Bart Hinkle has suggested that the huge amount we spend each year on anti-poverty programs is, at least in large part, wasted. Afterall, it’s a lot of money, and the poor are still with us. And it’s not getting cheaper.1
Washington runs 126 separate anti-poverty programs that collectively spend nearly $1 trillion a year. I got five bucks2 says we could get the same bang for the buck with only 75 programs and by spending one-third less.
So we’re spending huge amounts of money alleviating poverty … but for some reason the poor remain stubbornly with us. A few conservatives have looked at this expense and suggested that this means the money going to these programs is “wasted” or “not working.”3 I think the reason we’re spending this same kind of money year after year is that 1) our anti-poverty programs are rarely designed to end poverty, 2) we happily tolerate systemic pressures that actively cause poverty, and 3) any effort to investigate and address the root causes of poverty is met with massive resistance by the same conservatives who think the poverty alleviation efforts are a waste.
Once in a while I like to stick a fork in my thigh because it gives me a rush.4 Needless to say, I go through a lot of bandaids. My bandaid budget is out of control. And the thing is—the bandaids aren’t working. They generally stop the bleeding, keep the wound more-or-less clean, and mask some seriously unsightly scabs. But they don’t stop me from getting four new puncture wounds every time I stick a fork in my thigh.