Poverty: The Shtick That Keeps on Giving
When it comes to poverty we can either side with Alinskyites like Georgetown law professor Peter Edelman or we can go with a real radical like Mother Teresa. That's what came to mind after reading Edelman's July 28 op-ed in the New York Times.
First, Mother Teresa's take on the poor.
In 1975 a British journalist visited Mother Teresa in the same festering slum where the nun lived. He wondered about her attitude toward the starving, dying and impoverished people of Calcutta whom she had ministered to since 1948. Mother's enlightening response suggested there are a lot worse things than physical poverty.
The poor she says have much "to teach us about contentment, that is something you don't have much of in the West." The sister relayed many stories of the poorest of the poor saying "thank you" and one individual who lay dying with "a smile...It was just perfect. It was just a heavenly gift. That woman was more concerned with me than I was with her."
Unlike Mother Teresa, Mr. Edelman doesn't live in the low-income areas with the people he purports to help. It's doubtful they attend his A-list Georgetown parties. So his take on the 20.5 million people living below the poverty line in the United States differs widely from Mother Teresa.
As the husband of Children's Defense Foundation founder Marian Wright Edelman, Peter supports her cradle-to-grave Marxist agenda. He puts his own leftist words in the poor's mouths like "It's the rich man's fault that I'm poor."
Edelman, along with his wife, a woman who eulogized Saul Alinsky at his funeral in 1972 saying he was "brilliant, he was working for underdogs," sees the poor as a pitiable demographic and a means to an end.
In contrast Mother Teresa spoke of "the greatness of our poor people" and believed they possessed a spiritual richness lacking in the West.
Like Alinsky, the Edelmans use the poverty-stricken to further a socialist agenda, at the same time amassing wealth and power for themselves. A nice collectivist trick if you can manage it.
In his article, Edelman writes the only way to eradicate wealth disparity is "to make the rich pay their fair share of running the country."
In other words, raise the bottom up by bringing the top down. How does he propose to get the job done? According to Edelman we need lots more food stamps and welfare.
At least we have food stamps. They have been a powerful antirecession tool in the past five years, with the number of recipients rising to 46 million today from 26.3 million in 2007. By contrast, welfare has done little to counter the impact of the recession; although the number of people receiving cash assistance rose from 3.9 million to 4.5 million since 2007, many states actually reduced the size of their rolls and lowered benefits to those in greatest need.
Not only does the law professor see more government involvement as the answer to ending poverty once and for all, he audaciously identifies with the 99% getting the shaft. Even Mother Teresa didn't have the chutzpah to see herself as one of the sick and dying slum dwellers of India--and she lived with them!
It's not that the whole economy stagnated. There's been growth, a lot of it, but it has stuck at the top. The realization that 99 percent of us have been left in the dust by the 1 percent at the top (some much further behind than others) came far later than it should have - Rip Van Winkle and then some.
Poverty as a cause has been very beneficial for the Edelmans. In the years from 2008 through 2010 Marian's Children's Defense Fund, founded in 1973, took in $82 million in gross receipts and its adjunct nonprofit CDFAction Council took in $7 million.
But for all the CDF'S various money-making ventures over the past four decades, Peter cites a "dramatic increase in extreme poverty" in the last 12 years.
Later in the essay, Edelman clearly articulates the end game. He suggests the middle-class start identifying with the bottom rung and elect politicians who will spread the wealth around. He, like all socialists, sees the middle class, the lifeblood of our free market economy, as the problem.
A surefire politics of change would necessarily involve getting people in the middle - from the 30th to the 70th percentile - to see their own economic self-interest. If they vote in their own self-interest, they'll elect people who are likely to be more aligned with people with lower incomes as well as with them. As long as people in the middle identify more with people on the top than with those on the bottom, we are doomed.
The Edelmans know much about "economic self-interest." The pair continues to make media appearances pushing material poverty as the ultimate evil. I wonder what that actually does to poor people's self-image.
Mr. Edelman's "surefire politics of change," falls flat next to Mother Teresa's revolutionary response that those with money like he and his wife may be more deprived than those without it.
Read more M. Catharine Evans at Potter Williams Report