(WSJ Op-ed) Robert Rector: How the War on Poverty Was Lost

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Do higher living standards for the poor mean that the war on poverty has succeeded? No. To judge the effort, consider LBJ's original aim. He sought to give poor Americans "opportunity not doles," planning to shrink welfare dependence not expand it. In his vision, the war on poverty would strengthen poor Americans' capacity to support themselves, transforming "taxeaters" into "taxpayers." It would attack not just the symptoms of poverty but, more important, remove the causes.

By that standard, the war on poverty has been a catastrophe. The root "causes" of poverty have not shrunk but expanded as family structure disintegrated and labor-force participation among men dropped. A large segment of the population is now less capable of self-sufficiency than when the war on poverty began.

The collapse of marriage in low-income communities has played a substantial role in the declining capacity for self-support. In 1963, 6% of American children were born out of wedlock. Today the number stands at 41%. As benefits swelled, welfare increasingly served as a substitute for a bread-winning husband in the home.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryMarriage & FamilyPoverty* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

Posted January 10, 2014 at 12:06 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Losing was due to statistics and techniques! 


Let’s try again since we are so much brighter!

January 10, 11:46 pm | [comment link]
2. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Yeah, #1.  Your cynicism matches my own.  You know the whimsical definition of a “Neo-conservative?”  It’s an ex-Liberal who’s been mugged by reality.  I was raised in a Democratic family that was left of center, but I haven’t voted for a Democratic president since Jimmy Carter (and I now regret voting fro him).

Politicians, like medical doctors, ought to be obliged to take something like the Hypocratic Oath.  First and foremost, do no harm!!

The money quote, or pre-eminent stat, is probably this one.  Back in 1963 when LBJ launched the “War on Poverty” with the best of intentions, only 6% of American children were born out of wedlock.  Today, the national average is a whopping and alarming 41%.  And in the Black/African-American segment of the population, it’s an utterly devastating 70%+.  No government program can make up for such a horrendous breakdown in family structures.

But the biggest tragedy of all is that those woeful numbers aren’t significantly different within the Christian community.  The salt has lost its saltiness, and can no longer counteract the rapid decay of our society, which is in moral free fall.

Instead of throwing billions of dollars down the drain with well-intentioned but completely ineffectual government anti-poverty programs, let the Church of Jesus Christ start acting like the Church.  Not least, let us concentrate on getting our own house in order by working far harder and smarter to strengthen the marriages and families among us, couple by couple, family by family.  There are no pat answers or easy short cuts.

The War on Poverty still needs to be fought.  Indeed, the need is greater and more urgent than ever.  But we must use a totally differnet strategy than we have for the last 50 years.  And it’s the Church, not the government (federal, state, or local) that holds the key to victory.

David Handy+
An ex-liberal mugged by reality

January 11, 12:43 pm | [comment link]
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