Since the early 1960s liberals have promoted the narrative that people on the Left are more compassionate than those on the Right. This proposition was based on a motion, not empirical evidence. It emotionally seems right that the government should give to those in need. Conversely, those who would withhold government’s largess from the less fortunate lack compassion.
While a governmental safety net has been a part of American society since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Administration, it advanced significantly under President Lyndon Johnson. Given we are now a half-century into Johnson’s Great Society, it is reasonable to determine efficacy of the programs.
The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley recently published some important statistics since the initiation of the Great Society:
- In 1962 the percentage of the Americans receiving government assistance in the form of cash transfers was about 12%. Today this has nearly doubled to 21%.
- In 2012 over 48% of Americans resided in households receiving some form of government benefits. This number was only 30% in 1983.
- By 2011 the US published property rate remained flat compared to 1965. During the same period, US governmental expenditures on poverty rose by 900% per receiving person (after inflation adjustments).
- The Heritage Foundation marks 2014 as the 50th anniversary of Johnson’s Great Society. They calculated that federal government spending increased by 16 times, adjusted for inflation, for means tested welfare during this period.
Cause and effect are often difficult to prove. However, in the case of the Great Society Programs and their offspring, the evidence seems convincing that at the very least, much of the spending was wasteful and have not benefited those most in need over the long-term. At the same time, these programs significantly benefited certain industries that serve the programs and distributed their benefits. Those industries offer significant resistance to fundamentally changing governmental spending habits.