War on Poverty vs Plan For Prosperity


President Johnson’s war on poverty and his great society program started over 50 years ago was the wrong approach to solving the poverty problem in America. So is the fool’s errand of addressing “income inequality” that President Obama and secular progressives are fond of touting. All of these are wrong-headed ideas that only have the appearance of relief when in fact they exacerbate the problem.

Unfortunately, we have been asking the wrong question: How do we fight poverty? Now add to that: How do we fight income inequality? What should we be asking is, how does one create wealth? How does one move up the ladder of opportunity, from poverty to prosperity? How do we write policies that allow people to reach their fullest potential without government or regulatory impediments? What we need is a plan to create wealth.

We have seen that government handouts, at best, keep people afloat and, at worst, get them stuck in a quagmire of government dependency. Government assistance may prevent some people from becoming wholly destitute, but it may also impede them from reaching their potential and thus robs society of their contribution had they been “unleashed” to be all they can be.  

It has been said that the best way to stay out of poverty is to finish High School, get a job, get married, and then have children. If this is true, and statistics say it is, then instead of raising the minimum wage we need to increase a person’s marketability—i.e., increase their skill sets. For those who are school age, it means giving them options provided by school choice. Charter schools, college prep schools, and vocational schools offer parents and students a chance to prepare themselves for the job market. They are also more likely to finish school if it’s one that they have chosen. We could cut the drop out rate significantly if the money followed the student to the school of their choice. 

For those who have left or finished school, be it high school or college, job training is another avenue. However, it should not be training that the government offers but training that growing industries provide. We need to give businesses an incentive to train and equip those with little to no skills to take on entry-level positions. Raising the minimum wage is a disincentive in hiring low skilled workers. If they aren’t hiring people at $7.50-$8.50 an hour what makes you think they’ll hire people at $10.00 an hour? Increasing the minimum wage does not raise a person’s productivity nor does it do anything to decrease the income gap. It is a placebo to satisfy the masses and to buy votes during election season.

As a matter of fact, according to economist Walter Williams, raising the minimum wage means that the ones who can least afford it end up paying the cost. Low skilled laborers—teenagers and minorities—are less likely to be hired (Race & Economics: How much can be blamed on discrimination? p.38). Williams also says that raising the cost of production through increased wages, “gives the employers economic incentive to make other changes: substitute machines for labor; change production techniques; relocate overseas, and eliminate certain jobs altogether.” (p. 46). Williams asserts that for every 10% increase in the minimum wage employment fell 1% to 3% (p. 41).

As I mentioned earlier, the drumbeat for higher wages and fixing income inequality are ploys to garner votes in November. Liberals don’t care how many people lose their jobs. Just like they didn’t care that millions have lost their health insurance. It is Chicago style politics. Rod Blagojevich gave free rides to seniors and almost free healthcare to kids to get reelected. Pat Quinn wants to raise the minimum wage and new expansive State programs to get reelected. President Obama wants to win the House and keep the Senate so he can pass more draconian legislation like Obamacare. 

We don’t need more government. We need the government to get out of our way so that innovators can innovate and create new ladders of opportunity. When you are making zero dollars an hour because you’re unemployed, how is raising the minimum wage going to help you? Income inequality is just a ruse to distract you from the terrible economy under this president and the debacle of Obamacare. 

Case in point, the Chicago Urban League recently came out with a study that shows that only 8% of Black youth between the ages of 16-19 had jobs. In other words, 92% of Black teenagers can’t find work in Chicago. Thus it proves Dr. Williams point. Illinois has the highest minimum wage at $8.25 and therefore one of the highest rates of unemployment for low skilled workers. It’s time for people to wake up and stop drinking the “kool-aid.” Neither raising the minimum wage, fighting poverty nor fighting income equality will help people reach their God-given potential. It will only frustrate them further. 

Our plan for prosperity needs to start with school choice for the school-aged. We need to encourage natural marriage (one man and one woman), which then leads to childbearing. We need a tax policy that fosters innovation, entrepreneurship, and expansion. Let’s encourage wealth creation, not wealth redistribution. Let’s plan for prosperity and end the war on poverty for everyone’s sake.

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  1. Edward Ronkowski says:

    Over the last 50 years, the government spent more than $16 trillion on the War Against Poverty. Today 15% of Americans live in poverty, the same percent as it was in 1982. Dr. Eric Wallace’s essay shows how a War on Poverty would reduce poverty. Thank you Dr. Wallace.

  2. poh says:

    Opportunity knows color, gender or creed. Dr. Wallace’s essay outlines a path for opportunity to all.

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