Soon after the horror of Hurricane Katrina, Americans were subjected to another high-wind warning when Jesse Jackson and Howard Dean began exploiting the situation for perceived political gain.
These guys will never learn. Ardent Bush haters, they had a perfect opening to ask exactly why the president was at least 24 hours late in responding to the chaos. Once the levees breached in New Orleans, the situation became one of national security. I mean no sitting president can allow a major American city to be wiped out. President Bush should have signed an executive order, sent in the Army and regained control.
Instead, he allowed a frightened governor and an overwhelmed mayor to continue making mistakes. All of this while hundreds of Americans died in front of a stunned population watching on television.
So Jackson and Dean had some powerful ammunition but, as usual, they used it to shoot themselves. Jackson immediately brought race to the forefront (what a shock) and said blacks were treated like they were on "slave ships."
Dean pointed out that the poor got hammered and that was Bush's fault because of tax cuts for the rich or some such nonsense. Jackson and Dean ran around grabbing cameras and microphones, howling at the moon, booking first-class seats on the cheap-shot express.
Their rhetoric was so over the top that even though I'm not a Republican, I feel it is my patriotic duty to provide some truth in the matter of the Bush administration vis-a-vis the poor. So here are the facts with apologies to the propagandists.
We'll begin by comparing the halfway point of President Clinton's tenure to the 50-yard line of the Bush administration.
In 1996, the poverty level in the USA stood at 13.7 percent. In 2004, the poverty level was 12.7 percent, so Bush beats Clinton here by a full percentage point. To be fair, Clinton did bring the poverty rate down during his administration, while it has been rising slightly since 9/11. But at the halfway point, Bush wins.
As far as entitlement spending on poverty programs is concerned, it isn't even close.
In 1996, President Clinton signed a budget that directed 12.2 percent of spending be directed toward the poor. In 2004, Bush's budget kicked 2 percent more than Clinton to poverty programs, an astronomical $329 billion. In fact, President Bush is spending more on poverty entitlement programs and education than any president in history. What say you, Jesse and Howard?
For a country that is often accused by left-wing loons of not caring about the poor, we are certainly putting up a good front. In 2006, almost $368 billion dollars will go for Medicaid, food stamps, family support assistance, supplemental security income, child nutrition programs, earned income tax credits, welfare payments, child-care payments, foster care and adoption assistance, and child health insurance payments to the states.
The truth is that the working men and women of this country are providing the tightest safety net in history for the poor. And our private charitable donations rank first in the world as well.
So the next time the poverty propagandists start with the "America ignores the poor" bull, simply walk away. These people are blatantly dishonest and could not care less that America does, indeed, help the less fortunate.
The race and class baiters will always ignore the fact that some people simply cannot support themselves no matter what society does. The New Testament says it clearly: "the poor, they will always be with us." But America provides more opportunity for more people than anywhere else on the planet.
So those are the facts, Max. I'm sorry it took a disaster like Katrina to bring them to the forefront.
Veteran TV news anchor and author Bill O'Reilly is a host on Fox News. His column appears on Friday.