But today the Census will almost certainly proclaim that around 14 percent of Americans are still poor. The present poverty rate is almost exactly the same as it was in 1967 a few years after the War on Poverty started. Census data actually shows that poverty has gotten worse over the last 40 years.
How is this possible? How can the taxpayers spend $22 trillion on welfare while poverty gets worse?
That’s Heritage’s Robert Rector in The Daily Signal, detailing how much we’ve spent since LBJ launched the War on Poverty 50 years ago, and how little we have to show for it. For some of the explanation, let’s go back to Rector:
Census counts a family as poor if its income falls below specified thresholds. But in counting family “income,” Census ignores nearly the entire $943 billion welfare state.
For most Americans, the word “poverty” means significant material deprivation, an inability to provide a family with adequate nutritious food, reasonable shelter and clothing. But only a small portion of the more than 40 million people labelled as poor by Census fit that description.
The media frequently associate the idea of poverty with being homeless. But less than two percent of the poor are homeless. Only one in ten live in mobile homes. The typical house or apartment of the poor is in good repair and uncrowded; it is actually larger than the average dwelling of non-poor French, Germans or English.
The other part of the explanation lies in Rector’s chart, reprinted above.
You’ll notice that before 1964, the US economy was waging its own War on Poverty — and winning. Once the anti-market insanity of the New Deal ended with Roosevelt’s last breath, and the wartime economy had the chance to recover to peacetime conditions, poverty was rapidly decreasing.
Then Washington took over, and the decline turned into a flatline.
It’s almost as though LBJ’s War on Poverty was just a $22,000,000,000,000 vote-buying scheme and permanent paycheck racket for otherwise unemployable do-gooders.
Far from the “colossal flop” Rector calls it, the War has resulted in a stunning and ongoing victory.