Tuesday, July 29, 2014
David Frum, the at The Atlantic, joins others in welcoming Paul Ryan's anti-poverty proposals as an important step in returning Republican political leaders to serious discussion about how to deal with poverty. But Frum thinks the compassionate conservatism of the early Bush II years--which Ryan's proposal so far largely resurrects--won't be adequate for today's "more difficult [economic] circumstances," in which long-lasting unemployment is less attributable to bad personal decisions and social environments than it was, and more attributable to broad structural features of the economy:
In 1999-2000, it seemed realistic to draw a sharp line of distinction between the vast majority of adults willing and able to work full-time—and thereby earn a living somewhere north of the poverty line—and the small minority of adults whose bad choices or bad situation rendered them dependent on public assistance. But for half a decade now, that distinction has looked blurry. The specific problem of poverty among those who don’t work full-time is no longer so easily separated from the broader problem of pervasive economic insecurity among those who do.
Frum makes several suggestions, in the vein of Douthat/Salaam "reform conservatism," for how conservatives can compete in the upcoming policy debates. (Among other things, support the earned income tax credit and mother's allowances; oppose minimum-wage raises, universal pre-K education, and immigration reforms that would keep the market for labor soft.)