Thursday, January 09, 2014
Jobs Created or Saved Metric
Recently there was the 50 year anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty (which has gone about as well as the war on drugs). We on the right think that it has been a total waste of money, some $15 Trillion over the five decades at least, while others say it's $20 Trillion; yet the percentage of Americans in poverty is about the same, 15% to 16%, as it was when the 'war' started. That's not a successful war by any sane measurement.
Not to be deterred, Nicholas No Middle Initial Kristof of the NYT is sure that the $15 to $20 Trillion has achieved some progress and he touts that 'progress' here.
I won't go over the whole article but I will note and comment on his main metric for success. He writes:
The most accurate measures, using Census Bureau figures that take account of benefits, suggest that poverty rates have fallen by more than one-third since 1968. There’s a consensus that without the war on poverty, other forces (such as mass incarceration, a rise in single mothers and the decline in trade unions) would have lifted poverty much higher.
This is either magical thinking or just plain lies. He does not link to the Census Bureau figures but here is what they say. The poverty rate in 2012 was 15%. The poverty rate in 1968 was 12.69%. Math might not be my strongest scholarly ability but that sure doesn't look like a 1/3 decline to me. It looks more like an 18.2% increase.
He then writes:
A Columbia University study suggests that without government benefits, the poverty rate would have soared to 31 percent in 2012.
Notice that there is no link, again, and the weasel word "suggests." This measurement, however, is just like 'jobs created or saved' metric. There is no way to know what people would have done without the government benefits.
Based just on the rates of poverty from the census bureau, I think the money spent on the war on poverty was wasted and if we hadn't wasted it, we could have avoided going into $17 Trillion debt. That debt is a time bomb for the American government when interest rates rise and paying the interest on the debt (debt service) eats up all the income tax revenue. That's trouble, my friends. Right here in River City.
If you're measuring post-transfer "poverty," you should find none, as the redistributive transfers should leave no one in "poverty."
We're probably never going to find the political will to rescind (or even to reform) the majority of those transfer "entitlements," so I say it's over. Declare Victory in the War on Poverty and move on.