The insanity of the ‘War On Poverty’

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

— Albert Einstein

Prior to the ‘War on Poverty’ which was initiated in the mid 1960s, the number of people living below the poverty line was in steep decline…

Then the government got involved and spoke the words President Ronald Reagan warned us about, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help” and the decline came to a halt in favor of increases and declines varying from as low as 11% to as high as 16%.  The government’s response to a problem that wasn’t, was to spend money on social programs designed to lift people out of poverty.

Despite throwing money hand over fist at a problem which was in decline without government intervention, the poverty rate has remained stable.  The progressive approach endorses a ‘solution’ that seems to have no prospects of success, none that we can see anyway.  Regardless of how much more we fund programs aimed at teducing poverty it doesn’t decrease.  By and large, the conservative view endorses a pre-‘war’ strategy: scale back the spending and ease people into providing for themselves much like before the War on Poverty.

The good intentions of spending money on the poor doesn’t seem to really be helping them.  If anything, it could be argued that it’s the opposite of help.  What’s worse, the poor are given a false sense of being cared for because welfare programs are only successful at keeping poor people poor.

Our urban American cities are plagued by poverty, unemployment, poor public schools, drugs, and violence.  These same cities have been in the political control of “Progressives” and not much has been achieved by way of results. If poverty is highest among minorities even despite all the “caring” and spending, what can you point to that has been a success?  27.5% of Blacks are currently in poverty according to the U.S. Census Bureau, compared with 9.8% of Whites.  Hispanics are no better off than Blacks, either at 25.3%.

Poverty Rates of All Persons by Race and Ethnicity 1979-2011

And what about the poor?  The number of people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) is nearly 1 in 6 and has been on the rise at rates never before seen.snap data Unemployment is also highest among minorities, the voting bloc Progressives claim to care for more vocally than any other. For blacks it’s more than double that of whites at 13.7% compared to 6.6%, with Hispanics holding in the middle at 9.1% (tables A-2 and A-3)

unemployment by race

So you go ahead and mourn about poverty, Progressives, while  it proliferates.  With Progressives at the helm in big city governments, no inroads have been made which actually produce positive results.  What we see is stagnation or the degradation of the condition of the poor while under Progressive rule.  For all the boasting about how much they care about the poor, we don’t seem to ever see anything more than lip service and promises.  But hey, at least they care.


  1. It sure makes the libs – oops, “progressives” – feel good about doing something. Never mind that their “doing something” always makes things worse.

    • Glenn, its that “we need to do SOMETHING” mentality that does the worst harm. It is a reaction of emotion that overrides what seems callous but effective.

  2. I was hoping to see a continuation from the previous post on the afterlife, but I guess that’s still coming.

    As for the social issues you mention here, I often hear complaining from both sides. Instead of that, I would really be interested in hearing details about what folks like you and Glenn would do to try to solve the problem.

    • Yeah, I need more responses. Pass the post along.

      Right now I dont have the stat, but a large majority of people on unemployment who find jobs do so in the last couple weeks right before the unemployment runs out. I think people need to rely on their friends and families and communities. The government has no business being a charity organization. The church — yes the church — has the responsibility to feed the poor and help with housing.

      Until people have no options they wont do anything for themselves.

      My opinion is government programs like housing, utility, SNAP, and some others should not be available in perpetuity. Caps like 9 months to a year should be it. Youll see many of these people who cant support themselves or their children make a change if they know the money runs out.

      I would be ok with some exceptions, but they would be very selective and rare.

  3. But John, your suggestions above don’t address what “to” do, just limiting or ending what we already do.

    You are right though. We are doing it wrong. Unlimited support is not the answer for those in poverty, or it would have had some large positive outcomes by now. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to show on a much smaller scale that hand outs work. In general, on larger scales, they don’t.

    So then what is at the root of the cause of poverty? It’s two parts. Firstly, as a metric you should include above any number of graphs that show that a dollar in 1968 purchased 750+/-% more than it does now. Secondly, we are at the tail end of a mass corporate/manufacturing/industry exodus. These two things have complex causes and mechanisms behind them (off topic), but when combined are more than outliers or “possible” causes for unemployment/poverty.

    So “if” we use this as cause and surmise that poverty is the effect, then all we have left are “possible” solutions.

  4. And let’s not mention that minimum wage has 30% less purchasing power now than it did in 1968. It’s been a steady decline. So any reasonable, fair discussion on poverty must take that into account.

    Let me also add that I am a conservative, moderate but conservative. I want as close to a free-market as possible, but I don’t want society to ignore people’s suffering or the massive amount of corporate welfare that, for God’s literal sake, I wish you would mention on occasion. You always talk about social welfare, but have you ever mentioned corporate welfare? No. And please don’t tell me that it’s “undefined,” because it’s been defined by me, Nash, and others numerous times.

    • By the way, I am against Corporate welfare also.

      • ‘Corporate welfare’ is corporations keeping more of their own money. The taxes they do pay are paid by their consumers — us. Social or public welfare recipients are not keeping more of their own money, they are getting money that was never theirs. So in principle, that’s why I dont look as harshly on ‘corporate welfare’ as others do.

        • Whoa….‘Corporate welfare’ is corporations keeping more of their own money”?

          Of the Forbes 500 companies listed since 1990, not one of them has ever paid the 25-35% corporate tax rate. The average is 7%. 10 of the top 20 paid 0%.

          If corporate welfare is corporations keeping more of “their” own money, then please explain:

          1) The MAP program funded by the Dept of Ag which has just given 200 million annually in grants to big ag, not small farmers, to offset the cost of advertising their export products. Welch received 893+ bucks in 2010 from this program alone.

          2) Or the Foreign Agriculture Service or the Commodity Credit Corporation grants to big ag. These are not zero or low interest loans. This is federally subsidized money.

          3) In 2010 GE showed worldwide profits of 15 billion, 5.25 billion in the US. Their tax bill? +3.2 billion. Paid to them by you and I. The IRS continues to send these companies checks instead of bills. How do I pay 13-18% and they get money back?


          5) When a privately held company mines gold, silver, uranium or coal on public lands and the county or state gets no royalties from the operation….how is this a corporation keeping their own money?

          6) The DOI gives massive federal grants to coal companies who then mine the coal on public lands…………….and then export it!!!!! Just look into Peabody Energy. The first name that should come to mind is Cheney.

          7) There are 8-12 lobbyists for every member of the House and the Senate. Is their job to make sure that their companies/industries keep their money? Or to get federal money from our collective coffer?

          8) What about all of the monies given to all of those radical, leftist, tree huggers? Uh-oh……’s really going to big Ag!
          When a corporation errrrrr I mean farm, harvests ethanol corn or plants, or harvests, sells, converts and then replants……every single step is federally subsidized.

          9) This link absolutely debunks the dogmatic mantra that welfare is just corporations keeping their money.

          I could continue ad nauseum, but what is the point?

          • Nash

            Even if companies pay ‘less than the rate….’ so what everyone pays less than the rate bracket theyre in. Unless you know of a company that pays 0% and then gets government money on top of that. So even if a company pays 1%, they arent getting money from the gov., it means the gov. isnt taking as much from the corp.

            Regardless of the rate a corporation pays, its customers pay it, its built into the price point for the the customer price. It secures the profit margin just like when the electric rate goes up.

            • Seriously!
              GE gets billions back after getting federal grants, subsidies and zero percent loans guaranteed by The Import/Export Bank…….which is federally subsidized.

              This has zero to do with price points and customers paying it. I am not a customer of GE’s products. Yet they are getting money from me through these programs. This is just one example!

              What about the other 10 examples? Are these considered, inaccurately, “price point” diversions as well?

              Here’s a little light reading specific to the topic at hand from The Cato Ins. a fairly libertarian/conservative think tank. They have written extensively for more than 20 years about corporate welfare, which apparently actually exists and is not just corporations keeping more of their money.


              • Hopefully I was clear that I would oppose actual corporate welfare. But I dont think the average person who slings the term excludes businesses that pay a low tax rate from no taxes or no taxes plus money back.

        • An example of corporate welfare in Iowa is ethanol producers. They are subsidized so that the ethanol blends are cheaper than regular gasoline, but if I cross the Mississippi into IL I have to pay MORE for the ethanol. It costs more to produce ethanol than the energy it provides, but the evironazis are demanding its use so Iowa subsidizes it. After all, we are a corn state. I never buy ethanol just on principle; I’ll pay the 10 cents more per gallon.

          • Interesting view Glenn….all of the bias and name calling but none of the facts.

            Can you please provide us with any evidence that “environazis” are responsible for pushing ethanol? Musch less federally subsidizing it…..or producing it, transporting it, planting, growing, harvesting, chemically engineering….anything? Here is a link to help you identify all of the welfare supported ethanol producers in Iowa. Your welcome:

            For any that you provide, I will show 10 that prove it is conservative/republican big Ag and the energy sector. Maybe read the Cato Ins Handbook for Policy makers 7th ed. and read up on ethanol there.

            Or maybe the Heritage Foundation:

            Please show us just one liberal/leftist/fascist as CEO/CFO of any ethanol company. Not even one on the Board of Directors? Where are all of these ruinous environazis Glenn? Where are they in either a republican or democrat administration? Not in charge of the DoE….none. Not in charge of the USDA. Not in charge of the BLM.
            What about all of the radical ownership and board at Archers Daniel Midland? Nope………all conservatives on the dole with federal monies.

            You are living a delusion.

            • R Nash,
              It is the enviro Nazis who are pushing ethanol to reduce “greenhouse gasses.” It is getting more and more of a push to E85. Without the enviro-nazis, there would be no push for ethanol.

              • So no proof huh, I mean other than your spewing party line, faux news one liners?

              • R.Nash,
                The proof is there to find on the ‘net. I’m not bothering to do the research to find it. I have lived with it for a couple decades. Corn prices have gone up for eating because the crops are being grown for making energy-inefficient ethanol. Just because you are ignorant of the politics, that doesn’t mean the rest of us are. The subject isn’t worth my time and effort. If you want to believe the emperor is wearing new clothes, so be it.

              • So you have this unyielding, unmovable, orthodoxy, which doesn’t even match your own conservative partys’ politics, because it is so dated and incorrect, but no evidence to show for it? You posit that you have “lived” with it? I am ignorant of the politics? I have dual degrees in 2 sciences Glenn and have worked in this field.

                Again please show me where I am ignorant of the politics. You hold this absolutionist position and “subject isn’t worth my time and effort”? You lose, again.

                They make medications for this condition you know?

              • R. Nash,
                Having degrees proves nothing other than you attended and indoctrination center and memorized enough to pass tests, etc. It says you learned what liberal institutions brainwashed you with, as is obvious from your “unyielding, unmovable” liberal worldview.

                Have a nice day.

              • What psychosis!!! If I am a liberal, indoctrinated, environazi…………why am I against federal spending on ethanol production?!?!?!?!?!?!

                You are so entrenched in your tiny, ignorant and culture war informed ways that you can’t even see the terrible dichotomy of your own positions. Everything in your opinion is mutually exclusive.

                Not sure why we bother. Every conversation with you turns into you calling people names after 2 posts. The moment someone doesn’t buy into your “opinions” they are labeled as something for you to rail against. It’s like arguing with a loud drunk.

              • R. Nash.

                Discussing anything with you is arguing with a fool. You are so entrenched in your tiny, ignorant and culture war of liberal ideology that you don’t see the terrible dichotomy of your own positions. Everything thing in YOUR opinion is mutually exclusive. Typical of liberals.

              • Is it jist me or did you both say the same thing?

              • Well one of us cuts and pastes from the other due to their inability to grasp any semblance of originality.

                BTW Glenn, great job not facing up to your not so trivial amount of contradiction. And as always thanks for not answering a single question and reverting first and foremost to name calling. Why I could expect anything else is just ignorant on my part.

              • Yes, John, it’s called throwing stupid and illogical statements back at the person making them.

                R. Nash, you’ve never demonstrated anything I’ve said as being contradictory. And you never will.

              • So when you refer to me as being a liberal/leftist/environazi and I am against any and all welfare for all industries, including AG subsidies for corn/ethanol…….this isn’t a contradiction? If not what is it? Oh wait let me guess…….I’m ignorant!!!! Was that gonna be your answer? Back on your meds Glenn I’m done. It was fun.

  5. R.Nash,
    I really didn’t want to respond, but I have to challenge your lies about what I said. Oh, I have called you a liberal and a leftist, since every post you comment on demonstrates your leftist/liberal ideologies. But I can’t find anywhere above where I called you an environazi. Therefore, you have no contradiction.

  6. Just to throw this in, in neither this discussion, nor the previous one on a “living wage”, has there been any suggestions regarding the policies of government that led to the current state of affairs. If one wants to elevate wages and reduce poverty, it seems to me that electing the right people to office is of great importance. Detroit is a good example.

    It was mentioned that manufacturing leaving the country had much to do with the current state of affairs, but why did they leave in the first place? Gov’t policies, including both taxation and regulation. No discussion on poverty or wages can deny the effects of gov’t policy on business.

    • Unions have a lot to do with it too.

      • Unions may have played a role in Detroit but they played zero role in the collapse of the economy currently, the tech, banking or housing bubbles bursting, or manufacturing sectors outside automobiles leaving for overseas.

        • Unions play a big role in ruining economies especially in large cities. They bankrupt city governments which has ripple effects. Obviously they arent the prime or only factor, but I think they do more damage than people see.

          • Well in Detroit it would be interesting to see how much of the 18 billion is directly relatable to auto/city union legacy costs. But the bill in CA is not related to union costs. The tech and housing and banking/mortgage industries have no unions.

            Of note the auto union was responsible for the consumer boom so often celebrated by conservatives back in the “good ol’ days.”

            Are you against a citizens right to form/join a union?

            • You should look into the teacher, police and other gov legacy costs. Its not just auto. Californias problems are most certainly related to public unions, chicago too.

            • I think its just fine for workers to form unions in the private industry so long as they dont break the employer/industry. I oppose public employee unions.

              • So you are “for” revoking a citizens right to form a union in any government job and would use government regulation to prevent such unions?

              • Yes because its taxpayers who foot the salary.

              • Absolutely! The problem arises when it’s politically expedient to bend to a union’s will, no matter how extravagant their requests may be. Politicians want votes. Period. And when it seems as easy as raising taxes to grant union wishes, they do. Until a breaking point is reached and the taxpayers decide to leave.

  7. It seems as though the public employees unions also have significant problems with an inherent conflict of interest. As long as these unions can donate campaign funds to the elected officials who have ultimate say over their contracts there is no way for the process to be aboveboard. Of course one could solve this by prohibiting PEU’s from campaign donations.

    • Craig, would you also overturn the SC decision on Citizens United and Speech I mean since we are talking about conflicts of interest and all.

  8. So John, you are “for” using the government to interfere with and/or regulate some things like unions because it involves the taxpayer, but not for other things, in spite of the same type of monetary interference?

    • Yes for the reason craig stated, and others.

      I dont disagree with the citizens united decision, I would ban public employee unions.

      • Intriguing use of big government.

        Now that we are completely off topic I wonder if you might initiate a post on why you support the unregulated use of of monies in any amount, without public disclosure of donors names via 501(C)(4) and 527’s or super PAC’s.
        The last election spent 11.9 billion, half of which was dark money and remains untraceable.
        What keeps a non-profit with no regulatory oversight and zero public disclosure from accepting a few billion from the UAE or a Saudi royal or GE etc?

  9. Does gov’t need to grow, become “bigger gov’t”, in order to ban public employee unions? I believe “big gov’t” refers more to what it is doing and whether that business is Constitutionally mandated, as opposed to how many people are needed or how much money is spent to do it. Though we always look to see costs lowered and unnecessary functions eliminated, big gov’t is more a matter of it sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong.

    The real problem with spending money during elections is the character of the candidates we have running and those we actually elect. It is also a matter of people, in general, not taking time to stay informed, which is so much easier to do in this internet age. Informed people don’t need campaign ads every minute on TV. Candidates with character don’t act based on money waved in their faces. Worrying about the amount of money spent during election seasons is to focus on the wrong thing.

  10. R. Not sure how Citizens United addresses the type of conflict of interest that PSU’s donating to the campaigns of those with who they will be negotiating. It seems quite clear that if a PSU is donating to candidate X they feel that candidate X will be supportive of their positions when it comes time for contract negotiation time. Which seems to me to be borderline bribery.

    I would think that the unique position of PSU’s would make them the exception to the Citizens United.

  11. Do we not all have expectations of those candidates we support, regardless of how our support manifests? That is, through our vote or our donations to their campaigns. How is it different from any other group, organization or corporation, except in total dollars? If the candidate is of good moral character, the donation won’t make a difference to his intentions. We all donate in hopes that a like-minded candidate will win the election.

  12. Marshall, I would argue that while anyone who supports a candidate has certain expectations of how the candidate will act, there is not the direct connection that we see with the PSU’s. In effect the PSU is saying “If you want our support (financial, volunteers, mailing lists etc.), we expect that you will vote for increased compensation for our union.” As I said, it seems a little like bribery to me since it is very much a payment to secure a specific action beneficial to the donor. As I see it it is similar to the old quote about how people will behave when they realize that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury.

    Having said that I could go either way. Either limit PSU’s ability to donate to candidates who the will be negotiating with, or eliminate all donor restrictions while mandating quick, accurate, and complete reporting of all donors. As an alternative they could use sponsor patches/decals like NASCAR.

    • And union members should have the right to vote which party the money goes to, and if you don’t like the party chosen, then you shouldn’t have to pay the part of you dues which goes to such support.

      • In any union you can opt out of your dues going to political campaigns or movements you disagree with, it came down from a federal court. Theres a process you have to go through though. Whether they abidebor not is another story.

    • Not to mention that they may strike in many cases and punish the citizens for not getting their way. Teachers, sanitation and public works come to mind.

  13. I’m sorry. I did not have public sector unions in mind when posting my last. I don’t like ’em and don’t believe public employees should be unionized. So, remove them from the mix and re-read my comment. Thank you.

    • For a point of clarification, my entire adult life I habe belonged to a public employee union. First with the Sheriff’s Dept., then with the State, then with the US Postal Service and I still think they are a cancer to the employers.

      • I was a postal worker for 3 1/2 years and refused to join their union. When I began training for Air Traffic Control during PATCO days, the first week there the union had a closed-door session with all the new guys and told us that if we didn’t join the union, we’d never get certified. So I joined. Then I watched as they began war plans, and walked out of union meetings voting for striking, kindly reminding of the oath to not strike. Those of us who voted against were treated like rubbish. Then came Aug 3 1981 when they went out and I and a few others stayed behind (Chicago Center). My wife got obscene phone calls, and I got threats that my house would be burned. My car was damaged. All from people who claimed that it would be a professional strike and not like a bunch of teamsters. I can’t stand unions, let alone public sector unions. When NATCA formed after the strike, I was already certified and refused to join them. For my entire career I watched all their PAC money and all their politicking going for the Demokrats. I watched them screw over people time and time again; I watched illegal actions by controllers being protected time and time again. It was sickening. They would fight to force certification of those who had no clue and management would buckle under just to avoid grievances. Some of those non-qualified persons were soon involved in dangerous errors.

        The only use I saw for unions was to protect the lazy and corrupt.

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