For the last few years, liberals have been trying to re-brand the War on Poverty as a fight against income inequality, but that effort may have come too late.
According to a new report from Robert Rector at the Daily Signal, the writing is on the wall:
The War on Poverty Has Been a Colossal Flop
Today, the U.S. Census Bureau will release its annual report on poverty. This report is noteworthy because this year marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s launch of the War on Poverty. Liberals claim that the War on Poverty has failed because we didn’t spend enough money. Their answer is just to spend more. But the facts show otherwise.
Since its beginning, U.S. taxpayers have spent $22 trillion on Johnson’s War on Poverty (in constant 2012 dollars). Adjusting for inflation, that’s three times more than was spent on all military wars since the American Revolution.
The federal government currently runs more than 80 means-tested welfare programs. These programs provide cash, food, housing and medical care to low-income Americans. Federal and state spending on these programs last year was $943 billion. (These figures do not include Social Security, Medicare, or Unemployment Insurance.)
Michael D. Tanner of the Cato Institute made a similar point in January of this year:
War on Poverty at 50 — Despite Trillions Spent, Poverty Won
Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson delivered his first State of the Union address, promising an “unconditional war on poverty in America.” Looking at the wreckage since, it’s not hard to conclude that poverty won.
If we are losing the War on Poverty, it certainly isn’t for lack of effort.
In 2012, the federal government spent $668 billion to fund 126 separate anti-poverty programs. State and local governments kicked in another $284 billion, bringing total anti-poverty spending to nearly $1 trillion. That amounts to $20,610 for every poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of three.
Spending on the major anti-poverty programs increased in 2013, pushing the total even higher.
Over, the last 50 years, the government spent more than $16 trillion to fight poverty.
Yet today, 15 percent of Americans still live in poverty. That’s scarcely better than the 19 percent living in poverty at the time of Johnson’s speech. Nearly 22 percent of children live in poverty today. In 1964, it was 23 percent.
How could we have spent so much and achieved so little?
Perhaps America should put its confidence back in the ingenuity of the free market and job creators, rather than in government bureaucrats.
It might give us a fighting chance.
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