Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Do Republicans care about the poor?

Often Republicans get a bad reputation for not caring about the poor. This is because the conservative economic policy calls for less government spending, less government programs and lower taxes. Many wonder, "if government spends less to help the poor, won't that create more poverty?"

I think a better way to understand conservative thinking is that the desire isn't to cut all spending altogether. Instead, conservatives believe that there is a lot of waste in our spending. So the idea is not just to cut spending. The hope is to spend less and make what we do spend more efficient and effective.

One example of how this works was written about in July of this year in the New York Times. As hard as it was for the Times to admit, the Republican Congress and the Bush administration over the last eight years have managed to reduce the number of chronically homeless nationwide. This wasn't done with "more programs" or "more spending." It was done by redirecting funds in a more productive and efficient way.

Here are some quotes from the article:
"The number of chronically homeless people living in the nation’s streets and shelters has dropped by about 30 percent — from 175,914 to 123,833 — from 2005 to 2007..."

"...officials also attribute much of the decline to a policy shift promoted by Congress and the administration that has focused federal and local resources on finding stable housing for homeless people suffering from drug addiction, mental illness or physical disabilities, long deemed the hardest to help in the homeless population.

Under the strategy, known as “housing first,” local officials have over the last eight years increasingly placed the chronically homeless into permanent shelter — apartments, halfway houses or rooms — and provided them with services for drug addiction, mental illness and health problems."

"Mr. Culhane attributed much of the decline in chronic homelessness to the efforts of Congress, administration officials and local communities. In 1999, Congress told HUD to direct about one-third of its financing for homelessness to permanent housing."

This is concrete evidence that conservative policies can be compassionate while also being efficient and productive. More spending is not always the answer to our nations problems. What we need is not "more" spending but "better" spending. And better spending requires spending less in a more efficient way. It requires doing more with less.

Raising taxes and making government bigger isn't the answer. One would think that if the liberal economic policies of increasing taxes and creating more programs was the answer, then all the Democratically run cities would have the lowest homelessness rates. But the cities with the highest homelessness rates (Detroit, Boston, & DC according to a Weingart Center study) are run by predominantly Democratic politicians.

What might surprise many is the possibility that conservative economic policies might have more success in reducing homelessness than liberal economic policies. What we need on both sides of the aisle is more people who are willing to avoid "more" spending and instead figure out ways to promote "better" spending.


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