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I Was Right! There is a War on the Poor!

Paul Krugman must be reading my blog.

Krugman, the New York Times columnist, wrote an editorial on April 26 entitled, "Trump's War on the Poor." In this piece, he pointed out the number of ways this war is playing out: last year's tax bill, which provided billions of tax cuts for wealthy people; a federal plan to cut housing subsidies and increase work requirements for food stamp recipients; policies that allow states to impose onerous work requirements on Medicaid recipients; and sharply reducing the government's role in consumer financial protection.

Since I started my blog, one of my running themes has been what I also call the war on the poor. So I agree with Krugman in his points, diverging only in the notion that this is just a phenomenon of the current administration. In fact, as I have also argued, the current president and his cronies represent the culmination of recent historical trends, including a focus on politics as sport and entertainment and media's willingness to balance arguments on both sides, even when one side uses biased or false facts.

I doubt that Krugman would disagree with the points I’ve made over the past few months about the war on the poor:

However, it is unlikely that Paul Krugman is actually reading my blog. So how did he come up with the same phrasing I did? Is it just coincidence? Hardly. Just a reasonable look at the facts makes it hard to deny something so self-evident as our government's war on the poor.

So the war on the poor is real, which begs two questions. The first one is: Why should we care? After all, if you're reading this post, chances are you are not part of the impoverished class. So why is the war on the poor a thing of concern for us? Don’t we in the middle class have enough struggles of our own in this current economic and political era?

Well, for one thing, helping those at the lowest rung of the economic ladder (including millions of children) is the right thing to do. Second, unless you are part of the most privileged class and/or have friends in high places or foreign governments helping bail you out, you are not many steps removed from a situation of poverty. After all, most poor people are the working poor. And losing that job or being caught up in a domestic violence situation is often all that it takes to propel a family into a more dire situation. Finally, support for the poor is actually sound policy. Money invested in poor communities and their schools, as well as funding to provide food security and health care, not only add to consumer spending but also help avoid larger costs later on.

If you agree, then, that the war on poor is not only horribly mean but also bad policy, what are we to do next? My prescription, voiced several times in blog posts, remains the same:

1. Vote. Encourage others to do the same. Become aware of unfair voting restrictions around the country and lobby against them.

2. Organize. Join a local group that aligns with your values, so as to leverage your own power.

3. Flip. Find the nearest swing congressional district (potentially turning red to blue) and work for the Democratic candidate for this year's elections.

While it shouldn't necessarily be a given that our political support should go to Democrats, this is the reality. Back when I was cutting my political teeth in the 1980s, I interned for a Democratic congressman who co-sponsored a bill with a conservative Republican Jack Kemp, that would have created low tax "enterprise zones" in underprivileged urban areas. This was a conservative response to poverty, and Kemp authentically believed that this was a mission for his party. But since then, Republicans have ceded all pretense of caring for people in difficult economic circumstances.

Now, only one party seriously believes at all in anti-poverty programs, and even they must be dragged along. So I will continue to advocate for such policies, and I will continue to point out our ongoing war on the poor. I trust Paul Krugman will join in these efforts. I hope you read this post, Paul!

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