The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that the War on Poverty has failed. President Lyndon B. Johnson supposedly thought that poverty could be decreased by declaring war on it. It did not work.
President Donald Trump is calling for reforms in the welfare system. He signed an executive order this week in attempt to “promote work and strengthen marriage. Mimi Teiseira and Robert Rector posted an article at The Daily Signal stating that the “president is right to address this pressing issue. Welfare reform is needed.” Their article continues:
Today, the welfare system aggressively penalizes marriage among low-income parents and discourages work and self-support. We have spent $28 billion on welfare programs since the War on Poverty began, yet the ability of the poor to achieve self-sufficiency has actually decreased. Government spends $1.1 trillion annually on the same failed programs while hoping for different results.
Over this same time period, we have seen a decline in marriage that has exacerbated poverty. The proportion of children living in single-parent families has more than tripled since the 1960s. This family context is ripe for continued poverty, as about 80 percent of all long-term child poverty occurs in single-parent homes.
Marriage is one of the two most powerful factors in sustaining adult happiness, and it is the single most important factor in promoting upward social mobility among children. The collapse of marriage in low-income communities, abetted by the welfare system, has directly undermined the well-being of the poor.
Teiseira and Rector say that the executive order directs “agencies to report back in 90 days with recommended actions that would implement his pro-work, pro-marriage goals.” They then suggest the following “four specific actions” that will help “to achieve the president’s objectives and ensure the welfare system helps the people it serves rather than hurting them.” They say that the first two steps can be accomplished without waiting for Congress to act.
1. Provide contract funding based on successful outcomes. Agencies should insist that federal grants pay for outcomes, not services….
2. Accurately account for welfare spending. Additionally, the administration should provide accurate information about poverty and inequality by correctly counting, for the first time, the massive government funding provided to low-income populations….
3. Strengthen work requirements. The president rightly recognizes that the goal of any welfare program should be to help move work-capable recipients toward greater self-support….
4. Stop penalizing marriage. Marriage is extremely important in combatting poverty and promoting human well-being. When the War on Poverty began, only 7 percent of children were born outside of marriage. Today, the number is over 40 percent. Children born into homes without married parents are five times more likely to be in poverty – and adults who grew up in single-parent homes are 50 percent more likely to experience poverty than those who grew up in intact married homes….
The authors say that “the welfare system is failing both taxpayers and the poor.” Therefore, it is unkind to both the poor and the taxpayers to continue the system. I agree that we should assist recipients to become self-sufficient by encourage work and marriage.