One of the key aspects of human efficiency is making decisions based on facts, data, and nonideological logic. This is a critical aspect of having an efficient government and political system. In this post, we will start to look at poverty in the U.S.
The U.S. has been fighting to reduce the number of people living in poverty since 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson officially launched his War on Poverty. The results of this war have been rated as marginal at best, especially in going after the causes of poverty.
It is estimated that in 2014 about 45 million people in the U.S. lived below the poverty line, which in 2015 was about $22,000 for a family of two adults and two children. However, as with everything else, this number is in question.
The problem comes in how the number is calculated. The Census Bureau number is based on income which includes cash but not non-cash benefits such as the “food stamp” program which was instituted later. Apparently, if this is included, instead of going up the number of people living in poverty has dropped to about 4.5%.
How much does the government spend on antipoverty programs? Antipoverty programs make up a significant part of the federal budget. Getting an accurate feel for exactly how much is spent is difficult because there is quite a list of programs included and they are located in numerous departments in the government.
The CATO Institute has estimated that nearly $1 Trillion was spent in 2012 for antipoverty programs. Meanwhile, an article in The Washington Post in 2014 estimated $212 Billion for the same programs. Usgovernmentspending.com estimated the total 2017 federal, state, and local spent to be $1.127 Trillion, which includes $646 Billion for Medicaid and $481 Billion for other. This is out of a total budget of about $3.8 Trillion in 2015. The total amount spent on fighting poverty in this country in the past 50 years has been estimated to be about $22 Trillion in 2012 dollars.
It is also interesting to compare how big our antipoverty program is compared to that in other countries but, here again, this is not a straightforward thing to do. According to a review of the book Wealth and Welfare States: Is America a Laggard or Leader? in which the categories of social welfare include such things as health care and education spending, the adjusted comparison of poverty rates in 2000 between the U.S. and western European countries is about the same. The U.S. spends much more than other countries on social welfare programs.
But according to this book, the standard of living in the U.S. is higher than in others which means that our poverty threshold is higher than in other countries. Unfortunately, the U.S. relies on many social welfare programs which were provided by employers, such as health care, but are now disappearing. I would suggest that this is an area of concern.
So, have these programs in existence since the 1960’s been successful? The often-cited results as summarized by a Heritage Foundation report are:
- The welfare system has not been successful in building self-sufficiency.
- Welfare has resulted in increasing intergenerational dependence.
- Anti-marriage penalties should be removed to rebuild families.
These will be discussed further in upcoming posts.
The goal of these posts is to provide the true story behind issues that we are facing in this country. We can no longer allow ideology to make decisions for us when facts and data prove that we should be doing thing differently.
Next: The reasons for poverty