Liberals have decried the failure of the War on Drugs for years, claiming that the answer to America’s drug problem lied not in more arrests but in a greater understanding of the problem itself. That sense of evaluation seems to desert them when it comes to another war the country has been waging for fifty years – the war on poverty. Trillions have been spent trying to iron out the inequalities – to eliminate the ghettoes and barrios and trailer parks that house America’s poor – and the problem is still there.
The liberal answer? We haven’t spent enough money. Somehow, $22 trillion dollars isn’t enough to solve the problem.
In this case, like so many others, the facts are simply not with the left. In 2013, at least 33% of the American population got their hands on some form of welfare money. The average cost was $9,000 per recipient. Yet the problem of poverty remains. It remains despite all the crying, despite all the money, and despite the presence of more than 80 federally-run, means-tested welfare programs. Taking Social Security, Unemployment, and Medicare out of the equation, the country spent $943 billion last year on welfare alone. According to some economists – if you took all of America’s spending last year on means-tested programs and translated them into cash, you would eliminate poverty five times over.
Clearly, the problem is not one of too little spending.
The initial war on poverty was the brainchild of Lyndon Johnson, but the ideas he had regarding welfare programs were vastly different than the way they played out. Today, recipients make welfare a way of life. They are offered few incentives to get out and become self-sustained. It has gotten so bad that, in some of the worst American cultures, girls grow up with the full intention of becoming child-bearing welfare queens. The system is primed to be gamed, and the players are well aware of it.
This is not only a problem from a tax-and-spend standpoint; it produces generation after generation of Americans who have no ambition beyond living off the government. Liberals don’t care; that’s where their most reliable votes come from. But what about those lost generations? Most of us live lives roughly comparable to the lives our parents led. When you grow up surrounded by adults who see welfare as a viable alternative to working, they don’t stop for a moment to consider another path.
That’s where we need to step in. It’s time to get back to Johnson’s original vision of the welfare system. We’ve gotten so far away from the initial ideals that we don’t even recognize poverty when we see it. According to the Census numbers, most people under the poverty line can afford to run the air conditioner, enjoy cable television, and have a computer connected to the Internet. This is a far cry from the “poverty” of days past when children might go a day without anything more substantial to eat than a piece of stale bread.
By implementing welfare-to-work programs, we can move beyond this entitlement culture and present these lost generations with a true choice: work for your money or don’t. But don’t expect federal and state dollars to support your lower middle class lifestyle.