David Frum examines child poverty in America and also notes that economic mobility is not quite what it is sometimes made out to be compared to other developed nations. The below graph illustrates this point.
Only the UK does worse than the US among the 9 countries surveyed – and the social democratic countries of Scandinavia all do better.
This is not an argument in favor of the European way of doing things. I agree with Lowry and Ponnuru – and Charles Murray too – that American freedom and individualism are important national values to be celebrated and defended.
But let’s not flatter ourselves: Those values exact a social cost – and they would be easier to defend if the cost were less high. And the fact that this cost is not being paid by my children or (probably) yours does not make the cost less real to the one-third of America whose children do pay it.
Jon Chait is impressed with Frum’s candor. I think more conservatives should acknowledge the inequities in our system. Part of the reason we have such inequity in the first place is that our social spending is overwhelmingly directed toward middle-class entitlements as opposed to spending directly on the poor.
Policy-makers on the right should push to reform entitlements into safety nets for those who need them most: not the middle or upper class, but the working poor and the unemployed. Consider this a project for positive conservatism. We can’t have much of a conversation if conservatives deny there’s a problem to begin with, and keep punting the ball to the central planners.