When Fighting Poverty, Good Intentions Aren’t Good Enough

Liberal politicians often defend ineffective, costly legislative initiatives that at first glance seem compassionate.  As we reflect today on the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” we need to question its effectiveness and that of other liberal, big government attempts to solve or reduce the problem of poverty in America.  Despite the fact that the federal government spends billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars on big-government programs, 15 percent of Americans still live in poverty.

That’s unchanged since the birth of the “War on Poverty” in the mid-1960’s.  The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector notes in the Wall Street Journal (sub. req’d):

LBJ promised that the war on poverty would be an “investment” that would “return its cost manifold to the entire economy.” But the country has invested $20.7 trillion in 2011 dollars over the past 50 years. What does America have to show for its investment? Apparently, almost nothing: The official poverty rate persists with little improvement.

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Congress’ New Year’s Resolution: Old Ideas, Bad Policy

For many Americans, the dawn of a new year is celebrated as an opportunity to take new chances, do things differently, improve one’s self and help one’s fellow man, or start over. And while not everyone is successful at dialing back the Twinkie’s for very long (unless you’re the union bosses), most Americans at least make an effort.

For Congress, a new year, especially an election year, is merely another opportunity to make minimal reforms and pass bad legislation that they could not complete the previous year. Take the farm bill. This $1 trillion food stamp and farm welfare bill was successfully defeated by conservatives last June in an embarrassing failure for House leadership and a historic victory for the American people. Conservatives spoke up and made it clear that they wanted no part in implementing President Obama’s failed food stamp agenda and continuing the charade of tying food stamps to large agribusiness subsidies.

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What Does Unemployment Insurance Have to Do with the Farm Bill? Good Question.

Remember the farm bill?  That $1 trillion piece of legislation that ties food stamps to agriculture policy?  It’s not going to pass this year, but it’s going to resurface next year.  And Democrats have found a way to throw unemployment insurance (UI) in the mix.

They are planning to use the passage of the farm bill as leverage to ensure UI gets reauthorized, an effort being initiated by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

There are two problems with this picture.

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Farm Bill Deal Reached, House May Vote as Early as Next Week

The four principal House and Senate farm bill conferees, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) 52%Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) 34%Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) 5%, and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) 30%, have reached a deal on the legislation, one that “bridges the biggest gaps” between the House and Senate versions.  Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced Thursday that a vote on the farm bill conference report would come as soon as next week.  Alternatively, the house may pass a one-month extension of existing programs.

There has been a long-running dispute between the House and Senate on the basis for subsidies to farmers – either a farmer’s base acres or on the actual crops a farmer planted.  The agreement allows farmers to choose which type of subsidies they will receive, which more closely resembles what the House bill offers.

The Heritage Foundation has identified myriad flaws with both the House and Senate farm bills, which means a combination of the two will most likely be unsatisfactory and harmful to taxpayers and consumers.

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Farm Bill Negotiators Pushing Passage Before The End of the Year

Will a farm bill be pushed through before the end of the year?  Some lawmakers are working to make that a reality, but that accomplishment will not be favorable for taxpayers and consumers.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) 72% told reporters Monday, “There’s no reason not to get [a farm bill].  Every day we don’t get something done makes it more and more difficult.”  Rep. Conaway would like to see a farm bill passed before the end of the year.

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