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Obama Celebrates the Lost War on Poverty

One thing I’ve always found remarkable about the War on Poverty, declared 50 years ago this week by Lyndon Johnson, is that poverty today is right where it was when Johnson’s Great Society programs kicked in.

Here’s the graph. I reprint it from NPR, not the National Review.

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 9.30.21 AM

The truth of the chart is simply undeniable. The poverty rate, as expressed by the percentage of people in poverty in the light blue line, was declining sharply until the Johnson programs – the largest increase in welfare EVER in this country – kicked in. At that point, the rate leveled off. And at 15 percent in 2013, it’s right where it was in 1965.

In fact, it’s been at 15 percent the last three years running, the worst performance since 1965. Bush’s fault, right? Well, we’re talking not about the first, second, and third years of the Obama presidency. We’re talking about the third, fourth and fifth.

Imagine the howling sound we’d hear if this were Bush’s record following the recession he inherited from Clinton in 2001.

Here’s part of the statement Obama offered up Wednesday marking the anniversary:

As Americans, we believe that everyone who works hard deserves a chance at opportunity, and that all our citizens deserve some basic measure of security.  And so, 50 years ago, President Johnson declared a War on Poverty to help each and every American fulfill his or her basic hopes.

The White House made the case this week that, if you include all the free stuff, poverty has declined. And that is certainly true. What is certainly not true is that the War on Poverty was about, as Obama states, helping each and every American fulfill his or her basic hopes.

It was, rather, about alleviating the pain of poverty. The problem is, though, that by making welfare too generous, the government is using the money of hard working Americans to pay people to be poor. It has created a dependent class that is making the rational decision that work and struggle are not worth it.

Not to mention that, with our debt endlessly rising, the whole project is completely unaffordable.

Nothing can lift Americans out of poverty like a booming economy. Like the success of striving capitalists who provide goods, services, and jobs to the nation.

Yeah, Trickle Down Economics. Like it.

Nothing has fettered the underclass like the growth in government control and the decline of moral values that has occurred since the early 1960s, particularly the ruination of the family.

We need to always provide a minimum safety net in this country. Whatever the cause of one’s failure, people should not be starving in the United States. But replacing private initiative and community charity with government comes at a cost.

And the cost is destroying all of us.

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28 Responses to Obama Celebrates the Lost War on Poverty

  1. I tweeted out yesterday:
    LBJ’s and the dems #waronpoverty is the longest, costliest and most destructive to individual initiative war in human history. #tcot

    So as usual, Obama and “he’s not wrong” Biden are going to demand that we just stay the course. UGH

  2. What are you saying, Keith–that the poor will be with us always? Sure–there will always be an underclass. But today the situation is a little different…I hate the term perfect storm, but it is the nexus of huge shifts in the economy and an admin willing to throw money at everything. If the money is not there, though, the shifts are and people are getting ground up by the tectonic plates. I know I am just restating the problem…but all this tough love stuff may be partly based in a lack of understanding of the underlying HUGE changes–globalization, currency shifts, manu v service here at home, a continuing lack of a solid educational base, etc.

  3. My pick of the day quote:

    “When President Obama started his term the Democrats controlled both houses and the presidency. He made soaring promises about ending the war on terror where it began; pledged to reach out to Muslims and make America loved. He was going to bring a new era of prosperity to the country. And now he’s reduced to hoping that some scandal will displace Obamacare from the headlines. If this is victory, what does defeat look like?”
    Richard Fernandez – Belmont Club

  4. We have spent more than $20 trillion on LBJ’s Great Society and we are worse off than we’ve ever been in history. Maybe it’s time to try something old again…

    “Repeal that [welfare] law, and you will soon see a change in their manners. … Six days shalt thou labor, though one of the old commandments long treated as out of date, will again be looked upon as a respectable precept; industry will increase, and with it plenty among the lower people; their circumstances will mend, and more will be done for their happiness by inuring them to provide for themselves, than could be done by dividing all your estates among them.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

  5. “…pay people to be poor.” That’s it in a nutshell, Keith. And they get raises every year, while I have not had one in four years. My heart breaks for those truly in need. Just not multi-generations who grow up expecting all the free stuff, never realizing they can earn a living themselves.

  6. What is the definition of poverty in these statistics? Is it a base standard adjusted for inflation? If the denominator in the % changes according to what the definition of “poverty” is, then this graph is meaningless.

  7. The percentage may be “square one”, but the absolute number of souls in the lower tier is up, dramatically up, and if current policies continue, not likely to decline anytime soon.

    I have to wonder in print if Obama is deliberately trying to impoverish as many Americans as possible, so that he can argue later that private charity can’t possibly work when there are 100 million Americans in poverty.

    Yes, I really do think he is that wicked.

  8. those charts are pretty remarkable. I can’t see how anyone could look at them and NOT come to the conclusion that the “War on Poverty” has not worked. but I guess that’s why they call them “low-information voters.”

  9. Mr. Koffler, someone should superimpose a graph which would show the number of U.S. immigrants (legal and illegal), with their points or origin, skill and education levels. It may yield surprising conclusions when comparing it to the graph showing the number of people in poverty.

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