By Steve Parkhurst
United States Senator Mike Lee of Utah, yesterday delivered a very interesting speech at an anti-poverty forum hosted by the Heritage Foundation. The entire speech text can be found here, and it’s worth reading. Here are a few interesting takeaways for me.
We know that participation in civil society, volunteering, and religion are deteriorating in poor neighborhoods – compounding economic hardship with social isolation. And we know these trends cut across boundaries of race, ethnicity, and geography.
All of this might lead some to the depressing conclusion that – 50 years after Johnson’s speech – America’s war on poverty has failed. But the evidence proves nothing of the sort. On the contrary, I believe the American people are poised to launch a new, bold, and heroic offensive in the war on poverty… if a renewed conservative movement has the courage to lead it.
Properly considered, then, the war on poverty is not so much about lifting people up. It’s about bringing people in. And so the challenge to conservatives today is to rethink the war on poverty along these lines, to bring into our economy and society the individuals, families, and communities that have for five decades been unfairly locked out.
Nineteen-sixty-four wasn’t the year Americans started fighting poverty; it was the year we started losing that fight. To start winning again, conservatives are going to have to lead the way – not simply by offering criticism, but alternatives. Our job is to identify the obstructions that impede Americans’ access to our market economy and civil society and clear them. And if we’re looking for impediments to mobility and opportunity, we’ve certainly come to the right place!
Today, millions more of our neighbors are still out on the plains. They are not some government’s brothers and sisters – they are ours.
And the time has come to do something about it. As conservatives, as Americans, and as human beings, we have it in our power – individually, together, and where necessary through government… to bring them in:
- to bring them into our free enterprise economy to earn a good living,
- to bring them into our voluntary civil society to build a good life,
- and to welcome them and their children home to an America that leaves no one behind.