Investors Business Daily
January 9, 2014
President Obama is so obsessed with income inequality that he’ll make yet another speech on it Thursday. But he’ll do nothing about it. After all, the poor are still with us, only there are more of them than ever.
Wednesday marked 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson asked Congress to wage “all-out war on human poverty and unemployment” — a war that’s seen no end, let alone victory, to celebrate.
A record 46.5 million Americans are still counted as poor, and the share of those living in poverty — 15% and rising today vs. 19% and falling in 1964 — is close to what it was when Johnson sounded the trumpet.
More than 47 million Americans are now on food stamps — also a record high and representing roughly a 50% increase since the day Barack Obama was inaugurated after a campaign based on “hope.”
Meanwhile, an all-time high of Americans — nearly 9 million, 20% more than when Obama walked into the White House — are on disability. And not because they’re disabled, but rather because they can’t find jobs in Obama’s economy and have exited the workforce.
It’s not out of the realm to argue that the war on poverty has had an adverse effect.
The poverty rate was in sharp decline when Johnson made his speech. It fell from almost 23% in the late 1950s to 17.3% in 1965, a year after the program was announced and before it could have made any significant impact. Since then, the rate has remained virtually flat — never better than 11%, never worse than 15%.
Many on the political left say poverty is still with us because insufficient funds have been applied. Indeed, that was the reason given by Sargent Shriver, who ran the war as head of Johnson’s Office of Economic Opportunity. Asked why the program was not progressing as expected, Shriver, who believed 1976 should be “the target date for ending poverty in this land,” said the government hadn’t spent enough.
We cringe at what the Democrats would consider enough. Robert Rector who has studied poverty for nearly three decades at the Heritage Foundation, reckons government has already spent $20.7 trillion in taxpayers’ money on 80 means-tested welfare programs in the past 50 years.
Despite the spending — or because of it — the 2013 Index of Government Dependence as measured by Heritage scored America in 2011 at an all-time high of 332, almost 17% higher than when Obama took office two years prior.
During his second term, President Reagan reminded the country that “in the ’60s we waged a war on poverty” but “poverty won.” Almost three decades later, it’s still winning.
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