When various rankings of the best or worst presidents come out, they tend to list all of the usual suspects. However, I have yet to encounter a list that compiles and ranks the most consequential of presidents. One could argue that President Lyndon Johnson was the most consequential president in history and not for the better.
Johnson announced his War on Poverty in his 1964 State of the Union address. He then pushed through 200 new laws that included the start of Medicare, Medicaid, direct federal aid to public schools, bilingual education, Head Start, food stamps, vocational education through Job Corps, urban renewal programs, massive spending for the arts and humanities, an enormous increase in immigration, section 8 public housing, federal aid for college students and last but not least government media in the forms of PBS and NPR.
LBJ declared in his Jan. 8, 1964 address: “This administration here and now declares unconditional war on poverty in America.”
This 50-year battle has ended up costing the American taxpayer over $22 trillion and counting. That number is greater than three times the inflation-adjusted cost of all of America’s wars since our founding.
Terence P. Jeffrey of CNSNews looked at the latest Census results and discovered that more people in America today are on welfare than have full-time jobs. In 2011 (the last date for which data is available) 108.6 million people received some form of government welfare while 101.7 million were employed full-time. What is interesting is that according to the government, 46.5 million people live under the poverty line, so only 43 percent of those on welfare are actually considered poor.
The poverty rate is 14 percent, which is essentially the same rate as in 1967, three years after the War on Poverty’s start. The trajectory of the official poverty rate has been flat to only slightly upward over the past 50 years. We have watched many of our inner cities turn to crime and drug infested ruins. We have witnessed the destruction of the family unit.
We recently witnessed terrible riots in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland. The media, leftist pundits and politicians including President Barack Obama have talked about the need to look toward the “root causes” of the riots. We hear words and phrases such as social justice, inequality, poverty, discrimination, neglect and lack of investment. President Obama stated that it was a Republican Congress that was to blame, never agreeing to “massive investments.” President Obama, like Johnson and their comrades on the left, believes that billions more in spending will be the magical cure-all.
The failure of welfare state has nothing to do with race. William McGurn points out in the Wall Street Journal that the part of America that was originally showered with the pie-in-the-sky Great Society intentions was Appalachia. Today, in that area of the country we find much higher rates of dependency, more single-parent households and lack of private-sector jobs. McGurn reminds us that Johnson used the front porch of a shack in eastern Kentucky’s Martin County to launch his Great Society program.
Rural Martin county is 92 percent white. Baltimore is two-thirds black. Martin County lost jobs in mining; Baltimore in manufacturing. Martin County voted overwhelmingly for Romney in the last election; Baltimore for Obama. Both different, yet still the same. The war on poverty has spent $2.1 billion in Martin County with a population of 12,537 through the usual government programs.
McGurn goes on to cite a Lexington Herald Leader piece by John Cheves.
“The problem facing Appalachia today isn’t Third World poverty. It’s dependence on government assistance. Just one example: When Congress imposed work requirements and lifetime caps for welfare during the Clinton administration, claims of disability jumped.”
Cheves quotes a grade-school principal who says this of Martin County’s children: “Instead of talking about a future of work, or a profession, they talk about getting a check.”
It is hard to think of anyone within the media, the Democratic Party nor most of the Republican Party that would be willing to speak such truth today. Due to their cowardice, we will continue to destroy generations of Americans.
Chris Markowski has carried the titles of author, investment banker, equity analyst, muckraker, all around trouble-maker, and most importantly consumer advocate. He is the personality behind Watchdog on Wall Street and founder of Markowski Investments.
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