Losing the war on poverty

After trillions of spent dollars on our government’s supposed “War on Poverty”, what exactly does the United States have to show for it?  Millions still live in poverty (although the definition of “poverty” in the United States includes ownership of flat screen TVs, cable/satellite television service and high speed Internet) despite the enormous toll the war has had on the American people’s tax dollars.

Every year, the government spends more than a half-trillion dollars on programs designed to “end poverty”.  10s of trillions of dollars later, we find ourselves no better off than the year before.  Consider the following analysis by Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute, who wrote recently:

In 2012, the federal government spent $668 billion to fund 126 separate anti-poverty programs. State and local governments kicked in another $284 billion, bringing total anti-poverty spending to nearly $1 trillion. That amounts to $20,610 for every poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of three.

Spending on the major anti-poverty programs increased in 2013, pushing the total even higher.

Over, the last 50 years, the government spent more than $16 trillion to fight poverty.

Yet today, 15 percent of Americans still live in poverty. That’s scarcely better than the 19 percent living in poverty at the time of Johnson’s speech. Nearly 22 percent of children live in poverty today. In 1964, it was 23 percent.

How could we have spent so much and achieved so little?

The answer lies in government involvement.  Propping people up with government anti-poverty programs succeeds at keeping people in poverty with a consistent and dependable monthly check.  Consider this: what how motivation would you have to find a job if your unemployment benefits do not run out until 2015?

“Fewer than three percent of full-time workers are poor, compared to nearly 25 percent for those without a job. Even an entry level, minimum-wage job can be the first step on the road out of poverty,” Tanner wrote.

Will our government ever learn?  Better yet – will the American people make them learn?

Forget the fiscal cliff, entitlements are the bigger American problem

Amid the fury over looming tax increases known as the “fiscal cliff” that promise to discourage investment and punish economic success, it is important to recognize the bigger problem with government debt and fiscal irresponsibility: entitlements.

Cato Institute Senior Fellow Daniel Mitchell said it well, who argues that the entitlement culture supported by the U.S.’s welfare state is a much larger issue that stands at the base of our economic worry.

“A lot of people get upset about the national debt, which is somewhere between $11 trillion and $16 trillion, depending on whether you include money the government owes itself. Those are big numbers — but if you add up the amount of money that the government is promising to spend for entitlement programs in the future and compare that figure to the amount of revenue that the government projects it will collect for those programs, the cumulative shortfall is more than $100 trillion,” wrote Mitchell.

Those are numbers that, unfortunately, make the fiscal cliff look like small potatoes.  More than $100 trillion blown on feel-good entitlement programs that – not so amazingly – encourage dependence on the federal government for, well, everything.  This, of course, includes flat screen televisions, high-speed Internet, cell phones and other expensive luxury items and electronic gadgets that are often owned by those on the public doll.

How will the government respond to this kind of astronomical spending?  Raise taxes, of course.  Increase revenue.  Another fiscal cliff, and more gouging of the wealthy in this country that will surely force entrepreneurs to look for a home for their business elsewhere – or at least a home for their money in offshore savings accounts.  Honestly, can you blame them?

“Unfortunately, the longer we wait to fix the problem, the harder it will be to solve. More and more Americans will become trapped into lives of government dependency over time, the private economy will be too suffocated by taxes to create jobs, and we could wind up like Greece – with the majority of the voting-age population determined to support the status quo.”

Sadly, Americans already support the status quo.  Despite poll after poll indicating frustration and fundamental distrust of government, Americans robotically flocked to the voting booths and pulled the lever for the very same politicians in 2012, the same Washington power structure, the same nonsense.  We are already there. The United States has already hit the point where dependence on government supersedes the power of reform.

Compared to that, Mitchell said, the fiscal cliff is a walk in the park.