Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Revenue Foe Perpetuates Unsubstantiated Misconceptions

Fresh off his $5,000 blogging award from a beer company for "covering taxes, freedom, and individual rights," anti-government-services blogger Ben Cunningham seems intent on spreading vague and prejudiced half-truths about the War on Poverty, which has been more objectively and substantively judged to have brought about "real results, reducing rates of poverty and improved living standards for America's poor." (Mr. Cunningham says that he plans to contribute the $5,000 to the Tennessee Tax Revolt to help pay for future actions against financing our vital public services).

In his own peculiar reprise of the Protestant Work Ethic, Mr. Cunningham argues that "poverty is most often a result of bad habits and poor choices." If he allowed comments on his blog, I would ask him about children born into poor families; I would ask him to name specifically the habits that they exercise and the choices that they make to be thrown into dire straights.

I would also point out that one of the most successful and enduring War on Poverty programs, Head Start (which has usually enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, except for those extremists at the partisan fringes) provides comprehensive health and education support for those children when parents either cannot (especially those who through no fault of their own end up poor) or will not. Or maybe Mr. Cunningham does not believe that a constitutional republic has a responsibility to protect the welfare of innocent children. Given his lack of focus and his broad scatter shooting against anti-poverty programs, one could easily surmise that the anti-taxer would cut Head Start and let little children fend for themselves on the street like little 19th Century-style urchins and artful dodgers.

There are other programs that have lasted from the Johnson era that don't deserve the misleading rap that Ben Cunningham gives them (even with his newly won beer-award celebrity)--VISTA/Americorps, Legal Aid, Community Action/Community Block Grant Programs--but it is enough to hold up Head Start as counter point to some ridiculous harangues over at Taxing Tennessee (including the suggestion that all War on Poverty programs erode self-sufficiency; Community Action Programs in fact promote self-sufficiency and individual participation and I can speak from my own experience with the Block Grant program in Salemtown that such programs promote local control and individual autonomy in improving neighborhood conditions; or maybe Mr. Cunningham would have us turn our neighborhoods exclusively over to rich marketeers and investors to develop or not; as I said, I cannot tell as he seems hell bent on ending the War on Poverty in toto).

Given Tennessee Tax Revolt's haphazard, horn-honking past and their indiscriminate hatred for anything that comes from government, local communities and the poor therein who may rely on public services just fell $5,000 plus a sophistic diatribe farther behind those who seem to care little about the less fortunate living in the more vulnerable segments of our society.


  1. What was vague or prejudiced about the article on Taxing Tennessee?

    The NPR link states the War on Poverty produced real results initially but poverty rates have remained flat since the 70's. Wouldnt this suggest re-tooling is in order, or is it appropriate to continue doing the same thing for 30 more years with no discernible improvement?

  2. TT is vague because BC does not address WoP programs with any degree of detail, leaving one to conclude that he advocates even terminating the programs that make the most difference. It is prejudiced for the same reason: w/indiscriminate judgment he doesn't distinguish between what works and what doesn't; if it is even remotely connected to the WoP (block grants, for instance), then it is unacceptable. In most cases that I've read, any domestic program seems unacceptable to BC.

    Poverty levels remained flat since the 1970s because of the systematic underfunding of all WoP programs for a quarter of a century beginning w/the Reagan Administration in 1980. It's the conservative Republican approach to government: declare government bad, then underfund and overwork programs until they break down. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.