January is Poverty Awareness Month and marks the 55th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty.
During his declared an “unconditional war on poverty in America. … Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.”, President Johnson
What ensued was pounds of government poverty “prevention” that have barely eked out an ounce of cure.
These programs include the federal Head Start preschool program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps), and an expanded Social Security program through which the Medicare and Medicaid programs were created.
But if we want less poverty, do we really need more government?
Some people certainly think so. According to aarticle commemorating the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, “Government action is literally the only reason we have less poverty in 2012 than we did in 1967.”
On the contrary, American poverty rates were already declining 15 years before President Johnson’s declaration of war, dropping from . Over the next two years that decline accelerated in 1966, before anti-poverty programs and spending increases were in full effect.
So not only did the poverty rate drop by more than half in the decades prior to the War on Poverty, the downward trend was accelerating without government intervention. Since 1967, however, the poverty rate has remainedhovering between .
While therate is welcome news, it’s worth considering why it isn’t a whole lot lower given how much money we’ve poured into the government’s anti-poverty war chest.
The estimated aggregate cost of the War on Poverty is nearlyhigher than the $8 trillion total price tag of every major war . What’s more, since 1965 government-transfer payments to low-income families have increased, from just over $3,000 per person to more than $34,000 per person, in inflation-adjusted dollars. If the federal government counted these payments as income, the poverty rate would be ., which is three and a half times
Yet increasing welfare spending and growing government hasn’t cured poverty. In fact, myriad government regulations on everyday necessities make the averagefor all Americans, which disproportionately impacts the most impoverished who can least afford it.
The Cato Institute’s Ryan Bourne compiled a conservative tally of the additional annual costs housing, childcare, food, transportation, clothing, and other regulations imposed on the poor. He concluded that the lower-bound annual regulatory burden is around “$830 per year for a household with no children living in a rural area,such as New York with a young child in full-time infant care.”
Barriers to work, such asand , also make it harder for low-income Americans to find jobs or start businesses so they can afford those day-to-day expenses.
President Johnson insisted that the War on Poverty would “created a virtually permanent underclass of .” for the “many Americans [who] live on the outskirts of hope.” Instead, it
To lift people out of poverty, we need to grow
President Trump is and . More than were just added to the labor market, and . The president has also recently signed executive orders concerning for SNAP and Medicaid recipients.
When it comes to alleviating poverty, good intentions. After more than five decades of the War on Poverty, it’s time to admit that . It’s been a big part of the problem.
Vicki Alger, Ph.D., is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum in Washington, D.C. She is also a research fellow with the Independent Institute in Oakland, California, and author of Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.