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I'm a conservative...in favor of welfare!

Debating economic policies has become so murky that both political parties are resorting to oversimplified messaging and "wedge issue" campaigning.



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Heck, let's face it, politicians really aren't likely to do anything to improve our economy let alone enact policies that really elevate the poor out of poverty. And that's just fine, because it would be political suicide and just improper for any elected official to tell the truth about what's dragging down so many of our people. But somebody has to do it.

So here goes: What poor Americans need is more welfare!

Yep, I'm a conservative and I said it. But what I mean is that conservatives need to do a better job of delivering a neverending stream of real welfare in the literal sense of the word to America's poor. And they must be willing to bear the political and financial cost of delivering that welfare because it's worth it.

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The literal meaning of welfare is: "The health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group."

But the practical reality is that welfare in America is simply the doling out of benefits tantamount to something like reparations simply for being poor.

I realize Medicaid, food stamps, public housing, heating-bill subsidies, etc., all fulfill basic and pressing physical needs, at least to those who truly cannot afford them. But they do little else than that. If we want to really help the large percentage of America's poor who have the physical and mental abilities to pull themselves out of poverty, we have to provide something a lot more important, and a lot harder to actually dole out in the first place: moral welfare.

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Okay, now don't bolt for the exits if you're a devout Christian, Jew, Muslim, etc. Because the truth is, you don't have to be religious to recognize that moral poverty is the single biggest root cause of financial poverty in America and everywhere else. And it's important to get the order right, because so many people wrongly believe it's the poverty that comes first and thus causes the immoral behavior that follows. But that's backwards.

As theologian R.R. Reno states:

"A Christian who hopes to follow the teachings of Jesus needs to reckon with a singular fact about American poverty: Its deepest and most debilitating deficits are moral, not financial; the most serious deprivations are cultural, not economic. Many people living at the bottom of American society have cell phones, flat-screen TVs, and some of the other goodies of consumer culture. But their lives are a mess."

I strongly admire Reno's Christian faith, but no one should confuse this moral wisdom with any particular religious dogma or some kind of puritanical effort. So I would substitute the words "Christian" and "Jesus" in the quote above with "conservative" and "morality."

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What does that mean specifically? What are the moral failings that bring millions and millions of Americans economically down year after year?

It's a pretty simple two-item list:

1. Marriage and commitment = economic success

Of course, no one in a very unhappy or violent relationship should stay married. But the statistics don't lie: Divorce and single parenthood is a highway to poverty for a large number of Americans. Just because celebrities make getting hitched, unhitched, and raising babies alone look fun and easy, it simply isn't. So beware. If you are in a loving monogamous relationship and aren't married, consider the many financial and moral benefits that getting married brings to the table. I can't speak for all conservatives, but many of us certainly support gay and lesbian marriage as well on those grounds. The purely secular statistics prove that more marriage, straight or gay, leads to a more stable and prosperous society.

2. The best economic stimulus is raising good children

You've probably heard a lot of parents say: "I just want my kids to be happy."

Sorry, but happiness alone is not a goal any parent can really bestow on a child and it wouldn't be worth it if they could.

Raising "good" children, that is to say kids who take personal responsibility and understand right from wrong is the most important job any human can do in this world. It will keep them focused on what they need to do to succeed, rather than looking for someone else to do it for them.

But right now, there seems to be an outright taboo against promoting marriage and reminding parents that it's really up to them to raise and educate their children properly.

Why is that exactly?

We certainly have no problem doling out financial benefits and college loans without a word to the recipients about how to make the best choices with that money. Sure, we bar people from using food stamps from using them to buy booze and smokes. And student loans are only good at approved institutions, but that's really not setting the bar very high is it?

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It seems like only right-wing conservative religious leaders are willing to talk about this publicly, but no religious argument needs to be made when you make the case for personal responsibility.

One of the reasons why politicians don't do this job is it's a big invitation for major backlash. For example, the last U.S. 0president to make a regular case for personal responsibility was Bill Clinton. A few months later, the Lewinsky scandal broke and there was no way he could ever say the words "personal responsibility" again in public.

And so, the job is squarely on the shoulders of everyone else, particularly conservatives who have allowed the Left to falsely claim the moral high ground when it comes to the poor for decades.

Commentary by Jake Novak, supervising producer of "Street Signs." Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.