War on poverty.. spending more and with no end in sight

The first time I heard the concept of the left’s “war on poverty”, it was articulated – not by that name, but I can’t remember what it was called – to me by a hardcore progtard teacher that also loved to rant about how the evil big pharma and medical research industries would never find a cure for cancer. His point was that because a cure would kill their profits and cash flow, they had no incentive to ever find a cure. Treatment and things to make more people need said treatments, and lots of research, was where the big money was, so only idiots believed the medical profiteers would ever really be looking for a cure. He was not very pleased with me and a few others that then pointed out that the same principle should apply to his precious “war on poverty” crusade, since one could conclude that they would honestly had no reason to ever fix poverty, because it would leave them out of work as well. Case in point the revelation that we have spent $3.7 trillion over the last 5 years, and several tens of trillions in the last few decades, with only more poverty and people needing to suck on the government’s teat, to show for that crusade. If anything, the class warriors are true to the cause of expanding their work opportunities and the need for more “treatment” of the problem. Don’t expect a cure from these people, though, unless by cure you mean even more poverty in our soon to be banana republic.

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  1. Seattle Outcast

    The “war on cancer” has at least resulted in longer survival times for people that get cancer. For example, my sister in law was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer in early 2005. Just a decade earlier her chances of living another 90 days was in the single-digit percentages; she spent the next 8 years undergoing chemo every few months, and was extremely active, including many scuba diving vacations in the Caribbean. If she hadn’t thrown a clot a couple months ago she’d still be here, waiting for another round of chemo when “her numbers got too high.”

    Then again, the “war on poverty” has apparently resulted in more and longer poverty – so there’s always that. If anyone has an incentive to drag out something forever, it will be the government, which never wants to give up a nickle of tax dollars.

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  2. CM

    Then again, the “war on poverty” has apparently resulted in more and longer poverty

    That’s purely theoretical, you’re comparing it to what you imagine would happen otherwise (in some sort of free-market utopia).

    Sorry to hear about your sister, my condolences.

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  3. Seattle Outcast

    It’s not theoretical, the government’s own data supports it.

    Of course, what passes for “poverty” in the US includes a home, cars, computer, enough food to get fat on, cell phones, heat, A/C, cable, widescreen TV, etc. It just doesn’t include a tropical vacation twice a year.

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  4. ilovecress

    “It’s not theoretical, the government’s own data supports it.

    Of course, what passes for “poverty” in the US includes a home, cars, computer, enough food to get fat on, cell phones, heat, A/C, cable, widescreen TV, etc. It just doesn’t include a tropical vacation twice a year.”

    Doesn’t that refute your point?

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  5. Ed Kline

    CM, this is simple. If you want less of something, tax it, and if you want more of something, subsidize it. We have been subsidizing poverty in all it’s forms since the mid 60’s, and we got more poverty to show for it. Expecting any other result is defiance of basic economic principles.

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  6. Ed Kline

    “Of course, what passes for “poverty” in the US includes a home, cars, computer, enough food to get fat on, cell phones, heat, A/C, cable, widescreen TV, etc. It just doesn’t include a tropical vacation twice a year.”

    Doesn’t that refute your point?”

    No, it really doesn’t. Teen pregnancy is wholly subsidized by medicaid, and generation after generation is following suit. Also, WIC, SNAP and Medicaid, Section 8 housing for those children costs a fortune, and people have absolutely no incentive to not engage in the behaviors that put them in such needy situations in the first place. In point of fact, having a second, third or even fourth child can be quite enriching. This doesn’t include the fact that single mothers are eligible for larger amounts of grants and loans for schools ( I’ve met plenty of women who maximize that benefit for as long as possible). The reason these people are fat with cell phones and x-boxes is because we give them so damn much with little to no oversight.
    The lie the democratic party stands by is that the only alternative to this huge entitlement payout rife with fraud, is children starving and dying of dysentary in the streets. Utter bullshit.

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  7. CM

    The lie the democratic party stands by is that the only alternative to this huge entitlement payout rife with fraud, is children starving and dying of dysentary in the streets. Utter bullshit.

    I’m yet to see independent stats or research which shows that generational welfare dependency is significant, and had any more than an extremely minor effect on the economy. Is it any more than an article of faith, supported by personal anecdote or some anecdotal reporting?

    Ok, so take all that welfare away and how does poverty not simply get worse (people spend even less)? Where does all this additional demand come from (as opposed to reduce), to enable jobs to pop up all over the place? We know that more money in the hands of the people who can create jobs doesn’t actually result in more jobs – because they’re the only ones who have done extremely well in the last couple of years but they aren’t creating jobs. And why would they, if there is no demand for their goods and services to justify it?
    Society subsidises those who reap and keep the rewards. Society pays out the tax credits and welfare so that wages can continue to stagnate. Because, as we know, employers only pay more wages if they absolutely have to.
    I don’t see how the alternative is anything else but economic collapse. As it is the system is unsustainable because of all the welfare payments that are required to keep a proportion of the population in the economy. Money increasingly flows up, and to the government. The government has to keep sending it back down because it doesn’t come down from anywhere else.
    How is stagnant wages for a decade (and close to stagnant wages for 40 years) any sort of incentive, when productivity overall, and wealth for the rich, has increased exponentially? What kind of a fucked system requires more and more people to have their incomes topped up (so even workers can be considered parasitic ‘takers’) even though cumulatively there is more money/wealth than ever before? But apparently the results don’t matter, it’s the THEORY that counts. Because ideology trumps reality. Because there will always be some poor person who doesn’t want to work and doesn’t give a shit about ripping off the system.

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  8. ilovecress

    Just above, S-O is arguing that nowadays there is more and longer poverty.

    Next couple of posts down S-O is arguing that nowadays poverty isn’t that bad, because of the cars and cellphones and whatnot.

    So which is it? Is poverty getting worse, or is poverty not as bad as it once was? More people are ‘poor’, but being poor is pretty sweet?

    To me, a system where ‘poverty’ includes Cell Phones, A/C, Cable and Widescreen would be deemed a success.

    You’ve got your talking points muddles up there. You’ve mixed up ‘welfare queens’ with ‘ poverty trap’.

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  9. CM

    What I’d like to know is – if generational poverty, and people on welfare generally, is a such a significant issue/factor, how does unemployment drop down to 3%-4% (i.e. pretty much what the economists consider ‘structural’) during boom times? Surely a boom wouldn’t matter a jot to a person who has no interest in working because life is SO GOOD being handed so much a week on welfare?

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  10. Seattle Outcast

    Doesn’t that refute your point?

    That’s an interesting discussion – on one hand you have the fact that “poverty” no longer means what it used to due to the relative wealth of the society. Even accepting the fact that you are living in a small residence with deferred maintenance, older used cars that are unreliable, don’t shop at upscale stores, hand-me-down electronics, etc, you can be “poor” in the US with creature comforts that didn’t even exist a couple generations ago and sufficient government aid to continue in that state indefinitely.

    However, you have to examine that for many of these people, in particular over the last few years, went from middle class and employed, to chronic unemployment and living off of government handouts. It’s more of an indication of how the basic standard of living has decreased and the state of the economy. The other thing the “war” on poverty has done has created a permanent, generational underclass that does not work. The UK had this issue solved a couple decades ago, and so did the US during the Clinton administration (against his will). Obama has managed to bring it back.

    Anyway, the fact that the word “poverty” instantly instills images out of a variety of movies about the dust bowl is extremely misleading. The societal safety net manages to catch the vast majority of people before they are reduced to utter homelessness. And even then there is aid. The trick is to keep the engine that drives the society from stalling, and employing Keynesian tricks to utter abandon is pretty much the same thing as pouring a gallon or ten of water into your gas tank.

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  11. Xetrov

    Next couple of posts down S-O is arguing that nowadays poverty isn’t that bad, because of the cars and cellphones and whatnot.

    Pretty sure he’s alluding to the fact that the welfare system enables “poor” people to have smartphones, cars, etc. and thus is a problem because essentially my tax dollars are giving people “Obamaphones.”

    Anecdotal – my sister-in-law and worthless husband have been receiving food stamps for years. He refuses to work while going to school…which he has been doing for a decade. But I’ll be damned if he doesn’t get a new iPhone and iPad every time a new model comes out. Top-tier cable package, high speed internet, “free” healthcare, and two cars too. Damn it feels good to be a gansta Welfare Recipient.

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  12. Miguelito

    Of course, what passes for “poverty” in the US includes a home, cars, computer, enough food to get fat on, cell phones, heat, A/C, cable, widescreen TV, etc. It just doesn’t include a tropical vacation twice a year.

    Shit! I’m poor! No tropical vacations for me.

    Actually most of the people I work with, where we all make good money and live relatively well, seem to take less expensive vacations, less often than most people I know and see who are struggling. Probably has something to do with why those that are struggling… Well, are struggling. Can’t see ahead long term.

    But SO is right in what constitutes being in poverty in the US is still living like royalty to most of the population of the world. Similar reasons that raising minimum wage won’t “fix” poverty, as the cost of goods will rise and the definition of poverty will just change. There are entire chunks of this nation who’s jobs rely on making sure we don’t solve the underlying causes of poverty, and those that prefer to sit on their asses and live a slightly lower level of lifestyle vs actually working.

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  13. AlexInCT *

    That’s purely theoretical, you’re comparing it to what you imagine would happen otherwise (in some sort of free-market utopia).

    Actually CM, my point is that the poverty pimps have created a huge dependant group that without the subsdies the massive bureaucracy they man gives them, would be even poorer than they are now. SO is right: poverty isn’t what it used to be in America these days. Here are some statistics: read em and weep:

    (CNSNews.com) – Americans who were recipients of means-tested government benefits in 2011 outnumbered year-round full-time workers, according to data released this month by the Census Bureau. They also out-numbered the total population of the Philippines.

    There were 108,592,000 people in the United States in the fourth quarter of 2011 who were recipients of one or more means-tested government benefit programs, the Census Bureau said in data released this week. Meanwhile, according to the Census Bureau, there were 101,716,000 people who worked full-time year round in 2011. That included both private-sector and government workers.

    That means there were about 1.07 people getting some form of means-tested government benefit for every 1 person working full-time year round.

    So, unless you want to make the argument that people sucking at the government teat are making out just as good, if not better, than a huge chunk of the employed – which might be true, but certainly they shouldn’t be getting so much that they end up above the poverty livel, which in itselfs validates my point that the agenda is to keep these people around and dependant so the bureaucrats have perpetual work – I think we are quite good pointing out that the practice we have right now has produced more poor people.

    But my point is 100% valid (as others have already pointed out): when you subsidize something, you get a lot more of that something. We haev been subsidizing poverty on a scale that’s just flabbergasting. The poverty pimps do not want poverty to go away, because it keeps them employed, in the money, and is one heck of a dependable mechanism to buy votes with. When you have no real incentive to do anything but the bare minimum, most people will do just that.

    BTW, I do not believe we will ever be able to get rid of poverty. What I am certain of is that what we are doing right now is absolutely the wrong thing, and why we have more and more people becoming big government tit suckers.

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  14. Miguelito

    how does unemployment drop down to 3%-4% (i.e. pretty much what the economists consider ‘structural’) during boom times?

    Because they’re not counted at all in the statistic man. How can you not get this yet? The U3 (it’s U3, right) stat given out as the “Unemployment rate” for the US is complete bullshit and has been for some time. It doesn’t count these people, nor does it count anyone that has “fallen off the roles,” as they say.

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  15. Miguelito

    Damn loss of edit button…

    As I clicked submit realized I forgot…
    If the unemployment rate were reported at all honestly, our current 7.x% rate would be well into the teens.

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  16. stogy

    CM: “I don’t see how the alternative is anything else but economic collapse. As it is the system is unsustainable because of all the welfare payments that are required to keep a proportion of the population in the economy. Money increasingly flows up, and to the government. The government has to keep sending it back down because it doesn’t come down from anywhere else.”

    This is a really nice analysis and shows pretty well how much society has come to depend on welfare. Rather than just blaming the poor it shows how much welfare addiction cost everyone except the very rich – who benefit from the fact that it allows them to keep wages and costs down.

    The flipside of the argument of course, is that the unemployed play a vital role in the economy simply by being unemployed and thereby ensuring that there isn’t a lot of competition in labor markets. Once unemployment falls below 4 or 5% wages tend to rise rather quickly, which eats away at profits.

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  17. CM

    Many more households have more people working than in previous decades, to enable them to keep up with modern lifestyles. And it’s a little impractical that people should be living like it’s 1960 or 1970, or move to a country where they would be considered rich.
    I’m still waiting on ANYTHING that supports the theory that alleviating poverty via a welfare system creates more poverty. Where are the research papers?
    Mook your link tells us nothing about those claims about generational welfare dependency.

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  18. Mook

    CM, you claimed “I’m yet to see independent stats or research which shows that generational welfare dependency is significant, and had any more than an extremely minor effect on the economy.”

    The link I cited put a knife through your bullshit claim that welfare had only an “extremely minor” effect on the economy, yet here you are proclaiming like a psycho that your claim stands unrebutted.

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  19. CM

    Again, I asked about generational welfare dependency (and evidence about how significant it is), whereas you provided a link about current cumulative means-tested federal welfare spending.
    Perhaps you didn’t realise what I meant by ‘generational welfare dependency’? I mean individuals and their families who are permanent welfare dependents (generation after generation).
    I’m sure there are many included in the stats you posted who (a) aren’t using welfare long term, and (b) aren’t dependent on it. Your link includes things like ‘adoptive services’ and ‘child support enforcement’ – neither even remotely related to what I’m talking about (which is the narrative that families get ‘trapped’ in welfare because they want to, and because politicians want them to).

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