War on Poverty: Is It Time to Surrender?
Every election year there are certain issues that always come up because they are highly emotional. I refer to these as “no-brainer” issues. The reason they are called that, and the reason they come up every election, is because they are issues that no politician knows how to fix, or in some cases, want to.
Abortion, taxes, war, entitlement programs are just a few. But one of the real biggies is Income Inequality. Potential candidates decry the disparity between the salaries of CEO’s and those of the common working citizen. “The rich keep getting richer while the poor keep getting poorer.”
Each year the gap seems to increase. The median income of American worker goes lower. When it comes to statistics, they are often like a lamppost to a drunk, — used more for support than illumination.
The War on Poverty
In President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 State of the Union Address he declared an “unconditional war on poverty in America.” Over the past 46 years nearly $12 trillion of your federal tax dollars have been spent fighting this war. The poverty rate has dropped over that period of time, from 19% to 15.1% today. The poverty rate has never gone below 10.5%. Is it possible that money is just not the answer?
Every year the government spends nearly $1 trillion of your tax dollars to fight poverty. To put those figures in perspective for you, $20,610 is being spent each year for every poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of three from some form of anti-poverty programs.
126 Programs for The Poor
This is truly mind-boggling. Just imagine, one hundred twenty-six different government programs, each fighting for your tax dollars, all with the end result to end poverty in America. Each program with a director, assistant director, secretary, and who knows how many underlings to process and administer the efficient use of your tax dollars. Never mind the fact that is they were successful they would all be out of work.
I can easily see why we turned to government to quickly solve the poverty issue. These programs will spend more than $668 billion, in addition to state and local spending of another $284 billion. Every Year!!
Your Tax Dollars At Work
How are your hard earned tax dollars being spent to win this war? I don’t have room to cover them all, but here are some of my favorites.
Right now you are paying for 33 housing programs administered by four different cabinet departments including, are you sitting down, the Department of Energy.
Does it make any sense at all, that 21 different programs provide food or food purchasing help? To run those 21 programs you need three different federal departments and one independent agency. After all, you can’t expect government to do it all alone.
The Supreme Court just put the stamp of approval on the Affordable Care Act. I guess that program can join the 8 different health care programs, administered by five separate agencies by Kathleen Sebelius and the Department of Health and Human Services. If that’s not enough for you, add six cabinet departments and five more independent agencies to handle 27cash payouts or other general assistance programs.
This gives us a grand total of seven cabinet agencies, six independent agencies, which are in charge of at least one anti-poverty program of some kind. There have never been less than 100 anti-poverty programs in place for the past 10 years.
We can’t leave out our own local tax dollars. State and local governments are on the hook for about one third of these programs with your federal tax dollars picking up the other two thirds at the local level. In short, the buck stops with you.
Top Ten Programs
Medicaid is the largest welfare program that supports health care for the poor, but does not cover funding for nursing homes or long-term care for the elderly. In 2011, taxpayers spent $228 billion on Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act will add substantially to that number at both the state and federal level.
Next, you have the SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) more commonly known as Food Stamps coming in at $72 billion.
Other helpful programs taxpayers provide would be the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Pell Grants, SSI (Supplemental Security Income), CHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program), housing vouchers, and TANF (Temporary (?) Assistance to Needy Families).
Some Final Thoughts
It’s hard not to commend the government for their good intentions. None of us want to see needless suffering if it can be prevented. However, there comes a time that, while the goal is commendable, the process must be evaluated as unproductive. When you look at all the money, overlapping programs and inefficiency, it’s no wonder people feel left out of the game.
But the question still remains. Is this a winnable war? During the Great Depression none of these programs were available. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? The Great Depression lasted over 30 years, but there is little evidence that today’s programs would have solved that problem any faster. After 40 years and trillions of dollars there’s not much success the government can point to.
My job is not to find the answer. My job is to inspire you to get informed about how and where your money is being spent and by whom. If you are happy with the outcomes and administration of current poverty programs, then continue to vote the way you do.
But, if you are not, then you need to be prepared to make some sacrifices, like your grandparents did, during that very rough time in their lives. Selling apples and pencils on street corners produced some pretty tough people who went on to win Word War II. If $1 trillion a year, and 126 programs isn’t making a real difference, does it make sense to spend $2 trillion? What do you think? Comments below.