This year marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s launch of the War on Poverty. In January 1964, Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty in America.” Since then, the taxpayers have spent $22 trillion on Johnson’s war. Adjusted for inflation, that’s three times the cost of all military wars since the American Revolution.
Last year, government spent $943 billion providing cash, food, housing and medical care to poor and low-income Americans. (That figure doesn’t include Social Security or Medicare.) More than 100 million people, or one third of Americans, received some type of welfare aid, at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient. If converted into cash, this spending was five times what was needed to eliminate all poverty in the United States.
The U.S. Census Bureau has just released its annual poverty report. The report claims that in 2013, 14.5 percent of Americans were poor. Remarkably, that’s almost the same poverty rate as in 1967, three years after the War on Poverty started. How can that be? How can government spend $9,000 per recipient and have no effect on poverty? The answer is — it can’t.