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TRAPPED IN A WELFARE NET: The War On Poverty Is A War On America

“This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.” So stated then President Lyndon Johnson in his 1964 State of the Union address.

Today’s president speaking to a group of faith leaders at Georgetown University last week implied that this war was still raging and had this to say about the perceived obstacle for winning, “Talk to any of my Republican friends. They will say, No. 1, they care about the poor – and I believe them. But when it comes to actually establishing budgets, making choices, prioritizing, that’s when it starts breaking down.”

Hmmm. Republicans haven’t established budgets or made choices or prioritized? Well, let’s look at some facts. Since the War On Poverty started, our wealth spreading government has spent over 22 TRILLION dollars of taxpayer money in an effort to eradicate poverty! Yes, 22 TRILLION dollars! Can you imagine what this number would be if Republicans were cooperating with Democrats?

For 22 TRILLION dollars, we have a poverty rate that is essentially unchanged from what it was when the government first started shoveling our money at the problem. The poverty rate was 14 per cent in 2014, essentially the same as in 1967. The rate has been bouncing around between about 12 per cent and 15 per cent for decades following the overall economic cycle. There has been no progress according to the government’s own measurements.

The funny thing is that the poverty rate was actually falling sharply prior to the “War” starting. The rate stood at 32.2 per cent in 1950 but had dropped to 17.3 per cent by the start of the government attack in 1965. One could reasonably argue that we spent 22 TRILLION dollars to keep poverty at the 15 per cent level, not to eradicate it.
Actually, other government data show that there has been great economic progress by the poor. Consider the following government data points:

• Two thirds of the poor have satellite or cable TV
• Over half of those considered poor have a personal computer and an Xbox or PlayStation
• Forty per cent of the poor have a high definition TV
• Ninety-six per cent of the poor state that their children were never hungry because they couldn’t afford food
• Nearly half of those considered poor live in single family homes with forty-two per cent actually owning their home
• The average poor in America have more living space than the average person (not poor) in Sweden, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom

This data is cited from The Heritage Foundation paper “The War On Poverty After 50 Years” written by Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield.

So clearly, the standard of living for the poor in this country has progressed significantly. However, the government’s poverty percentage has remained flat. Why? Because the government does not take into account the welfare benefits the poor are receiving. The billions of dollars that are transferred to the welfare state each year are not included in the calculations.

Why would the government present such an erroneous picture? Obviously, it’s to keep the wealth transfer rolling. The argument for additional money can continue to be made if the poverty number is not improving. More money means more jobs for bureaucrats, more control of the economy, and more dependency by those trapped in the welfare web.

The original intent of the War On Poverty was not perpetual dependence. President Johnson made clear that the goal of the program was to build self-sufficiency and to raise people out of poverty. Instead, government statists have now grossly manipulated welfare programs to create a dependent underclass that will perpetually vote for increasing benefits.

The current administration has done everything it can to capture as many people as possible in the welfare web in order to establish a voting majority. And we are very close to reaching that level. Over 100 million Americans received some kind of welfare payout last year. If a voting majority is reached, the country will collapse. Can you spell Cloward and Piven?

This collectivism now ensnaring the country is totally alien to our founding. It stands in direct opposition to the ideas of individual freedom and liberty. It destroys the concepts of personal responsibility, property rights, and self-sufficiency. In place of these, collectivism breeds jealousy and hostility among citizens. It saps the confidence that one can improve their life through their own efforts. Citizens become childlike, crying at the government table for their piece of an ever-diminishing pie.

This was not what our founding fathers passed on to us. This is not what hundred of thousands have fought for and died to preserve. We were born with unalienable rights to live as free individuals and make a life that has meaning and consequence as we so decide. Our government was so established to protect our individual sovereignty and our pursuit of happiness. However, due to our complacency and lack of vigilance we have allowed this government to become the predator of liberty our forefathers so feared. It’s not too late to turn back this scourge, but it is late.


John Tutten

John Tutten holds degrees in both engineering and business management. He is veteran of thirty-three years in the high technology business world where he spent time in development engineering and technology management predominantly in the area of custom semiconductor circuits. He recently retired to the mountains of north Georgia where he devotes his time to the study of Christian Apologetics and writing in defense of the Christian worldview.