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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
WEBCommentary Editor
Author:  Bob Webster
Bio: Bob Webster
Date:  January 13, 2014
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Topic category:  Capitalism & Liberty vs. Marxism & Slavery

The "War on Poverty" - a Monumental 50-Year Failure
Scuttle the "War on Poverty" and it's obscene stepchild, the "entitlement" culture.

The monumental failure of the fifty-year “War on Poverty” stands as a stark icon to the complete folly of any notion that government exists so that its citizens do not have to be fully responsible for their own lot in life. This fifty-year failure has succeeded only in the creation of an “entitlement” mentality demonstrating that government meddling in charity comes at enormous cost both financially and culturally.

The following is from an address by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s federal “War on Poverty”:

“My parents, like most people that have ever lived, were raised in a country where they were trapped by the circumstances of their birth. But just 90 miles away there was a country where, through hard work and perseverance, anyone could get ahead. And so they came here with virtually nothing.

“Their first years in America were difficult. They worked long hours for little pay. But they kept on, and in time, their lives improved. They never became rich or famous and yet they lived the American dream. Because like most people, for them happiness wasn’t about becoming wealthy. It was about finding work that paid a livable wage. It was about a happy family life, retiring with security, and one day giving their children the chance to be anything they wanted.

“My parents’ story, of two everyday people who were given the chance to work their way into a better life, is a common one here in America. A defining national characteristic rooted in a principle that was at the core of our nation’s birth: that everyone has a God-given right to live freely and pursue happiness.”

Rubio’s second paragraph provides as good a summary of the essence of the real American spirit as you’ll find. Freedom means being free to make choices, to live or die by those choices, to take your own initiative to improve your lot in life by nurturing and applying your own talents.

True Americans don’t divide society into competing classes (wealthy/poor, men/women, strong/weak, right/left, etc.) in order to exploit class warfare by pitting one group against another. The Marxist/Progressive view that government exists to redistribute the fruits of its citizens’ achievements “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” is repugnant to the real American spirit.

The monumental failure of the fifty-year “War on Poverty” stands as a stark icon to the complete folly of any notion that government exists so that its citizens do not have to be fully responsible for their own lot in life. This fifty-year failure has succeeded only in the creation of an “entitlement” mentality demonstrating that government meddling in charity comes at enormous cost both financially and culturally.

By any rational measure, Johnson’s federal “War on Poverty” has been a colossal failure. Federal spending to fight poverty over the past 50 years, adjusted for inflation, is fairly estimated to total $12 trillion, which is roughly $240 billion per year. Prior to Obama’s spending spree of the past five years that routinely produced trillion dollar deficits, $240 billion per year was considered a lot of money. Sadly, $240 billion still is a lot of money, but we’ve become conditioned to such massive amounts of federal spending that we fail to comprehend the magnitude of this ongoing financial disaster.

There are many who will argue forever just how much has been spent to wage this “war on poverty” but there is one thing that is clear. The war has been lost and its cost in terms of the barriers it creates to people trying to improve their lot is criminal. You might wonder, how is that so? Consider that a healthy economy depends on the ability of people to participate in economic growth. Economic growth cannot be bought with federal spending for the simple (and what should be obvious) reason that a robust economy requires the availability of real capital (not federally manufactured fiat currency) to fuel real growth. Transferring $240 billion per year from the economy by extracting it for federal redistribution to poverty programs is a direct and immediate damper on economic activity. That value is not available for private investment in business ventures that produce real jobs, real products, and real economic growth.

Every penny of federal spending must come either from taxation, inflationary monetary policy (that insidious practice of robbing from everyone in a way that hurts the poor the most), or burdensome debt that will severely harm future opportunities for today’s children.

Even had this war on poverty been successful, would the transfer of poverty from the past fifty years to future generations really be the right thing to do?

And it gets worse. Consider the future costs of this fifty-year “war on poverty” in terms of lost opportunity, massive impediments to individuals seeking to better their lives and the entrenchment of an “entitlement” mentality in our culture. The job-depressing impact of federal debt, taxation, and regulation are frequently ignored when assessing the root causes of economic recession, yet each of these government irresponsibilities makes a significant contribution to fewer jobs and less economic activity (which, in turn, increases the tax burden on those fortunate to have a job). The fifty-year economy-depressing hidden costs for this dismal failure, when considered in the light of full disclosure, brings stunning clarity to the magnitude of this colossal failure.

Yet, what do most of “the usual suspect” politicians tell us? That this war on poverty was justly fought, has many successes, and we should spend even more on federal programs to “fight poverty”! Rubbish!

As responsible citizens, we must stop allowing politicians to buy our votes with slogans that substitute for responsible constitutionally-authorized legislation. The public didn’t oppose Johnson’s “war on poverty” because they simply bought into the slogan. The public attitude was essentially, “sounds good, let’s do something good” without ever considering the war on poverty’s real costs and from where those costs would come. The same can be said of the current folly, the “Affordable Care Act” (aka, “obamacare”), a program that is barely into its execution and that has already been shown to have vastly overstated its benefits and understated its costs to everyone. But gee, it sounded good, didn’t it?

Why do these programs sound so good, yet in practice are dismal failures?

Primary responsibility for misleading the public must fall squarely on the shoulders of those in charge of disseminating information to the public - news media and our public education system. The many failures of these institutions to fairly present objective information about the true costs and limited benefits of such social welfare schemes is the root cause of public ignorance of the debilitating and repressive nature of these programs.

When partisan politics motivates news reporters and public educators, the process of informing the public becomes little more than a partisan propaganda campaign.

The best antidote to this propaganda campaign is to be informed and do your own thinking. Look at each instance of government failure and analyze the real cause and effect and you will come to a striking conclusion. What you have been told through our news and public education institutions bears little resemblance to the truth.

It’s time to put a caring end to this fifty-year blight known as the “War on Poverty” and begin to repair our culture by eliminating any notion of “entitlement” to the fruits of others’ achievements.

Bob Webster
WEBCommentary (Editor, Publisher)

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Biography - Bob Webster

Bob Webster, a 12th-generation descendent of both the Darte family (Connecticut, 1630s) and the Webster family (Massachusetts, 1630s) is a descendant of Daniel Webster's father, Revolutionary War patriot Ebenezer Webster, who served with General Washington. Bob has always had a strong interest in early American history, our Constitution, U.S. politics, and law. Politically he is a constitutional republican with objectivist and libertarian roots. He has faith in the ultimate triumph of truth and reason over deception and emotion. He is a strong believer in our Constitution as written and views the abandonment of constitutional restraint by the regressive Progressive movement as a great danger to our Republic. His favorite novel is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and believes it should be required reading for all high school students so they can appreciate the cost of tolerating the growth of unconstitutional crushingly powerful central government. He strongly believes, as our Constitution enshrines, that the interests of the individual should be held superior to the interests of the state.

A lifelong interest in meteorology and climatology spurred his strong interest in science. Bob earned his degree in Mathematics at Virginia Tech, graduating in 1964.

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