Buying the wrong answers

Posted: Apr 20, 2007 11:16 PM
Buying the wrong answers

Some tragedies are impossible to comprehend. So when faced with news that a college student has senselessly gunned down 32 people, we immediately reach for the familiar.

As CNN’s Candy Crowley reported the day after the Virginia Tech killings, “We have already seen Senator Ted Kennedy on the floor yesterday saying that he thinks this means, obviously, that there are not sufficient gun control laws to stop something like this. We’ve seen Dianne Feinstein, who was really the mover and the shaker behind the assault-weapons ban, call for renewal of that ban. It expired a couple of years ago.”

These comments don’t make sense. The killer was clearly motivated and methodical. “Tougher” gun control laws wouldn’t have stopped him. Even if Virginia had a 30-, 60-, or 120-day waiting period, this murderer would have been willing to wait that long to get his guns. Plus, he did his killing with handguns. Even a total ban on assault weapons wouldn’t have slowed him down.

But gun control isn’t the only issue where the left deploys clichés to win votes. Poverty is also a familiar favorite.

Consider former Sen. John Edwards, now making his second run at the presidency. He came on the national stage in 2004 with his “Two Americas” stump speech. He pulled at our heartstrings during the Democratic convention by decrying “the very idea that in a country of our wealth and our prosperity, we have children going to bed hungry. We have children who don’t have the clothes to keep them warm.”

Edwards added that, “We can also do something about 35 million Americans who live in poverty every day. And here’s why we shouldn’t just talk about, but do something about the millions of Americans who live in poverty: because it is wrong. And we have a moral responsibility to lift those families up.” But if Edwards really believes we have a “moral responsibility” to attack poverty, what’s he personally doing to attack poverty?

Well, he’s keeping some construction workers employed. Edwards is building a 28,000-square-foot, $5.3 million estate in North Carolina. The property will have at least three residences and a pool house when it’s complete. He’ll also certainly need to hire some support staffers to maintain that property.

Oh, and he’s making some barbers and spa owners happy. According to his latest campaign-spending report, Edwards shelled out $400 for haircuts in California and New Hampshire and $248 for a salon in Dubuque, Iowa.

But that’s small beer. The largest action Edwards is taking to attack poverty is that he’s running for president. He recently hired Joe Trippi, the man who helped Gov. Howard Dean spend so much money while blowing a seemingly insurmountable lead in 2004 (recall that even Al Gore, the ultimate front-runner, endorsed Dean).

“Poverty continues in the wealthiest nation on the planet,” Trippi announced. And Edwards reportedly has a plan to do something about it. Yet this just highlights a real contradiction that bedevils liberals.

Edwards is running on a promise to “help the poor.” But think about the process. He aims to spend several years (at least six in his case) and tens of millions of dollars (he’s raised some $14 million this year alone) on this campaign.

But suppose he succeeds and becomes president. Now he’d have to spend more years attempting to get the government to do what it’s been unable to do over the past 40 years: Help the poor. The government has spent at least $3 trillion dollars in the last 40 years to attack poverty, and there are just as many people in poverty today as there were in 1960. How likely is Edwards to be able to change that in four or even eight years?

If his real goal was to help the poor, he’d do better to devote his time and money to a foundation. That’s what, say, Bill Gates has done. Think how many people could be lifted out of poverty by $14 million. Instead, that cash will be squandered on consultants and TV ads. That’s because, when all is said and done, what Edwards really wants is to obtain power.

To be fair, conservatives seek power for its own sake, too. As candidates they often promise to make the federal government smaller, and they seldom accomplish that.

Still, the only way to reduce the size and scope of government is to be a part of government, and then vote to make it smaller. They’ve got to run for office if they’re going to have any chance of accomplishing their goals. Yet by running for office, Edwards guarantees that the tens of millions of dollars he’s spending won’t go toward alleviating poverty, when, in theory, they could.

It’s self-evident that the government can’t alleviate poverty. If it could, poverty would already be history. And no amount of gun control can prevent murderous rampages. But, being human, plenty of people will keep reaching for the familiar answers, even when they’re the wrong ones.