The War on Poverty–Who Won? Who Lost?

(Note:  This is one opinion about one portion of the very complex and challenging problems of racism.   It has been brought to my attention by people who are much more widely read than I am that this opinion varies from their view of it.   So, take it for what it’s worth – the thoughts of one concerned Dad trying to make the world a better place)

So, yesterday we looked at the FHA and how the government’s rules regarding mortgage lending actually helped create ghettos and create the “seeds” of the problems that many of our big cities face.   You can read about that at “Did FHA create Ferguson and Baltimore?”

Today, I want to look at a different topic – but still under the standpoint of government policies.   It’s the War on Poverty.

Not the War on Terror, the War on Poverty.    First a few overview highlights of the War on Poverty:

  • It was started by President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s but was long seen as a “step #2” of what President Roosevelt did in 1933 to 1935 and was called “The New Deal.”
  • While the statistics to prove it’s success are marginal at best, there is no question that it grew and greatly expanded the number of government programs and government subsidies that were made available to supposedly help (first clue as to who lost.)

Now two definitions for you to consider – and these are terms that those who are involved in humanitarian assistance, mission work, international development and more wrestle with a LOT.

“Hand out” – This is where someone is given something strictly because it might appear that they need it.   It has no long term benefit, it doesn’t make them a better person, it just meets or appears to meet an immediate need.

“Hand up” – This is where someone isn’t given something without strings attached but instead is taught, assisted, helped through a rough time with a definitive goal of getting back on their feet and doing things for themselves.

I’m sure you’ve hear the saying,  “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day.   Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”

The War on Poverty had a couple of ramifications that we’re paying the price for in today’s society:

  • Rather than giving those suffering from poverty the opportunity to turn their situation around and the opportunity to make their lives better, the War on Poverty consisted of a LOT of handouts.  Repeat after me,  “The creation of the welfare state.”
  • The creation of the welfare state increased dependence on the government.   It created a “class” in the American society that viewed (currently views) Uncle Sam as the “provider of all things good.”
  • If Uncle Sam is the provider of all things good, what happens to the view of the men in the poverty stricken areas?   They are viewed as not being as important.    “I don’t need you, I’ve got my welfare checks from Uncle Sam.”
  • So, for years, the black man, living in the ghetto, was sometimes subtly and sometimes more bluntly told that they aren’t important.   You aren’t needed and aren’t valued, so what happens?   Many turn to a life of crime – either to get more “stuff” so that  people will think they are important or to have an opportunity where people are scared of them and listen to them, like they are “somebody.”   Even if that somebody is a bad dude……
  • Crime goes up, the cops due their jobs and what do we end up with?   We end up with a prison system that has substantially higher portions of their population that  are persons of color.  These are people who came from the ghettos that our lending system created and our welfare system deepened.
  • So we have a lot of kids who are growing up with absent fathers because their fathers are in jail.   So they repeat the cycle.

So, who won in the “War on Poverty?”

Those who were “in poverty” and over the age of 65 saw a large increase in their social security checks.   I’d say they won.

Those who work in the government departments that were created or expanded to administer the welfare programs.   I’d say they won.

The politicians who got elected, supported and reelected because of what they would do to get “Uncle Sam’ to take care of you.    I’d say they won.

The persons of color who were “pushed” to live in ghettos (see previous article) and now were given welfare by the government in ways that would get them hooked on it and not doing things for themselves.    I’d say they lost.

The male population of people of color who were marginalized and criminalized due to many factors but a large component of it was that Uncle Sam took away most of the reasons they might feel needed and useful.    Without feeling needed and useful, it’s easy to lose hope.  I’d say they lost.

The War on Poverty – it sounds good.    But the reality is far from good.

The reality is that the “War on Poverty” as a government policy, did more to hurt the structure and integrity of the family in the areas where poverty was most prevalent than it did to help it.

The government, in their “effort” to help, actually created the breeding ground for troubles like Ferguson and Baltimore.

“We’re from the government and we’re here to help.”

Yeah, not so much.


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