The Truth About the War on Poverty

By Matthew Castaneda


Want to see a problem in the United States of America get exponentially worse? Have its government declare war on it. 2020 marks 56 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared an “unconditional war on poverty in America” in January 1964.

The cost?

According to the Heritage Foundation, $23 trillion of federal spending, despite such investment into alleviating poverty, The U.S. Census Bureau declared in 2013 that approximately 14.5% of Americans live below the poverty line, which is roughly the same as it was back in 1967, three years after President Johnson’s formal declaration of war. 1 Over 100 million people have received about $9,000 of federal aid on average ($943 billion in total), but yet not much has significantly improved, why? 2 One notable thing to address is the fact that the poverty rate itself only takes into account incomes that citizens make and that they’re considered “poor” if their income falls below the threshold. As a result, such numbers do not take into account the fact of how many groups such as families are more self-reliant than when these programs started. When a clear goal is defined when launching an initiative, it makes it pretty simple to see whether or not it was successful in meeting or exceeding the set expectations. 3 During his speech, President Johnson stated, “…not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.” 

Given the fact that today, 1 out of every 3 people receive aid to keep themselves out of poverty while federal spending continues to increase and play a role in contributing to our $26 trillion national debt, it has failed.  As we have also seen over time, the welfare state has also played a huge role in separating families and marriages as 7 percent of children were born out of wedlock when LBJ’s War on Poverty began. As of today, it is 41 percent. While being born into a nuclear family doesn’t guarantee avoiding poverty, it significantly increases the likelihood that the child is born into a financially stable household. The poverty rates for single-parent families without the wife present and those without the husband present 12.7% and 24.9% respectively, and with both parents present the poverty rate is a mere 4.7%. 4

While the solution to eradicating poverty would be complex and require much more research and insight, keeping families together and disincentivizing people from marrying the welfare state instead of a spouse is a start. 5 Lowering taxes, tax credits for businesses who voluntarily provide paid family leave and benefits, abolishing duplicative and ineffective federal programs, and avoiding inflation by auditing and preventing the Federal Reserve from devaluing our dollar by increasing the money supply through massive inflation wouold be massive steps taken to improve poverty while reducing the size of government bureaucracy. 6

About Matthew

Instagram: @thats_castaneda

A New Jersey native and son of Colombian immigrants, Matthew's strongest passion is to defend the very liberties that drew his family to the United States in the first place. Matthew graduated from The Rutgers Business School in May 2020 with a B.S. in Finance. Throughout his time in college and after, Matthew has served for Young Americans for Liberty as the New Jersey State Chair and now in his current role as the Northeast Deputy Regional Director. Aside from being a political junkie, Matthew's hobbies are following soccer, basketball, and teeing up at the golf course!

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