Within a matter of days, it has become cliche to make note of President Obama's new commitment to ending "income inequality" in America after returning from a vacation in Hawaii that costs taxpayers millions of dollars. And as my longtime friend Newt Gingrich has most articulately argued this week, the "war on poverty" has been an abject failure from the day Lyndon Johnson first uttered the declaration.
I recommend reading Gingrich's comments to receive an education on its long and costly failed effort.
In an effort to propose constructive policy, may I suggest that, rather than play at the margins of a failed concept of throwing dollars designed more to create a culture of dependence and social division for so many, the Obama Administration take a more targeted approach. Our government should take care of our most destitute and needy of citizens who live on our streets at home, even if it requires limiting resources to others in far-flung locations abroad.
The recent "Polar Vortex" has brought into full light in so many cities and towns, a world of old blankets and a collection of tattered belongings that can be found under bridges, in gleaming office towers and in just plain shanties ... all the "home" to the nation's disgracefully large contingent of homeless Americans.
The president is promising to target certain needy cities with new attempts at low housing and improved education, which taken at face value, seems laudable. But as Newt makes clear, these vague programs and broad promises have gotten us nowhere, as poverty levels have only increased over the years. To reverse the systemic issues the president wants to address would take new approaches which, based upon past history, seem unlikely to materialize.
But if President Obama wants to take a truly targeted approach to poverty, he could begin with the souls who fight to find warmth at night and wander the streets during daytime. Yes, I know that many homeless are there because of poor choices, addiction and other attributes which society frowns upon. But the fact is, they are still there.
It seems inconceivable that a nation capable of freeing countries from oppression, rushing aid to thousands in foreign lands after natural disasters and propping up international organizations of questionable efficiency cannot find a way to care for its own who have reached the lowest of low points.
As a lover of animals, I cringe when ads for neglected or abused animals appear on television. And, like so many, I try to give a bit of help to our helpless four-legged friends when I can.
But what about the man or woman who wanders about in a similarly helpless manner? We know that many good people and organizations do so very much to provide shelter and food to our homeless. But why should they be left trying to make do with insufficient resources, oftentimes paid for by private sources, with little or no coordination, while we have the great might of the United States caring for others in lands far away?
Many who are on the street are in dire need of medical care, both physically and in many cases, mentally. Some shy from help for fear that a past record of crime or a perceived one, will force them into prisons. Many have no proper identification to even qualify for programs or assistance.
But if we are to consider a "pathway" to citizenship for those who are illegally in our country but living a good life, have we no concept of how to create a "pathway to safety" for our own who truly live a life of "inequality"?
The president's focus on income inequality seems to many observers merely a more open effort to create a schism among segments of our society and to expand a political ideology that pledges not a chicken in every pot, but a cell phone in every hand.
What I would ask is how we as a nation expect to expand a welfare state without first looking into the eyes of our most needy. Conservatives would be wise to demand a war on homelessness and demand that if tax dollars are to be spent, they start where the need is so obvious and the results could be so marked.