war on poverty

In the 50-Year War on Poverty, Bureaucrats Have Won While Both Taxpayers and Poor People Have Lost

We know the welfare state is good news for people inside government. Lots of bureaucrats are required, after all, to oversee a plethora of redistribution programs.

Walter Williams refers to these paper pushers as poverty pimps, and there’s even a ranking showing which states have the greatest number of these folks who profit by creating dependency.

But does anybody else benefit from welfare programs?

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation explains in the Washington Times that the War on Poverty certainly hasn’t been a success for taxpayers or poor people. Instead, it’s created a costly web of dependency.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s launch of the War on Poverty. …Since then, the taxpayers have spent $22 trillion on Johnson’s war. Adjusted for inflation, that’s three times the cost of all military wars since the American Revolution. Last year, government spent $943 billion providing cash, food, housing and medical care to poor and low-income Americans. …More than 100 million people, or one third of Americans, received some type of welfare aid, at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient.

Here are some of the unpleasant details.

Shock poll: Americans believe government anti-poverty programs cause more poverty, and they’re absolutely right

It isn’t news to conservatives that government programs do not reduce poverty levels. What is news is that 49% of Americans apparently believe that not only do government anti-poverty programs fail, but they also may increase the level of poverty.

A recent Rasmussen poll also pointed out that people that personally witness what happens when people receive government assistance are more likely than those that don’t to believe that anti-poverty programs actually increase the poverty level. While these findings are trending slightly lower than results from previous years, it is still a sign that the public may not believe that the government can resolve the issue of poverty through assistance programs.

A more profound indication of that belief is seen when people stated their thoughts about the number of people receiving government assistance - 67% believe that too many people are dependent on the government. Additionally, 62% believe that the government needs to be smaller, offering fewer programs. The same percentage of adults are keeping up with government program issues in the news.

These are excellent numbers for conservatives, if they can manage to deliver a message that the public wants to hear. Theoretically, the public is ready to see changes in anti-poverty programs. The problem isn’t selling the concept of welfare reform - it is with offering an alternative that isn’t perceived as harmful to the people that truly need assistance. This shouldn’t be extremely difficult, because 64% of Americans think that too many people that do not actually need assistance are receiving it.

The “war on poverty” turns 50

LBJ

If you’re paying attention to Washington politics, you know that there is currently a big push underway by the White House and congressional Democrats to highlight income disparities in the United States.

The familiarity of this song and dance aside — which is, of course, another attempt to turn Americans’ attention away from Obamacare, an unpopular law, and President Obama’s terrible job approval rating — it’s worth noting that today is the 50th anniversary of the “war on poverty.” After this decades-long war, the poverty rate has barely moved, despite Congress spending trillions of dollars to combat it.

The Washington Examiner explains that, by any measure, the war on poverty has been a failure when viewed at the money spent compared to the poverty rate:

[W]hen LBJ declared the war, the U.S. economy was surging and the poverty rate had already declined from 22.4 percent in 1959, the earliest year available from the Census. Between 1965 and 2012, the national poverty rate has stubbornly averaged 13.6 percent per year and it has never fallen below 11.1 percent.

During the current economic downturn, the poverty rate was 15.1 percent in 2010, and 15 percent in 2011 and 2012 (the last year for which Census data is available). That’s the highest it’s been in a three-year span since 1964, and it means a stunning 46.5 million people are still living in poverty half a century later.

Poll: 24% of Americans Say Welfare to Blame for Poverty

Welfare

According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 24% of Americans believe that the welfare is the main reason for persistent poverty:

Two decades after President Bill Clinton promised to “end welfare as we know it,” Americans blame government handouts for persistent poverty in the United States more than any other single factor, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday.

Given a list of eight factors and asked to choose the one most responsible for the continuing problem of poverty, 24 percent of respondents in the poll chose “too much government welfare that prevents initiative.”

Whether Americans are too dependent on government was a flashpoint of the presidential campaign last year, and shrinking government has been a focus of the Tea Party movement, which has risen since the election of President Barack Obama.

“Lack of job opportunities” was the second most popular answer, at 18 percent, followed by “lack of good educational opportunities” and “breakdown of families,” with 13 percent apiece.

The other four options in the poll, in descending order, were “lack of work ethic,” “lack of government funding,” “drugs” and “racial discrimination.” Eight percent of respondents said that all eight factors were equally responsible.

It’s not surprising that a tough economy reduces job prospects for those who are willing and able to work. Many Americans want to work, but job opportunities are hard to come by. But too frequently there are many who rather live off the forced generousity of taxpayers than go out and work for a job.


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