We just hit the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, and the numbers are grim: $22 trillion spent, but according to the Census Bureau, a slightly greater percentage of Americans fall below the poverty line. On the other hand, some people say the numbers look great, and the War on Poverty was a smashing success… because the official definition of poverty doesn’t include the value of the extensive benefits bestowed by that $22 trillion bureaucracy. If you count those benefits, virtually no one in America is actually impoverished. Nearly everyone has food and shelter. In fact, in some states, unemployed welfare families have more disposable income than working middle-class families. But then, isn’t the system fundamentally broken if people can spend generations on public assistance and live better than the working poor? Not only is that unfair, it’s a solid disincentive to work. Is it any wonder the percentage of technically impoverished Americans doesn’t change much, if entering the workforce represents a net loss to their standard of living? I wrote an extensive analysis along these lines at RedState this weekend, contrasting two well-sourced analyses that used exactly the same data to declare the War on Poverty either a
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