Scott McClellan on Poverty: “Failed Policies of the Past”

The President’s press secretary was pressed on the issue of poverty yesterday. As usual with this Administration, they pat themselves on the back as they blame Bill Clinton:

The policies that this President has pursued are bold ones and they are ones that are achieving real results for all Americans. The President, from day one, has been acting to move forward on bold initiatives to produce real results that are helping all Americans. We are closing the achievement gap with sweeping education reforms, so that every child can learn and succeed. We are moving forward on pro-growth economic policies that are creating jobs. We have more Americans working now than ever before. We’re reaching out to faith-based groups and community organizations that have proven records of helping people in need. And we’re now helping more people in need. And we’re also moving forward to expand home ownership. Minority home ownership has reached record levels under this administration. We’ve worked to expand community health centers. So I think it’s important to look at the policies, and we’re glad to talk about the policies. And one question you have to come back to is, do we continue to move forward on failed policies of the past that have left too many behind, or do we think in new and bold ways to help all Americans. And this President has thought in new and bold ways and actually acted. And we are making great progress to do so.

As our chart shows, the poverty rate fell from 15.1% to 11.3% from 1993 to 2000 only to increase each year since George W. Bush took over. So when Scott McClennan talks about real results versus the failed policies of the past, one has to wonder what he is talking about.

One can argue that the decline in poverty during the Clinton years was due to strong economic growth during his term in office, while the rise in poverty over the past few years is in part due to weak economic performance. Never mind the assertions by Ari Fleischer to the contrary, poverty does tend to fall when economic growth is strong, But Mr. McClennan is not in a very good position to make this argument given the rest of his press briefing:

Q If he was so bold, why do we have 37 million people living below the poverty line?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, do you want me to go back and talk about the economy?
Q I mean, if his policies are so great.
MR. McCLELLAN: I’ll be glad to go — more Americans are working than ever before, Helen. We’ve –
Q Thirty-seven million below the poverty –
MR. McCLELLAN: – seen the unemployment rate drop to 4.9 percent because of the action that this President has taken. We’ve seen more than 4 million jobs created since May of 2003.

I guess it is too much to ask for this White House to actually implement sensible economic policies that would reduce poverty. But couldn’t we simply ask the press secretary to have a little integrity?