So much for the War on Poverty


Poverty Rate may hit 15.7 percent Despite $15 TRILLION "War on Poverty"

STEVE FORBES: That's the least of it. Spending on these means tested programs that now come to nearly $1 trillion a year. What are we getting for it? All it does, I think in many ways is perpetuate poverty. And the best cure for poverty, I think, is pro-growth economic policies, not handouts from the government.

RICK UNGAR: You're not going to get these hearings for a very simple reason. If you want to pick on poverty, you have to address what the real cause is; and, the real cause is that people don't have jobs. If we want to deal with poverty, we deal with jobs, and the only way we deal with jobs is if the Republicans in Congress stop stonewalling the jobs bill, stop using it as a way to defeat Barrack Obama, and face the issue.

RICH KARLGAARD: Sure, if we had a four percent GDP economy, unemployment would be around five percent rather than eight percent, as it is now. I would love to get that $15 trillion back. That's exactly the size of our national debt. It's gone down a sinkhole. Here's why we're afraid to discuss poverty, because inevitably it's wrapped up in values issues. The number one creator of poverty is single-motherhood because of irresponsible young males. Unless we talk about that head on, we're going to get no where.

BILL BALDWIN: You're totally right about that. Conservatives should spend a lot less time thinking about new excuses for cutting needy families off, and more time thinking about how to improve the lives of these families-in particular, how to improve their incentives. One, let's bring back the Work Fair requirements, Steve Forbes should be all over that mistake of the Obama Administration. And then there's a second one: the healthcare bill has perverse incentives in it. It basically punishes middle class families who work harder with 100 percent plus tax rates. That can be fixed, let's focus on those things.

ELIZABETH MACDONALD: Yeah, JFK said the best form of welfare is a job. People want an opportunity; they don't want a government life line. But, also, I think some honesty needs to be injected in this debate. I think a lot of these statistics are taken at face value. We do want to help the poor, but what's only counted in the poverty rate is the cast assistance, which is the cash that goes out the door-Medicare, Medicaid. Hospital help is not counted; food stamps are not counted. People always criticize the United States for having a really high poverty rate. The numbers are really bad in this debate. We need to get better numbers in this debate to get this economy going.

MIKE OZANIAN: My issue with this debate is the debate that the war on poverty has failed, because it's not a war on poverty anymore. It was initially meant to help people, who because of no fault of their own, were in a very bad financial situation temporarily. Now, it's become a program where we get more and more Americans dependant on it. It's very dangerous because people don't realize that their whole lives they're paying into this program one way or another and it's really detracting from their income.

Parents in CA Town Take Over Failing Public School

STEVE FORBES: I think it's a great start if parents can take over failing schools, but the real scandal is why do parents have the choice to send their kid to ten failing schools and not schools that work. This is the real travesty, so it's a good first step, but only that.

RICK UNGAR: I have no objection to trigger laws. It's unfortunate that this is going to be the first in the country, because there was kind of a mess here. First the parents voted to do it, then a bunch of them decided to bailout and you see a certain amount of discord between them and it doesn't give you hope that it's going to go very well. Let me suggest one other thing, though. When my kids were in elementary school, we had an experiment where the parents got deeply involved, and it worked out really well. We saw the education get better. It doesn't always take enforcing a law, sometimes these two sides just have to come together and do what's best.

ELIZABETH MACDONALD: In New York you have teachers who have failed literally sitting in rubber rooms earning a paycheck. That isn't right. This is a state and local issue. I like that it's not on the federal level. I like that 20 states are moving on these parent trigger laws, but there's an issue. It's not so easy for parents to take over schools, and if they go to a charter school, which I like, they may find that these schools are not as responsive to what they want, and it's not so easy running school systems, and probably back to the blackboard for some of these school parents.

JOHN TAMNY: I have a different view: schools fail when bad students raised by bad parents attend them, and that's why this whole thing is encouraging. If parents are involved that's usually a pretty good predictor of how they'll eventually do. And, it's important that they stay local. Republicans and Democrats want to make education a national campaign issue and it's not. The federal government should have no role, unless it should occur locally, and this is a very good sign for California schools.

RICH KARLGAARD: Let me give you the flipside of the argument. I've seen a local school district here in northern California tear apart a community because parents bring different values. Some like it with lots of extracurriculars like sports, and others want it all based around test scores. So, there is a flipside of that and it can tear communities apart.

BILL BALDWIN: We don't want parents taking over schools. There would be anarchy, but we do want parents taking over the money. If all funding were by vouchers, then the students could pick the good schools and the good schools could pick the good students.

Airline Fuel Surcharges Far Outpacing Fuel Costs

RICK UNGAR: I don't mind if they charge me ten bucks because I get to pick my seat first because I get to get on the plane first, that's ok. But, you know they raise the price, calling it a surcharge when gas prices went up-ok. But, when oil prices come down, they somehow forget to bring that price down. It's not transparent, it's not right, they're price gauging us and it's got to stop.

MIKE OZANIAN: I think shareholders of airlines want the airlines to make as much money as possible, and that's what airlines should be doing. It's not like their profit margins are big or anything.

JOHN TAMNY: Oil prices are going to go back up, so eventually they're going to have to raise these surcharges to begin with, but beyond that I mean as much as Rick wants to believe that businesses are charities, they are in fact out there to make a profit. Because they are there to make a profit, they should charge as much as possible to fill as many seats as possible. This is what capitalism is about. They shouldn't just lower prices to make us feel better, make profits.

ELIZABETH MACDONALD: The surcharges are so submarine, they look worse than phone bills in their lack of transparency. And they're about as transparent as a bucket of molasses. And, because a lot of consumers buy their tickets online, they do not see these surcharges. There's a reason why these airline stocks aren't so much in the upright position-it's because of the marketplace and government pressure in the marketplace. But, they need to have brand loyalty and they need to maintain that.

STEVE FORBES: They have the right to do that, but it's foolish in terms of PR to do it. They should just fold it into the price of the ticket. Like when you go to a hotel, you don't have a low price and then 50 different surcharges. So be up front about it. And, it reminds me of what the former head of American Airline's said on the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers, he said he wished somebody had shot that plane down because the airline industry hasn't made a dime in a 100 years.

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