Despite what the politicians are saying, it is painfully obvious that those in charge of our government really don’t want to solve our problems… but they DO want to LOOK LIKE they’re solving problems.
Appearances are far more important than actual results.
Our “leaders” have learned over the years that, as long as they SAY things loudly and often, enough of the people will come to believe them and actually accomplishing their stated goals is much less important. You’ve heard the old saying: you can fool some of the people all of the time…
Here’s a spring-time metaphor: for years, we called a lawn care company every spring to come out and fertilize our lawn. This was an unscrupulous outfit, though, and they just went through the motions and spread a totally bogus concoction on the lawn. As spring turned to summer every year, the grass was green so we assumed their services were helping. But this year, money’s a bit tight… so we decide not to have the lawn fertilized. Interestingly, as the weather grew warmer, the grass still turned green!
What was going on all those years? If we didn’t do something, I thought the grass would die! Were we just throwing money away?
That’s how I often feel when I consider the money spent on many government programs.
Consider the age-old problem of poverty. Before I go any further, let me acknowledge that helping the poor is the duty of everyone… it is a moral obligation. We must help those who cannot help themselves. Having said that, I do not believe direct government programs are necessarily the right way to provide such assistance… and I am certain it is not the most efficient.
So, our federal government has targeted the poor specifically since LBJ launched the “war on poverty” in the mid-1960’s. First, what is the definition of “poor”?
The dollar figures have changed over the years, of course, but here are some recent numbers to give some perspective:
While we can quickly find how the government classifies people who suffer from poverty, it is very difficult to find out exactly how much money is devoted to providing assistance to them. I’ll leave that research for another day… there are just too many programs, each devoted to different things, many of which overlap with other programs that are not associated directly with poverty. Suffice it to say that BILLIONS of dollars are spent every year to help those in need.
The question at hand, though, is: how effective are those programs? Given the considerable time, attention, and resources that have been expended by our government addressing this particular problem, how much good has been done?
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
(NOTE: Families is in thousands.)
So, in 2007, there were a little over 7.6 million families in poverty, each with about 5 members and a household income of $25,000 or less.
We can see that, over more than 4 decades, the rate of poverty has not changed significantly. Sure, there have been some fluctuations but nothing you could interpret as a meaningful trend up or down… if anything, it has been relatively constant.
Has the war on poverty been a success? This is where we enter the politicians’ playground. Since there is no parallel universe to compare to, it’s anybody’s guess. Any position is unprovable. It’s a politician’s dream situation!
According to those wanting to continue wielding their power over the disbursement of massive amounts of money as well as the associated bureaucracy that has grown up to support poverty programs, considerable good has been done… “imagine how much worse it would be if we hadn’t spent all that money helping the poor”!
Others point to the obvious facts that there has been no real decline in the percentage of poor, that a considerable portion of the funds devoted to the cause never reaches those in need but are expended to support a huge infrastructure, and that there is a real but unmeasurable amount of fraud.
Some “experts” contend that poverty in the U.S. is actually UNDERstated… that the federal figures don’t take into account the higher cost of living in certain locales. While there is some truth to that, it’s hard to justify government support of “the poor” who choose to live in expensive areas, such as San Francisco, where housing certainly affects their cost of living. People need to make good decisions given their circumstances and, if any assistance should be provided, it seems like helping them move to a more affordable area would make more sense than, in essence, subsidizing them on a continual basis.
Others will argue that the poverty rate is OVERstated, citing the fact that the incomes of those in the poverty brackets do NOT include welfare benefits, such as food stamps, subsidized housing, medical assistance, and the like. Further, some believe the programs are not used as temporary assistance by those who are just down on their luck… but become an “entitlement”… another form of income looked at as “business as usual” by the recipients and which diminish their motivation to pull themselves out of the poverty bracket by working hard, making tough decisions like moving to a different city, or giving up on some of the niceties that many are somehow are able to afford (name brand sneakers, trips to fast food restaurants, cable TV, etc.) even though they are “in poverty”.
Regardless, politicians regularly will cite the need to help the poor. Budgets increase year over year and bureaucracies continue to grow. And there has been virtually no improvement, much less a problem solved.
It seems that most citizens have a short memory. We hear there is a problem and go along with plans to address it, agree to spend our money to help take care of it. We see a lot of activity and feel good for a while. But we’re busy and soon forget all this. Seldom to we realize there’s not much in the way of actual, solid results.
We like the sound of our government “helping the poor”… but are the poor really being helped? Or are politicians helping themselves (again)?
Sad to say, this is but one tiny portion of the overall government that has grown so bloated, so massive, so self-perpetuating that I’m not certain anyone really knows what all is going on. How many programs are costing BILLIONS of dollars every year and yield no true results? Sometimes, it seems so big that WE, the people, can’t wrap our minds around it (or don’t want to). We just operate on good faith that all is well… but is it?
I believe we already have THE ANSWER in our hearts We FEEL the truth without needing a report to read or watching a news conference. I think we KNOW the government has gotten out of hand… it is too big to control, it is involved in activities it shouldn’t be, it has become a toy of the powerful… and WE are paying the price. We’ve been patient hoping for our elected leaders to do something about it but, apparently, they become drunk on power once they go to Washington (and some were drunk with it well before they ever left home!).
The government works for US. It is time WE took control again.