Helping the Poor
America is an incredibly prosperous and generous nation. We have both the desire and the means to help people who are hurting and in need. But welfare programs not only trap generations in dependence by creating warped incentives, it also withholds their opportunity to pursue the American Dream.
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Americans have always been a generous people. Whether sharing a cup of sugar with a neighbor, organizing neighborhood events, or volunteering for a local homeless shelter, we express our generosity on a very personal level.
During the Great Depression, however, America’s approach to helping the poor changed. With so many out of work and the ability to give generously diminished, under president Franklin D. Roosevelt, America took up The New Deal – the largest government assistance ever. Roosevelt’s programs set the stage for President Lyndon B. Johnson to pursue the “Great Society” in 1964, which further expanded government’s role in providing aid to low income Americans.
Have these government programs made an impact? Are there options to better combat poverty?
More than 50 years have passed since President Johnson’s “Great Society” speech, and decades of data show the programs have had very little impact.
In the years before the War on Poverty, from 1959 to 1966, the poverty rate dropped from 22% to 15%. Since then, despite spending over $20 trillion on government anti-poverty programs, the poverty rate is virtually unchanged.
Government programs are largely unable to move Americans out of poverty not only because they create incentives to stay on welfare but also because they ignore the three biggest issues impacting poverty: education, employment and marriage.