Skip to main content

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

By Newt Gingrich
January 4, 2014 -- Updated 1531 GMT (2331 HKT)
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
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT