Skip to main content

'Small soy latte liberalism' sums up years of failure on poverty

By Newt Gingrich
updated 10:31 AM EST, Sat January 4, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NYC mayor proposes slight tax hike on high earners to fund pre-school
  • Bill de Blasio said tax hike would equal daily price of a small soy latte
  • Newt Gingrich: Minor tinkering with the welfare state has failed for decades
  • Gingrich: It's time to focus on policies that foster incentives, economic growth, training

Editor's note: Newt Gingrich is a co-host of CNN's "Crossfire," which airs at 6:30 p.m. ET weekdays, and author of a new book, "Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America's Fate." A former speaker of the House, he was a candidate in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries.

(CNN) -- The phrase "small soy latte liberalism" deserves to become the defining symbol of the failure of the Democratic Party.

The Starbucks reference came from New York's new mayor, Bill de Blasio. As his party's putative presidential front-runner and her husband looked on, de Blasio put the incoherence of the modern left on full display in his inaugural address Wednesday.

After a mayoral campaign which emphasized boldness, radicalism, populism and the "new Progressive" commitment to fighting income inequality, he revealed that after the rhetoric comes timidity, incoherence, and absurdity.

Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich

Mayor de Blasio promised to change New York City for the daily price of a small soy latte from Starbucks.

"We will ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes so that we can offer full-day universal pre-K and after-school programs for every middle school student," he said. "And when we say 'a little more,' we can rightly emphasize the 'little.'"

"Those earning between $500,000 and $1 million a year," the new mayor continued, "...would see their taxes increase by an average of $973 a year. That's less than three bucks a day -- about the cost of a small soy latte at your local Starbucks."

It was sadly symbolic that Mayor de Blasio was speaking one week before the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's declaration of a "War on Poverty."

New York mayor firm about taxing wealthy
De Blasio and return of progressivism?

Look at the contrast between the mayor's reassurance about tiny sacrifices and Johnson's bold declaration in his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964.

"It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won," Johnson pledged. "The richest nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it."

Fifty years after the War on Poverty began, the boldest declaration our new champion of liberalism can muster is that his own expansion of the welfare bureaucracy will cost the New York elite no more than their daily dose of caffeine. Oh, how the price to ease their consciences has fallen in half a century. And yet the poor are still impoverished.

Here are the facts: After 50 years and trillions of dollars, bureaucratic government has lost the war on poverty. Each year, we spend $17,000 per person in poverty on means-tested welfare programs alone, as Peter Ferrara points out. That adds up to more than $16 trillion since 1965. Yet today, left-wing leaders like Mayor de Blasio and President Barack Obama still call inequality "the defining issue of our time." What does this say about their welfare bureaucracies?

Mayor de Blasio has done us all a favor by being so clear about the small, timid, and ultimately hopeless efforts to use big bureaucracies to solve the real problems of impoverished Americans.
Newt Gingrich

Like Obama's small, recycled proposals to help poor Americans, de Blasio's "small soy latte" liberalism will grow bureaucracy and please bureaucratic unions but will not help win the war on poverty.

Their minor tinkering with the current welfare state will clearly fail, just as it has failed for decades, and yet minor tinkering is all that the chiefs of modern liberalism have to offer. As if to reassure us, they pledge that continuing the charade will cost just a little more.

Poor and disadvantaged Americans deserve a completely new approach to poverty -- one which has the courage to analyze the failures of the past 50 years. A focus on incentives, economic growth, and on helping the least well-off learn the skills they need to leave poverty would be a good start. Poor Americans need a fundamental break from a system which has trapped so many in dependency.

Ironically, de Blasio has done us all a favor by being so clear about the small, timid, and ultimately hopeless efforts to use big bureaucracies to solve the real problems of impoverished Americans. Let's say no to "small soy latte liberalism" and yes to profoundly rethinking the best way of helping our fellow citizens.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Newt Gingrich.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 6:48 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 4:49 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT