- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2004

Appearing oblivious to the legacy of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman unveiled his anti-poverty program in South Carolina over the weekend. Mr. Lieberman called his plan “a new approach to fighting poverty.” In fact, the Connecticut senator’s plan is simply more of the same — much more.

Notwithstanding the fact that cumulative War-on-Poverty means-tested welfare spending will surpass the $10 trillion level this year (in inflation-adjusted 2000 dollars), the poverty rate in America today remains essentially unchanged from its level in the late 1960s.

Federal and state governments will spend more than half a trillion dollars this year alone on means-tested anti-poverty programs. Mr. Lieberman’s 12-page anti-poverty plan is replete with expansions of existing programs and the creation of seemingly countless new ones. The only item that is missing is the price tag.

In Mr. Lieberman’s mind, every poverty-related problem can be solved by throwing money at it. He believes that the achievement gap in education can only be solved by massive additional expenditures. He mocks as “dead-end” jobs the low-paying, entry-level positions for which the vast majority of long-term welfare dependents are barely qualified. One of the biggest differences between poor and non-poor Americans is the amount of hours that are spent in gainful employment, yet Mr. Lieberman wants to institute paid family leave. He would extend basic welfare and Medicaid benefits to legal immigrants.

It has now been nearly four decades since Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted imminent familial disaster accompanied by an explosion of pathology (“The Negro Family: The Case for National Action”) and nearly a quarter century since Charles Murray meticulously documented those disasters (“Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980”). Yet, Mr. Lieberman’s plan makes this self-indicting admission: “[W]e have started to recognize that what is wrong about young, low-income girls having children out of wedlock is that it greatly decreases both mother and child’s chances of receiving a good education, getting a good job and living a decent life.”

Before presenting its endless laundry list of anti-poverty spending proposals, the plan offers this common-sense wisdom: “[E]xperts tell us that you need only do three things in this country to avoid poverty: finish high school, marry before having a child and marry after the age of 20. Seventy-nine percent of people who fail to do this are poor.” It has taken the futility of nearly 40 years and more than $10 trillion fighting and losing the War on Poverty for Mr. Lieberman to reach this conclusion. Why, then, would he recommend spending untold trillions more when the real solution is so self-evident?

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