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Poverty causes everything

Michelle Malkin notes the bizarre, utterly counter-factual insistence of Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama that poverty is the root cause of terrorism:

While meeting with Catholic Church officials at the Vatican in Rome on Monday, Kerry expounded on their “huge common interest in dealing with this issue of poverty, which in many cases is the root cause of terrorism or even the root cause of the disenfranchisement of millions of people on this planet.” In other words: If only every al-Qaida and Taliban recruit had a fraction of Kerry’s $200 million fortune, they’d all be frolicking peacefully with infidels on jet skis sporting “Coexist” bumper stickers.

This wasn’t a one-off. Kerry delivered a similar Kumbaya-style discourse at the Global Counterterrorism Forum last fall: “Getting this right isn’t just about taking terrorists off the street. It’s about providing more economic opportunities for marginalized youth at risk of recruitment.” Naturally, the Foggy Bottom apple doesn’t fall far from the Pennsylvania Avenue terror-excusing tree. President Obama subscribes to the very same “midnight basketball” theory of counterterrorism. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Obama asserted that jihad “grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.”

As Michelle goes on to document, this simply is not true.  Most of the big terrorism figures are quite well-off, if not outright millionaires.  The bulk of their recruits are solidly middle-class.  Various intelligence services have studied the issue and concluded that poverty is not a significant factor in the spread of terrorism.

But people like Obama and Kerry persist in the fantasy that terrorism can be wiped out by providing more “economic opportunities for marginalized youth at risk of recruitment.”  That’s also a persistent liberal meme when dealing with crime in general – it’s been an article of faith on the Left since at the least the Great Society days that poverty is the root cause of all destructive behavior.

They’re philosophically stuck on this because of their infatuation with Marxist materialist critique, their belief that the Little People are clay shaped and molded by their economic circumstances.  If poverty causes crime, and liberalism is all about wealth redistribution to alleviate poverty, well, then liberalism is an awesome crime-fighting force!  Never mind what actually happens to the crime rate in areas where the Left has control, especially after they’ve been left in charge for a generation or two.

The truth is very nearly the opposite.  Crime is not a result of poverty.  That argument is an insult to the countless law-abiding people who grapple with severe economic circumstances while preserving their dignity and honor.  The key ingredient of crime is entitlement – the rules don’t apply to you, corrupt civilization has no claim to your loyalty, and whatever you want is yours for the taking.  Terrorism is a more formal, organized declaration of war against civilization.  Any philosophy that cultivates the sense of entitlement -from militant religious-war ideology, to class warfare and socialist redistribution – is going to create an atmosphere that nourishes criminal instincts. 

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