Anti-Poverty Spending Now Tops a Record 16% of the Federal Budget

Deroy Murdock
National Review Online
May 16, 2006

"GOP-approved poverty benefits swelled 39 percent between 2001 and 2005. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is the only major program trimmed, from $18.6 billion to $17.4 billion. Otherwise, housing spending is up 26 percent. Healthcare aid has grown 40 percent. Nutrition relief has risen 49 percent. Keystones of LBJ’s Great Society have prospered, such as food stamps: up 71 percent. Meanwhile, child tax credits exploded 1,389 percent. Overall, poverty expenses now represent 16.1 percent of the federal budget — a record."

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"Washington loves the analogy—and reality—of war. Let's take a moment to consider one of the most famous uses of that term, the War on Poverty. On March 16, 1964, in a special message to Congress, President Johnson delivered his proposal for what he labeled 'A Nationwide War On The Sources of Poverty.'

The War on Poverty has...

"Has the great War on Poverty failed? Indeed, it has. We then ask, why? The answers are as diverse as the individual ideologies of Americans and yet, with close to a trillion dollars spent seemingly in vain, we must look for reasons. Why is it that the government of the wealthiest, most productive nation in history could not, by law, marshal its resources to bring...

"At the end of fiscal 2008, which came on September 30 of last year, the American national debt stood at $9.6 trillion. That sum is, perhaps, quite beyond the imagining of most people. It is, after all, 250 million times the average per capita income. Even the total fortunes of the entire Forbes 400 list add up to less than 15 percent of it. To use a journalistic...

A timeline history of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, from its roots as a federal study in 1892, its offical inception as a Presidential Cabinet post in 1965, and to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009.

"But the real story should be the degree to which the federal government’s War on Poverty has been a complete failure. Taxpayers have poured trillions of dollars into means-tested programs, yet the data show no positive results. Indeed, it’s quite likely that the programs have backfired."

"Does government-provided poor relief decrease the amount of poverty? That it does is an assumption at the heart of our nation’s very large antipoverty programs. In fact those programs were instituted for the purpose of making themselves obsolete. Shortly before passing the Social Security Act in 1935, for example, Franklin Roosevelt declared to Congress, 'The...

"Rasmussen Reports released poll results yesterday showing that 23% of Americans say they receive some form of cash benefits from the government. This is remarkably close to the truth. As The Heritage Foundation’s 2010 Index of Dependence on Government documents, 21% of the total U.S. population (64.3 million people) receive some level of assistance from...

"The recent release of the Census report on an upsurge of the number of Americans in poverty will almost surely be used to justify a spike in funding for federal anti-poverty programs. Yet after decades of increased spending on failed government anti-poverty programs, why should we expect a different result with the next funding increase?"

"If the progressive label seems less radical today, it is only because progressivism is less well known than its liberal progeny. It was initially an academic phenomenon far removed from American politics. Particularly in the post–Civil War American university, professors — many of whom had obtained their graduate training in German universities, and whose thought...

"In his first State of the Union address as an elected president, Johnson outlined the Great Society, his own extensive legislative program to raise the quality of American life. The program soon began to materialize in one of the most fruitful legislative eras in U.S. history. Congress, against muted opposition, enacted a new housing bill, a Medicare program to...

"Today marks the 46th anniversary of the War on Poverty. On March 16, 1964, Pres. Lyndon Johnson announced a new government mobilization that he claimed would yield 'total victory' against poverty in the United States. Johnson promised his 'war' would be an 'investment' that would 'return its cost manifold to the entire economy.'

...

This page provides a brief overview of the new programs and laws that were passed as part of the "Great Society" under LBJ's administration. President Johnson's reforms were wide-reaching, including environmental legislation, civil rights laws, and social programs aimed at helping the poor.

"A president presides over an unpopular war, while pursuing domestic goals that are the centerpiece of his actual interest. His is forced to choose between focusing his attention on development overseas, and pushing through major domestic programs that will dramatically expand the purview of government which does he choose? Barack Obama in 2010? Or Lyndon Baines...

"Historians often judge presidents by how effectively they respond to crises. Presidential performance ratings should be based on results—not rhetoric, personality, popularity, preference for basketball over bowling, or even crisis-management abilities, except to the extent that these qualities produce the right outcomes. Results, moreover, should be...

"One reporter dared to ask House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Oct. 22 where the Constitution grants Congress authority to require individuals to buy health insurance. An obviously annoyed Speaker Pelosi replied: 'Are you serious? Are you serious?'

It is a very serious matter indeed. The speaker's vexed response reveals the extent to...

"In his State of the Union address forty years ago this week, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared an 'unconditional war on poverty in America.'

Since then, the federal...

"It’s time such people learned that stomping one’s feet, shouting demands, and grabbing other people’s things isn’t really how wealth is created, or an especially dignified way for grown men and women to behave."

"The party of Ronald Reagan has devolved into the party of Lyndon Johnson, George McGovern, Henry Waxman, and Al Gore. On spending, LBJ’s Great Society seems greater than ever. Washington Republicans’ Spend-O-Rama famously included 13,997 pork-barrel projects that lodged like baby-back ribs in last year’s appropriations bills."

"My objection to the Great Society is not primarily an object to its economic and social aspects, though I agree that these are, by and large, sufficiently objectionable. My objection to the Great Society runs deeper. It goes to the very idea itself, and it holds not only against Presidents Johnson's Great Society, but also Governor...

"The Great Society is the lineal descendant and the intensification of those other pretentiously named policies of 20th-century America: the Square Deal, the New Freedom, the New Era, the New Deal, the Fair Deal, and the New Frontier. All of these assorted Deals constituted a basic and fundamental shift in American life — a shift from a relatively laissez-faire...

"Neither the media nor most of our educational institutions question the assumptions behind the War on Poverty. August 20th marks the 40th anniversary of one of the major turning points in American social history. That was the date on which President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation creating his 'War on Poverty' program in 1964. Never had there been such a...

"Forty four years ago this week Lyndon Baines Johnson traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to deliver a speech that outlined the vision that would guide his administration. The speech may be read profitably today. Barack Obama has evoked 'change' and 'hope' while denying he is a liberal. Yet Obama's supporters expect his administration will become the third stage of...

"The 1912 presidential election showcased four impressive candidates who engaged in a remarkable debate about the future of American politics. Besides William Howard Taft, the incumbent Republican president, the campaign was joined by Eugene Debs, the labor leader from Indiana, who ran on the Socialist Party ticket; the irrepressible Theodore Roosevelt, who bolted...

"Well, it’s now official: the war on poverty was a costly, tragic mistake. Ordinary people have suspected that for decades, of course, but we had to wait for the New York Times to decide this news was fit to print—which it finally did on February 9, 1998. In a front-page story on poverty in rural Kentucky, Michael...

"Forty four years ago today Lyndon Baines Johnson traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to deliver a speech that outlined the vision that would guide his administration. The speech may be read profitably today. Like LBJ, Barack Obama sees in politics and governing the possibility of secular transcendence. He is a far better orator than LBJ was, and his...

Chart or Graph

GOP-approved poverty benefits swelled 39 percent between 2001 and 2005. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is the only major program trimmed, from $18.6 billion to $17.4 billion. Otherwise, housing spending is up 26 percent. Healthcare aid has grown 40 percent. Nutrition relief has risen 49 percent.

These charts show a breakdown by age group of ownership rates according to the type of asset.

Households in all age groups have made gains compared with their predecessors over the course of many decades, but the incomes of the oldest households have risen four times as sharply as those of the youngest ones. As a result, incomes of the oldest households, which have been lower than those of younger households, are catching up.

Chart of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid spending as a percentage of GDP. This chart spans from 1965-2010, with projections up to the year 2083.

This chart shows the amount of money the federal government spent per household from 1965 to 2010, including spending projections up to the year 2020.

On average, someone who depends on the government gets more than four times as much taxpayers' money per year--$25,973--as he would have in 1962, adjusting for inflation.

In 2009, households headed by adults ages 65 and older possessed 42% more median net worth (assets minus debt) than households headed by their same-aged counterparts had in 1984. During this same period, the wealth of households headed by younger adults moved in the opposite direction.

These charts show a breakdown of assets factoring into the net worth of different age groups.

Over the next 10 years, the number of individuals enrolled in Medicare will increase drastically. There are more than 77 million baby boomers set to turn 65 starting in 2011. This will dramatically increase the number of individuals who pay for their health care using taxpayer dollars.

As shown in the chart, Census Bureau data reveal that the poverty rate was steadily falling in the 1950s and early 1960s, but then stagnated once the War on Poverty began. It’s possible that there are alternative and/or additional explanations for this shocking development, but government intervention may be encouraging poverty by making indolence more attractive than work.

Among households headed by adults younger than 35, the share with income below the poverty line has jumped since 1967. Among households headed by adults ages 65 and older, the share living below the poverty line declined.

Since President Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty in 1964, the government has spent $15.9 trillion on means-tested welfare aid. The Obama Administration has worked rapidly to expand the welfare state further.

Analysis Report White Paper

"In Dr. Wettergreen’s view, the centralization of governance is justified, but the centralization of administration is terribly threatening to the liberties of Americans. Although the statistics in this essay are mostly outdated, his analysis and argument are still relevant and persuasive."

"The Model Cities program was to have been the crowning achievement of the 'Great Society.' It was designed for President Johnson by a task force of distinguished academic, business, labor, and civil-rights leaders, working in high secrecy far from the locks and tugs of interest-group politics."

"In this report, our Task Force on Poverty calls for a national goal of cutting poverty in half in the next 10 years and proposes a strategy to reach the goal."

"In the 1960s, various social programs were started (like Head Start) or dramatically expanded (like AFDC). Loosely, this period of expansion is called the Great Society. Too many Great Society social programs, unfortunately, have been disappointments--at least when compared to the high hopes of the '60s."

"Did the increase in expenditures and expansion of government antipoverty programs accelerate the decline in the poverty rate as President Johnson had anticipated? Incredible as it may seem, almost the opposite occurred."

"In modern politics, many believe that the government plays the role of Robin Hood. Through progressive taxation and spending, proponents believe that government reduces poverty while making everyone pay their fair share. The pages that follow will empirically evaluate the effectiveness of state government as Robin Hood."

"History shows that Medicare did not and could not achieve passage without the misrepresentation, cost concealment, tying, and incrementalism to which its supporters ultimately resorted."

"This book is a draft of a work in progress which compares neo-individualism to neo-progressivism. It attempts to place a light on the political issues of the current day by placing them in historical context."

The number of Americans who pay taxes continues to shrink—and the United States is close to the point at which half of the population will not pay taxes for government benefits they receive.

"For those who hold the Constitution of the United States in high regard and who are concerned about the fate of its principles in our contemporary practice of government, the modern state ought to receive significant attention."

"The original progressives argued that changes in the economy’s organization required a more complete understanding of human freedom, equality, and opportunity that Jefferson championed so persuasively."

"What follows is a discussion about the effect that Progressivism has had--and continues to have--in American politics and political thought. The remarks stem from the publication of The Progressive Revolution in Politics and Political Science (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), to which Dr. West contributed."

"Progressivism has always found expressions both within and outside the major political parties, beginning with the early protest movements of the populists and other third party insurgencies to the transformative candidacies of William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt. As Herbert Croly, co-founder of The New...

"Households headed by older adults have made dramatic gains relative to those headed by younger adults in their economic well-being over the past quarter of a century, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of a wide array of government data."

"A product of the conflicting ambitions of the men who shaped it, the War on Poverty was ill-fated--but its fate need not be that of all anti-poverty programs."

"The contributors to this volume examine the past, present, and future of progressivism in America from different perspectives and with different expertise. What is the future of progressivism in America in an increasingly unfriendly political climate? How can progressives increase opportunity in America and make social and political life more inclusive and equal...

Video/Podcast/Media

"On August 7, 1964, one day before the final House vote on the Economic Opportunity Bill, Lyndon Johnson expressed his underlying discomfort with the anti-poverty legislation as written by his aides and with the form of the War on Poverty that would result. Speaking with Special Assistant Bill Moyers, Johnson contrasted his own initial conception of the anti-...

"Walter Heller, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers whom Johnson had inherited from President Kennedy, was in the middle of an extended public relations effort that encompassed televised interviews and frequent meetings with print journalists who covered the nation's economic policies. Designed to tout the new administration's progressive but frugal...

"In this conversation, President Johnson offered assured Virginia Congressman Porter Hardy (D) that the governors’ veto amendment to the Economic Opportunity Act would prevent the community action program from circumventing local governmental authority. For supporters of the community action principle, such circumvention had been the point of the program."

"Having just launched an 'economy drive,' undertaken partly to redirect spending and to trim wasteful spending-particularly in the Department of Defense-and partly to convince senate conservatives to drop their opposition to the administration's pending tax cut proposal-introduced by President Kennedy in 1962-President Johnson underscores for Council of Economic...

"Throughout the period leading up to the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act, Lyndon Johnson frequently spoke of the War on Poverty in terms of improving the work habits of the poor and providing them with job and training opportunities. Conservatives were frequent targets of these appeals. This excerpt of a Johnson conversation with Texas Congressman George...

"In this conversation excerpt, President Johnson informs Mayor Daley that Chicago will be among the first cities to receive War on Poverty funds. The President's comments demonstrate his focus on the Job Corps as the core of the War on Poverty. In addition, it reflects an assumption by both men that the program will be controlled at the local level by the mayor's...

"Following a discussion of the balance between program cuts and a possible tax increase in the next budget cycle, President Johnson mentioned a protest that a group of poverty activists from Syracuse, New York had staged at his Texas ranch. Mayor Daley, who a few moments before had urged the president to focus on job creation as the core of the anti-poverty effort...

LeFevre discusses the definition of poverty and how government intervention, instead of alleviating the problem, worsens it.

"In this brief excerpt from a call the day after his victory in the 1964 presidential election, Lyndon Johnson outlines his agenda to Pennsylvania Senator Joseph S. Clark. In a moment of particularly sweeping ambition, the president compares his poverty program to the abolition of slavery."

"Mr. Shreve provided commentary on recordings of President Johnson's 1964 and 1965 telephone calls on the Medicare debate. President Johnson was heard planning strategy to win approval of the measure, with participants including his chief congressional aide Larry O'Brien and key members of Congress such as Senator Albert Gore, Sr., father of the future vice...

This extensive collection of recordings covers LBJ's conversations with various people about topics such as civil rights, the War on Poverty and Vietnam.

"In this conversation excerpt, Senator Abraham Ribicoff (a former governor of Connecticut and former secretary of health, education, and welfare under President Kennedy) outlines problems with the Office of Economic Opportunity's organization and operation, its process of policy formation, and its relationship with with other executive agencies and departments....

"President Johnson and Representative Phil Landrum of Georgia (the floor leader for the Economic Opportunity Act in the House of Representatives) discuss the attempt by a group of Catholic congressmen to block the Economic Opportunity Act in the House Education and Labor Committee. The Act would remain blocked unless sections of Title II were re-written to include...

"This conversation excerpt demonstrates how President Johnson viewed the War on Poverty as a direct solution to the problems and tensions that had begun to produce rebellions in inner cities across the urban north. After Philadelphia Democratic City Committee Chairman Francis 'Frank' Smith recounts the story of a fatal police shooting of an unarmed African American...

Thomas E. Woods, Jr. is a senior fellow at the Mises Institute and author of the New York Times bestseller, Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed. In this lecture, Dr. Woods discusses the incentives of the welfare state established by Lyndon Johnson and Great Society legislation.

"In a sweeping review of American political history, Kesler outlines the grand liberal project begun a century ago. It is a project, he asserts, that has expressed itself in three distinct waves: political liberalism, economic liberalism, and cultural liberalism. Kesler further maintains that Barack Obama seeks nothing less than to complete and perfect this project...

Primary Document

President Lyndon B. Johnson's State of the Union address in January of 1966. In this speech, the former President discusses the two great issues that will eventually come to define his presidential legacy: The Great Society and the Vietnam War.

The text of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This bill was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson as part of his "Great Society" legislative program. This law outlawed occupational discrimination and public segregation on the basis of race.

This act established several Great Society programs, including the Job Corps, work training and experience programs, work study programs, community action programs, adult basic education programs, Voluntary Assistance Program for Needy Children, and assistance for the rural and migrant poor. It also created the Office of Economic Opportunity to administer these...

"An Act To strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunities [H. R. 2362] in the Nation's elementary and secondary schools."

This Act was passed to "strenghten the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance to students in postsecondary and higher education."

"To assist in the provision of housing for low- and moderate-income families, to promote orderly urban development, to improve living environment In urban areas, and to extend and amend laws relating to housing, urban renewal, and community facilities."

"The Hart-Cellar Act abolished the national origins quota system that had structured American immigration policy since the 1920s, replacing it with a preference system that focused on immigrants' skills and family relationships with citizens or residents of the U.S. Numerical restrictions on visas were set at 170,000 per year, not including immediate relatives of U...

"The Voting Rights Act, adopted initially in 1965 and extended in 1970, 1975, and 1982, is generally considered the most successful piece of civil rights legislation ever adopted by the United States Congress. The Act codifies and effectuates the 15th Amendment's permanent guarantee that, throughout the nation, no person shall be denied the right to vote on account of race or color. In addition, the Act contains several special provisions that impose even more stringent requirements in certain jurisdictions throughout the country."

A timeline of Lyndon B. Johnson's Life, emphasizing events of importance in the former President's life.

In this speech, President Lyndon B. Johnson outlines his vision and goals for "The Great Society," a massive web of government programs and legislation aimed at societal improvement and progress. This speech was given during the University of Michigan's graduation commencement ceremony on May 22, 1964 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

"On September 29, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act into law. The act called for the creation of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as separate independent entities."

"No matter whether they do or do not approve of what is going on, candid commentators on American politics will presumably agree that the political development of the country has recently entered upon a novel and critical phase. Until 1912 the group of political and economic traditions and ideas which came to a head during and immediately after the Civil War, and...

"This act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 30, 1965, in Independence, MO. It established Medicare, a health insurance program for the elderly, and Medicaid, a health insurance program for the poor."

Cited as "An Act To strengthen the agricultural economy; to help to achieve a fuller and more effective use of food abundances; to provide for improved levels of nutrition among low-income households through a cooperative Federal-State program of food...

Often cited as one of the seminal writings on welfare's effects on the family, this piece describes the state of the black family in the mid-1960s. Chapter 2 of this document specifically relates the breakdown of the black family to the rise of the welfare...

The text of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6th, 1965 as part of his "Great Society" legislative agenda. This law forbade any state or municipality from adopting voting prerequisite laws aimed at keeping minorities from being able to vote.

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