War on Poverty

President Obama blamed Republicans for the violence in Baltimore, he stated, “I’m under no illusion that under this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities.” Now I addressed my feelings on this comment in the previous post, but I feel like it is necessary to more thoroughly expand on the egregious misunderstanding of what can only amount to an assumption of success in the War on Poverty.

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty on January 8th, 1964. Basically President Johnson had this idea known as the “Great Society”. Where in the government would expand its role in education and healthcare as a way to fight poverty. Basically government “investment”, to fight poverty. Sounds familiar doesn’t it. So it was with the best of intentions that the progressives led the federal government into the war.

The question that I have to ask, how much has the federal government spent to fight poverty? In 2012 the federal government spent $668 billion funding 126 different anti-poverty programs. State governments kicked in $284 billion, bringing the total up to almost $1,000,000,000,000 in anti-poverty funding. That amounts to $20,610 per poor person in the United States. That is just for 2012. We have been fighting this war for 50 years. Over the last five decades the government has spent $16,000,000,000,000 (16 trillion) on fighting poverty.

We have spent 16 trillion dollars fighting poverty, to put that in perspective, that works out to 88.88% of our national debt. Lets compare the War on Poverty to other wars that we have fought. The prices are adjusted for inflation.

World War I: $334,000,000,000
World War II: $4,104,000,000,000
Korea: $341,000,000,000
Vietnam: $950,000,000,000
Persian Gulf War: $102,000,000,000
Iraq: $757,000,000,000
Afghanistan: $321,000,000,000
Grand Total———$6,727,000,000,000

From 1917 through 2010 the United States of America has spent $6.727 trillion dollars fighting Nazi’s, Communists, the Empire of Japan, and Al-Qaeda.  That works out to 42% the cost of the war on poverty.  The question now is, we know how successful our military is, using progressive logic, I can only assume great things.  In 50 years, the war on poverty has spent more than double what our military has fighting wars in the last 93.

So what has been the result of our $16 trillion dollar investment?

In 1964 the national poverty rate in the United States of America stood at a staggering 19% when Johnson gave his speech. Now the poverty rate sits at 15% of the population.  Sixteen Trillion dollars, and the poverty rate has only dropped four points? Those numbers are hardly something to point at an proclaim success.

Of course, progressives will point towards early success with the war on poverty.  Most likely they will blame changes to welfare programs made in the 80’s and 90’s for the lack, or dare I say reversal of progress. They will point out how when the war was declared poverty was at 19%, and by 1967 the poverty rate had dropped to 14%.  That is amazing, the government started investing money to fight poverty, and in just three years was able to bring the rate from 19% down to 14%, an amazing drop of 5 points in four years.  That does sound very impressive.  The question I have to ask is, was that drop caused by the War on Poverty, or was it caused by other factors?

Trends are things that progressives often over look. They slap on blinders and only look at the information directly in front of them, thus missing the bigger picture.  I would be very impressed if just by increasing government spending poverty went down, however, that is simply not the case. I can easily prove it to you. With two simple statistics.

President Johnson announced the War on Poverty January 8th, 1964, the poverty rate stood at 19%

In 1965 the first programs in the War on Poverty started taking affect, the poverty rate was at 17.3%

So between 1964 and 1965 there was no increase in spending, no new programs brought online to fight poverty. Yet, despite this lack of government intervention the poverty rate dropped 1.7%.  Now, if one has an open mind, one must question whether or not it the government’s new programs really affected the poverty rate? Did the War on Poverty really result in the poverty rate dropping to 14%?

Again I return to the concepts of trends. Studying the trends in the poverty rate is a very effective way to see the results of the War on Poverty on the poverty rate.  If President Johnson’s programs were effective in combating poverty, one would expect the trend prior to their enactment to look one of two ways. Either the rate was climbing prior to 1965, or the rate was flat (also called stagnate).  So what was the trend prior to President Johnson’s bold new stance?

Well in 1950 the poverty rate was at a truly shameful 30%. Now of course we were still clawing our way out of the Great Depression, World War II was still a very recent memory, so it is not surprising that the rate was so high.   The poverty rate peaked in 1955, and began a downward trend that lasted into the 1970’s.  The rate did not suddenly increase after 1965 either.

So the poverty rate was already decreasing, prior to the War on Poverty, and showed little signs of being affected after it began.  The only conclusion one could make is that the War on Poverty has had little impact on the nation as a whole, other than increasing the federal debt.

The rate bottomed out at around 11% in the 1970’s and slowly rose back to between 14 and 15% over the next thirty years. Thus, the natural reaction from progressives would be to point to changes in welfare programs made in the 80’s and 90’s (of course, blame Republicans).  However, that is not really a fair or accurate assessment. The rate started climbing well before Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, or Bill Clinton had a chance to administer welfare reform. Nor is it accurate to blame lack of funding for a lack of progress.

President Obama has called for new investments in our urban communities, well when I say called for what I mean is he is currently blaming Republicans for not acting on an agenda item he has yet to put forth.  So, basically, we are operating under the assumption that we are not spending enough money to fight poverty.  Don’t worry that in 2012 alone we spent more money than it took to defeat Germany in World War One.

Mr. President we are spending more than enough to fight poverty, spending that defies justification. Today the United States Federal Government is spending 16 times more money (adjusted for inflation) on means-tested welfare and anti-poverty programs than it was in 1965.  16 times more funding, for no results.  I mean I would expect the rate to be near zero by now with that much money being pumped into the economy. Isn’t that how it works, the government takes money from tax payers, gives it to other people, they then re-invest it, thus growing the economy? I am pretty sure that is the basic concept of progressive economics.  Why hasn’t it worked?

Well the answer is the same as with every other failed progressive policy. The problem is not that there is not enough government, but rather there is an issue within society.  People in inner cities are growing up in broken homes, going to broken schools, and have little hope to break the cycle. The War on Poverty has done nothing to actually help these people. Sure it has eased the pain, but morphine does not set a broken bone, alcohol does not heal a broken heart, and government spending cannot cure poverty.

50 years of fighting, and nothing to show for it. 50 years of spending, and the needle remains stuck. 50 years of fighting and the poorest amongst us remain stagnate.  President Obama apparently does not know the definition of insanity, for the benefit of you progressives out there, the definition of insanity is “trying the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result”.  We have tried spending, we have tried the mighty hand of big government.  It is time to try something else.

Money is not the problem, culture is the problem. Until you address the crumbling culture in this country you will not be able to make a meaningful change in the poverty rate. People need to start taking personal responsibility for their actions. People like Al Sharpton need to stop instigating riots for political gain.  People like President Obama need to stop attacking the fabric of this nation, and start attacking the virus that is attacking it.  Of course he won’t do that, and Al Sharpton won’t either.  They require the poor to be dependent upon the government for survival. They want the poor to think that those who don’t support radical socialist agendas are out to keep them in the dirt.  They want people to be subservient to the government, it ensures their power.

It is sickening. The War on Poverty is a failure, big government spending is not the answer.  We need a cultural revival in this nation. A return to the concepts of the 50’s, a mother and a father, raising their children, being strong role models, guiding their kids down the proper path.  We need more parents like the lady who went off on her son for being at the Baltimore riots. Strong morals, strong ethics are what this country needs, and that is never going to come from corrupt thugs like President Barack Obama.


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