A dubious anniversary
Over the last half-century, the United States has been engaged in hot, cold and even cultural wars. There have been wars declared on terrorism, drugs, gun ownership, traditional marriage, the minimum wage and, according to Hillary Clinton, there's an ongoing "war on women."
No matter how you want to label it, our longest war by far is the ongoing confrontation with poverty. This Wednesday will mark the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson's defining piece of legislation, the "War on Poverty." It was all part of LBJ's "Great Society" that, in retrospect, was only great for the expansion of the welfare state that continues to march on.
Here we are a half-century later under the direction of another Democratic White House, and the welfare rolls continue to metastasize, painting the nation's fiscal balance sheet blood red on both sides.
The war on poverty was supposed to eliminate the enabling crutch of government dependency for good. Sargent Shriver, the nation's first director of the Office of Economic Opportunity that would eventually be abolished by Ronald Reagan in 1981, predicted that LBJ's masterstroke would eradicate poverty by 1976.
Shriver would have made a lousy Bloomsburg Fair "fool the guesser" carnie.
LBJ said the war on poverty was to make "taxpayers out of tax-eaters." It did anything but. Since 1965, the percentage of Americans living in poverty has remained stagnant. In 1965, it was anchored at 18 percent; while today we've been stuck at 15 percent for three consecutive years and, according to a 2014 report by the Council of Economic Advisers, "there were 49.7 million Americans grappling with the economic and social hardships of living below the poverty line, including 13.4 million children." Moreover, food stamp participants have increased 39 percent.
The Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector said since the "war on poverty" was declared, we have spent $20 trillion on numerous welfare programs that today averages $1 trillion a year.
Incredibly, Medicare and Social Security are not part of that spending matrix that eat up even more money, but that is a column for another day.
Despite trillions upon trillions spent, nearly 50 million Americans still wallow in poverty. They have things that people in most countries only dream about - yet they want America to be more like those other countries, proving again that common sense is more virtue than common.
For half a century, we've been drifting the wrong way, yet Democrats insist on dancing to the same tune while pirouetting the country right over the fiscal cliff.
The problem is copious spending. Economic scholar Thomas Sowell pointed out, "While the fact-free liberals celebrate the war on poverty and other bright ideas of the 1960s, we are trying to cope with yet another "reform" that has made matters worse - ObamaCare."
Reform has worked, but it only lasts until Democrats are unleashed in the majority upon Capitol Hill.
On Feb. 15, 1986, President Reagan delivered his weekly radio address to the nation on welfare reform, saying, "Poverty won in part because instead of helping the poor, government programs ruptured the bonds holding poor families together."
It was the Republican Congress that compelled Bill Clinton to reform welfare. Since that unique interval, all that reform was undermined by Congressional Democrats in alliance with the Obama White House.
The result is an unsustainable path of record deficits and spending.
The legacy of defeat in the war on poverty is as momentous as it is far-reaching. It gave unmarried mothers monetary impartiality, while fathers all but faded away, destabilizing the home. Democrats would like you to believe that when the resulting skyrocketing illegitimate birth rate went from seven percent in 1964 to 40 percent today it was just a fluke.
Not a chance.
A broken family only adds to the greater brokenness of the world with unintended consequences ranging from increased abortions to higher crime rates to more high school dropouts that only result in more welfare.
Like all federal programs initiated by Democrats, they demand nothing of breaking the dependency cycle. In fact, it is designed for them not to change, but remain dependent, which generates a loyal base of Democratic voters.
Dependent voters are dependable voters.
There has always existed a huge chasm between government agencies, which to the poor are just another monolithic bureaucracy, inefficient as it is impersonal, and the care provided for by churches, volunteers and private organizations that reach them. We should want to help the poor help themselves because as history dictates, a hand-up is infinitely better than a handout.
(Greg Maresca, a freelance writer, composes "Talking Points" for each Sunday edition.)