THE WAR ON POVERTY: $21 Trillion Later, Government Has Only Made Things Worse

Guest post by Matthew Vadum

The War on Poverty has barely made a dent in actual poverty, states the 205-page report unveiled last month by the House Budget Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).

The paper, created in the hope of starting a discussion in Congress about reforming America’s bungled poor-relief programs, came out before Ryan released the GOP’s new budgetary blueprint yesterday that lays out how to balance the budget in 10 years. That document calls for reducing federal government spending by $ 5.1 trillion over a decade largely by getting a grip on out-of-control social programs. The House Budget Committee could vote on the fiscal plan as soon as Friday. Leadership in the Democrat-dominated Senate, which hasn’t even tried to adopt a budget in recent years, isn’t planning to craft a fiscal blueprint this year, either.

The heart of the War on Poverty report is its observation that most federal poverty-alleviation programs are essentially useless or incapable of having their impact measured in the real world.

The study observes that in 1965, the poverty rate was 17.3 percent. In 2012, it was 15 percent. This means taxpayers blew a staggering $ 20.7 trillion over the last half century in order to achieve a paltry 2.3 percentage point decrease in poverty.

The War on Poverty has barely made a dent in actual poverty

Broken down into less mind-blowing, easier-to-grasp figures, between 1965 and 2012 the average family of four spent roughly $ 146,000 per percentage-point drop in poverty, or $ 335,000 per family for the whole 2.3 percentage-point reduction.

Only the most blinkered or jaded among us in the body politic believe that sucking $ 9 trillion out of the private, productive economy for each single percentage-point reduction in the poverty rate constitutes an acceptable return on investment.

Which brings us to the modern “progressive” Left.

Those on the Left consider the gentle statistical dip in poverty over five decades to be social progress achieved by way of holy coercive redistribution. Mere results have always been less important to the Left than intentions.

Although a sane person would consider the extremely modest reduction in poverty a humiliating defeat, left-wingers have successfully been changing the subject, hurling epithets, smearing opponents, and intimidating adversaries, all in an effort to move the discussion away from their 50 years of human misery-generating policy failures.

The Obama White House self-servingly slices and dices the statistics to portray the War on Poverty as a smashing, if flawed, success.

While the Obama administration admits that some of the government’s poverty-fighting approaches are less than optimal, President’s Obama Council of Economic Advisers issued a ringing endorsement of the War on Poverty.

According to that body, poverty has declined by more than one-third since 1967. “The percent of the population in poverty when measured to include tax credits and other benefits has declined from 25.8 percent in 1967 to 16.0 percent in 2012.” Predictably, the council opines that “[d]espite real progress in the War on Poverty, there is more work to do.”

The council also obsequiously slaps President Obama on the back, praising him for taking steps to “further increase opportunity and economic security by improving key programs while ensuring greater efficiency and integrity.”

It then moves from servile flattery to outright revisionism, claiming that Obama’s actions have “prevented millions of hardworking Americans from slipping into poverty during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

OBAMA: Big government, a lawless administration, and radical attacks on civil society aren’t worth worrying about

Ever the class warrior, in a December address on income inequality, Obama showed just how much a prisoner he is of his own self-imposed ideological bubble. Without mentioning the devastating impact that the high tax rates and runaway social spending he ardently supports have had on American society, the president argued that it’s all deterministic, all the fault of capitalism. He said:

“But we know that people’s frustrations run deeper than these most recent political battles. Their frustration is rooted in their own daily battles—to make ends meet, to pay for college, buy a home, save for retirement. It’s rooted in the nagging sense that no matter how hard they work, the deck is stacked against them. And it’s rooted in the fear that their kids won’t be better off than they were.”

Big government, a lawless administration, and radical attacks on civil society aren’t worth worrying about, according to Obama.

It is “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain—that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.”

This is “the defining challenge of our time,” he said, even though Americans don’t give a farthing’s cuss about economic inequality.

That challenge consists of “making sure our economy works for every working American,” Obama declared, slyly anthropomorphizing the economy, an intangible abstraction, in order to push the illusion that markets, like animals or streams, can somehow be controlled and centrally managed.

All of this rhetorical blatherskite had its heyday in the awful 1960s, an era historian Paul Johnson correctly described as “America’s suicide attempt.” Instead of being satisfied with New Deal-era programs like Social Security, left-wingers resolved to move America even farther away from its founding ideals, fundamentally changing the country by erecting a supremely sclerotic behemoth welfare state answerable to no one.

The War on Poverty itself was a part of the massive left-wing social engineering and vote-buying scheme known as the Great Society

The War on Poverty itself was a part of the massive left-wing social engineering and vote-buying scheme known as the Great Society. This war really should have been called the war on American values. As a result of misguided government policies that grew out of the War on Poverty, social evils have not only been encouraged but subsidized with taxpayer dollars. For example, out-of-whack financial incentives have caused out-of-wedlock birthrates to mushroom, as David Horowitz and John Perazzo reported in “Government vs. the People.”

Despite an orgy of federal spending, blacks and other minorities have suffered the most from big government poverty alleviation efforts. The anti-marriage, anti-family tilt of welfare policies has devastated black communities and society at large.

In his first State of the Union address on Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson ushered in a half-century of government-incentivized sloth, indolence, dependency, and social decay. He exhorted Congress to launch a new belligerency against a perpetually ineradicable foe.

“Let this session of Congress be known,” Johnson exclaimed, “as the session which declared all-out war on human poverty and unemployment in these United States.”

The Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) of 1964 became the centerpiece of the new war.  It expanded the nation’s social safety hammock, turning government resources into war materiel to be used against the American system of constitutionally limited government.

The War on Poverty gave taxpayers’ money to so-called community groups like ACORN and Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation

The War on Poverty gave taxpayers’ money to so-called community groups like ACORN and Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation in order to encourage them to agitate against the status quo. This, in turn, stimulated demand for more government spending as taxpayer dollars became a kind of ever-increasing subsidy for pro-big government activism. The federal government still hands out significant grants to left-wing groups to subsidize their efforts to take away our economic freedoms. Many of the EOA-created programs still exist today, including VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America), now known as AmeriCorps VISTA, Job Corps, and Head Start.

Many more excuses for handouts were created after the mid-1960s—so many, in fact, that it is difficult nowadays for poor people to tiptoe through the ever expanding minefield of government assistance unscathed.

Loud calls for yet more welfare spending continue unabated from the echo chambers of the Left every single day whether the national economy is good or bad.

These calls come even after the country has saturation-bombed poor people with welfare over the past 50 years, to the tune of $ 20.7 trillion in 2011 dollars, far exceeding what the U.S. has spent on every actual, non-figurative war it has fought. Federal and state welfare spending, adjusted for inflation, is now 16 times greater than when this phony war was declared, according to Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation.

While millions of Americans remain stuck in poverty, the House Budget Committee’s white paper from March inventories a dizzying array of expensive failed programs on which mountains of money have been lavished.

The federal government now administers at least 92 federal programs designed to help lower-income Americans. There are dozens of education and job-training programs, 17 different food-aid programs, and over 20 housing programs. The federal government spent $ 799 billion on these programs in fiscal 2012 alone, according to the report.

Among more than 15 programs, more than $ 100 billion was spent on food aid. More than $ 200 billion was spent on cash aid. Spread over more than 20 programs, more than $ 90 billion was spent on education and job training. Almost $ 300 billion was spent on health care and close to $ 50 billion was spent on housing.

Let’s look at some of the eye-popping numbers involved in the major aid category of cash aid.

There were three federal agencies involved in spending $ 220 billion on cash aid in fiscal 2012. They are the Social Security Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of the Treasury.

Created in 1974, the Supplemental Security Income program provides cash benefits to elderly, blind, or disabled persons with limited income and assets. It weighs in at $ 50 billion.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), created in 1935, provides assistance to needy families. In 2012 it weighed in at $ 16.7 billion.

The Earned Income Tax Credit, established in 1975, provides cash assistance to low-income working families. The EITC, which some analysts consider to be a rare federal anti-poverty success, is the largest measure in the tax code that is aimed at reducing poverty. In 2012, its budget was $ 59 billion.

The Child Tax Credit, enacted in 1997, provides assistance to families with children. The IRS spent a little over $ 57 billion on total child credits in 2013.

The Title IV-E Foster Care/Adoption Assistance program, created in 1997, helps states pay for arranging temporary homes for disadvantaged children or for facilitating their adoption. The federal government spent $ 6.8 billion on the program in 2012.

But most of the 92 federal poverty-alleviation programs have a mediocre to downright dreadful track record of helping people in need.

To make matters worse, over the past three years, “deep poverty” has reached its highest level on record and about 21.8 percent of children live below the poverty line, the report states. Although changing demographics and slow economic growth contribute to continued poverty, federal policies are also discouraging work. For example, a rapid increase in disability caseloads has shrunk the labor force.

“But a large problem is the ‘poverty trap,’” the report states. “There are so many anti-poverty programs—and there is so little coordination between them—that they often work at cross purposes and penalize families for getting ahead.”

Because these programs are means-tested—meaning that benefits fall as recipients earn more money—poor families face very high implicit marginal tax rates. The federal government, in effect, is discouraging them from making more money.

“Congress has taken a haphazard approach to this problem; it has expanded programs and created new ones with little regard to how these changes fit into the larger effort. Rather than provide a roadmap out of poverty, Washington has created a complex web of programs that are often difficult to navigate.”

Some programs work, some don’t, and with many of them, “[t]here’s little evidence either way.”

Federal programs are not only failing to address problems in society; in some ways they are making the problems worse

Federal programs are not only failing to address problems in society; in some ways they are making the problems worse. “Changes are clearly necessary, and the first step is to evaluate what the federal government is doing right now,” the report said.

But President Obama, neo-Marxist ideologue that he is, isn’t interested in making changes to anti-poverty programs. Obama is seeking $ 56 billion in new spending for a variety of programs expanding educational offerings for preschoolers and job training for laid-off workers. No doubt he’ll find a way to lard still more billions of dollars in so-called emergency spending onto the budget as the year progresses.

“The two sides have converged in terms of the problems they’re diagnosing,” said Alan D. Viard of the American Enterprise Institute. “But the solutions are very far apart.”

That is an understatement.

Matthew Vadum,, is an investigative reporter at a watchdog group in Washington, D.C. His new book Subversion Inc. can be bought at (US), (Canada), and as an e-book at Kobo (Canada).

Doug Ross @ Journal

Larwyn’s Linx: Rand: Only 858,000 newly insured Americans have paid Obamacare premiums

Send us tips! Bloggers: install a Larwyn’s Linx widget. Get real-time news, 24/7, at BadBlue.


Rand: Only 858,000 newly insured Americans have paid premiums: WZ
The Most Un-American Speech Barack Obama Has Ever Delivered: Bryan Preston
Republicans Catch on that Negative Advertising Works: Rich Baehr

Report – Obamacare Enrollments Vastly Exaggerated: LI
Democrats Facing Political Fallout on Medicare: Roll Call
“DNC Chair Can’t Think of a Single Obamacare Fix”: PW

Who is Eric Cantor?: Jamie Radtke
Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH): hates town halls, likes being rude: Moe Lane
Cantor Suffers Significant Blow in Virginia: VA Right


Where was GM CEO Barack Obama During All This?: Ace
Yes, ObamaCare Kills Jobs: R.S. McCain
Most Obamacare “Sign-Ups” Due to Two Modest Changes in the Law: Ace

Scandal Central

What will it take to put you in this death trap today?: Cold Fury
Benghazi: CIA Station Chief Contradicts Obama Talking Point: Bryan Preston
Expert Hacks in 4 Minutes: Keith Koffler

Climate & Energy

Union of Settled Scientists Threatens to Strike: Mark Steyn
Apocalypse Cow — Obama EPA To Regulate Bovine Emissions: IBD
McKibben calls for a ‘climate strike’ while an MSNBC poll goes horribly wrong: WUWT


Did WaPo Collaborate With Congressional Democrats to Smear the Koch Brothers?: Power Line
Leftmedia Celebrating Meaningless, Movable O-Care Goalposts: Stephen Kruiser
Levin blasts Obama for his Castro-like campaign rally, spewing Obamacare lies: Scoop

Obama jabs press: Future outages ‘won’t be news’: The Hill
Fallon on Obama Victory Lap: ‘Amazing What You Can Achieve When You Make Something Mandatory’: Breitbart
New Connecticut long gun laws take effect April 1: ABC-7

The New York Time wonders: “Was Marx Right?”: PW
Media Curiously Uninterested in Democrat Accused of Arms Trafficking: Glob
Dana Loesch Unloads on Rep. Jeff Roorda for Calling Rep. Holly Rehder a “Nazi”: MoTorch


A World War of Community Organizers: Daniel Greenfield
The Curious Case of Obama’s Cancelled State Dinner In Saudi Arabia: Nice Deb
Ted Cruz Introduces Bill Preventing Terrorists From Entering US As UN Ambassadors: LoneCon

Erdogan Jumps out of the Frying Pan, into the Fire: Henri J. Barkey
Blame Bush: Why Obama gets so little respect from the troops: Allen West
UK to Consider Outlawing Muslim Brotherhood: Daniel Greenfield

Sci-Tech (courtesy BadBlue Tech News)

The oldest light in the universe: Symmetry Magazine
The One Question That Should Drive Your Strategy: Innovation Excellence
Windows can’t keep partying like it’s 1999: IT News


April Fools! A Roundup of Automaker’s Jokes: AutoGuide
6 Unexpected Things I Learned Resisting the Nazis in WWII: Cracked
The Daily Caller: There’s a problem in journalism: DC

Image: 5 dead in magnitude-8.2 quake in northern Chile
Today’s Larwyn’s Linx sponsored by: Give John Boehner a Pink Slip: Support JD Winteregg!

QOTD: “Cannon allegedly boasted to the undercover agents about an upcoming trip to Washington during a meeting in the mayor’s office. He said he would use his clout to push for Charlotte streetcar funding.

“So, you know, Friday I’m meeting with the President,” he said. “The President will be asking what my priorities are. I’m gonna say the Gold Lynx Line’s a priority and I want to see that through.”

“Damn,” the agent responded. “I’m just proud, and, uh, grateful to uh, have you as a friend.”

A White House spokesman declined to comment Wednesday, citing the ongoing investigation. But a White House official said they were unaware of the FBI investigation at the time of Cannon’s visit to the White House in December 2013.” —Mary Katharine Ham, “Indicted Charlotte mayor used access to White House in making plans for pay-offs”

Doug Ross @ Journal

LATEST OBAMACARE LIE SHREDDED: 7.1 million enrollment number is bogus; only 858,000 have paid premiums

Gee, 858,000 is a far cry from the “7.1 million” signup number that the White House pulled out of its keister estimated as having signed up by the March 31st deadline.

Even worse? 858,000 is an infinitesimally small fraction of the “46 million”* uninsured Americans that Obamacare was supposed to address.

Yes, it’s true: Democrats destroyed the American health care system for nothing.

A triumphant President Barack Obama declared Tuesday his signature medical insurance overhaul a success, saying it has made America’s health care system ‘a lot better’ in a Rose Garden press conference… But buried in the 7.1 million enrollments he announced in a heavily staged appearance is a more unsettling reality.

Numbers from a RAND Corporation study that has been kept under wraps suggest that barely 858,000 previously uninsured Americans – nowhere near 7.1 million – have paid for new policies and joined the ranks of the insured by Monday night.

…Others were already insured, including millions who lost coverage when their existing policies were suddenly cancelled because they didn’t meet Obamacare’s strict minimum requirements.

…The president took no questions from reporters, but celebrated the end of a rocky six-month open-enrollment period by taking pot shots at Republicans who have opposed the law from the beginning as a government-run seizure of one-seventh of the U.S. economy.

‘The debate over repealing this law is over,’ he insisted. ‘The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.’

The president also chided conservatives ‘who have based their entire political agenda on repealing it,’ and praised congressional Democrats for their partisan passage of the law without a single GOP vote.

As Aleister observes, For months we were told it was impossible to quote exact ObamaCare enrollment numbers yet somehow, one day after the close of open enrollment the Obama administration has suddenly announced the incredibly specific number of 7.1 million enrollees.

* 46 million uninsured? Yes, that’s another lie. Hat tip: Weasel Zippers.

Doug Ross @ Journal

QUOTE O’ THE DAY: Delusional or Irrational, There Can Be Only One

Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s latest bizarre assertion is troubling on many levels. His statement that he never called those who had lost their health care thanks to Obamacare liars — after he clearly and publicly did so — can be explained in only one of two ways. If he believes his latest statement, he’s clearly delusional. Or, he’s an irrational liar. Either way, we lose.

But Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said it better than I could.

Hat tip: BadBlue News

Doug Ross @ Journal

Syria has given up only 5% of chemical weapons, sources say. Could it wind up in al-Qaeda’s hands?

UN weapons inspectors in Syria. (photo: AP)

UN weapons inspectors in Syria. (photo: AP)

In 2013, a U.S. and Allied military attack on Syria was averted at the last moment by a Russian-negotiated deal. The Assad regime promised to disclose all of its WMD sites and have U.N. weapons inspectors remove 100% of Syria’s chemical weapons on a specific timetable.

But months after the deal was struck, Reuters reports that Syria has only given up 5% of its stockpile, and will miss yet another critical deadline.

Meanwhile, the danger remains that al Qaeda or other Radical jihadist forces could seize some of the chemical weapons.

Let’s pray that doesn’t happen, and leave that for a future political thriller. But here are the latest details.

Excerpts from a Reuters story:

  • “Syria has given up less than 5 percent of its chemical weapons arsenal and will miss next week’s deadline to send all toxic agents abroad for destruction, sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
  • The deliveries, in two shipments this month to the northern Syrian port of Latakia, totalled 4.1 percent of the roughly 1,300 tonnes of toxic agents reported by Damascus to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
  • “It’s not enough and there is no sign of more,” one source briefed on the situation said.
  • The internationally backed operation, overseen by a joint OPCW-United Nations mission, is now 6-8 weeks behind schedule. Damascus needs to show it is still serious about relinquishing its chemical weapons, the sources told Reuters….
  • Failure to eliminate its chemical weapons could expose Syria to sanctions, although these would have to be supported in the UN Security Council by Russia and China, which have so far refused to back such measures against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
  • The deal under which Syria undertook to eliminate its chemical arsenal stopped the United States and its allies from launching bombing raids to punish Assad for a chemical attack last August and made clear the limits to international action against him.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon suggested in a report to the Security Council this week that shipments had been unnecessarily delayed and urged the Syrian government to speed up the process….
  • Under a deal agreed by Russia and the United States after the August 21 sarin gas attack, Syria vowed to give up its entire stockpile by mid-2014. The rocket attacks in the outskirts of Damascus killed hundreds, including women and children.
  • Eradicating Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, including sarin, mustard gas and VX, requires massive foreign funding and logistical support.
  • The bulk of the most toxic substances are to be destroyed on the Cape Ray, a U.S. cargo ship now en route to the Mediterranean that will be loaded with the chemicals at an Italian port. The remainder will go to several commercial waste processing facilities, including in Britain and Germany.

Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog