Why are there still poor people in America after the implementation of a system of social welfare programs that were designed to end poverty?
Language often has no correlation to reality. By calling his programs the "Great" society, Johnson created expectations that could NEVER be met. He raided the Social Security fund and created armies of dependent citizens, creating a dependency that may go on forever unless someone has the guts to say enough! I'm not all that hopeful ....
Perhaps we need a better definition of poverty. It appears to me that much of our society functions on a we-them basis. It is easy to define as poor the person living on a very small subsistance. scale. So who made us the judge?? If we could accept all people where they are and begin to see how we might help, what kind of a world would we create. In my opinion every person on earth has a unique contribution to make to all of us. The comment was once made "You will always have the poor with you." This comment could be understood as predictive, but I have preferred to think of it as attitudinal. Many of us need someone poorer to look down on.
In all of the arguments above, I notice that Government should address the issue of "poverty"..This begs the question of the proper role of government. My understanding of government based on liberty and justice for all, would suggest that the proper role of government is the "leveling of the playing field"
Rather than developing a society of equal opportunity, and fair play, we have produced an Elitist society driven by desire to have "more". More than whom? I ask.
I think there is a persistent myth in this country that our social welfare programs are abundant and well-funded. They aren't! Social Security and Medicare are, but these are universal retirement and health care systems that every American is eligible for, and that every American pays for over the course of their working life. So are unemployment benefits, limited as they are.
Food stamps, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and all of the other social programs that have poverty as an eligibility requirement make up a very small expenditure compared to the above programs, the military budget, our two wars and interest on the national debt.
In addition, countries with much more effectively structured and targeted social programs also typically have much better funded schools, and free college to those who can gain entrance. The two social issues are, of course, directly connected.
In addition to my agreement with posts 4, 7, and 8, there is also the ever-evolving definitions of "wealth" and "poverty." Compared to the majority of the continent of Africa, for example, even the "poor" in America are quite wealthy. Consider a direct comparison of "poverty" in America to poverty in many developing countries. Off-hand, I would argue that the likelihood of seeing an overweight person begging on a street corner is far more prevalent in America than in any impoverished and developing nation.
Post #7 has absolutely "nailed it." Lyndon Johnson's Great Society has done devastating harm to the American work ethic. Studies have shown repeatedly that one ethnic families break-up began after the welfare state was created in the U.S. For, when fathers did not have to remain with their family's so that they could eat and have shelter, many irresponsible men took off.
When Ellis Island still existed, immigrants from many nations came to the United States with only the clothes on their backs and whatever little they could carry. There was virtually no welfare of any kind for these people; they went to live in the slums of New York with relatives or in some meager dwelling. Yet, many, many of these people rose economically and moved out of these slums and became worthy citizens.
Necessity makes all the difference in people's motivations. As post #7 points to, there is nowadays a sense of entitlement to welfare that some have, and the politicians who only care about votes, perpetuate this mentality and indolence.
This is not to say that help should not be given to people, but infinite "help" is not the solution to bringing people out of poverty.
My post may not sound as sophisticated as my colleagues but I think it all comes down to one thing: attitude. I have had students who are third and fourth, even fifth generation welfare recipients. Why? Why 5 generations? Could it be that the co-dependence on getting things without having to work is becoming second nature to specific groups in society? I have a very hard time believing that in five generations NOBODY in a family can hold a job and become independent through time. What has happened in America is that we operate under assumptions and fear at times, and we have to satisfy whatever quota a Senator or Representative needs to keep his or her voters in the different demographic sectors. Hence, if someone needs the Hispanic votes (JUST AN EXAMPLE since I AM HISPANIC) and there are plenty of Hispanics in a poor area, you better believe that whoever is "running" that area and need votes will ENSURE that there will be help for that sector. This, in turn, leaves the average lower-middle class and hard working American of whatever race or color still struggling because the help is given to someone else that has always received it. It is quite frustrating.
There is a big difference between rhetoric and anti-poverty schemes and actual action to meaningfully give assistance to the victims of poverty. Politicians for the most part are keen to be seen to put into practice policies that will alleviate poverty overtly, and emphasise publicly how such programs will help, and yet the root causes of poverty seem unchallenged. As #2 points out, poverty could be argued to be a natural result of a system of capitalism that necessarily results in those that have and those that don't. Until such underlying issues such as the political system we adopt and follow are identified and considered, the visible symptoms of an inequitable system will still always be present.
America's economic system is one of modified capitalism. Individuals are allowed to operate under free enterprise with some limitation from the government; and government programs do provide for the poor and needy. Even so, it is not a perfect system; nor do I know that any such system exists. Even under Utopian socialist systems such as communism, there were people living in poverty. The social welfare programs in this country have as their ultimate goal to end poverty; but that is a goal, not a target. These programs have gone a long way to diminish the level of poverty; but its complete abolition is probably "a consummation devoutly to be wished" that will not come about any time soon.
A conservative would argue that the persistence of poverty can be attributed in large part to the very programs that liberals think will end poverty. They would argue that poverty comes about because A) the poor lack the incentives to better themselves and obtain work and B) the poor fall into a "culture of poverty" as generations of them remain in poverty.
In this view, welfare programs have simply enabled poverty. The programs have allowed people to get by (it is claimed) without working. This helps to create a culture in which the poor do not value work and are not really very well prepared to get any sort of job.
Unfortunately, there is a difference between creating "a system of social welfare programs that were designed to end poverty" and actually, effectively, and uniformly enacting such programs. People don't become involved in programs that could help them get out of poverty due to ignorance, inability to travel to register for participation in programs, pride, fear of retribution,... People move from place to place and get lost in the system or don't get on record in their new location. People become frustrated with the rules, regulations and red tape that is often involved in participating in such programs and drop out, choosing poverty as the lesser evil. And, in times of national financial cutbacks, across-the-board reductions impact the number of people who can participate and the amount of assistance that can be provided to help those trying to use such programs.
I think that the answer to this question comes down to the presence of capitalism in America. As an economic system, capitalism is predicated upon those who "win" and those who do not. While there has been social welfare programs to help with the pain and difficulty of being one of those who are not deemed successful in the capitalist system, that does not eliminate their presence. Capitalism's intrinsic reality are people who profit mightily and those who struggle to get by. Another reason why there still might be poor people in the capitalist setup in America today is because there are people who have found ways to take advantage of the capitalist game for their own benefit. One can look at the insider trading scams of the 1980s or situations like the Enron fueled sale of commodities or the subprime mortgage lending crisis of the last five years as evidence of this. Simply put, there are people who are willing to gain major profit at their own self interest, putting aside the interests of others. This has helped to economically victimize many, creating people who ended up being poor or economically disadvantaged.
There are still poor people because of a myriad of factors. The biggest one is the poverty programs themselves. They reward people for not trying to improve themsleves. Look at 5 or more generations on welfare. Look at welfare fraud and other issues. When they were started they were good programs but like all government programs the goal is to grow and expand the program so we make people entitlement dependent and give them the things they need to survive and make them government dependent. May I suggest reading Broke by Glen Beck as a way to get some insight into the political history behind the poverty programs. Yes, there are disparities in peoples lives. The Bible says there will always be the poor with us. The constitution says all people have the right to PURSUE happiness it does not guarantee it just the right to go out and find it.
Playing field will never be level because people are involved at all levels. It is a known fact that we like people who are like us and it plays out all over the place. A manger I used to work for told me that one thing he asks himself before he hires someone is can I get along with them. (i.e. do they look like me). There is not single answer to end poverty there is just people that must take responsibility for themselves to get out of poverty. I did so I know it can be done. I used to make one meal and make it last all week and I gave up things to get educated and out of poverty. It takes individual choice.