Opinion: Black Lives Matter, Just Not to Democrat Politicians (Part III, War on Poverty and Welfare State)

(AP Photo)
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FILE – In this July 30, 1965 file photo, President Lyndon Johnson signs the Medicare Bill into law while former President Harry S. Truman, right, observes during a ceremony at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo. At rear are Lady Bird Johnson, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and former first lady Bess Truman. When Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law Americans 65 and older were the age group least likely to have health insurance. (AP Photo)

In 1960, 22 percent of black children were in single-parent households. In 1985, 67 were in that condition. By 2015, the number had grown to 77 percent. What happened? Simple. President Lyndon Bains Johnson and his self-styled, “Unconditional War On Poverty.”

In 1964, while delivering his annual State of the Union Address to Congress, President Johnson proposed a far-reaching series of social programs, declaring

“Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it”.

This “War on Poverty, “ was kicked off by an act of Congress known as the Economic Opportunity Act. This legislation encompassed not only transfer payments but also housing and other programs, over 40 in all. The monetary cost? According to a 2014 Heritage Foundation article, we’ve spent over 22 Trillion Dollars, since 1964.

So, how have we done? Have we achieved President Johnson’s goals? An October of 2018 article in the Wall Street Journal entitled: Government Can’t Rescue the Poor, answers that question succinctly. From the article

The stated goal of the War on Poverty is not just to raise living standards, but also to make America’s poor more self-sufficient and to bring them into the mainstream of the economy. In that effort the war has been an abject failure, increasing dependency and largely severing the bottom fifth of earners from the rewards and responsibilities of work.

Over at the Heritage Foundation in an article 4 years earlier, Robert Rector, who Heritage bills as, “a leading authority on poverty, welfare programs and immigration in America,” notes


The actual living conditions of households labeled as poor by Census are surprising to most people. According to the government’s own surveys, 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning; nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite television; half have a personal computer; 40 percent have a wide-screen HDTV. Three-quarters own a car or truck; nearly a third has two or more vehicles.

Read: The War on Poverty: 50 years of failure

As I initially noted, President Johnson’s goal was to make poor people self-sufficient. According to Rector, President Johnson failed miserably.

The exact opposite happened. For a decade and a half before the War on Poverty began, self-sufficiency in American improved dramatically. But for the last 45 years, there has been no improvement at all. Many groups are less capable of self-support today than when Johnson’s war started.

Over at the CATO Institute, Michael Tanner says pretty much the same thing (emphasis mine).

The War on Poverty has failed to make those living in poverty independent or increase economic mobility among the poor and children. We may have made the lives of the poor less uncomfortable, but we have failed to truly lift people out of poverty.

Read: The War on Poverty after Fifty Years

After 22 Trillion Dollars, which is pretty much the entire National Debt, we should be getting far better results. What happened?

Back to Robert Rector who points out the obvious

The culprit is, in part, the welfare system itself, which discourages work and penalizes marriage. When the War on Poverty began, 7 percent of American children were born outside marriage. Today the number is 41 percent. The collapse of marriage is the main cause of child poverty today.


He goes on (again, emphasis mine) to deliver the money quote

The welfare state is self-perpetuating. By undermining the social norms necessary for self-reliance, welfare creates a need for even greater assistance in the future.

Got that? As in so many cases, the leftist “solution” actually exacerbates and perpetuates the problem. Robert Rector notes that the collapse of marriage had an outsized impact on poverty. To most Americans, this would seem to be a blinding flash of the obvious. Next in this series, the actual mechanics of how the welfare state has destroyed millions of Black families and the resulting aftermath.

Previous Articles in this series:

Opinion: Black Lives Matter, Just Not To Democrat Politicians (Part I)

Opinion: Black Lives Matter, Just Not To Democrat Politicians (Part II, Minimum Wage and Union Vote Buying)



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