A Good Cause but Bad Strategy

 Smiley and West Putting Their Heads Together

 Notes on the Smiley West Poverty Tour

           Watching Cornel West and Tavis Smiley on Morning Joe earlier today, I found myself in agreement with their condemnation of growing poverty in the United States; the richest country in the world.  But I remain confused about their strategy for changing it.  A persistent theme in their argument is that nobody cares about the plight of the poor.

Well, I care a lot about the poor because I’m one of them!  Unlike West and Smilie; who are makin grand theft dough, livin large and” eatin high up on the hog” as the old folks in Florida would say.  Nobody wants to see the development of a movement that can effectively address the persistent curse of poverty more than I do.  But I don’t see how any movement that is not fundamentally political can hope to change the economic structure of this country.

In the United States real political change, the kind of change that’s capable of introducing sweeping economic policies which can reduce or eliminate poverty on the scale that they are decrying, can only be achieved through one of the major political parties.

A casual survey of past and present Republican economic policies will reveal that they are not concerned with eradicating poverty; they are, and have always been, the party of the Plutocrats. The Republican solution to the problem of widespread unemployment and mass poverty is to cut taxes and regulations on private business: Let the rich get richer and it will trickle down to the rest of us. That’s it.

The Democratic Party however has a long history of fighting poverty.  In fact, all of the most effective measures against poverty, including the social safety net that prevents millions of Americans from falling into destitution, comes from two massive programs initiated by the democrats: Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930’s and Lynden Johnson’s Great Society aka the “War On Poverty” of the 1960’s.”  And president Obama has continued that great Democratic tradition of proposing policies to address the problems of the poor.

Yet he has received constant criticism from Cornel and Tavis, who seemed reluctant to make a clear distinction between the Democrats and the Republicans, and rated President Obama only slightly higher that Mitt Romney regarding concern for the poor.  While West and Tavis base their assessment of the President’s concern for the poor on superficial things like monitoring his rhetoric.

They gleefully pointed out that the word “poverty’ was mentioned more times at the Republican convention than the Democratic convention – but they should be looking at the actual policies of the President instead.  If they had they would have seen what Time magazine reporter Michael Grunwald, who has been closely watching the results of President Obama’s policies, reports in his recently published book “The New New Deal.”

Aside from the Lilly Ledbetter Act, and the Affordable Health Care, there is the President’s Recovery Act, or Stimulus, the benefits of which Smiley and West seem as ignorant of as the Tea Party zealots.  But Grunwald tells us the Stimulus “includes the largest expansion of anti-poverty programs since the Great Society, lifting millions of Americans above the poverty line, reducing homelessness, and modernizing unemployment insurance.”  Aside from these impressive achievements, President Obama has proposed massive jobs bills that would put millions of the unemployed to work immediately, but the Republicans have blocked them.

By obscuring the sharp differences between the two parties, and the profound difference in the values and vision of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, they are confusing people – along with a sob squad of leftist intellectuals who are conducting a non-stup pity party insted of getting their ass in gear and worjing to defeat thet Republicans!

These persistent whiners are turning Many people  off rather than inspiring them to vote in the coming elections.  This is self-defeating approach.  Hence while Cornel West and Tavis Smiley are promoting a good cause…they have a bad strategy for success.

 A Force for Good…

…unwitting allies of the Tea Party?

***************

 Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

September

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