Perceptive article by Myron Magnet on the disastrous effects of the War on Poverty.
…the War on Poverty–an array of LBJ-era legislation that boosted welfare benefits and established other programs for the poor, including Medicaid–created its own form of depression, as women long dependent on welfare became so convinced of their own inferiority that they could hardly present themselves without trembling at a job interview. And, as a far worse psychological consequence, the sense of victimization and of entitlement to government support that the War on Poverty fostered created a corrosive self-pity and resentment among the children of its beneficiaries, and their children’s children. The self-pity led to drink and drugs; the resentment to crime and violence; and both together to a perpetuation of irresponsibility, dysfunction, and failure over the generations. The first-line antidote, in Mr. Bush’s view, would be the intervention of a counselor, preferably faith-based.
…Moreover, as a Texan, Mr. Bush had seen waves of Mexican immigrants flooding in to take jobs no one previously knew existed–still more evidence that there was no crisis of opportunity–while in the cities, a new wave of immigrant-run greengroceries, nail salons, construction firms, even commercial fish farms in Bronx basements, gave the lie to the failure-of-capitalism theory.
And, on top of all that, the overwhelming success of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, which became ever clearer during President Bush’s first term, utterly exploded the idea that the hard-core poor were not working because of a lack of jobs. Welfare mothers crowded into the work force; the rolls dropped by roughly half. Not only were their children not freezing to death on the streets by the thousands, as even so wise an observer as the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan had predicted they would, but in fact child poverty reached its lowest point ever three years after welfare reform. Lack of opportunity? Hardly.