Admitting Defeat in the War on Poverty
Randy Hekman - Thursday, November 10, 2011
It's time our federal government in Washington admitted defeat in the federal War on Poverty. All this ill-fated 'War' has done is put America deeper in debt, make whole generations of Americans enslaved to government handouts, and weakened American families.
The fact that we have lost the War on Poverty is incontrovertible: recent news indicated that the number of the "poorest poor" of Americans, those at or below 50 percent of the poverty level, have reached new levels never before recorded. One out of every 15 Americans, about 20.5 million qualify for this dubious distinction. The percentage (6.7%) has never been higher. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of these "very poor" rose in 300 of America's 360 largest metro areas in 2010. Nearly 15 percent of Americans, (45.8 million people) now receive food stamps: that includes about one in four American children.
The federal government's War on Poverty began in 1964 as part of President Johnson's plan to build the Great Society. As with most government programs, what began modestly has grown to where we now spend 13 times more than was spent in the 1960s. While all the real wars since the Revolution have cost taxpayers about $6.4 trillion, the War on Poverty has cost more than $16 trillion—ironically very close to our national debt which very soon will pass the $15 trillion mark. This is no coincidence. Whenever a nation decides it's going to meet all the needs of its citizens, it is guaranteed to go bankrupt. Witness the economic chaos in Greece, Italy and Spain.
If all this federal expense were uniformly helping our people, it would be one thing. But making many otherwise capable people perpetually dependent on governmental handouts is neither loving nor ennobling; it is demeaning. Franklin Roosevelt said in 1935, "Continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit."
Finally, federal welfare has hurt the American family. Part of the welfare structure is a "marriage penalty" which is a not-so-subtle inducement to bear children out of wedlock. Over 40 percent of children in the U.S. are born to women not married, a major rise from when the War on Poverty began. In some parts of our urban areas—like Detroit—this birth-out-of-wedlock rate exceeds 80 percent. This is a recipe for generational poverty. President Ronald Reagan said in 1988, "With the best of intentions, government [welfare programming] created a poverty trap that wreaks havoc on the very support system the poor need most to lift themselves out of poverty: the family. Dependency has become one enduring heirloom, passed from one generation to the next, of too many fragmented families."
What's the answer? For generations before 1964, Americans helped one another as neighbors, extended families, non-profits and churches met the needs of the poor. Real welfare requires real compassion. And that takes human-to-human contact, caring, mentoring, encouragement and—sometimes—firmness. "If a man will not work, he shall not eat," says a verse from the New Testament.
As to jobs, there is a great new approach to moving people off welfare to sustainable jobs using an approach called social enterprise. This is a marriage between business and community that is totally a private effort, but still produces a major positive governmental and economic impact. In this vein, over the past 8 years, Fred Keller and his Cascade Engineering in Grand Rapids has helped over 400 people escape welfare dependency. As of last count, 63 percent are still off the welfare rolls. We need to export this program to every part of Michigan now. It's a win-win-win for our nation's economy, for the individual, and for his or her family.
Corporate CEO Reza Mokhtarian Looks To Continue His War On Poverty In 2012 (http://www.prlog.org/11760940-corporate-ceo-reza-mokhtarian-looks-to-continue-his-war-on-poverty-in-2012.html)
Can we in America work together and put an end to poverty in our country?