Lyndon Johnson in 1965 announced a war on poverty. That became the political umbrella for what has turned out to be $12 trillion (in today’s dollars) down the proverbial drain. Another $3 trillion came from state and local governments.
One of the most famous and enduring of Johnson’s programs was food stamps. The program has a snappy new title: SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). It no longer involves physical coupons. It uses cards that look like credit cards. This is far more efficient than coupons.
SNAP is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is clear who the beneficiaries of NAP are: the agribusiness firms. No poverty for them!
Under George W. Bush, enrollment in the subsidized food program grew by over 150,000 a month. It is now climbing at over 400,000 a month. Enrollment is now over 46 million people. This is about 15% of all Americans.
This rate of growth is considered too low by the Department of Agriculture, so it is running advertisements to get more people signed up. It has spent about $3 million over the past four months.
After all, if people don’t know that they can get free food, the government needs to help them find out. The fact that the program has existed for 47 years should not be taken into consideration. Word has not gotten out yet.
According to the Cato Institute, a Washington research organization, in 1965 about 19% of Americans were listed as being in poverty. Today, it’s 15%. In 1965, the rate was falling. Today, it’s rising.
Federal, state, and local spending to fight poverty ever since 1965 totals about $15 trillion, with $12 trillion coming from Washington.
In 2011, Washington spent $668 billion on 126 poverty-fighting programs.
The programs are permanent. They employ people. Programs are not cut off in Washington. Once begun, they last. They have constituencies.
It does not matter which political party is in power. The programs grow.