one, lead to increased growth. These benefits will be quickly spent, spurring demand. Since lack of demand is the main constraint on growth at present, almost anything that spurs demand will spur growth.

In short, the Post has invented a fairy tale about a debate on "the proper role of government in combating economic downturns." There is no such debate in Washington politics. The real debate is between people who want to use the government to shift income upward and those who would rather see the less wealthy majority share the benefits of economic growth.

The Post article also includes a somewhat bizarre quote from Michael D. Tanner, a senior fellow at the CATO Institute:

"We're spending more money fighting poverty than ever before, yet poverty is up. Clearly, we're doing something wrong."

This is comparable to noting that we used a lot of water to combat a really huge fire, yet the fire still did lots of damage, and then concluding that water does not help against fire. Unless the argument is that anti-poverty spending somehow caused the recession, it is not clear how this statement makes sense. The Post has no obligation to print such statements just because someone at a prominent conservative think tank made them.

Comments (4)Add Comment
Rawls Veil of Ignorance
written by izzatzo, September 17, 2010 7:34
Unless the argument is that anti-poverty spending somehow caused the recession, it is not clear how this statement makes sense.


But it does make sense under the famous Rawlsian Veil of Ignorance standard of justice and economic welfare, that minimal income and wealth made available to anyone by everyone, regardless of ones status in society, as if distributed across a veil blind to demographic and economic factors. Therefore it's available to a newborn as well as a fallen billionaire, designed to avoid poverty below the designated threshold.

The housing bubble was a Rawlsian anti-poverty program, designed by the financial industry to replace the massive loss of income and wealth from other sources with a minimim living standard available to anyone, and since it caused the recession, Mr Tanner from the CATO institute is correct. We've spent more money than ever on poverty programs yet poverty is up, so clearly we're doing something wrong.

Stupid liberals like Baker just don't understand the compassion that drove the financial innovations designed to make everyone better off with more housing wealth. Under the Rawlsian Veil of Ignorance poverty program, anyone can make it to the top because no one ever falls all the way to the bottom.
Washington Post Uses Poverty Data to Promote Its Fairy Tale View of Pollitics
written by caseyf5, September 17, 2010 8:37
Hello whomever,

When I hear or see the word "fodder" it reminds me of many things. Two that come to mind right away are: Alan Sherman's hit song "Camp Grenada" lyrics "Hello muddah, hello faddah" and the Abbot and Costello routine about "the mudder not eating the oats but eating the fodder". This makes more sense than what the fertilizer the post is putting out. Intentional play on the word "post" also.
...
written by fuller schmidt, September 17, 2010 10:04
If only the entire public were to read your riposte to Tanner.
...
written by diesel, September 17, 2010 10:36
But is it true that "The Post has no obligation to print such statements just because someone at a prominent conservative think tank made them."?

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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