By John Stonestreet, Breakpoint
It’s been fifty years since President Johnson declared a “War on Poverty.” So who won? I’ll share my answer next, on BreakPoint.
Jesus broke the social stigmas of His time by snubbing those who loved riches and fraternizing with the poor and outcast. Because of this, Christians recognize a call to identify with and help those in poverty, and this is one of the great contributions Christianity has made to the world. But there’s much disagreement on how best to do that, especially during the last few generations in the United States.
Beginning in 1964, President Johnson and lawmakers set out to “eradicate poverty as we know it” through a series of government programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, and Food Stamps, all of which date back to the Great Society.
But things didn’t go as expected. Not only did poverty remain with us, but as Dr. Jay Richards of the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics explained to me in our latest edition of “BreakPoint This Week,” LBJ’s “war” and subsequent laws passed in the same spirit have done much more to entrench poverty than eradicate it.
In his book, “Money, Greed, and God,” Dr. Richards explains that despite nearly twenty trillion dollars of federal funds directed at lifting Americans above the poverty line, a steady percentage have remained there. What was once a temporary problem for many has become systemic and multi-generational.
Poverty, Dr. Richards says, is more than a financial state of being.
The decline of marriage is a prime example. The rate of out-of-wedlock births and broken families, particularly in the inner-city, has skyrocketed since 1964. Some “War on Poverty” programs actually discourage couples from getting married and becoming financially independent.
Laws passed with good intentions created dependency and undermined the culture of marriage. And this type of poverty is more insidious than just a lack of money. It’s what some call “relational poverty,” and it destroys families, and undermines communities.