Michael Schaus

There are some simple truths in American politics that still apply in today’s increasingly bizarre landscape. The most prominent of these truths seem to be: If you want a problem to get worse, have a Democrat declare war on it. Think about it Lyndon B Johnson’s “war on poverty”. A war that was launched (without explicit congressional approval. . . But I digress) in 1964. So, how’s our war progressing? Are we winning? Is anyone keeping a list of casualties?

Some critics of the war would be likely to say we are losing the war on poverty. I contend that it is more serious than that. After five decades, and over $20 trillion in welfare spending, our poverty rate has seen virtually no improvement. Certainly the programs have not created $20 trillion of wealth among the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder. But it has created a tremendous casualty.

Even by liberal’s studies and standards these programs have largely failed to reach their purported goal: Lifting the honest and virtuous from the dredges of the lower class. According to Mark Rank of Washington University in Missouri, over 80 percent of Americans experience “financial hardship” throughout their life. Rank explains that “only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need.”

Let me translate that: More people need to be considered impoverished in order to justify continued government spending on anti-poverty programs. This perverse logic is the single reason liberal policies ultimately collapse under their own weight. From welfare, to TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), to 99 weeks of unemployment, nothing has proven as successful at getting the impoverished out of poverty and into the ranks of the middle class as free-markets and hard work.

Welfare, while it has existed in such predominant forms, has a tendency to grow and create a culture of dependency. And rather than creating programs that encourage the downtrodden to work their way out of despair, the war on poverty has proven to entrench a permanent underclass in America. Giving from the working, to the needy (however honest and just the intention) has proven to be a costly failure for America. And the few programs that encourage (or require) work have been weakened by the Most Liberal President in the last twenty years, President Barack Obama.

Michael Schaus

Michael Schaus is communications director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute and is responsible for managing the organization’s messaging with the public, the media and NPRI’s membership.

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