If you care about the poor, must you vote for bigger government?

Here’s an article on the Daily Signal that traces the history of big government “solutions” to poverty, and argues that big government has not been able to solve the poverty problem no matter how much money they’ve taken from taxpayers.


Today, the U.S. Census Bureau will release its annual report on poverty. This report is noteworthy because this year marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s launch of the War on Poverty. Liberals claim that the War on Poverty has failed because we didn’t spend enough money. Their answer is just to spend more. But the facts show otherwise.

[…]Over 100 million people, about one third of the U.S. population, received aid from at least one welfare program at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient in 2013. If converted into cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the U.S.

But today the Census will almost certainly proclaim that around 14 percent of Americans are still poor. The present poverty rate is almost exactly the same as it was in 1967 a few years after the War on Poverty started. Census data actually shows that poverty has gotten worse over the last 40 years.

How is this possible? How can the taxpayers spend $22 trillion on welfare while poverty gets worse?

The answer is it isn’t possible.  Census counts a family as poor if its income falls below specified thresholds. But in counting family “income,” Census ignores nearly the entire $943 billion welfare state.

For most Americans, the word “poverty” means significant material deprivation, an inability to provide a family with adequate nutritious food, reasonable shelter and clothing. But only a small portion of the more than 40 million people labelled as poor by Census fit that description.

[…]According to government surveys, the typical family that Census identifies as poor has air conditioning, cable or satellite TV, and a computer in his home. Forty percent have a wide screen HDTV and another 40 percent have internet access. Three quarters of the poor own a car and roughly a third have two or more cars. (These numbers are not the result of the current bad economy pushing middle class families into poverty; instead, they reflect a steady improvement in living conditions among the poor for many decades.)

The intake of protein, vitamins and minerals by poor children is virtually identical with upper middle class kids. According to surveys by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the overwhelming majority of poor people report they were not hungry even for a single day during the prior year.

The article goes on t make the point that if the purpose of government social programs is to make people more independent so they can get off the welfare, then the government has failed to achieve that goal. In fact, they’ve made even more people dependent on government since they started to try to make them independent of government.

According to a Congressional Research Service study, we spend more on welfare per year (1.03 trillion) than we do on Social Security (725 billion) or Medicare (480 billion) or non-war defense (540 billion). And what do we get? More dependency on government, not less.

4 thoughts on “If you care about the poor, must you vote for bigger government?”

  1. Maybe I need to reevaluate my financial situation. I consider myself lower middle class but don’t see things like cable/satellite TV as worth the money. I have internet access in public hot spots and at work so having it at home isn’t worth the money. I don’t own a smart phone. I grew up in the Midwest without air conditioning at home and within a few weeks of the weather changing I am comfortable in winter and summer. I set my heat at around 60 in the winter and run fans at night in the summer. I end up with money left over in my budget so I save and give to others in need. I realize that my lifestyle doesn’t work for everyone but when you live on a budget and count only on the income from work you tend to weed out the things you don’t actually need.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What should the Christian policy be? It couldn’t try to eradicate poverty, since that’s futile (Matthew 26:11), but it could alleviate some suffering. Maybe the government can succeed better if it just tries to provide a bare minimum standard of living so no one starves or dies of exposure in the streets.

    Or do you think the government should take no role at all? Can the churches and community organizations provide enough for our poorest citizens?

    Here’s another question: Obviously there are a lot of poor people who are never going to become independent. Lots of them have debilitating mental illnesses, for example. So my question for you is: What percentage of today’s poor people do you think are able to become self-sufficient or productive members of society?


    1. The Christian position is voluntary individual charity. The government’s role is not to redistribute wealth in order to equalize outcomes regardless of personal choices.


  3. The government would have more resources to help those with chronic illness by spending less on those who are capable of being self sufficient. In Illinois funding was cut for people with mental disabilities when Obama reduced payments to states to support his other social programs.

    Food, clean water, shelter and education should be the focus of any government or church charity. When government declares that things in excess of this is a right they are setting up a nanny state. Financial assistance should never be declared a right, it’s charity or enablement. Subsidized medical for adults should be connected to good health choices. Subsidized medical for children should be connected to the parent’s financial needs.

    People worldwide who are food poor are more likely to purchase phones or other luxuries rather than increase their food intake.


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