It's been 50 years since President Johnson launched the War on Poverty. What do we have to show for it? Unfortunately, not a lot.
We've spent upwards of $20 trillion since 1965 on this “war.” We now spend nearly $1 trillion every year to fight poverty. About 100 million Americans receive some sort of means-tested aid, which means we are spending about $9,000 per recipient in America. According to Robert Rector writing in the Wall Street Journal today, “Federal and state welfare spending, adjusted for inflation, is 16 times greater than it was in 1964.”
All of the spending has amounted to virtually no change in the level of poverty in America, which stands at about 15 percent.
In other words, poverty continues to run rampant in this country. Under the Obama administration alone, 14 million more Americans have signed up for food stamps, bringing its dole to a record 47 million. The number of long-term unemployed Americans is distressing, and then there's the 11 million who have dropped out of the labor force altogether.
Despite all of this, liberals believe that we can still redistribute more wealth from the rich in order to solve the problem. How many trillions of taxpayer dollars will we have to spend before they get the point? We've spent $20 trillion; will it be $30 trillion, $100 trillion? The War on Poverty has succeeded in making people more dependent on government but it hasn't achieved less poverty or rampant self-sufficiency.
Perhaps liberals are OK with this increase in government dependency. I believe the American people are capable of more.
What's difficult for many people to acknowledge, particularly liberals, is that poverty is more a discussion of culture. As Robert Rector says, “The root 'causes' of poverty have not shrunk but expanded as family structure disintegrated and labor-force participation among men dropped.” The breakdown of the American family, having children out of wedlock, all of these trends have exacerbated individuals' inability to be self-sufficient.
“According to the Heritage Foundation's analysis, children raised in the growing number of single-parent homes are four times more likely to be living in poverty than children reared by married parents of the same education level … Children raised by single parents are three times more likely to end up in jail and 50% more likely to be poor as adults.”
Read that last part again: Children raised in non-two parent households are 50 percent more likely to be poor when they grow up. Also according to the Heritage Foundation, “A child born and raised outside marriage is more than five times more likely to experience poverty than a child raised in an intact family.”
Promoting marriage, rather than welfare spending, would be a more effective way to wage “war” on poverty.
There are two other ways to escape poverty besides marriage (and having children after getting married). Those are education and holding down a full-time job.
According to a column today by Terence Jeffrey, “High school dropouts had a median household income of $30,107 in 2012. For high school graduates, the median household income was $49,486; for college dropouts, it was $57,933; for college graduates, $95,418; for master's degree holders, $110,048; for doctoral degree holders, $132,467; and for professional degree holders, $154,137.” Education matters if you want to break the cycle of poverty. He similarly cites the increase in household income if you are able to simply get a full-time job and keep it.
There are a lot of Americans who are suffering right now. This is not because of rich people, as liberals would have you believe, but because we've lost the foundations for self-sufficiency and replaced them with a misguided belief that government should provide for us. While government is there for those who absolutely cannot provide for themselves, or those who temporarily fall on hard times, it's dangerous to build a permanent class of Americans who are reliant on government for their way of life.