Democrats claim to be the party of compassion while portraying Republicans as mean-spirited skinflints who don’t care about the poor. I don’t blame the Democrats for trying to find a way to gain a competitive advantage in politics, although I do question their methods; methods that are based on carefully manufactured lies and blatant distortions. But what bothers me even more than the Democrats is that Republicans have been so feeble and ineffective in refuting the false image of Democrats as the party of compassion. Even a cursory glance at the facts will show that Democrats are not really compassionate. They just like to look compassionate. Appearances, not results, are the goal of so-called compassionate Democrats.
Let’s look at some of the facts that refute the Democrats’ claims of compassion. Between 1977 and 2013 per-capita spending on social programs increased by more than 250 percent as adjusted for inflation, yet there has been no major reduction in the number of people living in poverty, nor have the circumstances of those living in poverty improved. If Democrats were really compassionate as they claim, this fact would bother them. People who are really compassionate would be concerned about the lack of results even if they weren’t concerned about the amount of money spent. But if all you really care about is looking like you are compassionate, results don’t matter but the amount of money spent does.
For Democrats, the appearance of compassion is what matters, and continuing to spend more and more on so-called poverty programs—even though they do no good—gives the appearance of compassion. Correspondingly, when Republicans rightly point out that all the spending on poverty programs is doing nothing to alleviate poverty and that, as a result, spending should be reduced and new strategies tried, Democrats label them as mean-spirited misers who don’t care about the poor. As long as you are spending in ever-increasing amounts, you appear to care—you can claim to be compassionate, and that is the goal of Democrats.
William Voegli, author of Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State and The pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion, claims that liberals continue to pour more and more money into social programs to make themselves feel better, not to help those the programs are aimed at. In other words, Democrats are more interested in making themselves feel better than helping poor people do better.
Writing for Imprimis (October 2014), Voegeli illustrated what so-called compassionate Democrats really say to the poor: “Once I’ve voted for, given a speech about, written an editorial endorsing, or held forth at a dinner party on the salutary generosity of some program to ‘address’ your problem, my work is done, and I can feel the rush of my own pious reaction. There’s no need to stick around for the complex, frustrating, mundane work of making sure the program that made me feel better, just by being established and praised, has actually alleviated your suffering. This assessment also provides an answer to the question of why liberals always want a bigger welfare state. It’s because the politics of kindness is about validating oneself rather than helping others, which means the proper response to suffering is always, ‘We need to do more,’ and never ‘We need to do what we are already doing better and smarter.’”
Here are some hard facts for so-called compassionate Democrats: 1) In 2013, the federal government spent more than two trillion dollars on social programs—that is more than $7,000 per American citizen; and 2) Social spending by the federal government now accounts for two-thirds of all federal spending and 14 percent of America’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In spite of this enormous level of spending, there has been no discernible reduction of poverty in America. In fact, just the opposite is the case.
As federal spending on poverty programs continues to increase, so does the number of people living in poverty. No surprise here. Every business leader knows you get more of anything you incentivize. After a while, even a liberal might be forced to suspect a causal relationship between spending and increases in the welfare rolls. The truth is that government programs have not alleviated poverty, they have perpetuated it. Logically one could assume then that if we decrease the amount of spending on poverty programs the number of people living in poverty would also decrease. Why? An incentive to work would be introduced because the ability to be idle while collecting government handouts would be taken away. But Democrats will never go for this approach. Why? Because reducing the welfare rolls is not their goal, and never has been. Rather, the goal of Democrats is to increase the welfare rolls so they have more people dependent on government entitlements which, in turn, makes them more susceptible to the Democrat’s charade about compassion.