Sunday, July 13, 2014

Did We Win the War on Poverty?

Back in 1964, then President Lyndon Johnson, initiated a government program and called it a “War on Poverty”. Since that time, up until today, we have spent approx. $16 trillion in pursuit of eliminating poverty in the United States. Has it been worth it or was it just another liberal feel-good social program that has failed miserably?

Well, let's look at what has happened in the 50 years since it's inception. The poverty rate in 1964 was approx. 14%, and in 2013 the poverty rate was approx. 14.3% (practically no change). Shouldn't we have expected a substantial reduction in poverty after spending approx. $16 trillion?

The major provisions of the “War on Poverty” were Medicare, Medicaid, Elementary and Secondary Education, and Head Start. It also included the now defunct Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). Critics of this poverty agenda have called the results of this program a liberal “feel-good social engineering program” whose major accomplishment was in wasting taxpayer money under the guise of helping the poor. Good intentions don't always result in good policy.

The main thrust of the “War on Poverty” was to help the poor and minorities get out from under the pangs of poverty by using federal tax dollars to give “handouts” to the poor, and subsidies for housing, in hopes of bringing many of the poor out of the cycle of poverty. One of it's major failures was the unintended consequences of unwed mother births which in the 1960's (before the “War on Poverty”) was around 6%, but since has increased to about 40% (the black unwed mother birthrate is approx. 70%). Critics claim that the provisions of the “War on Poverty” (that encouraged benefits to be paid only when there was no father in the house) were directly responsible for the breakup of families, especially in the black and minority communities. In some cases, three generations of a family have relied on government largesse, which has kept them just as poor and reliant of the government as they were before. The result is more poverty and a resulting increase in crime, with no relief in sight.

Both Medicare and Medicaid, both well-meaning and well-intentioned programs, are slowly going broke (the government paying out more than it is taking in), since the government can raise taxes on the citizens, the inevitable result is a constant increase in poverty payouts and a constant increase in taxes to pay for it.

Since Obama took office, federal welfare spending has increased by 41%, to more than $193 billion per year. Clearly, we are doing something wrong. Throwing money at the problem has neither reduced poverty, nor made the poor self-sufficient. Is it time to re-evaluate our approach in fighting poverty? Is the answer more government involvement? As Ronald Reagan once said, “The ten most damaging words in the English language are ,“I'm from the government, and I'm here to help” sort of sums up the consequences of the “War on Poverty”.

Remember what Albert Einstein said was the definition of insanity - “doing the same thing over again and expecting different results”. The paying out of approx. $16 trillion ($13 trillion federal, $3 trillion state) over the past 50 years should have resulted in a reduction of poverty, but it hasn't happened. Why should we keep spending our tax money on failed programs – it is like throwing money down a rat hole.

So the answer to our headline question is NO, we have not won the “War on Poverty”, and we need to re-evaluate what we have done and change it so we can get more bang for our buck (federal dollars). The unintended consequences of liberal feel-good programs is on display for all to see.

Conservative commentary by Chuck Lehmann

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1 comment:

Lawrence Cutler said...

It is obvious to all thinking persons that the Democrats want as many poor people to be beholden to a government handout so that, come election time, they can promise them a continuation of the government handout if they elect that kind of Democrat politician. If more and more people keep voting for more and more government handouts, it will break the treasury and eventually bring the country to its knees. Don't we see the beginning of that in our country now?