Saturday, January 24, 2004

Total Victory over the National Review Online

I've always liked John Edwards, but lately I have become a more enthusiastic admirer. In the first place, he has become clear he remains a serious contender. In addition, he has started to talk about poverty while campaigning. I give him a lot of credit for this, because the issue of poverty has nearly completely disappeared from the political radar screen. The political benefits to discussing poverty are few and the political dangers are considerable and so I am very impressed that Senator Edwards is willing to stick his neck out on this matter.

The National Review, on the other hand, is not at impressed by Edwards' concern for the poor. No, John Edwards plans to make life better for the millions whose lives are blighted by poverty is met with scorn by National Review columnist, Kate O'Brien. According to O'Brien, poverty doesn't exist in America, or as she so cleverly puts it, "Someone should tell the excitable Edwards, "It's Nashua, 2004, Senator, not Appalachia, 1962."

However, Kate O'Brien's assertion is simply not true and her evidence is almost worthless. O'Brien bases her claim on a report by the right wing "think"-tank, the Heritage Foundation (an institution that aims to be the conservative answer to prestigious center-left organizations like the Brookings Institute, but falls laughably short of its goal and which spends more on lobbying than on actual research), which is reason enough to be suspicious. The Report denies the severity of poverty, by pointing out that certain percentages of poor people own certain items (DVD players, a television, etc.) However, as TAPPED pointed out in its critique of the study, that does not mean that poor person own all of these items. So, yes a poor person with a cheap piece of consumer electronics (DVD players are going for less than $50) is better off than someone living in extreme poverty, but the chances of them having a near-necessity like health insurance (which costs thousands of dollars a year) is pretty low. Seeing as how the poverty threshold (a figure that is derived from a formula developed in the early 60's and is widely considered to underestimate the needs of individuals) for a single mother and one child is a little over twelve thousand dollars, its hard to see how anyone could view the poor as well off or as living comfortably. Furthermore, with more than thirty million Americans living below the federal poverty line, it seems just a bit callous to dismiss their problems. The again, you should expect much from the National Review, this is the magazine that came out against private charity, because one of their columinsts knew one real-life poor person and they weren't all that nice.

It is not just the indifference to suffering exhibited by O'Brien that gets me, though. She strikes me as just plain lazy. Half of her article is made of quotes from the misleading Heritage Foundation study, another quarter paraphrases the report and the rest are just boneheaded attempts at wit. I am honestly suprised she gets paid for this.

Anyhow, I full expect to see much more of this sort of nonsense if Edwards or any of the other Democrats keep on talking about poverty. Hopefully they'll just brush these distortions aside and continue with their push for a renewed anti-poverty effort.

Update: TAPPED also appears to have gone after NRO Hack#218A.


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