On January 8, 2014, President Obama released a statement celebrating the success of the War on Poverty on its 50th anniversary. He stated:
“As Americans, we believe that everyone who works hard deserves a chance at opportunity, and that all our citizens deserve some basic measure of security. And so, 50 years ago, President Johnson declared a War on Poverty to help each and every American fulfill his or her basic hopes. We created new avenues of opportunity through jobs and education, expanded access to health care for seniors, the poor, and Americans with disabilities, and helped working families make ends meet. Without Social Security, nearly half of seniors would be living in poverty. Today, fewer than one in seven do. Before Medicare, only half of seniors had some form of health insurance. Today, virtually all do. And because we expanded pro-work and pro-family programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit, a recent study found that the poverty rate has fallen by nearly 40% since the 1960s, and kept millions from falling into poverty during the Great Recession”.
At a CPAC 2014 panel hosted by The Heritage Foundation Jennifer Marshall, the Director of Domestic Policy Studies, gave some interesting facts on this War on Poverty. She began by highlighting the fact that “when President Johnson began the War on Poverty he wanted to tackle the causes not merely the symptoms”. So how has this worked out 50 years later?
According to the Heritage Foundation:
“Today we have 80 federal means tested programs providing cash, food, housing, and targeted social services medical care to poor and low-income Americans. We spend about a trillion dollars a year on these programs at all levels of government. And we have spent twenty-trillion dollars to-date on the War on Poverty. Yet, the poverty rate today is just about as high as it was when the War on Poverty began. If we were going to win this war through spending, we would have done it a long time ago. Instead, the sources of the problem are much more deep and complicated. Too often, public assistance itself has created long term dependence while undermining work and marriage; the key lines of defense against poverty. Even in good economic times, the average poor family with children is typically supported to what amounts to about 16 hours of work a week. We need to change the character of public assistance so that it is a hand-up not a hand-out in encouraging dependence. And in an effort to do that Senator Mike Lee and Representative Jim Jordan are building on the success of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. They are building on that model of success and transforming food stamps into a work activation program.”
The War on Poverty for over 50 years is deemed successful by the democrats at a cost of twenty-trillion dollars. More spending with about the same rate of poverty in America as when it began. The conservative approach is to build upon a program to reform and get welfare spending under control.
Also outlined, is the fact that unwed childbearing has increased from about 8% of all births in the 1960’s to more than 40% today. In black Americans, it has risen from 25% to 73% today. There is an epidemic of children growing up in a single family home. Policies to help those in poverty need to also encourage the importance of raising children with a mother and a father. However, under Obama’s administration there are policies to threaten and redefine marriage. By redefining marriage we will continue to threaten the economic security that marriage can provide for children to grow and prosper.
With a twenty-trillion dollar cost, an increase in unwed childbearing and the redefining of marriage, it seems as if President Johnson’s War on Poverty has yet to tackle the causes of poverty in America. Can we really celebrate 50 years of the War on Poverty?