Update: My next tele-townhall

Senator Mike Lee
2014-10-07 13:38:18
US Senator for Utah, Mike Lee [image = lee.enews.senate.gov//images/user_images/eCard-header-grand-canyon.jpg] * Join My October Tele-Townhall* I will be holding my October tele-townhall on Tuesday, October 14, at 7:00 p.m. MT.� If you would like to attend you can sign up here: www.lee.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/tele-townhall-meetings [link 1] [image = lee.enews.senate.gov//images/user_images/october2014-teletownhall-invite.jpg] * "To Elevate the Condition of Men"* Last week I delivered remarks to the Sutherland Institute [link 2] to share a few proposals I have been working on to reduce poverty and help Americans who have fallen behind get back on the path to prosperity. For all America�s reputation for individualism and competition, our nation has from the beginning been built on a foundation of community and cooperation.� In America freedom does not mean you are on your own.� Freedom really means, we are all in this together. Together, America�s free-enterprise economy and voluntary civil society enabled millions of ordinary Americans to protect themselves � and each other � from material want and social isolation � long before Lyndon Johnson tried to do better by growing and centralizing government authority. Defenders of today�s status quo say that any critique of our welfare system is really just a thinly-veiled attempt to destroy the social safety net. But what we all should want � and what I certainly do want � is not to destroy the safety net, but to make it work. This is an important point for us to remember: the constitutionally limited but indispensable role that government played in America�s original war on poverty. That role was best expressed by a president who understood poverty better than most. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln told Congress that the �leading object� of American government was: �to elevate the condition of men � to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life.� In a single sentence, Lincoln explains precisely what poverty is, and what government ought to do about it. As Lincoln knew first hand, true poverty was, for most people, not an absence of money, but an absence of opportunity � a lack of access to those social and economic networks where human opportunities are created. Then, as now, people were not isolated because they were poor � they were poor mostly because they were isolated. And however unintended, too many government programs today only exacerbate that isolation. Networks of opportunity formed within the free market and civil society are not threats that poor families need more protection from. They are blessings that poor families need more access to. And so, in America�s original war on poverty, government did not give the poor other people�s money. It gave them access to other people. In Lincoln�s era that meant dredging rivers, building canals, and cutting roads. It meant the Homestead Act and land-grant universities. These public goods weren�t designed to make poverty more tolerable � but to make it more temporary. They reduced the time it took to get products to market, increased access to banks and land, and increased the speed at which knowledge could be developed and shared. Poor farmers and trappers in Lincoln�s Mid-West were no worse at their trades than their more affluent counterparts back east. They just didn�t enjoy the same access to networks of human, social, and economic capital. Likewise, poor children today possess the ability to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century. But what they lack is access to the networks of human opportunity where that knowledge and those skills are acquired. Properly considered, then, the war on poverty is not so much about lifting people up. It�s about bringing people in. [image = lee.enews.senate.gov/common/images/sn-facebook.png]Share on Facebook [link 3] [image = lee.enews.senate.gov/common/images/sn-twitter.png]Share on Twitter [link 4]
October 07, 2014

Join My October Tele-Townhall

I will be holding my October tele-townhall on Tuesday, October 14, at 7:00 p.m. MT.  If you would like to attend you can sign up here:

"To Elevate the Condition of Men"

Last week to share a few proposals I have been working on to reduce poverty and help Americans who have fallen behind get back on the path to prosperity.

For all America�s reputation for individualism and competition, our nation has from the beginning been built on a foundation of community and cooperation.  In America freedom does not mean you are on your own.  Freedom really means, we are all in this together.

Together, America�s free-enterprise economy and voluntary civil society enabled millions of ordinary Americans to protect themselves � and each other � from material want and social isolation � long before Lyndon Johnson tried to do better by growing and centralizing government authority.

Defenders of today�s status quo say that any critique of our welfare system is really just a thinly-veiled attempt to destroy the social safety net. But what we all should want � and what I certainly do want � is not to destroy the safety net, but to make it work.

This is an important point for us to remember: the constitutionally limited but indispensable role that government played in America�s original war on poverty. That role was best expressed by a president who understood poverty better than most.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln told Congress that the �leading object� of American government was:

�to elevate the condition of men � to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life.�

In a single sentence, Lincoln explains precisely what poverty is, and what government ought to do about it.

As Lincoln knew first hand, true poverty was, for most people, not an absence of money, but an absence of opportunity � a lack of access to those social and economic networks where human opportunities are created.

Then, as now, people were not isolated because they were poor � they were poor mostly because they were isolated. And however unintended, too many government programs today only exacerbate that isolation.

Networks of opportunity formed within the free market and civil society are not threats that poor families need more protection from. They are blessings that poor families need more access to.

And so, in America�s original war on poverty, government did not give the poor other people�s money. It gave them access to other people.

In Lincoln�s era that meant dredging rivers, building canals, and cutting roads. It meant the Homestead Act and land-grant universities.

These public goods weren�t designed to make poverty more tolerable � but to make it more temporary. They reduced the time it took to get products to market, increased access to banks and land, and increased the speed at which knowledge could be developed and shared.

Poor farmers and trappers in Lincoln�s Mid-West were no worse at their trades than their more affluent counterparts back east. They just didn�t enjoy the same access to networks of human, social, and economic capital.

Likewise, poor children today possess the ability to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century. But what they lack is access to the networks of human opportunity where that knowledge and those skills are acquired.

Properly considered, then, the war on poverty is not so much about lifting people up. It�s about bringing people in.

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