Poverty soars to post-60s high

Four years of the “Obama Recovery” have brought poverty in the United States to the highest levels since the beginning of the “War on Poverty,” the one war that nobody wants to develop an exit strategy for:

The U.S. Census Bureau puts the number of Americans in poverty at levels not seen since the mid-1960s when President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the federal government’s so-called War on Poverty. As President Barack Obama began his second term in January, nearly 50 million Americans ??? one in six ??? were living below the income line that defines poverty, according to the bureau. A family of four that earns less than $23,021 a year is listed as living in poverty. The bureau said 20 percent of the country’s children are poor.

That’s from the Associated Press, which goes on to warn us that the bleak horrors of sequestration will be taking food from the mouths of the poor.  In fact, about 95 percent of the AP article about these astonishing poverty numbers is dedicated to complaining about sequestration.  A great deal of emphasis is placed on the laudable story of a reformed drug addict name Antonio Hammond, who “turned his life around” thanks to $18,000 in privately donated funds overseen by Catholic Charities.

But Catholic Charities gets federal money too, and they’re worried about sequestration cuts, as are authorities in the Hammond’s home of Baltimore – which for some reason looms large across the entire AP piece.  Why are this one individual, charity, and city discussed at such length in a story about poverty across America?

Although it is far from the country’s poorest city, Baltimore’s poverty rate far outstrips the national average of one in six.

Catholic Charities of Baltimore is a conduit for state and federal money for programs designed to help the poor. The charity plays a major role in administering Head Start, a federal program that provides educational services for low-income pre-school children and frees single mothers to find work without the huge expense of childcare.

The spending cuts, known as the sequester, are going to hit Head Start especially hard.

“Before the sequester only half of the need was being met. Now, after the cuts fully take effect, there will be 900 children already in the program who won’t be able to take part,” said William McCarthy, executive director of Catholic Charities.

There is no question the national belt-tightening “will deepen and increase poverty,” said McCarthy, citing the cuts in long-term care for poor seniors including assisted living and nursing care, and fewer low-income housing spaces, among other ripple effects.

Head Start is a fantastically expensive program – $7.3 billion per year – whose defenders have been reduced to cherry-picking studies until they find one that suggests it might possibly do a little good for some children.  It’s basically a taxpayer-funded day care program that costs three times as much as private-sector day care.

That sequestration money truly is the most magical $85 billion in the entire federal budget, isn’t it?  God alone knows where the other $3.6 trillion in federal spending is going, but that particular 2 percent of the budget… excuse me, non-budgeted federal spending… does everything from keeping the White House open for tours, to feeding the poor.

The Associated Press takes pains to let you know that evil Republicans wanted to steal even more bread from the mouths of the poor:

A 2014 budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, the vice presidential candidate on the unsuccessful Republican presidential ticket last year, would be particularly tough on social safety net programs. His plan would slash $135 billion over the next decade from the program that provides food aid for low-income Americans. Nearly three-quarters of households receiving help from the program include children, who, census figures show, are the group hardest hit by poverty.

Ryan’s plan would also turn the government’s Medicare health insurance program for Americans age 65 and over into a voucher system, providing direct government payments to seniors who would then try to buy insurance on the private market.

Ryan defends his drive for austerity as necessary to begin shrinking the country’s $16 trillion national debt.

“If we never balance the budget, if we keep adding deficit upon deficit we have a debt crisis like Europe has. That means seniors lose their health care benefit, that means the people in the safety net see the net cut and they go in the street. That means you have a recession. These are the things we prevent from happening by balancing the budget. Balancing the budget is but a means to an end. It’s growing the economy, it’s creating opportunity, it’s getting government to live within its means,” he said in an interview with Fox News.

On the other hand, absolutely no attempt is made to link the growth in poverty to President Obama’s policies.  (Close your eyes and try to imagine a story about record highs in poverty being reported without any linkage to the policies of a Republican president.)  Instead, the Empty Chair is presented as a noble hero who just wanted to pinch a few more coins from the treasure vaults of the super-rich, and protect his fragile “recovery” from heartless, austerity-crazed Republican budget cutters:

Obama backs increasing taxes on the wealthy while instituting smaller government spending cuts, a plan that would reduce deficit spending but more slowly. He and most fellow Democrats argue that European-style austerity has not worked there and will harm the U.S. recovery from the Great Recession.

Do these people understand how sick and crazy they sound?  We’re not even cutting the budget yet.  Sequestration is a minor reduction in the rate of spending growth.  The government will still spend more next year than it did this year.  And it will still spend almost $900 billion it doesn’t have, even after dropping gigantic tax increases on Obama’s weak economy in the “fiscal cliff” deal.

Where were all these cries about money snatched away from the indigent when Obama was giving billions of dollars to his green energy cronies, or setting up a disastrous health care plan that would add trillions to the deficit?  But you see, the government doesn’t do “budgets” any more, and it wasn’t really budgeting in any meaningful sense before the pretense was completely abandoned by Democrats.  That means politicians don’t have to talk about spending less on X to increase spending on Y, unless they want to.  When billions are thrown at new programs, there is no need to talk about taking anything away from other expenditures.  The Democrats made a big production of declaring that they would do so, following Barack Obama’s election, but this “pay-go” commitment was swiftly abandoned.

Even now, the government is still spending huge amounts of money on wasteful programs and luxuries for the political class, even as steps are taken to ensure that every tiny spending cut is agonizingly painful for American citizens.  Barack Obama will spend a million dollars flying to Denver to give a gun-control speech today.  His family has already taken three luxurious taxpayer-funded vacations this year, costing millions of dollars apiece.  How about giving that money to Catholic Charities instead, and letting them do some good for the needy?  They have a vastly better track record of efficiency and effectiveness than our bloated federal welfare state does.

That’s part of the real story here, and I’m calling malarkey on every single word of the liberal narrative.  The War on Poverty has failed.  The Big Government welfare state has failed.  Barack Obama’s “recovery,” and his crusade against “income inequality,” have failed.

After decades of staggering wealth redistribution – a trillion-dollar program, begun back when a trillion dollars was big money to Uncle Sam – we have more poverty than ever.  The definition of poverty is highly contentious – the lives of the “poor” described in these Census numbers bear little resemblance to poverty as other parts of the world would define it, and the value of welfare benefits is not included in these calculations, even though they can leave “poor” families with more disposable income than people working middle-class jobs.  But we’ve got more people sliding under the line defined as poverty than we did before we declared war on poverty, and that is an objective failure.

The only rational response to such failure is to try something completely different.  Evidently we are not allowed to talk about policies that would restore the American family, the great bulwark against poverty.  So let’s talk about dissolving those welfare bureaucracies, shutting down those easily-defrauded Food Stamp Nation programs, cutting our tax and bureaucracy burden to fuel healthy private-sector job creation, and giving more money to groups like Catholic Charities, who can turn someone’s life around for just $18,000.