As we mark the 50th anniversary of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, the U.S. Census Bureau is set to release information showing that America’s most costly war — $22 trillion has been spent on the anti-poverty effort — has been a abject failure.
“Since its beginning, U.S. taxpayers have spent $22 trillion on Johnson’s War on Poverty (in constant 2012 dollars). Adjusting for inflation, that’s three times more than was spent on all military wars since the American Revolution,” says Robert Rector, a Heritage Foundation senior research fellow, in a Daily Signal article Tuesday.
This welfare spending has come through more than 80 means-tested federal welfare programs — many of them administered by the states. These public assistance programs provide health care, housing, cash, food subsidies and even help buying home heating fuel. According to Rector, the total bill for welfare spending in the U.S. last year was $943 billion.
Despite this massive amount of welfare spending, victory in the War on Poverty has remained elusive. As Rector writes, “The present poverty rate is almost exactly the same as it was in 1967 a few years after the War on Poverty started. Census data actually shows that poverty has gotten worse over the last 40 years.”
The disconnect between increased welfare spending and stable poverty rates is a product both of ineffective anti-poverty programs and shifting understanding of what it means to be poor. Critics of the Great Society welfare programs have long argued that the modern welfare state is at best a temporary amelioration of poverty’s symptoms–and at worst a perverse incentive structure that actually keeps Americans stuck in a cycle of generational poverty. As for the shifting understanding of what it means to be poor, Rector writes:
According to government surveys, the typical family that Census identifies as poor has air conditioning, cable or satellite TV, and a computer in his home. Forty percent have a wide screen HDTV and another 40 percent have internet access. Three quarters of the poor own a car and roughly a third have two or more cars. (These numbers are not the result of the current bad economy pushing middle class families into poverty; instead, they reflect a steady improvement in living conditions among the poor for many decades.)
Although the modern welfare state has failed, by most measures, to eradicate poverty, there seems to be no end in sight to increased welfare spending. Data released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that more than 46 million Americans are now on Food Stamps and more citizens than ever are enrolling in the medical welfare thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s proposed expansion of Medicaid.
Now why would the progressives want to end poverty? It would put why to many people out of a job. What would Strimling do?
Wealth and poverty are relative terms and are constantly changing. Someone living in poverty in the USA would actually be considered wealthy in most of the rest of the world. No matter how you slice it, the overriding issue is that government assistance programs should be designed to be true safety nets in which temporary assistance is provided to those who find themselves in economic trouble through no fault of their own and are provided relief with the goal that they once again become self sufficient. To that end and consistent with the concept of subsidiarity, the federal government should be the last one in line to provide assistance. Help should first come from those who are closest to the person in need (i.e. family, friends,), then progressively outward to resources that are furthest away from problem (i.e. church or local non-profit, general assistance from town or city, state assistance, then finally federal assistance). Those who are closest to the problem are most often the best candidates to solve the problem.
The $22 TRILLION wasted on the war on poverty doesn’t include the monumental hidden costs associated with the 12 to 40 MILLION illegal alien invaders lured to the USA by the welfare state !
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