Losing the War
Forty-six years ago today, President Johnson vowed to wipe out poverty.


Robert Rector

Over time, the War on Poverty has become divorced from reality. Current political discourse refuses to recognize or even mention the principal cause of poverty: the lack of work and marriage. To acknowledge those issues would be “blaming the victim.” Instead, political correctness insists that the principal cause of poverty is the unwillingness of taxpayers to sufficiently increase welfare and education spending, despite massive increases in government funding in these fields for decades — according to the Left, spending is always inadequate.

The original goal of the War on Poverty — to reduce both poverty and dependence on government — has been abandoned and forgotten. While occasional lip service is sometimes still paid to reducing government dependence, ironically, this concept almost always appears as a justification for new government spending.

The current goal in welfare is simply to “spread the wealth” for its own sake. The War on Poverty has become a system of permanent income redistribution, which will only increase over time.

According to President Obama’s budget projections, federal and state welfare spending will total $10.3 trillion over the next ten years. This spending will cost more than $100,000 for each taxpaying household in the U.S. Most of it will be funded by borrowing from future generations and foreign nations.

This spending is unsustainable. Our nation can no longer afford the War on Poverty spending colossus.

– Robert Rector is a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.