We Fought The War On Poverty And We Lost

The war on poverty began in the 1960’s. In 1959, the poverty rate was 22.4%. In 1969, shortly after the war on poverty began, the poverty rate was 12.1%. Today the poverty rate is 16.1%. It looks to me as though we are losing ground–not gaining it.

These figures are from an article in Forbes Magazine posted yesterday. The article points out:

Federal and state governments spend a trillion dollars a year just on these means tested welfare programs, which does not include Social and Medicare. That is more than we spend on national defense. It adds up to roughly $17,000 per person in poverty, over $50,000 for a poor family of three. The Census Bureau estimates that our current welfare spending totals four times what would be necessary just to give all of the poor the cash to bring them up to the poverty line, eliminating all poverty in America. A recent book by Charles Murray, In These Hands, further documents that.

The article also points out that from 1965 to 2008 the total amount of money spent on means tested welfare is nearly $16 trillion–in 2008 dollars. That is double the amount America has spent on military conflicts from the Revolution until today.

The article reports:

One major reason that poverty stopped declining after the War on Poverty started is that the poor and lower income population stopped working. In 1960, nearly two-thirds of households in the lowest income one-fifth of the population were headed by persons who worked. But by 1991, this work effort had declined by about 50%, with only one-third of household heads in the bottom 20% in income working, and only 11% working full-time, year round.

The war on poverty has also destroyed low-income families and increased the number of out-of-wedlock births. It has increased the number of one parent homes and children with two unmarried parents.

Please follow the link above and read to entire article. The article explains the negative impact the war on poverty has had on our society. It also explains how to solve some of the problems associated with the way the current welfare state is funded. We need to change the way we help those among us who are less fortunate. What we are currently doing is not working.

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We Lost The War On Poverty, What Do We Do For An Encore ?

Plasma display

Image via Wikipedia

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that household incomes have fallen to 1996 levels. On September 13th, The Foundry at Heritage.org reported on some of the details on poverty in America.

The article at The Foundry reports:

  • 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning
  • Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks
  • Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite television
  • Two-thirds have at least one DVD player and 70 percent have a VCR
  • Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers
  • More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation
  • 43 percent have Internet access
  • One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD television
  • One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo

I realize that many of the people considered below the poverty level struggle with day to day expenses and paying the bills, but there is something wrong with this picture. Are we giving people the idea that they can live above the standard that their salaries allow and have the government subsidize the extras? I realize that sounds calloused, but if I struggle to pay my bills because of the amount of money taken out of my paycheck and given to another family, why does that family buy a plasma TV before I can afford one? I earned mine, who paid for theirs?

The article at The Foundry concludes:

Poverty is a serious problem that requires serious solutions. But policymakers and the public need accurate information about what poverty in the United States really means. Only then can they implement the right policies to help those Americans who are truly in need.

Meanwhile, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal stated today (I am not linking to the article as it is subscribers only):

…politicians who support policies that make economic growth their top priority raise everybody’s incomes even if some incomes rise more rapidly than others. Politicians who put income redistribution above overall economic growth do worse by everybody, especially the poor.

The bottom line here is that class warfare may win votes in certain segments of the population, but in the long run it helps no one escape poverty or gain wealth. The smart thing to do to help the poor is to grow the economy for everyone and stop worrying which group of people has more and needs to be punished by higher taxes. Greed and envy are not productive and do not have a positive impact on the economy or the people practicing them.

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