How Goes the War on Poverty?
Americans transfer about one trillion dollars a year to low-income
families at the bottom fifth of the U.S. income distribution. Putting
that into perspective, one trillion dollars is more than twice the total
spent annually on national defense, ten times as much as was spent on
redistributive policies in the 1950s (adjusting for inflation), and
about equal to the total before-tax cash income of middle-income
households, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Edgar K.
Browning, author of Stealing from Each Other: How the Welfare State Robs
Americans of Money and Spirit.
Had that money gone directly to those poor families--with no "leakage"
by the federal bureaucracy middleman--that trillion would break down to
about $81,000 for a family of three--higher than the median income of
all American families and far greater than the poverty threshold of
$15,577, according to Browning.
Those sizable sums should prompt Americans to ask rather obvious
questions: Are poor Americans more independent and self-supporting than
before the War on Poverty? Are children born into poor households better
off than they were before the War on Poverty? Has the trillion-dollar
expenditure reduced inequality? Are egalitarians grateful to Americans'
sacrifices in the name of redistribution, or do they continually
complain about rising inequality?
"The answers to these questions, I submit, paint a bleak picture of the
accomplishments of the American welfare state," writes Browning in a new
op-ed. "While a nuanced interpretation of the evidence may identify a
few positive returns on our 'investment,' we have a right to expect a
lot more for a trillion dollars a year."
"Our Trillion-Dollar War,"
E2399D406CB1&e=mike@...> by Edgar K. Browning (9/5/08)
"The Anatomy of Social Security and Medicare,"
17-A1E5-E2399D406CB1&e=mike@...> by Edgar K. Browning (The
Independent Review, Summer 2008)