A Great Society Implodes

By David Lewis                                                                      

I have no doubt that, when President Lyndon Johnson declared “war on poverty” in the nineteen-sixties and launched the Great Society, he did so with good intentions. Direct federal resources toward America’s poor and underprivileged, the thinking went, in order to lift them out of poverty and despair, and hasten the day when such government assistance would no longer be needed.

Some fifty years on, and over $22 Trillion spent fighting poverty (yes, that’s 22,000,000,000,000 tax dollars, which does not include spending on Social Security or Medicare, and is three times the spending on all U.S. military wars since the American Revolution), we can plainly see that good intentions do not guarantee good or even adequate results.

The biggest flaw in liberalism’s approach was that the War on Poverty established massive new federal bureaucracies, and bureaucracies do not function efficiently, nor do they go away of their own accord. They become entrenched, along with the politicians, lobbyists and community organizers who benefit from government largesse. The status quo devolves into pettiness, mediocrity and greed, as bureaucratic self-interest and self-preservation become paramount.

And what becomes of society’s poor and underprivileged?

Exploited, marginalized and misled over a period of two successive generations, they’ve become entrenched in a debilitating cycle of dependency and despair. Fifty years on, $22 Trillion spent, and we see an epidemic of broken families, fatherless homes, chronic unemployment, drugs, violence and confusion. We see Baltimore … Ferguson … Detroit … the implosion of liberal good intentions.

It’s time we tried something different. And the solution is not another federal program, or the bloated bureaucracy that comes with it. With a presidential election looming on the horizon … anyone?


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