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Liberating the Poor from Poverty

April 17, 2014

This effort famously began in 1965. From then to 2008, nearly $16 trillion was spent on means-tested welfare, in 2008 dollars. That is more than twice what we spent on all military conflicts from the American Revolution to 2008.

social security cards

This effort famously began in 1965. From then to 2008, nearly $16 trillion was spent on means-tested welfare, in 2008 dollars. That is more than twice what we spent on all military conflicts from the American Revolution to 2008. From 1962 to 2011, federal spending on major means-tested programs increased from $516 to more than $13,000 per person in poverty. What have we gotten in return? In 2012, the last year for which official data is available, the U.S. poverty rate stood at 15 percent, nearly back where it was when the War on Poverty began. And that number includes a record 46.5 million Americans in poverty and 20.4 million Americans, with incomes less than half the poverty level.

Ryan’s House Budget Committee Report on the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty identifies close to 100 federal anti-poverty programs costing $800 billion in fiscal 2012, more than was spent on national defense that year, or on Social Security, or on Medicare. In fact, close to 200 federal programs now cost federal and state taxpayers well over $1 trillion annually.

Bottom line: We fought the War on Poverty, and poverty won.

Article Tags
Entitlements Health Care
Author
Peter Ferrara, J.D., is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute and an advisor for entitlement reform and budget policy at the National Tax Limitation Foundation.