By the end of 1963, the poverty rate in the United States was around 19%.  In his 1964 State of the Union address, President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced his War of Poverty program.  The first part of the War of Poverty was the enactment of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 which launched the Head State and Job Corps programs along with others to help those in poor families find a way out of poverty.

The second part of Johnson’s War on Poverty was the Social Security Act of 1965 which led to the creation of Medicare and Medicaid.  These programs were the first stages of a national healthcare system, providing federal health insurance for seniors and poor families.

In time, the poverty level dropped significantly in the U.S., but not necessarily because of Johnson’s War on Poverty, but largely due to an overall change in the nation’s economy.  The poverty level in 2006 was only 12.3%.  However, that level has been steadily climbing ever since and President Barack Obama’s War on Middle Class has been a large contributor the increase.

When Obama took office, 12.5% of the American people lived at or below the poverty line.  In 2009, that jumped to 13.2%.  In 2010 it jumped up to 14.3% and in 2011 it reached 15.1%.  That equates to over 46 million Americans living at or below the poverty line and there is no indication that the steady climb will end anytime soon.

The vast majority of these people turn to welfare to feed and clothe their families.  What originally started out to be a band-aid to fix a temporary economic wound has now become a permanent life-support system for millions of Americans.  And like the medical field, life-support costs a great deal more than band-aids.

Wanting to know what welfare was costing, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee requested a report from the Congressional Research Service.  When the report came in, it showed that welfare costs had risen from $563 billion in 2008 to $746 billion in 2010.  This is more than Social Security, basic defense spending or any other single chunk of change spent by the federal government.

Sessions’ Budget Committee staff also calculated that there is another $283 billion contributed by states to welfare programs, raising the grand total to $1.03 trillion in just one year.


The largest single part of the welfare spending is Medicaid which rose from $82 billion in 2008 to $296 billion in 2011.

Sessions responded to the report saying:

“No longer should we measure compassion by how much money the government spends but by how many people we help to rise out of poverty.  Welfare assistance should be seen as temporary whenever possible and the goal must be to help more of our fellow citizens attain gainful employment and financial independence.”

It’s been a long proven fact that just giving money to the poor only creates more poor people.  We need to stop just giving them money without anything in return.  Think how much more productive it would be to pay the poor to work at various jobs rather than to just give them the money lay around home.  They would learn skills and how to be self-sufficient and become contributing members of society instead of people who just sit back and feed off the rest of us like leaches.

Benjamin Franklin recognized that over 230 years ago.  I’ll conclude with his words of wisdom as he puts it eloquently:

“In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries that the more the public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the more they did for themselves, and became richer. There is no country in the world where so many provision are established for them (as in England); so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick or lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many almshouses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor. Under all these obligations, are our poor modest, humble, and thankful? And do they use their best endeavors to maintain themselves, and lighten our shoulders of this burden? On the contrary, I affirm that there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken, and insolent. The day you passed that, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, but giving them a dependence on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health, for support in age or sickness.”

“In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder that it has had its effect in the increase in poverty. Repeal that law, and you will soon see a change in their manners. Saint Monday and Saint Tuesday will soon cease to be holidays. Six days shalt thou labor, thought one on the oldest commandments long treated as out of date, will again be looked upon as a respectable precept; industry will increase, and with it plenty among the lower people; their circumstances will mend, and more will be done for their happiness by inuring them to provide for themselves than could be done by dividing all your estates among them.”

[The Real Benjamin Franklin: Part II: Timeless Treasures from Benjamin Franklin, Prepared by W. Cleon Skousen and M. Richard Maxfield.  National Center for Constitutional Studies, 2008, Pp 453-4.]

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