On the whole (to the surprise of nobody, I’m sure), I generally agree with Gary Sasse’s thoughts, in GoLocalProv, concerning a rethinking of the way in which our country addresses poverty:
Conservatives have been advancing reforms to help needy American families achieve self-sufficiency and upward mobility. The foundation to implement these reforms must include policies encouraging two- parent households valuing personal responsibility, good schools and fiscally sound government.
Economic opportunity is a mirage if children are held captive in failing schools. An education agenda based on accountability, student performance and choice is a precondition for economic and social mobility.
Safety net programs are placed in harm’s way when government is not fiscally responsible. Wasteful spending and crony capitalism may give public officials no option but to shred the safety net. Efficient government provides a firewall to protect the social safety net.
It’s difficult to argue with any of that, but I wonder if Sasse and other conservatives of like mind accept too many of the assumptions of the Left. Why, most of all, must we continue with the top-down, federal-to-state-to-local model of government, particularly that part of government that redistributes wealth? Sure, doing so moves money from wealthy areas of the country to less-wealthy areas. On the other hand, people locally are better-positioned to offer their neighbors the help that they need; additionally, the top-down approach doesn’t do well addressing the possibility that people shouldn’t continue to live in a particular place, given current opportunity.
Not only does the reliance on nationalized hand-outs give the federal government unavoidable leverage (making broader reforms impossible across a wide array of policy areas), but it creates areas in which the provision and receipt of government benefits pretty much constitute the local economy.