WaPo Hangs In

It seems pretty weird, but WaPo is starting to do some real reporting all of a sudden.
In response to a question about his party’s plan to increase the cost of health insurance, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) suggested that people should “invest in their own health care” instead of “getting that new iPhone.” He doubled-down on the point in a later interview: “People need to make a conscious choice, and I believe in self-reliance.” Of course, Chaffetz is wrong. But he isn’t alone.
While he has been met with justifiable derision for the comparison (Christopher Ingraham walked through the math for us, pointing out that a year’s worth of health care would equal 23 iPhone 7 Pluses in price), the claim he is making is hardly new. Chaffetz was articulating a commonly held belief that poverty in the United States is, by and large, the result of laziness, immorality and irresponsibility. If only people made better choices — if they worked harder, stayed in school, got married, didn’t have children they couldn’t afford, spent what money they had more wisely and saved more — then they wouldn’t be poor, or so the reasoning goes.
This insistence that people would not be poor if only they would try harder defines the thinking behind the signature welfare restructuring law of the Clinton era, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. It’s the logic at the heart of efforts to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients, to drug-test people collecting unemployment insurance or to forbid food stamp recipients to buy steak and lobster.
Since the invention of the mythic welfare queen in the 1960s, this has been the story we most reliably tell about why people are poor. Never mind that research from across the social sciences shows us, over and again, that it’s a lie. Never mind low wages or lack of jobs, the poor quality of too many schools, the dearth of marriageable males in poor black communities (thanks to a racialized criminal justice system and ongoing discrimination in the labor market), or the high cost of birth control and day care. Never mind the fact that the largest group of poor people in the United States are children. Never mind the grim reality that most American adults who are poor are not poor from lack of effort but despite it.
The reason poor people are poor has nothing to do with how they manage their money.

Poverty is not a moral deficiency.

Being poor enough to require assistance from government doesn't mean poor people like it where they are.

And and and

Stop blaming poverty on the poor.