Here’s another data point for your “not what I was told to believe” file:
In Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, John Early and Phil Gramm share some depressing numbers about growing dependency in the United States:
During the 20 years before the War on Poverty was funded, the portion of the nation living in poverty had dropped to 14.7% from 32.1%. Since 1966, the first year with a significant increase in antipoverty spending, the poverty rate reported by the Census Bureau has been virtually unchanged…Transfers targeted to low-income families increased in real dollars from an average of $3,070 per person in 1965 to $34,093 in 2016…Transfers now constitute 84.2% of the disposable income of the poorest quintile of American households and 57.8% of the disposable income of lower-middle-income households. These payments also make up 27.5% of America’s total disposable income.
This massive expansion of redistribution has negatively impacted incentives to work.
Incentives aren’t only relevant to welfare recipients, but also to government and the politicians who populate it. The progressive concept of scientific governance — setting experts to make the “right” decisions for everybody — requires that the people making decisions will make them honestly. But when government begins giving things out, the incentive is to keep doing so whether it achieves the desired policy outcome or not, because at the end of the day, the desired outcome is votes.
More broadly, the incentive for the bureaucracy is to keep having things to do, like processing benefits, and to sell government as the solution for problems. For all of these reasons, the incentive is to never honestly assess whether a War on Poverty has actually helped maintain poverty levels while causing a host of unexpected social ills. Alternately, the incentive is to keep adjusting the definition of “poverty” so that the rate never changes even if the experience of the population does.