At a Georgetown University conference last week, President Obama appeared on a panel billed as a "conversation" on poverty. It proved illuminating, though not in the way its sponsors intended.
Begin with the panel itself. A solitary conservative, the American Enterprise Institute's Arthur Brooks, was pitted against two liberals, President Obama and Harvard social scientist Robert Putnam. The panel was moderated by the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne.
To put it another way, what we had here was a "conversation" stacked in favor of liberals, moderated by a liberal, and taking place before a liberal crowd at a liberal university…
Nor were these the only ones called out. While paying lip service to the notion that those who disagree with him might in fact have hearts, Mr. Obama—rather than engage with Mr. Brooks—used the occasion to review his enemies list. It included the Republican Congress (their budgets prove they don't care), hedge-fund managers (they take money that belongs to kindergarten teachers), the churches (they're not committed to helping the poor because they worry too much about abortion and marriage), Fox News (it vilifies the poor) and, for good measure, parents who send their children to private schools (they are withdrawing from the "commons").
The unifying progressive contention here is the assertion that America isn't "investing" enough in the poor—by which is meant the government isn't spending enough. Though President Obama did acknowledge the importance of family by defending his past criticisms of absent fathers, he went on to declare it will be next to impossible to find "common ground" on poverty until his critics accept his spending argument. '