Skip to comments.50 Year War on Poverty - Success or Failure?
Posted on 01/28/2014 9:25:11 AM PST by Kaslin
Before you can assess the success or failure of a program you must first understand the mission. Then, with the objectives of the mission in mind, one can measure success or failure.
If you set the bar low enough or modify the mission, then anything can look like a success. Conversely, everything fails if standards are sufficiently high.
Thomas Sowell discusses those ideas, in relation to the war on poverty, in Fact-Free Liberals.
Since this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the "war on poverty," we can expect many comments and commemorations of this landmark legislation in the development of the American welfare state.
The actual signing of the "war on poverty" legislation took place in August 1964, so the 50th anniversary is some months away. But there have already been statements in the media and in politics proclaiming that this vast and costly array of anti-poverty programs "worked."
The real question is: What did the "war on poverty" set out to do -- and how well did it do it, if at all?
Both President John F. Kennedy, who launched the proposal for a "war on poverty" and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, who guided the legislation through Congress and then signed it into law, were very explicit as to what the "war on poverty" was intended to accomplish.
President Kennedy said, "We must find ways of returning far more of our dependent people to independence."
The same theme was repeated endlessly by President Johnson. The purpose of the "war on poverty," he said, was to make "taxpayers out of taxeaters." Its slogan was "Give a hand up, not a handout." When Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark legislation into law, he declared: "The days of the dole in our country are numbered."
Now, 50 years and trillions of dollars later, it is painfully clear that there is more dependency than ever.
Ironically, dependency on government to raise people above the poverty line had been going down for years before the "war on poverty" began. The hard facts showed that the number of people who lived below the official poverty line had been declining since 1960, and was only half of what it had been in 1950.
On the more fundamental question of dependency, the facts were even clearer. The proportion of people whose earnings put them below the poverty level -- without counting government benefits -- declined by about one-third from 1950 to 1965.
All this was happening before the "war on poverty" went into effect -- and all these trends reversed after it went into effect.
By any reasonable measurement of war on poverty mission statements made by presidents Kennedy and Johnson, the war on poverty was a miserable failure.
Success; gov’t has grown and the # of peeps dependent on Big Gov’t have grown.
How’s the rate of bastardy doing? How about the number of poor children in two parent households?
Or do we simply measur it by the size of their TV or Smart phone screen?
Fifty million on good stamps, college grads averaging 20g in debt, with no one to be honest about publicizing their real unemployment numbers, they cant start families- 42% of them want children, and no one caring because they are predominantly white?
What are we.doing to these kids?
We are giving them Obama and this corrupt band of congressmen’s $20 trillion debt! They haven’t stopped spending. They just took money from the war vets and their widows
War on poverty!!
I see the appeal for legalizing dope. It’s to be able to read these headlines and from conservative papers!
I want a Peace Dividend from The War On Poverty.
You get more of what you focus on. The government has focused on “poverty”, misfortune and harship to the point od obsession as evidenced by the trillions thrown at poverty and such. The government used to limit itself to safety and infrastructure and did a decent job. Now it is all about poverty and does and excellent job of producing more of that.
Contrast him with Barry Goldwater who is maligned as a racist who opposed the civil rights act.
Goldwater was a founding member of the Arizona chapter of the NAACP who practiced affirmative action in his own offices and actually voted for an earlier version of the civil rights act that wouldn’t be imposed on the private sector.
In my opinion the civil rights act had a devastating effect on business in this country.
Well, let’s judge by current democrat standards. After 15 minutes in Iraq, His Lordship Harry Reid the Corrupt pronounced the war there lost. So, using the same metrics for a 50-year struggle...
Guess what, Poverty won the war.
Poor results just mean "we didn't try hard enough/it needs more money and bureaucrats".
OTOH, conservative ideas are always "immediate failures/wrong idea/won't work/heartless/racist/stupid....", even before being tried.
I hate liberalism.
Well, it’s an impossible question to answer, because the definition of poverty has changed in 50 years, here anyway. Today even the poor have electricity, running water, phones, some sort of medical care. In 1964 there were some(not a lot )who didnt, and not by choice. When men were going into the Army at the beginning of World War II, it was reported some boys from places like Appalachia had signs of extreme poverty. We were coming out of a depression. Nowadays if somebody is off the grid, doesn’t wear shoes is is badly nourished its due to other factors or even by choice. Using homeless counts to measure poverty is a bad idea because a lot of people are homeless for reasons other than poverty, mental illness, for example. That’s a crisis of a different kind. Believe it or not, some people in the streets actually get disability checks, and just choose not to use them for rent.
If poverty is always relative, then the war is never over. Of course people will feel poor even if they are clothed, fed, housed, have transportation, Obama phones and medical care because they’re comparing themselves to other Americans who have bigger houses, newer cars, etc instead if to people in third world countries or their own great grandparents in this country.
This is one of the reasons this “income inequality” catch phrase of Obamas is so dangerous.
It was a failure out of the gate, and it has not gotten any closer to ANY measure of success.
Zero and 0bamunits have created millions more dependent folks than the number at the time of his first inaugural.
In fairness, however, every president since Johnson has failed miserably on this one, and on the so called war on drugs, as well.
Truth be told, these should more aptly be named the “War for Poverty” and the “War for Drugs”.
Absolutely correct and once Obama has the majority dependent of his largesse, he will have solidified his socialist base and power - until the collapse into anarchy.
We are told that poverty is caused by a lack of education so education spending has also increased to massive numbers but yet after a generation of free education, only 5% of blacks can pass the ACT test.
“You can lead a horse to water....”
Read that a fifty year war on decent hard working U. S. Citizens.
And sadly, it’s been a massive success.
23% of our workforce idle. Another 25% or so of it receiving half the wages it used to just a few short years ago.
The NSA telling us to turn our head and cough.
Cameras on every corner.
Well, at least the rectal probes haven’t been implemented yet.
Course we don’t know what Obama’s case is. Perhaps they have...
Of course, most of the failures are the Dem's core constituency. To placate these people, the Dems must rob the producers. Few will cry for the superrich. Most Dems consider themselves owed by the rich. They deserve the wealth they did not create.
Mr. Kennedy actually said that? I'm surprised he hasn't been posthumously kicked out of the democrat party.
Like anything from LBJ, an abject failure.
“War on poverty?” Many kinds of work are outlawed for the purpose of keeping new, small production shops from starting and eventually eliminating owner-builders. There’s no war on poverty. It’s a regulating, foreign manufacturing and currency class war against the impoverished in western culture. Many freedoms and families are being violated and destroyed by globetrotting lefties.
Exactly. America - as founded and designed- inherently was a war on poverty.
Actually, during that period, the average American made huge gains in their standard of living and wealth. Bigger gains than any other period of American history. But virtually every history class vilifies the wealth creators as inhuman beasts whose greed caused incredible hardships for the common people.
In his “History of the American People” Paul Johnson writes along these lines, pointing out the large increases in wealth and other measures of well-being of the common man during this time and concludes the section with “Where was the robbing?”
I remember an old joke I read somewhere about WWII. A young barefoot lad from up in a “holler” somewhere walked into the recruiting office to volunteer for the infantry. A doctor examined him and said, “Son, I’m sorry but the Army can’t use you because you have a very bad case of flat feet, you wouldn’t be able to march five miles with those feet.”
The young fellow looked at the doctor and said, “I shor hate to hear that, Doc, ‘cause I done walked forty miles to git here an’ I shor hate to walk back.”
In my opinion education is the SPECTACULAR failure that lies at the root of all the rest. It has been reported recently that studies show that a current bachelor degree is worth less in the job market than a public high school diploma was worth in the sixties. I know from conversations that recent college graduates in this area who majored in history could not pass an eighth grade history test from my era. Classical education seems to be very nearly nonexistent, what is left is some kind of training to produce compliant employees who will do as they are told.
It is pathetic to see how many spend years in a university running up student debts and then take a job that would have been scorned by an 18 year old high school graduate fifty years ago. I consider it downright criminal to do this to young people.
Yep. The leftists have control of our education system and our media, so it is very hard to get the truth out. Is there any source or website out there for kids to learn real history? We need a conservative kids site. I need something I can rebut the “education” my kids are getting.
Or to put it in Lay-man's terms, if you had been trying to get laid for 50 years with no positive, hard results, would it be considered a success?