Free Markets, Free People

No progress in the War on Poverty and none expected

A new study from CATO has found that despite trillions in spending, the poverty rate hasn’t moved much:

“[S]ince President Obama took office [in January 2009], federal welfare spending has increased by 41 percent, more than $193 billion per year,” the study says.

Federal welfare spending in fiscal year 2011 totaled $668 billion, spread out over 126 programs, while the poverty rate that remains high at 15.1 percent, roughly where it was in 1965, when President Johnson declared a federal War on Poverty.

In 1966, the first year after Johnson declared war on poverty, the national poverty rate was 14.7 percent, according to Census Bureau figures. Over time, the poverty rate has fluctuated in a narrow range between 11 and 15 percent, only falling into the 11 percent range for a few years in the late 1970’s.

The federal poverty rate is the percentage of the population below the federal poverty threshold, which varies based on family size.

A point that needs to be raised here is the poverty rate isn’t going to change no matter how much we spend because revisions to the threshold will always be such that about 15% of the population will be considered poor.

And, in a relative terms, they are indeed “poorer” than the other 85%.

The question is, are they really “poor” in real terms?

It depends on how you measure poverty, doesn’t it?  You can’t spend taxpayer money on poverty unless “poverty” exists, right?  But how many of our “poor” are truly poor?

Well, I’m not sure and neither is anyone else.  That’s because of the way poverty is measured in the US.  Essentially it is based solely on income.

The official poverty measure counts only monetary income. It considers antipoverty programs such as food stamps, housing assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid and school lunches, among others, “in-kind benefits” — and hence not income. So, despite everything these programs do to relieve poverty, they aren’t counted as income when Washington measures the poverty rate.

So guess what remains the same?  The poverty rate.  If “in-kind benefits” were included in income calculations for those receiving them, a lot fewer of them would be considered “poor”.   And since it’s only based on income, many elderly who receive retirement incomes below the “poverty” threshold are considered to be poor despite the fact that they own paid off assets like houses and cars and live comfortably on that retirement income.  But they pad the stats and help to continue to justify the programs and expenditures.

Do any of us have a problem with giving those who are down a hand up? 

I don’t.  But, I want a fair and reasonable determination of who really needs it before I extend that hand.

That’s something we’ve never, ever gotten since the beginning of the War on Poverty.

Are there real poor in this country.  Yes, there probably are – but not 15%.

I know CATO’s study emphasized a lack of progress.  It has nothing to do with “progress” against poverty – as noted, there will never be any progress made given the constant upward revision of the poverty level and the absurd way poverty is calculated in this country. 

As with most programs the government runs, this is one in dire need of a complete and total overhaul.

And CATO’s study is useful in pointing that out – again.

Not that anything is likely to actually happen to address the problem or anything.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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19 Responses to No progress in the War on Poverty and none expected

  • Do any of us have a problem with giving those who are down a hand up?

    And do you know the absolute best, most fool-proof way to assure that the person actually needs help?  By hand, so to speak.  People are best at helping people.  People are best at reading a freeloading bum from a person who is just down.  And people are best at providing nurture to someone, without making them feel like addled children or helpless retainers.
    Like most distortions of markets by BIG GOVERNMENT, the immense market distortions in the charity market have led to enormous waste and needless human suffering.

    • “Like most distortions of markets by BIG GOVERNMENT, the immense market distortions in the charity market have led to enormous waste and needless human suffering.”
      And a little directed buying votes of course.

      • A lot more than a little.  And grinding cynicism and meanness, in the bargain.

  • If you really want to see poverty then go to a third world country.

    • Follow I-10 out of Texas, stare across the border at El Paso into Juarez.   Walk across the boarder to TJ from San Diego.
       
      Visit Detroit…oh, wait…
       

  • Longest running quagmire

    • The official poverty measure counts only monetary income. It considers antipoverty programs such as food stamps, housing assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid and school lunches, among others, “in-kind benefits” – and hence not income. So, despite everything these programs do to relieve poverty, they aren’t counted as income when Washington measures the poverty rate.

      Yeah. It’s rigged to stay the same.

  • The CATO Institute is a right-wing (libertarian) think-tank, designed primarily to justify conservative (libertarian) positions.  It’s not surprising that the American conservative (biblical) view of poor people is for Christians to give them a ‘hand up’ (charity from the chosen ones); while at the same time hiding the secret understanding that this poverty is their lot (in accordance with God’s will).
     
    For a comparison of poverty of children in the industrialized world, see:  http://sitemaker.umich.edu/salas.356/usa_vs._world
     
    For an analysis of religion on modern conservative thought, see:  The Family, by Jeff Sharlet

    • Is it tad? Good lord man, you’ve done nothing to address the point of the post. Of course you never do. I’m not sure why you waste your time wasting our time with nonsense like this.

    • “while at the same time hiding the secret understanding that this poverty is their lot (in accordance with God’s will).”
       
      Well, theologian, you might want to send us some proof of that.  I mean, operatively just because thousands of local community churches all over the nation prove you wrong day in day out.  Members of their parish who fall on hard times get help and then rise back again out of poverty.   I’ve seen it numerous times over the years.
       
      But YOU are Tad, all knowing, all wise.  Speaking of people who like to keep people in perpetual poverty, let’s talk about the Democrats and their plan to keep the colored folks on the welfare plantation, shall we?
       
      In the interests of full disclosure Tad, I’m not a man of religion myself, but I have a great deal of respect for those who DO help others in the name of their chosen faith (without government intervention).  I’ve noticed you’re a bit of a…well, man without any faith.  Except a bankrupt faith in the idea MORE government is a good thing.   I trust that faith brightens your day and makes you thankful to, errr, government.

    • charity from the chosen ones

      Oh, contrare, you idiot.  If the poor in America had to rely on “chosen ones” like your typical elitist Collectivist, they would be dead.  See Obama, Barrackah; see also Kerry, John.
      Americans of no great means have a history of being the givers.  You might look it up.  If you weren’t such a close-minded little prig.

    • “the secret understanding that this poverty is their lot”
       
      Secret? All the missionary work and proselytizing that has been done for the last two thousand years and you claim there is some “secret understanding” in the bible? Wow. And I thought the 911 Truthers were nutty.
       
      I admit my knowledge of the scriptures is limited and spotty, so since you evidently are a master theologian could you inform me as to where in the scriptures it says that the poor must remain poor. I know that predestination as to ones ultimate destination  is a tenet of some sects, but I am unaware of any caste restrictions in Christianity.

    • It always amazes me how the folks who wouldn’t be caught dead hanging around with those ignorant, biased, wingnut Christian fanatics know so much about them, including all their best kept secrets. I guess it just goes with being an enlightened, open-minded, tolerant progressive.

    • To link Cato with Christianity proves you are an ignorant asshole. Cato is very libertarian, and most of their people are atheists or agnostics.
       
      Your view of Christian thought on charity is also extremely ignorant. You are a nasty stupid ignorant asshole, go away boy.

    • So, tell us then, how’s that government getting people out of poverty thing been working Tad?
       
      Is that why our current fearless leader had to increase welfare spending by 41% in the last three years, because it’s worked so well from 1964 to 2009?
       
      Ditz.

  • And the federal government wants more people on food stamps.
    http://money.cnn.com/2012/06/25/news/economy/food-stamps-ads/
     
    But then that is how govt bureaucracies work isn’t it?  Expansion of govt programs PROVES that they are not only needed, but that they are being managed effectively.  More enrollees, means bigger budgets, which means more employees, and bigger bonuses for those at the tops of these administrations.  This is how they measure success.  By spending more and more of OUR money.  I’ve often thought that the main function of a bureaucrat is to perpetuate the bureaucracy.

    • Yessiree.  AND maintain the misery.  Markets RAISE the standard of living.  BIG GOVERNMENT wastes, ruins, and levels to the lowest common denominator.