During Monday night's South Carolina Republican debate, Rick Santorum told the audience what they wanted to hear about poverty -- that if you're poor in America, it's your own damn fault.
WILLIAMS: Senator Santorum, the Obama administration has not specifically addressed high levels of joblessness and a 25 percent poverty rate in black America. They say they want to fix the economy for all, but given the crisis situation among a group of historically disadvantaged Americans, do you feel the time has come to take special steps to deal with the extraordinary level of poverty afflicting one race of America?
SANTORUM: It’s very interesting, if you look at a study that was done by the Brookings Institute back in 2009, they determined that if Americans do three things, they can avoid poverty. Three things. Work, graduate from high school, and get married before you have children. Those three things…
SANTORUM: Those three things, if you do, according to Brookings, results in only 2 percent of people who do all those things ending up in poverty, and 77 percent above the national average in income.
After which, he might as well have added: "USA! USA! USA!"
Yes. The Brookings paper did include that about poverty. But it also included discussions of the following:
- The extent of mobility --- both within and across generations --- in American society and how it compares to other countries. [Note: it compares very poorly.]
- What has been happening to middle class families in the U.S. in recent decades and the politics of assisting the poor when the middle class itself is foundering.
- The concentration of income and wealth at the very top of the distribution.
Easy to see why Santorum left this stuff out. Since he's laughably claimed that there are no classes in America, he absolutely doesn't want to touch any of this with a ten-foot pole -- especially the last point, since to Republicans, the concentration of wealth at the top is a feature, not a bug.
But I wish Williams would've asked Santorum two simple follow-up questions: why did poverty increase when Republicans were running the country during the 2000s--and why are the most conservative states also the poorest?