The War on Poverty is now fifty years old. It began during the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson; he proclaimed in his State of the Union address on January 1964 “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.”
Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield of The Heritage Foundation researched the War on Poverty: During the past fifty years the tax payers of the United States have spent more than $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs. These programs do not include Social Security or Medicare. The cost of the war on poverty, adjusted for inflation, is “three times the cost of all U.S. military wars since the American Revolution. Yet progress against poverty, as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau, has been minimal, and in terms of President Johnson’s main goal of reducing the `causes’ rather than the mere `consequences’ of poverty, the War on Poverty has failed completely. In fact, a significant portion of the population is now less capable of self-sufficiency than it was when the War on Poverty began.”
The poverty rate after fifty years of war is approximately the same as at the beginning of the war: “… there has been no net progress in reducing poverty since the mid to late 1960s. Since that time, the poverty rate has undulated slowly, falling by two to three percentage points during good economic times and rising by a similar amount when the economy slows. Overall, the trajectory of official poverty for the past 45 years has been flat or slightly upward.”
The federal government has more than “80 means-tested welfare programs that provided cash, food, housing, medical care, and targeted social services to poor and low-income Americans.” The following facts were taken from various government reports: (1) 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning while only 12 percent of all Americans in the early 1960s enjoyed air conditioning. (2) Nearly 75 percent have a vehicle; 31 percent have two or more vehicles. (3) Nearly 66 percent have cable or satellite television; (4) 66 percent have a DVD player and 25 percent have two or more; (5) 50 percent have a personal computer with a small percentage having two or more computers; (6) More than 50 percent of poor families with children have an Xbox or PlayStation or other video game system; (7) 43 percent have Internet access; (8) 40 percent own wide-screen plasma or LCD TEV; (8) 92 percent of poor households have a microwave.
Robert Rector published an article at The Daily Signal claiming the War on Poverty has been “a colossal flop.” LBJ stated that his purpose for declaring war on poverty was “to increase self-sufficiency, the ability of a family to support itself out of poverty without dependence on welfare aid. Johnson asserted that the War on Poverty would actually shrink the welfare rolls and transform the poor from `taxeaters’ into `taxpayers.’
“Judged by that standard, the War on Poverty has been a colossal flop. The welfare state has undermined self-sufficiency by discouraging work and penalizing marriage. When the War on Poverty began seven percent of children were born outside marriage. Today, 42 percent of children are. By eroding marriage, the welfare state has made many Americans less capable of self-support than they were when the War on Poverty began.”
We now have generation after generation living on welfare. Children are growing up in single parent homes because welfare rules discourage marriage. Young men grow up without the influence of a father in their daily lives. The entitlement groups are demanding more and more of the money made by those who pay taxes. When will our leaders understand that people will not work for something they can get for no effort? As long as those who receive handouts from the government continue to live on higher levels than many of the people who actually work for their living, we will continue to have more and more people demanding entitlements.
I believe in helping people to help themselves, such as the old adage: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for one day. Teach a man to fish and he can feed his own family.” We would be wise to follow the counsel given by Benjamin Franklin: “I am for doing good to the poor, but … I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed … that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”