Creating prosperity or making poverty more comfortable?
Both sides seem to be more worried about padding the safety net
Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.
No one is suggesting it was coordinated but a funny thing happened Tuesday on the way to the forum. Err, Capitol Hill.
The day started with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray appearing before the House Financial Services Committee. The grilling, the subsequent Cordray rant, and the general hilarity that ensued is all recapped by HousingWire.
HW.com reported how the normally cool and confident Cordray grew upset over a round of questioning over the alleged impact CFPB rules are having on manufactured housing. He fired back at the committee, saying he’s sensitive to individuals in manufactured housing since he has friends and family living in such arrangements.
We have no doubts about his sincerity, but at best he sounded like he was emphasizing his street cred by talking about how he has friends in trailer parks.
Wholly unrelated, President Obama stood above Congress in the annual State of the Union address, that dog and pony extravaganza where presidents of both parties take anywhere from an hour to three to say exactly nothing of consequence.
Obama’s speech followed an expected pattern: 1) talk jobs and the economy (since they are both on life support), 2) tick off a list of cherry-picked, empty accomplishments, 3) read off the Christmas list of fantasy policy solutions, threaten to enact them anyway by executive order if Congress doesn’t follow in lockstep, and 4) insert a few emotional stories with named average citizens from Smallplace, Anystate, (preferably in the audience * point * smile) doing something heartwarming in their community to accomplish something that aligns with the administration’s agenda and who would succeed if only the president gets his way.
When Mr. Obama wasn’t sounding like an Amway pitchman at an MLM event pushing people to pester friends and family to join Obamacare, the bulk of those fantasy policy prescriptions at the State of the Union seemed to be focused on – how to put this – making poverty comfortable.
Face it, that’s what raising the minimum wage is about. It’s not about benefitting working families. Minimum wage jobs are entry-level jobs no one should aspire to as a lifelong commitment, and no one generally stays at an entry-level job for long in the real world.
Extending unemployment benefits for all those not working is in the same vein, and equally ineffective at job creation or economic stimulation. When you pay people not to work, they generally don’t work. (It’s especially ironic that Mr. Obama would tout falling unemployment in the same speech as demanding more unemployment benefits. Of course, as we know, the only reason the unemployment rate is falling is because people are giving up looking for work and dropping out of the workforce entirely.)
Granted, the overarching reason for the President’s focus on poverty is the general appeal to the populist and progressive desires to help everyone, good and hard, whether they like it or not. But there’s something more in those appeals – as well as the promises for assistance for pre-K education that doesn’t work, retirement accounts tied to bonds with really horrible returns, assistance with this, assistance with that, and protection from those.
The Republican response by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), had its own populist, I’m-one-of-you-plain-folks elements woven into a message that said it valued personal responsibility. In fact the Republicans value personal responsibility so much that she laid out a list of all the things Republicans want to do for people so they can be more self-reliant and responsible. (You read that right.)
McMorris Rodgers recounted how she worked at McDonalds and her struggles as…I’m sorry. I just can’t do this seriously. There’s something painful about watching when Republicans try to roll up their sleeves and get all corn-pone and folksy. It’s like watching a community theater production of "Oklahoma" when the cast only had a week to rehearse.
Back to the point – we had not one but three instances yesterday of Martha’s Vineyard types showing us how they were still in touch with us truck driving, WalMart shopping, Applebee’s eating regular folks. Just like you!
Yes, Mr. Obama, Mr. Cordray and Ms. McMorris Rodgers all know the Poors.
It was as silly as hearing some elite tell us something crazy like "I introduced my housekeeper to Oprah." (Wait, that did happen?)
Many of the Housingwire staff live blogged the State of the Union, and we followed closely the Cordray hearing as it unfolded. We’re a politically diverse group, but we all agreed there was an unsettling undertone. At best, where is the aspirational message? At worst, why do we care that you have family members in a trailer? That’s not why you’re in Washington.
Instead of anyone talking about what it will take to get housing and the economy into a real recovery and what it takes to cure poverty, it just seems like the elite would rather pander to the lowest common denominator and get people to become comfortable with poverty and long-term stagnant wages.
If Democrats really care about helping the underclass and the middle class, and if Republicans really cared about personal responsibility and economic growth, they’d both be focused on one issue above all else – the creation of an environment where businesses could create real, private sector, market-demanded jobs. They wouldn’t be tinkering with incentives and tax breaks and tax credits and favors and outright cronyism for those businesses that cleave to an agenda.
They wouldn’t be subsidizing failure with "too big to fail." (Whatever happened to the positive power of creative destruction?) If either side really cared, they’d be bulldozing a path through red tape, regulations and taxes for all businesses.
For people with either a full-time or a part-time job the poverty rate is just 7.3% compared to 15% for the nation as a whole. In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau said only 2.9% of Americans between 18 and 64 who worked full-time, year-round in 2012 were below the poverty line.
Jobs are the only path to prosperity for everyone at every level. When there are jobs and the economic demand for them no one pays attention to the minimum wage or worries about unemployment extensions.
Best of all, we also don’t have to listen to politicians tell us how their best friend is a Poor.