News that the poverty rate remained at 12.6 percent last year, statistically unchanged from the year before, has set off a predictable round of calls for increased government spending on social welfare programs.
Yet, last year, the federal government spent more than $477 billion on some 50 different programs to fight poverty. That amounts to $12,892 for every poor man, woman, and child in this country. And, it does not even begin to count welfare spending by state and local governments. For all the talk about Republican budget cuts, spending on these social programs has increased an inflation-adjusted 22 percent since President Bush took office.
Despite this government largesse, 37 million Americans continue to live in poverty. In fact, despite nearly $9 trillion in total welfare spending since Lyndon Johnson declared War on Poverty in 1964, the poverty rate is perilously close to where we began more than 40 years ago.
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. What does that say about our welfare policy?