Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Running up the white flag in the War on Poverty

We just marked the 50th anniversary of LBJ’s War on Poverty. One would think after 50 years we could win anything. The fact is, we lost the war on poverty long ago. Let’s compare it to other wars we’ve fought. We’ve spent $22 trillion (in 2012 dollars) on this war on poverty. That’s three times what we’ve spent on every war since the Revolutionary War combined! The poverty rate when we started this so-called war was around 15 percent. For the last 50 years the poverty rate has bounced between 12 and 15 percent. Today it’s just above 14 percent.

The interesting thing is that the post-World War II poverty rate was around 25 percent. In the years right after the war the poverty rate was dropping dramatically but was arrested by the war on poverty. Black folks, who this war was supposed
to benefit most, made up 31 percent of the poor in 1965. They make up 27 percent of the poor now. Some will call that a victory. I call it a shame.

Civil Rights laws are largely responsible for lifting black citizens up. The fact that so many remain below the poverty level is directly because of the war on poverty. We have trapped a disproportionate number of black people on welfare.

That fact notwithstanding, there are many reasons why people are poor and the government has overlooked practically all of them. As I stated, too many people have been enticed to remain in poverty but the choices are there for all Americans to lift themselves up. We have countless opportunities in America. Poor people get a break on college and vocational tuition. Anyone can join the military. The Internet has opened up a whole new world for entrepreneurs. 

So, why are people still poor?

A lot of it has to do with geography. I remember leaving New York City once and the cab driver took a short cut through an impoverished neighborhood. It was depressing. I was thinking that a short train ride away — even just 30 minutes away — there was a whole new hopeful world out there. Why on earth were these people living like this? Then it dawned on me that they were living in the city because that’s where the government benefits are. It’s the modern-day liberal plantation. People are enslaved to the government because they don’t know how to break the chains. If they start making any money at all the government cuts them off and they come running back to dependency.

This is why you see the very same thing replicated in every major city in America. There’s the bad side of town which almost certainly is where the government housing projects are. The police know it. Heck, we all know it. We, the people, have constructed one-stop shopping for the drug dealers, the pimps, the gangs. Why would we do such a thing? To be sure it wasn’t done on purpose.

I believe it was. The liberals criticize the robber barons of old for constructing company towns and trapping workers in these towns because they became dependent on the company. That’s exactly what they’ve done with the Great Society. Millions upon millions of Americans owe their soul to the government store.

We have to break the chains of dependency. We have to destroy the one thing that keeps millions of people in cyclical poverty. We have to tear down the welfare state and build in its place a program that encourages hard work and initiative and all the things that have made this country great.

Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning, nationally syndicated talk radio show, The Phil Valentine Show.

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