News and Commentary

VIDEO: Arthur Brooks: There Is Only One Way Out Of Poverty

Conservatives and leftists both agree that the poor need to be helped, but they have different ways of going about it. History has proven that only the conservative way works in successfully lifting large numbers of the poor out of poverty.

American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks explains in PragerU’s latest video that the Left’s position to redistribute wealth through various government programs has little to show for it: since President Lyndon Johnson declared the War On Poverty, the poverty rate has barely budged from 14.7 percent in 1966 to 13.5 percent, despite the government spending $20 trillion on the effort.

Brooks contends that while those in poverty might now have access to benefits such as iPhones, cell phones, etc., these handouts are not actually lifting them out of poverty. Funneling money toward government programs has proven to keep most of the poor ensnared in a deceptively comfortable poverty with the allure of a relatively cushy life without having to work:

“Now, it’s true that the official poverty rate doesn’t measure consumption. Certainly, poor people today have many more things than poor people did in 1970,” he said. “Across all income levels, including the poor, Americans are likely to have cell phones, air conditioners, flat screen TVs, computers and a car. And life expectancy has lengthened considerably thanks to overall improvements in health care. But it demeans poor people to say that this material progress makes poverty less of a problem. Our goal should never be to merely make poverty less miserable for people. Our goal must be to make poverty more escapable.”

What does substantively transform people’s economic conditions, however, is the conservative way: capitalism.

“According to my research, earning your way out of poverty is much more empowering and enduring than a variety of government programs, which do little more than maintain people in their poverty,” Brooks said. “This doesn’t mean the government doesn’t have a role to play. Indeed, wherever possible, the government and private charity should require people to work in exchange for social assistance. When we do this, we help people in two ways. First, through welfare, we are helping them meet their immediate material needs. And second, through work, we are helping them earn their own success — the key to a fulfilling and dignified life.”

That is why the conservative method succeeds and the Left’s fails: the conservative way encourages work, and the leftist way does not. Only work can establish the self-sufficiency necessary for the poor to lift themselves out of poverty.

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