Money spent on social programs has not been effective

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Bud Hackett is a Bethlehem resident who raised 4 kids in the City. He recently became very interested in quality of life issues in the city and hopes to offer a balance to the approach City Council is taking.

ref: “In ‘obvious ways . . . our system is set up to preserve the status quo'”


Regarding the criticism of the report, maybe the data from the US Census is more compelling to understand that this country has spent billions on social programs that seem to help left wing politicians more than the US citizens they are targeted to benefit. Respectfully, neither the federal government nor the Bethlehem City Council should be pandering to the social justice/environmental movement to “get votes.”

I am inclined to believe the facts of U.S. Census Bureau annual poverty report:

•       2013, 14.5 percent of Americans were poor. (the same poverty rate as in 1967, three years after the War on Poverty started)

•        Census counts a family as poor if its “income” falls below certain thresholds. But in counting “income,” Census ignores almost all the $943 billion in annual welfare spending.

•       government’s survey: 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning; nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite television; half have a personal computer; 40 percent have a wide-screen HDTV. Three-quarters own a car or truck; nearly a third has two or more vehicles. ( FYI, I don’t have AC or an HDTV).

•       Ninety-six percent of poor parents’ state that their children were never hungry at any time during the year because they could not afford food.

•       Some 82 percent of poor adults reported that they were never hungry at any time in the prior year.

•       The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children, and in most cases is well above recommended norms.

•       Less than 2 percent of the poor are homeless. Only 10 percent live in a mobile home.

•       The average poor American lives in a house or apartment that is in good repair and not over-crowded. In fact, the average poor American has more living space than the typical non-poor individual living in Sweden, France, Germany, or the United Kingdom.

•       For a decade and a half before the War on Poverty began, self-sufficiency in American improved dramatically. But for the last 45 years, there has been no improvement at all. Many groups are less capable of self-support today than when Johnson’s war started.

•       The culprit is, in part, the welfare system itself, which discourages work and penalizes marriage. When the War on Poverty began, 7 percent of American children were born outside marriage. Today the number is 41 percent. The collapse of marriage is the main cause of child poverty today.

•       The welfare state is self-perpetuating, welfare creates a need for even greater assistance in the future.

•       in 2014, President Obama announced plans to spend $13 trillion over the next decade on welfare programs that will discourage work, penalize marriage, and undermine self-sufficiency.

There is little evidence that all this taxpayer money has helped people improve their lives.

2 thoughts on “Money spent on social programs has not been effective

  1. We agree that these programs have not been effective. (As is also true of the many programs to end or reduce systemic racism and police violence.) Unfortunately, while showing the results — or lack thereof — is important, it doesn’t lead us to the correct solution.

    Statistics tend to conceal what’s going on, rather than helping us to understand; however, they can be useful for raising better questions. Here are a couple of questions they raised for me:

    One of bullets says that 96% of poor parents state their children never went hungry during the year. That would mean only 4% of the 14.5% living in poverty, or a little less than 200,000 people . Current estimates from the USDA and others say that over 30 million people go hungry in any given month, and the numbers are soaring this year. Are you saying that most of the people experiencing hunger are not poor?

    Another states only 2% of the poor are homeless, but a White House report last year put the number of homeless at about 550,000. Does that mean that less than 20% of the homeless are poor?

    None of the bullet points address the root causes of poverty. We know that poverty isn’t *caused* by welfare (or there would have been no need for welfare in the first place). And while the ‘work first’ approach sounded good, it did little or nothing to deal with underlying structural problems. We do know that minimum wages that have been declining for decades [when adjusted for inflation] even as CEO pay and corporate profits have increased enormously.

    BTW, do you have facts to explain the massive corporate welfare that continues year after year? Or why highly-profitable businesses are allowed to get away without paying taxes?

    Anyway, the failure of social programs to fight poverty does not necessarily mean the goals were wrong! — in some cases, the program was never actually designed to do what it claimed, and even if there was a sincere effort to do the right thing, many of the programs were poorly designed or poorly implemented.

  2. Welfare to prevent abject poverty is a good thing however incentives do not exist for people to leave welfare. There are more incentives to work the system, legally or illegally. This is common for both those on welfare and those ruling the country.Wic allows recipients to eat much better than those who have to scrape by without it.

    I remember when surplus food was distributed to the poor. I believe many thought it was demeaning to get or use it. A neighbor got some surplus food from a nephew, I assume in exchange for money. The neighbor did not use the food and gave it to my mother who used it for her family. She was frugal not embarrassed.

    Apparently there are many who take advantage of the poor to line their pockets with government money through inadequate public housing. This is a shame for many hard working people who happen to be poor.

    This is a cultural problem that will get better when more people act with compassion and responsibility rather than greed and entitlement (Merriam-Webster Def #2).

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