Childhood poverty in America

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.

Childhood poverty in America

David writes:

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.

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9 thoughts on “Childhood poverty in America

  1. “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.”

    I’m waiting for that sort of sentiment to find expression in the Republican or Tea Party platforms. For that matter, the Democrats platform.

    Perhaps, if/when the poor start voting in large numbers something like that could happen. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

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  2. David Frum really values American ” freedom and individualism “. WTF does that mean? Canada scores almost 2.5X the US. Frum is/was Canadian, so perhaps he can explain what the US offered him that made him come on down.

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  3. American freedom and individualism are important national values to be celebrated and defended.

    The whole fucking point of American freedom and individualism is social mobility. David Frum is a dumbass.

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      • Wait, what? Did you once see someone in a comment bemoan a lack of data, and this seemed to vaguely apply here, along with some pearl-clutching?

        The data provided show low social mobility. I assert that Frum’s appeal to meaningless slogans of national character developed mostly from cigarette ads and post-war movies is in fact exactly the opposite of what the data suggest, in which case he’s writing like a disingenuous hack. The other alternative which I will conceded is that it is irrelevant. In which case he’s writing like a disingenuous hack.

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  4. Matt Yglesias had a few words on this subject about six months ago. He wrote,

    “The conservative view that the United States is the home par excellence [of social mobility] is interesting because I’m pretty sure it’s something they’re not lying about. It’s a source of genuine confusion. But as Matt [Zeitlin] says, it’s completely false….”

    Yglesias links to two studies, one from the Federal Reserve, the other from CAP, that indicate low levels of mobility. He concludes,

    “Still, the facts are the facts. The ex ante level of inequality in the United States makes social mobility hard, and we’re not doing anything like the kinds of investments in child nutrition, early education, etc. that could make up for it ex post.”

    http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/2010/01/social-mobility-in-america/

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  5. “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. “

    That’s a very important point, something that should be emphasized more than it is. And a fairly recent state of affairs, at least in terms of the total history of the welfare state.

    But as far as the Right is concerned, the missing context is important. We were not able to defeat the health care bill, (which you supported IIRC). If we can’t or won’t or lack the political strength to do that, we have no prayer at what you’re suggesting.

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