Part 1: The Failed War on Poverty helps perpetuate a Culture of Poverty
Not much attention has been given to a Cato report published on April 17, 2012 entitled “Welfare and the Culture of Poverty” by William A. Niskanen. Although my print out of the article amounted to seventeen pages of material, it is worth taking the time and the resources needed to download and read in its entirety
Most telling is a statement made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his 1935 State of the Union message. When speaking about his proposed social welfare program,Roosevelt added this ominous message (The Social Security Act was signed on August 14, 1935 as part of Roosevelt’s “New Deal”).
“The lessons of history, confirmed by evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence on relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is a violation of the traditions of America.”
A revealing history of “Social Security: The Roosevelt Administration” can be found by clicking here. The article was part of a lecture series given by Abe Bortz, the First Historian of the Roosevelt Administration and Social Security. Bortz likewise believed Roosevelt’s philosophy to be one that did not demand that government do everything, but that “everything practicable” must be done. Rooseveltlikewise believed that this nation needed and demanded persistent experimentation.
In doing further research for my article, “Poverty and Dependency in America” aptly illustrates the effectiveness of welfare since first introduced by Rooseveltin his 1935 Social Security Act.
“Decades of government intervention has only made the problem worse. Trillions of tax dollars have been spent fighting poverty, but instead of encouraging people to get jobs and get themselves out of a financial rut, the welfare system creates conditions favorable to pregnancy, childbirth and illegitimacy. The “safety net’ has become a hammock for the laziest people in our society.”
During Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” trillions of dollars were spent. The most widely accepted estimates seem to be come somewhere between 5.0 and 5.4 trillion dollars, although there are estimates that go much higher. It was also Lyndon Johnson who decided to dip into the Social Security Trust Fund and to add Medicare and Medicaid in 1967 which some Americans still consider to be a locked box, and to use that money to cover government expenses.
President Johnson also added Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 in his Social Security Act of 1965, as part of his “Great Society” program.
As we fast forward to 2013, it should be apparent that the narcotic of “continued dependence on relief” has become more destructive than first feared byRooseveltback in 1935.
Consider how our federal government is heralding a record number for food stamp distribution. Meanwhile, its Park Service Department is pleading “Do not feed the animals” because the animals will grow dependent on handouts and not take care of themselves. When chiding Newt Gingrich for calling Obama the “Food Stamp President,” Nancy Pelosi spoke of receiving food stamps as a “Badge of Honor.”
Receiving much scrutiny and ridicule by the mainstream media, by Democrat pundits and Democrat legislators is Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisconsin) budget proposal. Ryan is being accused of shredding the safety net while giving tax cuts to the rich.
In a recent revealing interview with The Brody File, Paul Ryan was asked by David Brody about his views concerning morality and the debt and how it played into the way he crafted his budget.
It was evident to me from reading other of Brody’s posts, that David Brody believes that government should supersede those entities which are closest to the people in assisting those who need help, such as local churches, private charities, and civic organizations.
As such, Brody was demanding of Ryan that he clarify and justify his budget in light of how it seeks to reform the social welfare programs of Medicare and Social Security that Brody considers sacrosanct, as do liberals, even if the facts tell them otherwise.
Over the next 10 years it is estimated that the Ryan proposed budget would accomplish the following, demonstrating that at least Republicans are willing to address an overwhelming, impending financial crisis that is leading this nation toward the fate of Greece and other European welfare nations.
- Cut spending by $5.8 trillion
- Cut taxes and other revenues by $4.2 trillion
- Reduce budget deficits by $1.6 trillion
- Significantly reduce federal debt as a share of GDP in 2012 and to 10% in 2050. (Debt projections for 2050 are based on the long-term analysis of Ryan’s Budget Proposal by the Congressional Budget Office)
- Reform Medicare and Social Security.
Ryan’s response to David Brody as a Catholic is commensurate with what most on the Right perceive:
“The preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenets of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life, help people get out of poverty out onto life of independence.”
In tuning into Rush Limbaugh on Monday, April 23, just by chance I caught Paul Ryan discussing how his plans to reform Medicare and Social Security were addressed in his budget proposal.
Ryan informed Rush listeners how one in six Americans live in poverty, that it isn’t the role of government to make poverty easier to live with, and that although he believes in a social safety net, it is the free enterprise system that will lift people out of poverty. .
One welfare program touted as being very successful by Ryan was former governor Tommy Thompson’s program known as “W-2″ which was an employment program rather than a welfare program. This program is now the standard for welfare reform in American. Ryan, however, told of 70 other welfare programs which need to be reformed.
Part 2: Failed War on Poverty Calls For ‘Practicable’ Reform
Bringing the welfare story closer to home, much money has been poured into the Southside of Chicago, yet it’s not fit to live in, with out-of-control shooting in the area. 109 people have been murdered so far this year.
On April 6, Bill O’Reilly on his Fox TV show spotlighted violent crime in the Windy City with a “Watters’ World Segment.”
During the exchange, Jesse Watter related that Chicago is three times more deadly than any other city in the nation. There was agreement in that money is not enough. It’s going to take a family-to-family, block-to-block effort not only to bring the crime down but also to raise the value of life.
When asked by O’Reilly how Watter felt while waking the streets, Watter commented: “It’s out of control. I was safe though. I said should I be scared? And they said we don’t shoot white people; you’re our biggest customer.”
The urgency of reforming Social Security and Medicare was brought home in stark reality on Tuesday, April 23rd, with a report by Noam Levey in the Chicago Tribune Business Section, that told how the nation’s Social Security and Medicare programs are sliding closer to insolvency.
Medicare is expected to start operating in the red in 2024, while Social Security will be unable to fulfill its obligations in 2033, three years earlier than projected last year.
Republicans have twice in the last two years pushed legislation to largely privatize Medicare. Republicans are also pushing to raise the eligibility age for Medicare in another move to contain costs, while President Obama and his allies of Capitol have largely resisted any reforms.
Considering that Medicare faces an unfunded liability of $38.6 trillion, and that the unfunded benefits Medicare is expected to pay over the next 75 years equals $328,404.43 for each household (as indicated by the Census bureau in 2010), will legislators keep pushing the problem down a roadway which will soon lead directly off a cliff?
If Tuesday’s April 24th Medicare Trustees report wasn’t sufficient enough to instill fear in legislators over the massive amount of unfunded Medicare liability they are piling on future generation, then consider the following report by Michael Tanner, director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute, published on April 11, 2012 “The American Welfare State, How We Spend Nearly $1 Trillion a Year Fighting Poverty — and Fail.”
In noting how the poverty rate has risen to 15.1 percent of Americans, the highest level in nearly a decade, Tanner informs how the unprecedented poverty rate has set off a predictable round of calls for increased government spending on social welfare programs. According to Tanner, “The United States spends nearly $1 trillion every year to fight poverty. That amounts to $20,610 for every poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of three.”
Tanner goes on to say: “Despite nearly $15 trillion in total welfare spending since Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964, the poverty rate is perilously close to where we began more than 40 years ago. Throwing money at the problem has neither reduced poverty, nor made the poor self-sufficient.”
It is way past time for legislators to reevaluate their approach to fighting poverty. The focus should be less on making poverty more comfortable and more on creating the prosperity that will get people out of poverty.
It’s your taxpayer money. You should care how it’s spent. Yes, a safety net is needed, but not one that is endless and becomes self-defeating to those to whom the help is provided.
If our legislators ever do quit their bickering and do what is best for the people instead of their re-election, they might heed this old Chinese proverb in dealing with welfare reform:
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”