Clinton Allies Keep Poverty off the National Agenda

Article excerpt

During the past year, many liberal pundits have condemned efforts to oust Bill Clinton from the White House. After countless denunciations of Kenneth Starr and congressional Republicans, we certainly know what those pundits are against. But what are they for?

The reality is grim. With few exceptions, liberals in the mass media--and in Congress--are comfortable with the existing economic order. And they refuse to challenge a status quo that means dire neglect for millions of Americans. Today in the United States, one out of five babies is born below the poverty line. So, at this time of reported bountiful surplus, why not declare war on poverty?

To mainstream journalists and powerful politicians in Washington, such questions are irrelevant. Savvy commentators don't even bother to rationalize the national surrender to poverty. And they don't object to the fact that President Clinton's new budget keeps the white flag waving--proudly.

We hear plenty of selective declarations that the era of "big government" is over. Applauded by major news outlets, the president is Mr. Frugal for the poor and Santa Claus for the military. His latest boost of Pentagon spending will finance multibillion-dollar gift items like attack submarines, fighter planes, and an aircraft carrier.

One of the few prominent Democrats to complain when Clinton unveiled his budget in early February was Paul Wellstone. Citing "a great number of critical domestic programs that desperately require real budgetary commitment," the Minnesota senator decried "the broad and growing chasm that divides the wealthy and prosperous from the majority of Americans."

But Wellstone's comments elicited media yawns and shrugs. The New York Times reported, "It was a sign of the Democratic Party's move to center on fiscal issues that his critique was an isolated one and that the official party line of the day was that Democrats stood for a smaller, smarter government."

The virtual collapse of substantive dissent within the national Democratic Party runs parallel to the baseline among elite liberal pundits. They join with the rest of the punditocracy in chanting that "the economy" is doing great and the United States is enjoying marvelous "prosperity."

Meanwhile, pundits across the media's narrow conservative-to-liberal spectrum rarely mention that the Clinton administration has gone out of its way to avoid putting the subject of poverty on the nation's political agenda. …