Last week, on the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s so-called War on Poverty, President Barack Obama unveiled his latest initiative to combat economic deprivation in America. The President’s latest scheme involves public and private funding to create jobs, enhance public safety, improve schools, and provide better housing in 20 communities across the country. You know, it is the same old story. If only the federal government would spend enough money we could eradicate poverty in our lifetime. Unfortunately, for Obama, his latest initiative to fight poverty will have the same end result as LBJ’s War on Poverty – utter failure.
You see, in the 50 years since LBJ signed into law the most sweeping social welfare programs in the history of the U.S., Uncle Sam has spent about $16 trillion on public assistance schemes. Yet, Americans living in poverty has only gone from 19 percent of the population in 1964 to about 15 percent today. Put another way, it cost our economy $4 trillion for every percentage point decrease in the rate of poverty. Given our already enormous national debt and the future calamity it will bring, isn’t there a more cost effective way to help the poor escape poverty? We cannot afford to spend more money and that is clearly not the answer anyway.
At the end of the day, the best way to fight poverty is with a job. Thus, to help the poor all minimum wage laws should be repealed immediately. The late, great, Murray Rothbard had it right when he labeled minimum wage laws “compulsory unemployment”. Whenever government fixes prices either shortages or surpluses result. Fixing wage rates above the market rate will only lessen demand for workers’ labor. Thus, a surplus of workers’ labor (unemployment) will result. This is Economics 101.
Low wages may not provide a decent standard of living, but for the 49 percent of African-American youth who are currently unemployed, the jobs they would have by virtue of repealing minimum wage laws would give them the opportunity to work hard, get work place experience, and build a resume. All three could lead to higher paying jobs in the future.
But repeal of minimum wage laws alone isn’t enough. Uncle Sam needs to repeal costly regulations on business which prevents the creation of new jobs. In 2013, the federal government adopted $112 billion worth of new regulatory costs on job producers. This amounted to 80,224 pages being added to the Federal Register. Since Barack Obama became president in 2009 close to $500 billion in new regulations have been imposed. And then there is the job killing scheme known as Obamacare. At a time when the labor force participation rate is at the lowest level since 1978, should the federal government really be concerned about expensive energy efficiency standards for microwave ovens?
To be sure, more could be done to alleviate the scourge of poverty. A gold backed dollar like existed in the late 1800s and which kept price inflation flat for more than 60 years should be reintroduced in America. Abolition of the Federal Reserve System which is primarily responsible for the continuous boom and bust cycle in our economy and the destruction of the middle class should be enacted.
In the final analysis, for 50 years, Washington has thrown good money at the so-called War on Poverty. The result has been failure to achieve the objective. And this is why it’s time to try something new for a change.