Conservative elites at the Heritage Foundation

Since I wrote the other blog on the economic stimulus package, I was peeking around at the Heritage Foundation web site and found a press release from today that is the basis of this post.

In one ad, Kennedy accuses the U.S. government of cutting the federal budget for heating oil assistance while a picture of the White House floats in the background. The placement of the ads also appears politically motivated. How else to explain, for example, why the ads are running on “Meet the Press With Tim Russert” and “FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace,” shows for savvy political insiders that presumably have few viewers that qualify for heating oil assistance?

Well according the ACF the 2006 amount was $3.08 billion and 2007 was $2.19 billion. So in recent years what the Heritage Foundation sees as an accusation is a fact. But by using accuses they are trying to put it in dispute.

Now the 2nd part of that paragraph is the basis of the title of this post. Basically they are saying that poor folk that could qualify for the assistance don’t watch the Sunday morning political shows. That might be true, but it definitely is a statement that reeks of elitism.

Further on they continue the attack on the populist Chavez, by bringing out this,

By comparison, the large numbers of people living in poverty and extreme poverty in Venezuela ought to be an embarrassment for Citgo and Kennedy. After Chavez’s eight years in office and the receipt of more than $600 billion in oil revenues, Venezuelans at all income levels are no better off.

Crime, corruption, inflation and food scarcities are rampant. The average per capita income in Venezuela is less than one-sixth of America’s and millions of Venezuela’s extremely poor earn less than $1 a day.

That sounds horrible. Chavez is helping poor Americans, how dare he, while neglecting the poor folk at home. Yet, the data that the Center for Economic and Policy Research issued in July 2007 (pdf) doesn’t jive with that.

The poverty rate has decreased rapidly from its peak of 55.1 percent in 2003 to 30.4 percent at end of 2006, as would be expected in the face of the very rapid economic growth during these last three years. Table 3 shows the poverty rate since 1997, by household and population. If we compare the pre-Chávez poverty rate (43.9 percent) with end of 2006 (30.4 percent) this is a 31 percent drop in the rate of poverty, which is substantial.

But wait, there’s more.

However this poverty rate measures only cash income – it does not take into account the increased access to health care or education that poor people have experienced. As we have shown previously, taking the most conservative estimate of just the value of the health care benefits – what the poor would have spent on health care in the absence of these new programs – would lower the measured poverty rate by about 2 percentage points.

and even more

The Chávez government has greatly increased social spending, including spending on health care, subsidized food, and education. The state oil company alone was responsible for $13.3 billion (7.3 percent of GDP) of social spending last year.

The most pronounced difference has been in the area of health care. In 1998 there were 1,628 primary care physicians for a population of 23.4 million. Today, there are 19,571 for a population of 27 million. In 1998 there were 417 emergency rooms, 74 rehab centers and 1,628 primary care centers compared to 721 emergency rooms, 445 rehab centers and 8,621 primary care centers (including the 6,500 ‘check-up points,’ usually in poor neighborhoods, and that are in the process of being expanded to more comprehensive primary care centers) today. Since 2004, 399,662 people have had eye operations that restored their vision. In 1999, there were 335 HIV patients receiving antiretroviral treatment from the government, compared to 18,538 in 2006.

The Venezuelan government has also provided widespread access to subsidized food. By 2006, there were 15,726 stores throughout the country that offered mainly food items at subsidized prices (with average savings of 27% and 39% compared to market prices in 2005 and 2006, respectively). These plus expanded special programs for the extremely poor (e.g., soup kitchens and food distribution) benefited an average of 67 percent and 43 percent of the population in 2005 and 2006 respectively. These do not include the 1.8 million children that were beneficiaries of a school food program in 2006, compared with 252,000 children in 1999.

Access to education has also increased substantially. For example, the number of students in ‘Bolivarian schools’ (primary education) increased from 271,593 for the 1999/2000 school year to 1,098,489 for the 2005/2006 school year. Over one million people also participated in adult literacy programs.

So it sure looks like the Chavez run government is helping poor people at home and in the US. Not what the Heritage Foundation would have you think.

-Josh

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