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$15 Trillion for What? The War on Poverty

Written by Gary North on June 28, 2012

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.

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4 thoughts on “$15 Trillion for What? The War on Poverty

  1. Gloria Wedemeyer says:

    Just goes to show you just can't keep giving money to people for not putting forth the effort. When the next echelon sees that this person does not work and gets all these things, then they decide they shouldn't have to either and then the next echelon does the same thing and pretty soon we have very few people giving their all. If you can't afford kids, then don't have them. I like the teacher who was sick of their liberal students telling them they would average all the grades and each child would get that grade. The first grading period everyone got an A. The second grading period everyone got a B and the last grading period of the year, the kids got an F. This spells it all to me.

  2. It's bad enough that such programs have to be funded. It's even worse that we are stuck with the bill for advertising the existence of these programs. And the worst part is that once the program reaches its official cost estimate that it isn't terminated. After all, if it were, then it would be termed a success. But in typical Washington double-speak, success means a program continues.

    As Ronald Reagan said (paraphrased, because I don't remember the exact wording): "Success for a government program should mean that it reached its goals. Instead, a program is only judged successful if we keep having more and more people using it."

  3. Yeah, if the Democrats had actually defeated poverty, then they would be out of work.

    If Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson actually solved problems with racial relations, they'd be out of work.

    The government perceives its job as to create problems that it must demand increased taxes to attack, and increased reduction of civil rights for the "war."

    We've been fighting a war on poverty since 1965, but we now have more poor people than ever.

  4. jessie jackson and al sharpton cause ten times more racial tension than they could ever cure