The War on Poverty
Since its’ beginning, the United States -- and every other country -- has been fighting an ongoing battle against poverty. How is it that thousands of people live frivolously, while thousands more are struggling just to survive? For generations, people generally ignored this issue, and the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Even with the help of FDR’s “New Deal” programs, we couldn’t seem to break this cycle. It wasn’t until Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration to fight this “War on Poverty”, that the government of the United States began to take further, more serious action.
On paper, this urge to fight the War on Poverty sounded like a good idea, and it was for awhile. Because of it, many laws and regulations were put into place trying to support those who needed help the most. Some of those passed include: the Social Security Act, the Food Stamp Act, and the Economic Opportunity Act. Johnson thought the opportunity cost: giving up citizen tax dollars to aid someone else, would greatly pay off in the end.
However, is the trade-off really worth it? As you can see in the graph below, through continual efforts, as of 2012, the poverty rate had only dropped 4% since its’ conception in 1964. The US has spent more than $22 trillion to fight this war, which is more than three times what it’s spent on all military endeavors since the American Revolution.
The government approach to the War on Poverty has proven to be ineffective. There’s an old Chinese proverb that states, “ Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. In order to truly fight this War on Poverty, the government shouldn’t handout welfare money so freely. While it’s understandable that some people with physical or mental disabilities truly need to rely on someone elses’ income, there are far too many able bodied people receiving welfare. This is why the poverty level is still so high. It is too easy to receive the allotted benefit than it is to work. Without work, there is often a loss of self-respect and ambition to better oneself or change ones’ circumstance.
The programs provided to fight the War on Poverty often disincentivize work. For example a recipient is able-bodied, unemployed and receiving welfare benefits. If going out and getting a job meant a reduction in benefits they would likely analyze the loss of benefit with the gain in income from employment. Much like a business would do a marginal cost vs benefit analysis, many find that the marginal increase in income (benefit) not worth the marginal loss in the welfare benefit (cost).
Finally, whether or not we want to admit it, the Federal government has limited resources. As of this writing, the Federal debt is in excess of $18 trillion. To remain a viable nation, we must begin using these limited resources more effectively. The War on Poverty is a lost war. More efficient and effective programs MUST be developed as merely a stopgap for those temporarily unable to work. They can no longer be a way of life. It does the recipient no good and certainly does our country no good.
Here is a link to a news broadcast with John Stossel, explaining that concept more in depth. In conclusion, it is impossible to fully eradicate poverty. But perhaps if we change the way we’re trying to fight it right now, we can lower it the best we can.
Emaze Presentations. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.
"The War on Poverty After 50 Years." The Heritage Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
"War on Poverty." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.