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National Columnists

Another view: Plan to eradicate poverty a failure

In January of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson stood before Congress for the annual State of the Union address and declared a “War on Poverty.”

Johnson had a plan to do just that and it involved providing government assistance so poor Americans would have the opportunity to become self-sufficient.

How did that work out? Basically, Johnson’s idealistic program has become a massive failure.

Over the past five decades, the War on Poverty has morphed into a mass of government handouts that has not led Americans to become more self-sufficient, but more dependent. The assistance has not given people a way out of their desperation, but instead set them up for failure and generational poverty.

Since 1964, the government has spent more than $20 trillion to wage the War on Poverty. But the overall poverty rate is virtually unchanged since the war began. In 2012 alone, the U.S. spent $916 billion on more than 80 programs designed to assist the poor. About 100 million Americans received assistance from one or more of these programs, with an average benefit of $9,000 a year – and that doesn’t include Social Security or Medicare.

Why has a decent idea turned into such an ineffective monster? There are a few reasons. Bleeding hearts with good intentions – both back in 1964 and today – who can’t or won’t see the harm they are doing. The nature of government to expand and try to do too much. Politicians using government benefits to buy votes.

You cannot expect people to do anything to help themselves when the government tries to provide for their every need. The War on Poverty wasn’t a bad idea in its original context. But the execution has been tragically wrong. It has created generations of wasted lives. It has destroyed whole communities.

It took a long time to get where we are. And it’s going to take time to get out of this mess – that is, if anyone in Washington actually wants to do so.

Texarkana (Arkansas) Gazette

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