The threshold for determining if a family is living below the poverty level in 2011 is an income of $22,350 per year for a family of four. Keep this number in mind as we take a brief look at some older poverty numbers. This will shock you. Well, maybe it won’t. We’ve come to expect gross incompetence from our government officials, and that’s the problem.
In 1982, the total U.S. welfare bill at all levels of government (federal, state, and local) came to $403 billion. If we take figures from the Bureau of the Census (August 1984) which state that the number of people living in poverty in the U.S. was 15.2 percent of the population or 35.3 million people, an amazing fact emerges. Had we simply divided the 403 billion dollars this nation spent on poverty at every level of government among the estimated number of poor people, each poor person could have received $11,133.
For a family of four, this would have totaled $44,532. (Remember the above number for 2011: $22,350. That’s about half of what was being spent in 1982!) Since the official poverty level per family for that year was $9,287, it is clear that America’s fight against poverty involves enormous overhead costs. Most of the tax dollars collected to fight poverty end up as Thomas Sowell notes, “in the pockets of highly paid administrators, consultants, and staff as well as higher-income recipients of benefits from programs advertised as anti-poverty efforts.” Clearly, the bucket used to carry money from the pockets of the taxpayer to the poor is leaking badly. Many think the real beneficiaries of liberal social programs are not the poor and disadvantaged but the members of the governmental bureaucracy who administer the program.
Those who administer these programs have a vested interest in their survival and expansion. Winning the war on poverty is not the goal, perpetuating the programs is. “Less than 25 percent of all the tax dollars allocated to fight poverty at every level of government reaches the poor. The other 75 percent goes to pay overhead.”1
Advocates of “social justice” programs implemented by the State at the expense of the mainly productive members of society will claim that there are success stories. Few would dispute the claim. When so much money is being poured into these programs, someone is bound to benefit. But if that same money — including the revenue lost in overhead expenditures that never reach the poor — were saved, invested, and spent instead of taxed, many more people would benefit, and we would have fewer social-welfare slaves.
Liberals need poor people and the programs that keep the poor in poverty. A perpetual underclass insures that liberal do-gooders will get re-elected. The worst of them are poverty pimps like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Maxine Waters. Their call for more spending will only make their fellow-blacks more dependent on the State, all the while blaming the “rich” for their misfortune.
- Ronald H. Nash, Why the Left is Not Right: The Religious Left—Who They Are and What They Believe (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996), 183. [↩]