Thanks to progressivism, we’ve lost the “War on Poverty”


**Posted by Phineas



The War on Poverty was launched in 1964 under Lyndon Johnson with the best of intentions: through massive spending and extensive welfare programs, the government would eradicate poverty in America and make people self-sufficient. Like I said, a worthy goal.

It has also been an utter failure. In 1964 we declared war on poverty, and poverty won.

As the chart above shows, poverty was in deep, rapid decline in America after World War II without any government help, just the natural processes of a growing, prosperous economy. It looked well on its way to elimination, perhaps. Then, in the mid to late-60s, it leveled off and, save for an occasional bump up, has stayed right around fifteen percent.What happened?

In 1964, with the start of the War on Poverty, progressives and other economically illiterate do-gooders wound up trapping people in poverty, rather than helping them out of it. As Robert Rector at The Signal writes:

Johnson did not intend to put more Americans on the dole (1). Instead, he explicitly sought to reduce the future need for welfare by making lower-income Americans productive and self-sufficient.

By this standard, the War on Poverty has been a catastrophic failure. After spending more than $20 trillion on Johnson’s war, many Americans are less capable of self-support than when the war began. This lack of progress is, in a major part, due to the welfare system itself. Welfare breaks down the habits and norms that lead to self-reliance, especially those of marriage and work. It thereby generates a pattern of increasing inter-generational dependence. The welfare state is self-perpetuating: By undermining productive social norms, welfare creates a need for even greater assistance in the future. Reforms should focus on these programs’ incentive structure to point the way toward self-sufficiency. One step is communicating that the poverty rate is better understood as self-sufficiency rate—that is, we should measure how many Americans can take care of themselves and their families.

Emphasis added.

What was it Ronald Reagan said?

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”

One would think that, faced with all the mounds of evidence that government programs don’t lift people out of poverty, Progressives, who claim to be devoted to “progress,” would see the war on poverty has been a failure and that the programs should be reformed or discontinued and something else tried, something like less government intervention.

But, no. Few ever will be that honest, because to say government failed to reorder society as desired would be to admit that the central tenet of progressivism, a faith in the power of technocrats to manage a vastly complex society, was wrong.

Meanwhile, that core 15% remains trapped in poverty, addicted to government “crack” and walking a road paved with good intentions.

PS: Note the sharp climb back up to 15% at the end of that chart. It starts soon after the Democrats take over Congress in 2006 and undo the 1990s Clinton-Gingrich welfare reform, then accelerates under Obama. Coincidence? I think not.

RELATED: Cato economist Dan Mitchell has often written on the same topic. Here’s a post he wrote on the failures of the War on Poverty and another on the “redistribution trap.” That latter is must-reading.

(1) Many criticize that assertion, with some justification. See for example Kevin Williamson’s “The Dependency Agenda.”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

(Video) 1948 cartoon: “Make Mine Freedom!”


**Posted by Phineas

Here’s a neat animated short from almost 70 years ago that does a darned good job showing the differences between a society based on individual liberty and the free market, on the one hand, and those based on statism (Socialism, Communism, and Fascism) on the other. It makes good use of humor to get its point across:

Nowadays, I think we could add another “-ISM” to that patent medicine’s list of ingredients: the religious totalitarianism of Islamism.

Via Dan Mitchell, this was part of good post on how the Left was wrong about unemployment insurance.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

#RaiseTheWage: Seattle businesses push back against minimum wage increase


**Posted by Phineas

Depression-era unemployment

But at least we raised the minimum wage!

Rick Moran at PJMedia has an article up about an effort on the part of Seattle business owners to get a measure on the ballot that would roll back the city’s recently passed $15 per hour minimum wage to a more “reasonable” $12.50. You can go there to get the details (there are accusations of fraud in the petitions to get the measure on the ballot), but here is a portion in which a Seattle business owner describes the very real impact raising the minimum wage has on his and other businesses:

That favorite coffee shop that you go to? That great neighborhood restaurant? That store where you buy your books, pet food, art supplies, or clothes? Each of those businesses survives on around a 5 percent net profit margin. That means that at the end of the year, after all the expenses—the payroll, the supplies, the inventory, insurance, rent, etc.—we all will end up with only about 5 percent income in our pockets if we’re doing a half-decent job. Maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less—but you get the idea. This does not leave a small local business with much room to absorb even a small increase in costs, much less the 60 percent increase demanded by the well-meaning but ill-researched and biased reporters and neighbors involved in this discussion.

Here are some more boring facts:

Payroll is approximately 30 percent of my entire costs at Liberty, the bar I own (the average in this business seems to be 30 to 35 percent). If the minimum wage goes up to $12.50 an hour (a reasonable middle ground some have proposed), that would be an increase of 34 percent, which means just to stay even I’d have to raise prices 10 percent across the board—the labor’s percentage increase in total cost to operate Liberty.

If the minimum wage goes to $15 an hour, I’d have to raise my contribution to payroll by 18 percent. So my costs would have to rise by no less than 18 percent, just for payroll—and that’s before my vendors’ increases in costs have to be considered, which I believe will be around another 5 percent, and that’s before Liberty adds any profit.

So it’s not impossible to imagine that costs for business like mine in Seattle will go up by no less than 20 percent.

Those increases are way more than my income. Again, my profit is around 5 percent. And it’s not just me, that’s across the board—for restaurants, for bars, for clothing stores, for pet stores, for art supply stores—many of whom have set costs and are competing with online retail. This makes it very difficult for them to adjust their purchasing.

So, what are this business owner’s options? That’s his problem, not the Seattle city council’s.

Thomas Sowell has often observed that politicians almost never feel the economic consequences of the decisions they force on the rest of us. While they’re buying their way to reelection by handing out goodies and making themselves feel good by supposedly “fighting for the people,” someone else has to pay the cost — in this case, the businessman who takes less profit, the worker who gets fewer hours, or the consumer who pays higher prices.

I left a comment to Moran’s post and I want to share part of it here. It’s anecdotal, but I think it illustrates the very real effects of politicians thinking they can ignore the laws of economics:

A friend supervises minimum wage, hourly employees in an educational setting. Our minimum wage [in California] has just gone up to $9 per hour. She has told me that she knows for a fact her budget for hiring will not increase, so she has to cut employee hours and, perhaps, eliminate a couple of jobs. Now, someone explain to me again how this increase actually helped these workers? But it sure made the pols in Sacramento feel good about themselves.

Those employees are student workers, often from minority groups, who work to help pay their way through school. And they are very real victims of progressives’ “good intentions.”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

QOTD: On the many times #SCOTUS has ruled unanimously against the Obama admin


Obama arrogance

John Fund on the Obama administration’s bad track record with respect to the Supreme Court’s many unanimous rulings against them (via):

Did you know the Obama administration’s position has been defeated in at least 13 – thirteen — cases before the Supreme Court since January 2012 that were unanimous decisions? It continued its abysmal record before the Supreme Court today with the announcement of two unanimous opinions against arguments the administration had supported. First, the Court rejected the administration’s power grab on recess appointments by making clear it could not decide when the Senate was in recess. Then it unanimously tossed out a law establishing abortion-clinic “buffer zones” against pro-life protests that the Obama administration argued on behalf of before the Court (though the case was led by Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley).

The tenure of both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder has been marked by a dangerous push to legitimize a vast expansion of the power of the federal government that endangers the liberty and freedom of Americans. They have taken such extreme position on key issues that the Court has uncharacteristically slapped them down time and time again. Historically, the Justice Department has won about 70 percent of its cases before the high court. But in each of the last three terms, the Court has ruled against the administration a majority of the time.

So even the liberal justices on the Court, including the two justices appointed by President Barack Obama — Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — have disagreed with the DOJ’s positions. As George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin told the Washington Times last year, “When the administration loses significant cases in unanimous decisions and cannot even hold the votes of its own appointees . . . it is an indication that they adopted such an extreme position on the scope of federal power that even generally sympathetic judges could not even support it.”

Disturbing, but true. Make sure to read the whole thing.

‘Big Gulp ban’ struck down by NY State Court of Appeals

My body, my choice

Heh! Photo via Stan Brooks/1010 WINS, as seen on CBS NY’s website.

Bad news for proponents of the Nanny State – via the New York Times (hat tip):

The Bloomberg big-soda ban is officially dead.

The state’s highest court on Thursday refused to reinstate New York City’s controversial limits on sales of jumbo sugary drinks, exhausting the city’s final appeal and handing a major victory to the American soft-drink industry, which bitterly opposed the plan.

In a 20-page opinion, Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr. of the New York State Court of Appeals wrote that the city’s Board of Health “exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority” in enacting the proposal, which was championed by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Two lower courts had already ruled against the city, saying it overreached in trying to prohibit the purchase of sugared drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces, about the size of a medium coffee cup. Ruling 4 to 2, the Court of Appeals upheld the earlier rulings.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a frequent critic of Mr. Bloomberg but a supporter of the soda proposal, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the latest decision, saying it was “irrefutable” that sugary drinks has detrimental effects on health. The mayor said he would review other options for the city to combat obesity, but his team did not immediately specify what steps might be taken.

In the ruling, the judges said the City Council was the proper body to enact a policy of such sweep and complexity as the soda limits. The Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, opposes the proposal, and she said on Thursday that she was pleased with the court’s decision.

Two big rulings from two courts today reigning in the overreach of power at the federal and local levels. More, please!

Efficient as ever, Hillary Clinton attacks 1st and 2nd amendments in one sentence


**Posted by Phineas


Hey, why only gut one amendment in the Bill of Rights when you can trash two at the same time? It’s a progressive win-win!

During a televised town hall, Hillary Clinton was asked about guns, and said that the viewpoint held by gun-rights advocates “terrorizes” the majority of Americans.

The town hall, broadcast live on CNN on Tuesday, closely resembled a commercial for Clinton’s new memoir, “Hard Choices.”


“We cannot let a minority of people – and that’s what it is, it is a minority of people – hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people,” said Clinton.

Get that? Not only are you allowed to own firearms only at the sufferance of the State, but you are not even allowed to hold a point of view that differs from the majority opinion, presumably as long as that majority happens to agree with the progressive statist position.

And “terrorizes?” Really, Hillary? I’m not allowed to hold the opinion that the natural right to self-defense allows me and all other Americans to arm ourselves and that the Bill of Rights recognizes that unalienable right against government power, because said opinion might make your neighbors in Chappaqua get the vapors? How weird. In all my reading about the American Founding and our constitutional settlement, I never ran across the part that talked about how we have free speech as long as it isn’t scary. I don’t recall Voltaire saying “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it, as long as it does not offend the majority.”

Hey, Hillary? What about other minorities? Blacks in the 1950s and 1960s were of the opinion that they held the same natural and civil rights as other Americans and loudly demonstrated to demand those rights be honored. That surely scared the majority Whites at the time, so should Blacks have not been allowed to hold those opinions? I’m curious for your thoughts on the matter.

File this away for 2016, folks, should Lady Macbeth decide to run: it is the opinion of a leading candidate for President of the United States, who swears an oath to uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution —including the Bill of Rights— that you are only allowed to express your own opinions as long as most people are comfortable with them.

Comforting, isn’t it?

h/t Bryan Preston

PS: Hillary is no outlier for her party: just the other day, President Obama was praising Australia’s draconian gun confiscation law. The simple truth is that the Left approves of the Constitution only when it is convenient to them.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Obama minimum wage edict leads to job losses at military bases


**Posted by Phineas

Depression-era unemployment

“But at least we won the election! Obama!!”

Democrats and their Leftist allies are desperate to find any issue to run on in the coming elections, other than Obamacare. One of their tactics has been to try to gin up class warfare based on raising the minimum wage. They argue that it will help the poor, raise living standards, and, of course, be more “fair.” Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians, on the other hand, contend that increasing the cost of labor will only mean higher prices to the consumer, fewer jobs for the marginally skilled, and be particularly harmful to minorities. This video is a good example of how minimum wage laws kill jobs.

Needless to say, I come down on the side of those opposed to the Democrats’ demands for a minimum wage increase. But honest, intelligent people (1) can reasonably disagree.  To help solve this disagreement, a real-world, real-time example would be nice. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as the case may be), we have one. As Byron York reports in The Washington Examiner, President Obama’s edict raising the minimum wage for federal contract employees on military bases is leading to the closure of fast-food restaurants on those bases, thus costing jobs:

Obama’s order does not take effect until January 1, 2015. But there are signs it is already having an effect — and it is not what the president and his party said it would be.

In late March, the publication Military Times reported that three McDonald’s fast-food restaurants, plus one other lesser-known food outlet, will soon close at Navy bases, while other national-name chains have “asked to be released from their Army and Air Force Exchange Service contracts to operate fast-food restaurants at two other installations.”

Military Times quoted sources saying the closures are related to the coming mandatory wage increases, with one source saying they are “the tip of the iceberg.”

And increasing the minimum wage isn’t the only way Washington is increasing the cost of labor:

The administration is making it very expensive to do business on military bases, and not just because of the minimum wage. Under federal contracting law, some businesses operating on military installations must also pay their workers something called a health and welfare payment, which last year was $2.56 an hour but which the administration has now raised to $3.81 an hour.

In the past, fast-food employers did not have to pay the health and welfare payment, but last fall the Obama Labor Department ruled that they must. So add $3.81 per hour, per employee to the employers’ cost. And then add Obama’s $2.85 an hour increase in the minimum wage. Together, employers are looking at paying $6.66 (2) more per hour, per employee. That’s a back-breaking burden. (Just for good measure, the administration also demanded such employers provide paid holidays and vacation time.)

As I wrote above, the natural business response to this is to either raise prices for the consumer, or cut back on employee hours — or cut jobs altogether. Well, guess what? York reports that military contracts do not allow the businesses to raise their prices above what’s common in the outside community. So, even though Obama is raising wages well above the prevailing standard, employers are forbidden to recoup their costs. What does that leave?

Closing the business altogether.

If there’s no chance for profit, why stay open? When you add up the numbers for all four major services, we’re looking at potentially 10,000 jobs going up in smoke. Not to mention the ripple effect in the outside communities.

Here we have a current, ongoing example of how raising the minimum wage harms people by killing jobs. (3) How then, is the Democratic proposal a good idea?

I’m waiting. smiley well I'm waiting


(1) Thus excluding Democratic pols and activists.
(2) How fitting.
(3) Yes, military contract law made the situation worse by forbidding compensatory price increases. So, increasing costs for the consumer –including minimum wage earners!– is a good thing? And what’s to say the Obama administration, if they got their way on the minimum wage, wouldn’t try to extend price controls when the inevitable complaints arose? We are talking dyed-in-the-wool statists, after all. One bad policy, raising the minimum wage, inevitably leads to more bad policy. Just look at the history to-date of Obamacare.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

(Video) Jonah Goldberg on the real meaning of “social justice”


**Posted by Phineas

Justice is individual, not social

Justice is individual, not social

“Social justice” is one of those phrases the left loves: stripped of all precision, it means whatever progressives want it to mean — raising the minimum wage, economic redistribution, “rights” for this or that group, etc. It forms a hot mess of unrelated issues, until you see he common thread behind it: “social justice” means doing whatever progressives think is good, and this good is accomplished through the State, with progressives in charge. And, if you disagree, you must be a racist, fascist, misogynistic, reactionary, greedy capitalistic homophobe. (Did I miss anything?)

Anyway, the invaluable Prager University has published a new video that features Jonah Goldberg explaining the real meaning of “social justice:”

Try some of these arguments on liberals you know. Then have fun watching their heads explode.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Bogus attacks on Paul Ryan provide disturbing window into liberal groupthink

Rep. Paul Ryan

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)

Commentary’s Peter Wehner provides a thought-provoking must-read/call to arms against the bogus and despicable attacks Rep. Paul Ryan and others like him trying to tackle the poverty issue routinely receive from Democrat movers and shakers who would rather demagogue the issue for political gain than work together towards resolving it (hat tip):

And now, as Jonathan Tobin has written, comes the latest attempted mugging of Ryan, this time for what he said on Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” program last week. When discussing his forthcoming effort to combat poverty, the House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate said this:

We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

The left immediately attacked. Some, like Representative Barbara Lee, accused Ryan of mounting a “thinly veiled racial attack”–one that “cannot be tolerated.” Others, likeNew York Times columnist Paul Krugman, wrote that Ryan’s words amounted to a “racial dog whistle.”

These charges, and there are plenty of others like them, are grotesquely false. I have known Ryan since he was a colleague at Empower America in the 1990s. One of the reasons he was so close to both Bennett and Jack Kemp is because Ryan had a deep concern for those living in the shadows of society, including in America’s inner cities. He also believes Republicans have not focused enough on the problems plaguing the underclass. Both help explain his latest effort to offer conservative solutions to rising poverty.


Why are some liberals doing this? For one thing, they are intellectually exhausted. They know they cannot win the debate on the merits, and so they resort to ad hominemattacks. It is what some on the left instantaneously resort to. Mr. Krugman is a prime example of this. He is a man who seems to gain energy from nursing his political hatreds and takes delight in degrading political commentary. (The latter isn’t an easy achievement.)

But as Jonathan points out, there’s something more fundamental going on here. Liberals who have complicity in the problems plaguing America’s inner cities are attempting to make an honest conversation about poverty impossible. They are signaling that they intend to try to take out Republicans who want to address some of the root causes, the behavioral causes, of poverty.

The danger here is two-fold. One is that by promiscuously invoking racism when it doesn’t apply, they are draining the term of real meaning. Many people already have stopped, and many more will stop, paying attention when the term is so carelessly bandied about.

The other is that some on the left not only aren’t focusing on the institutions, policies, and individuals who are responsible for exacerbating poverty; they are actually building a protective wall around them. For them the villain isn’t, say, the ruinous public school systems in Chicago, Detroit, and D.C. that are destroying the lives and future of hundreds of thousands of kids; it’s Paul Ryan, who among other things supports school choice for inner-city parents. This is what large parts of liberalism have been reduced to: the praetorian guard of corrupt, poverty-creating institutions and organizations.

I’ve said many times before that if we were to have a true, honest, candid discussion about poverty in America – and people really woke up and started to listen and take notice – the liberal monopoly on so-called “victim” and “minority” groups would slowly unravel and then they’d really have to try and fight hard not only to explain their long-term complicity in continuing to (deliberately) support policies that keep Americans down and oftentimes dependent on government but also why they have reflexively tried to stifle the debate by throwing out the race/class card in response to every legitimate, good faith attempt by Republicans to join the discussion to try and help find solutions.

Liberals don’t want this debate.   At all. Period. Especially not in an election year where many vulnerable incumbents in key states across the country are on the ropes.  What this issue needs more than anything is sunlight by way of open dialogue and an all hands on deck approach to tackling the various problems that contribute to poverty.   Until that happens, the problem will remain and and no one wins.  This needs to change, and the sooner the better.

On birthday parties, income inequality, and big government


**Posted by Phineas

"By invitation, only"

“By invitation, only”

So, in all the excitement of the NFL’s “championship weekend” the featured the 49ers thrilling come-from-ahead loss in Seattle (1), I forgot it was Michelle Obama’s 50th birthday. You can bet she didn’t forget, though, enjoying a lavish party attended by 500 celebrities and political stars. An intimate soirée, in other words.

Like Byron York, I’ve no need to know the details, assuming the party was paid for with private money, but the intense secrecy surrounding it is intriguing:

It’s not easy to enforce discipline on successful, wealthy, and famous people used to having their own way. But the White House apparently did not want to see photos of the first lady’s glittery gala circulating around the Internet. So it imposed a strict rule: No cellphones. “Guests were told not to bring cellphones with them, and there was a cellphone check-in area for those who did,” reported the Chicago Tribune. “Signs at the party told guests: No cellphones, no social media.” People magazine added: “Guests had been greeted by a ‘cell phone check’ table where they deposited their camera phones on arrival and it was understood that this was not an occasion for Tweeting party photos or Facebooking details.” The publications cited sources who insisted on anonymity for fear of White House reprisal.

“So great was the secrecy surrounding the party,” the Tribune reported, “that guests were handed an invitation — on their way out, the sources said.”

Kind of amusing for the Most Transparent Administration in History, no?

York speculates on the reasons for the secrecy, including the aforementioned privacy. But, he also touches on another, one that I think is at least equally valid – political messaging:

Or maybe, since the president has announced he is devoting the rest of his time in office to an “inequality agenda,” the White House felt photos of a champagne-soaked, star-studded party would be somewhat off-message.

I’m willing to bet this is it. The Left is singing like a chorus about income inequality and the widening gap, hoping to distract us all from the rolling disaster of Obamacare, and Michelle’s big blow-out would sound a loud discordant note, if it had gotten out on the Internet.

The truth the Ancien Régime misses while enjoying their luxurious parties at Versailles-on-the-Potomac, however, is that their parties are not the problem. No one really cares whether Michelle invites five, fifty, or five-thousand guests. No one cares (other than as an object of mockery) how many snobby dinner parties Anna Wintour throws for her glitterati friends.

The real problem, according to David Malpass in the Wall St. Journal, is that the Left’s preferred big-government, class warfare policies make the dread inequality worse more often than not:

Big government expansions in recent years have harmed individuals with modest incomes while exempting or benefiting people with higher incomes. These include the federal takeover of the mortgage industry, and the Federal Reserve’s decisions to keep interest rates near zero and buy some $3 trillion in bonds. Both of these expansions channel credit to the government and the well-connected at the expense of savers and new businesses.

Middle-income earners used to be the primary beneficiary of the rise in the value of their houses. Housing gains now lift Washington, allowing the government to pay itself huge “dividends” from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Reserve, which owns nearly $1.5 trillion in the government’s housing-related bonds. The government promptly spends the windfalls, fueling a further accumulation of wealth and income for those with Washington access.

The financial industry is making billions in profits fueled by the government’s provision of zero-rate loans for those with connections and collateral. Wall Street’s upper crust is the epicenter for financing the contractors, lobbyists and lawyers that help the government spend money. Meanwhile, government grabs a huge share of the profits generated by small businesses. It piles on opaque regulations, complex tax rules and countless independent agencies, producing a system that works against small businesses and the middle class. The Affordable Care Act takes pains to exempt Congress, government, corporations and unions, but leaves the rest severely exposed, adding to inequality.

This week’s congressional budget deal saw a narrow group of Washington’s elite legislators and lobbyists working over the weekend to divvy up nearly $1.1 trillion in discretionary spending for 2014. Much of the spending and all of the lobbying and debt underwriting costs will benefit those with high incomes while the extra debt falls heavily on the middle class.

Thus while Our Betters in D.C. and Manhattan and Hollywood graciously deign to run our lives for us (when they’re not attending a fancy-dress ball or jetting off to another exclusive resort), the burdens they impose on our lives really just enrich their friends at our expense and leave us holding the bag.

There’s a genuine opening or moment for a populist revolt coming. Not the Left-wing, class warfare kind the progressives like to sucker us with (and for which far too many fall), but a Jacksonian, democratizing electoral uprising against governing elites represented largely, but not exclusively, by today’s Democratic Party. A rising that would restore opportunity for us all, not trap us like Europe in social democratic amber.

We saw the first wave of this with the Tea Party rising of 2010, and Obamacare creates the conditions for another. The question is, will the Republican Party have the sense and the skill to take advantage of it?

We’ll see.

(1) Okay, I’m done pouting. Really. Just wait’ll next year…

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)