Metaphor of the Moment: The 50-Year War on Poverty
January 8, 2014
President Obama recently decided to “reset” President Johnson’s War on Poverty, forgetting that nearly all of the mechanisms that Johnson put into place to battle poverty are still in place. Since President Obama’s programs don’t really include anything new, I assume he’s just going to throw more tax dollars into the same programs. Unfortunately, the facts don’t make this a promising strategy.
Currently, there are more people receiving “welfare” services and funds than ever before, and the rate of poverty now is identical to the rate that Johnson faced in the 60’s. We have had periods when the poverty rate declined, during administrations that focused on economic growth rather than economic redistribution. (This has been a bi-partisan pattern. Presidents who encouraged pro-business policies – Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton – were rewarded with economic growth that, yes, “lifted all boats.”) Programs like Head Start or Food Stamps do help individuals and families, but they do not affect poverty overall. Nor do they change the situation that the poor find themselves in. Welfare offers needed short term assistance. It does not create jobs.