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Compassion and politics

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POSTED: August 22, 2007 5:03 a.m.

Have you heard the term "Compassionate Conservatism" lately? It’s a label conservatives have jumped on in past years in order to modify the image conservatism has of being "mean-spirited," an image carefully crafted by liberals in government and the media.

And while I appreciate the conservative movement looking for improved PR, I’m not sure that this term is the best way to go about it. Traditionally, liberals have claimed the title "compassionate" as their bailiwick, enjoying how kind and loving it makes them sound. And boy, do they know how to be compassionate. The word compassion can mean "to suffer with," and I believe that liberals embrace this whole-heartedly. They ooze sympathy on those in distressed circumstances, "suffering in spirit" with them. They have tremendous "compassion" for the poor, for the racially oppressed, for the immigrant. In theory.

John Edwards, a Democratic presidential candidate, is currently on his "Poverty Tour." I’m not quite sure what he is trying to accomplish with this, except to possibly highlight his idea of two separate Americas. And I’m not quite sure how such a tour is conducted. Has he chosen this approach in lieu of a summer vacation? I can see him rounding up his kids, getting them excited about this trip. "Come on, kids, we’re going to tour America and look at poor people!" as if they were heading to the zoo to see some new exhibit.

As with the majority of liberal ideas, they sound wonderful, but accomplish nothing. Will one person be drawn out of their poverty because of his tour? Will one person be helped out of their misery? Of course not. He is using the poor of our country as a publicity stunt to differentiate himself from the pack of other candidates. And for this he is labeled as being caring, loving and compassionate.

There is no doubt that poverty is an evil that compassionate people must address. But John Edwards’ idea that the poor are everywhere is a bit ludicrous. So few people in America know true poverty. I heard a commercial on the radio intoning ominously, "One out of four children live in poverty in the U.S.," and then goes on to describe the ketchup sandwiches they are eating. This is patently ridiculous. The government sets arbitrary statistics determining poverty, and then liberals can run around saying how many poor people there are and how we must help them. Of course, the answer for this is always more government programs.

Liberals have been trying to cure poverty since F.D.R.’s New Deal programs and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society (his "war on poverty") gave us all the entitlement programs we’re stuck with now. The "war on poverty" was over 40 years ago. And yet John Edwards is going on a Poverty Tour in 2007? Obviously something isn’t working right in the liberal playbook. But they don’t care, because they don’t want to cure it, they just want to exploit it for their own purposes.

We live in a time of unprecedented prosperity. Our poor are the envy of the world. There are many a "rich" person in Haiti or Africa who have less than the "poor" of America. There are "poor" in America who have cell phones, cable TV and drive souped-up automobiles.

I know a lady here in Savannah who lives in government housing because she is "poor". She works intermittently (by choice) and pays less than $100 in rent. She also spends over $100/month on video games and movies. That doesn’t include her cable bill (over $100) and cell phones for her and her three teenagers, none of whom work. Call me mean-spirited, but this doesn’t qualify as poverty in my book.

Are there true poor people in America? Yes, there must be. But the idea that poverty is an epidemic that must be cured by government is past its prime. Liberals spout compassionate sounding rhetoric. But do they put forth any workable solutions, any way that these people can break the cycle of poverty? No. They simply hand out another government check, pat them on their head and send them on their way. No cycle can be broken this way — it continues perpetually. One modern definition I’ve heard of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results." Liberals are insane under this definition.

Which brings us back to conservatives. What’s the conservative answer to all this? Help people through the crunch, and give them the tools they need to help themselves. This breaks the cycle of dependency.

The old adage "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, give him a fishing net, feed him for a lifetime" sums up conservative thinking. Help people to help themselves. In our land of freedom, opportunities are limitless. There’s always a better life open if people learn to reach for it. People think this philosophy means conservatives aren’t compassionate. Au contraire. Conservatives don’t want people to suffer any more than they have to. They give them a leg up, and then let them be.

True compassion is always combined with love, and liberalism seems to have forgotten this important element.

If to be a "Compassionate Conservative" means to follow the liberal playbook, then that’s one label I’m not interested in.

 

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