Conservatives Say War on Poverty Failed

On 50th anniversary of LBJ speech

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Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

From left: Rep. Steve Scalise, Rep. Marlin Stutzman, Rep. Rep. Steve Southerland, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and Rep. Jim Jordan hold a news conference at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center Jan. 8, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

Conservative lawmakers argued Wednesday that former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty has been a failure, even as they acknowledged its role in reducing the percentage of poor Americans 50 years later.

“While this war may have been launched with the best of intentions, it’s clear we’re now engaged in a battle of attrition that has left more Americans in poverty than at any other point in our nation’s history,” Florida Republican Rep. Steve Southerland said.

Southerland was speaking at a news conference organized by the Republican Study Committee, a large group of conservative lawmakers in the House. With the White House preempting the attack and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor each delivering their own speeches on poverty Wednesday, the news conference underscored the Republicans’ challenging task in proving through policy that they care for the most economically desperate Americans.

All of it came on the 50th anniversary of Johnson’s first speech declaring war on poverty. The White House released a report showing that the percent of the population in poverty has declined from 25.8% in 1967 to 16% in 2012.

“I do not agree with that data,” said Southerland, who leads the House Republicans’ anti-poverty task force, before agreeing with the crux of it. “The percentage of people in poverty today as compared to 50 years ago, as a percentage, is less, but I also I want to make sure that it is very clear that today there are more Americans living in poverty. Obviously our population has increased. When we start talking about and validating and saying it’s good that 46 million Americans are living in poverty, I think that’s a sad day in America.”

When asked why the public sees an empathy gap between Democrats and Republicans, reaffirmed in last month’s NBC/WSJ poll, Southerland said “a lot of it” is due to “political banter,” before raising his personal work as chairman of the Panama City Salvation Army, among other posts. He also lauded retiring Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) for meeting with every food bank in his district every 90 days.

“I dare one of you to print that tomorrow,” said Southerland to the gaggle of reporters. “There’s a lot of Frank Wolf’s in the Republican conference. I am privileged to serve with these Republicans behind me because I know they are compassionate and they care for the very vulnerable among us.”

But there was little offered in the way of specific, new anti-poverty policies. Southerland announced a “springboard for future action,” but the members mostly reiterated their support for policies like building the Keystone XL pipeline, tax reform and work requirements for food stamps.

The Republican members were more prone to highlight the current state of poverty in America. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a former RSC chair, noted that one in seven Americans live below the poverty line. Speaking of Democratic attempts to renew emergency unemployment insurance that expired last month for 1.3 million Americans, Jordan said Congress had already extended the benefits 13 times in the past five years. Rep. Steve Scalise, the current RSC Chair, said that all the government had to show for the 50 year War on Poverty was $15 trillion spent and 10 million more people in poverty.

“Actually, the formula for beating poverty is a job,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp. “This administration has no real focus on job creation—they are really focused on how long [unemployment] checks are being received.”

26 comments
TerryClifton02
TerryClifton02

I have a friend of mine that's in the construction business. He leases and operates large earth moving equipment. He had a mechanic claim that he was hurt on the job, and couldn't lift more than 5 pounds. My friend's worker compensation insurance almost doubled due this incident. The doctors put the mechanic on permanent disability and he disappeared. Six months later he resurfaced working for my friends competitors as a mechanic in the same capacity as before, but he was working under the table for cash. My friend called the state to report the fraud, and offered to film the mechanic on the job working without pain. They threatened my friend if he videotaped their client in anyway. To this day, the fraud continues. 

TerryClifton02
TerryClifton02

Poverty has become a cottage industry for the politicians and corporations. They thrive off of people living hand to mouth, and they have a vested interest in keeping people as poor as possible. There is no way they want to give up the power and money they receive in their bogus "War on Poverty". The politician talks about economic opportunities as if they exist for the poor, when in fact, all the politician wants is the votes his speeches produces, without delivering anything resembling freedom from the bondage of poverty. He promises jobs, higher education, and better living conditions. None are produced, and yet, he stays in power. The corporations benefit from poverty through the hundred's of wasted programs: WIC, food stamps, heating assistance, cell phones, clothing vouchers, etc... Like the War on Drugs, there is plenty of money to be made by those in the loop of influence.

MarkMenser
MarkMenser

The "war on poverty" has been a fraud from day one.  During the LBJ administration VISTA Volunteers were FIRED when they set up some rural poor people  in a profitable truck-farming business and took them off of welfare.  I recall a friend of mine who complained, when President Clinton initiated "welfare to work",  that if the welfare rolls were reduced he would lose his job.   What liberals forget is that government exists to serve and protect government.  The poor are fed just enough to remind them they are hungry, and thus dependent upon the government.

the "manpower" program in my city spent a fortune on offices, furniture and advertising, but never placed anyone into a paying job outside their own staff.


We have spent so many billions maintaining the "poverty industry" that we could have set up a simple trust  account, say $500,000, for each family in America  and let them live off the earnings when unemployed,  or bank the earnings while they work,  rather than rely upon welfare programs.    True family accounts could replace virtually all welfare and unemployment payments, and could even replace Social Security.  Of course, the thousands of bureaucrats and political hacks who rely on "welfare pork jobs"  would need to find work, and politicians could not buy votes by claiming  that their opponents "do not care" about the poor. 


Liberals are long on empathy but short on intellect.

VTeuther
VTeuther

Good grief:

"When we start talking about and validating and saying it’s good that 46 million Americans are living in poverty, I think that’s a sad day in America.”

No one is saying that. Since when does pointing out that something seems to be working to solve a problem equate to celebrating the fact that people are still suffering from the problem? By Southerland's logic, supporting any solution to a problem equates to celebrating the problem itself. Also, Southerland seems to suggest that it is a bad thing to "start taking about..." those 46 million Americans in poverty. Should we ignore them, then?

"I want to make sure that it is very clear that today there are more Americans living in poverty. Obviously our population has increased...."

Plus, he manipulates numbers to make a make a claim and then immediately undercuts his own assertion to protect himself from his own disingenuousness....what he should have said: "Today, there are more Americans living in poverty, but that's irrelevant because our population has increased."

Kripes...

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

Republicans don't fight poverty, they create it.  Medicare and Medicaid also came out of the Great Society programs in spite of conservative angst, and they are popular and they work, just as single payer universal health care would.    

clisair
clisair

Jobs jobs jobs and more jobs to the tune of 4 to 7 million jobs are needed to get people out of poverty.

MACRM32
MACRM32

Why is everything a "war" for the US? War on poverty, war on terror, war on drugs... I think this says a lot about their mindset.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

---------- 

Southerland said “a lot of it” is due to “political banter,”“Actually, the formula for beating poverty is a job

----------

no talk about family and men and women being responsible for themselves.  No talk about momma not hooking up with a guy who has 12 children with 12 different women.  You want to get out of poverty, be responsible for yourself.   I know there has been a BIG push that you can do whatever you want with your body, but then again  There are some things out of the hands of the government that you can control.  You can only get an $8 an hour job?  Then work two jobs and improve yourself for your next generation so that they know what hard work is.  Thats $16 an hour full time job.  Every generation has been able to do that except this generation it seems. 

If only there was more talk about this, though politicians will never raise this issue because they would lose votes

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Conservatives say the war on poverty failed, and then they do as much as possible to make sure it failed. Go figure.


PaulDirks
PaulDirks

I do not agree with that data


The Republican position on every topic in a nutshell.


VTeuther
VTeuther

@MarkMenser


Two anecdotes, a pat statement, a ham fisted 'if we hadn't...we could have', and a generalizing ad hominem on top...good work.


Many conservatives are long on empathy and intellect, but I'm afraid MarkMenser isn't one of them. 

VTeuther
VTeuther

@MACRM32 

I don't think it suggest we have a bellicose nature. Rather, I think it suggests that we like to keep things simple- good/bad, right/wrong, either/or. It's hard to imagine a range of views and solutions, and there's nothing worse than shades of grey. Besides, wars on abstractions are great!

La_Randy
La_Randy

@Realworldnonfantasyland Apparently you are math challenged. How do you work two jobs at the same time? That is the only way to achieve the 16 dollars an hour figure you give. Plus, how do you improve yourself if you work full time at 8 dollars an hour, full time job, feed yourself, provide housing for yourself, pay for transportation for yourself?


You obviously live in a fantasy world and that goes for the lying, welching reallife also.

manslagt
manslagt

@deconstructivaYes, like splitting up black families. Oh, the Democrats did that through their misguided policies.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@PaulDirks Your party doesn't agree with our data... no your party doesn't agree with our data --- 2 year olds in a nutshell talking politics in 2014

TerryClifton02
TerryClifton02

@VTeuther@TerryClifton02 

It's not a anecdote, it's a fact. My point was that people game the system, and even when you try to right a wrong, there's a government bureaucrat standing the way. The same thing goes for people who are trying to fight from the clutches of poverty. The government makes it so hard to escape.  

VTeuther
VTeuther

@Realworldnonfantasyland @La_Randy  

...if you have even one child a large percentage of that extra income gets soaked up in childcare, and I don't know if 80 hours a week at 8 dollars an hour equates to an improvement in quality of living. No time for education or personal development. Wake, work, sleep, repeat. And forget about being an active, involved parent. Also, working 80 hours a week like that, you're unlikely to move up the ladder at either job- your energies and time are split. So your scenario has a person working 80 hours a week for $8 an hour until they die. And of course, neither of those jobs are likely to offer healthcare benefits, retirement benefits, vacation or even sick days.


But my biggest problem is this: you're just throwing out anecdotes- 12 kids by 12 different mothers? Trot out the few statistically irrelevant baddies to characterize the many, blame the victim, offer nothing more than simplistic ideology, and continue living in your fantasy land.