Monday, July 23, 2012

We lost the war on poverty

By Donald Sensing

After 48 years, it is time to run up the white flag on the War on Poverty.
The War on Poverty is the unofficial name for legislation first introduced by United States President Lyndon B. Johnson during his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964. This legislation was proposed by Johnson in response to a national poverty rate of around nineteen percent. The speech led the United States Congress to pass the Economic Opportunity Act, which established the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to administer the local application of federal funds targeted against poverty.
But we lost that war.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.
It was the most expensive war America has ever fought:
Fifteen trillion dollars: That’s how much American taxpayers have forked over in the name of helping the poor since 1964. And what do we have to show for it? A poverty rate that has barely budged, an entrenched bureaucracy, and a population — like that of Greece and Portugal, two welfare-state basket cases — increasingly dependent on government handouts.
So who lost the war? The poor, obviously, whose numbers are on track this year to exceed the highest number ever. But also the taxpayers.
Needless to say, taxpayers have been the big losers in the war. Federal welfare spending has risen 375 percent (in constant 2011 dollars) since 1965. Total welfare spending has climbed almost as much: Governments are now disbursing $908 billion a year to alleviate poverty, up from $256 billion (also in constant dollars) in 1965. Moreover, notes Tanner:
Over the last decade the increase has been even more rapid. Federal welfare spending increased significantly under the Bush administration, but President Obama has thrown money at anti-poverty programs at an unprecedented rate. Since taking office, the Obama administration has increased spending on welfare programs by more than $193 billion.
While some of the spending hikes under Obama can be attributed to the recession, Tanner writes, “part of the program’s growth is due to conscious policy choices by this administration to ease eligibility rules and expand caseloads.” This, he points out, “undid many of the incentives contained in the 1996 Clinton welfare reform, which helped states to reduce welfare rolls.” As a result, the administration projects that “combined federal and state welfare spending will not drop significantly once the economy fully recovers,” with the annual tab reaching $1 trillion in 2014 and the 10-year total hitting $10.3 trillion — an amount that, Tanner calculates, comes to “$250,000 for every American currently living in poverty, or $1 million for every poor family of four.”
This is a deliberate, calculated attempt to make more and more Americans dependent on the government. As the saying goes, "They'll turn us all into beggars 'cause they're easier to please." The calculation is that the increasing number of people who literally depend on government handouts to eat and pay their cell phone bills will never vote their patrons out.

"Federal anti-poverty programs" are a prime example of Newspeak. Because the very last thing they want to do is actually decrease the number of poor people.

HT: American Digest

Update: From a speech made almost 50 years ago - the more things change, the more they stay the same:
Well, now, if government planning and welfare had the answer -- and they've had almost 30 years of it -- shouldn't we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn't they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? The reduction in the need for public housing?

But the reverse is true. Each year the need grows greater; the program grows greater.
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