Everything Seemingly Is Spinning Out of Control

Daily Best of the Web   —   Posted on March 12, 2014

The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal.com’s “Best of the Web” written by the editor, James Taranto.

from Feb. 4 BOTW:

bow3Everything Seemingly Is Spinning Out of Control 
“Collegiate Women’s Bowling Gains in Popularity”–headline, New York Times, Feb. 4

News of the Tautological 
“Chu: Decision to Build Keystone XL Pipeline a Political One”–headline, Oil & Gas Journal, Feb. 3

It’s the Stupid Economy (from Jan. 15 BOTW)
“The U.S. economy’s failure to deliver jobs has left the country with persistently high rates of poverty and income and wealth inequality, a panel of experts convened at Stanford University said Monday,” reports PaloAltoOnline.com:

Former University of Michigan economist Sheldon Danziger, now president of the Russell Sage Foundation, refuted the idea that safety-net programs enacted 50 years ago by President Lyndon Johnson have failed.

“We did set in motion a safety net that’s much broader than it was 50 years ago, but it’s the economy that failed,” Danziger said. “If we counted all the safety net programs, poverty would be lower–it would not have fallen from 19 percent to 15 percent, but from 19 percent to 11 percent.

“There’s been a failure of economic growth to benefit not only the poor but also the middle class,” he said.

Here’s another senseless metaphor (they’re all over the place if you know to look): Why would you want to set a safety net in motion? Wouldn’t you want to put it in a specific place so people who need it can find it?

But is Danziger’s argument wrong? To say so would be to give it too much credit. It’s tautological to blame “the economy” for poverty, which is a set of economic conditions. It’s like a commander in charge of a losing war saying: Don’t blame me, we’re losing because of the battlefield conditions.

Danziger’s argument begs several important questions: Can we say with confidence that safety-net programs under the rubric of the War on Poverty did not aggravate rather than, or as well as, alleviate the economic conditions he now bemoans? Even to the extent that those changes are extrinsic to the War on Poverty, wasn’t it a failure of planning not to anticipate them? In any case, didn’t LBJ overpromise by declaring “war,” which implies the possibility of decisive victory?

Maybe LBJ got the policies right and had to oversell them in order to win public and congressional support, and no better outcome was possible. But it’s far from obvious that is the case.

For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”