Having solved all of the nation’s woes in his first five years in office, Barack Obama announced this week that he is ready to turn his attention to the number one challenge facing the country: income inequality. In a written statement, the president said:
In the richest nation on Earth, far too many children are still born into poverty. Far too few have a fair shot to escape it, and Americans of all races and backgrounds experience wages and incomes that aren’t rising, making it harder to share in the opportunities a growing economy provides.
He quantified the chances of upward mobility for someone born into poverty, noting such an individual has a 1-in-20 chance — not of escaping poverty but of becoming one of the wealthiest Americans. I don’t know where Obama got his statistics, and forgive my cynicism, but those are better odds than I would have guessed.
So what is his proposed fix for this inequity? More and greater entitlements courtesy of the nanny state. Never mind that the federal government has spent an estimated $20 trillion on poverty over the last fifty years, and the scourge remains.
If Obama is really earnest about fighting Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, it might behoove to spend some time familiarizing himself with what Johnson advocated. Peter Cove, a social activist, writes at Real Clear Politics:
Let’s be clear from the outset — the War on Poverty never envisioned lifting people out of poverty by giving them the income and supports to survive. It was based on giving them the skills and opportunity to work. Jobs, pure and simple, were the goal to take people from dependence to independence. The solution to want was work, not welfare. ‘A hand up, not a hand out,’ LBJ exclaimed.
So while, yes, the poverty rates would be much higher without the largesse we have loaded onto the poor, it has been done at the expense of helping the poor to work. I was there [at the birth of Johnson’s War on Poverty], and welfare was not the primary strategy.