Taxing Hard-up Americans: LBJ's Poverty Programs & U.S. Welfare System

Published: 2022-12-26
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The authors of Taxing Hard-up Americans at 95% establish that the U.S. welfare system is significantly hurting the taxpayers because as much the motives are positive and the intentions are to eradicate domestic poverty, the benefits' programs are encouraging idleness and dependence to some extent (The Economist). One of President Lyndon B. Johnson's objectives was to fight poverty in the country and to achieve this; he initiated programs to assist the poor and low-income Americans. Decades later, this legacy lives on and is highly embraced with over 80 programs championed to provide cash, housing, health care, food and other significant social services that are unaffordable to some people. They are all aimed at creating a favorable living environment for the flesh and blood Americans who are less privileged and others without essential occupational or academic skills to secure jobs. However, welfare in the U.S. is giving a lot of benefits such that self-dependence has declined, some individuals are faking disabilities and others make no or less effort to obtain any working skills; thus, taxation has increased as a lot of funds are spent on catering for the needs of these people.

Spending on these programs have progressively increased year over the other as by 1970 after the initiation in the mid-1960s, the annual budget was $170 billion. By 2015, the amount has risen to $288 billion per year with all the administrations combined including federal, state and local governments spending over $1 trillion annually (Heritage Foundation). Hence, these figures imply that the governments are spending a lot of taxpayers' money on welfare because the number of people depending on it is enormous (Hyejin). Some people receive more than academically trained professionals through welfare programs, yet they do not work. Although not in all states, the overall benefits a person gets from the welfare add up to enormous amounts such that the total given for a year is more than a certain professional would earn.

The article's researchers demonstrate that in Hawaii a single mother with two children would have a total of $49,175 per year worth of benefits including cash, health care, food, housing, utility assistance, emergency food aid and policy for women, children and infants (The Economist). The average salary of a licensed nurse in the U.S. is $47,984 implying that the mother would be receiving more than a health practitioner with a bachelor's degree ( Then, as a single mother in Hawaii, what is the need of working if a check is guaranteed to appear in the mailbox every month? Unless one is self-driven and prefers being independent only that circumstances push them to seek help from their governments, the chances that some people would not strive until they are recognized as beneficiaries of welfare (Brooks and Thaddeus). So, although the motive is to uplift the financially fallen in society, the safety net is fueling idleness to great extents, and this is a burden to the citizens paying taxes because the more the governments spend, the more is taken from the people (Hyejin).

In his reign, President Bill Clinton together with the Republican Congress declared that every able-bodied in the U.S. should work and cease depending on the welfare programs. Also, they set time limits indicating how long one should benefit from the safety net. In sixteen years after the declaration (1996-2012), the number benefiting from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) decreased from 12.3 million to 4.1 million people (The Economist). As much as it can be argued that the decline was because the welfare uplifted the people until they became independent, the people were over-depending on the governments because there were no policies regulating activeness (Dorfman). The initiative was introduced in the mid-1960s, so the number ought to have been less than 10 million people when considering the economic recession in the last two decades of the 20th Century. The decline by two-thirds was an indication that a lot of able-bodied depended on the welfare but could not secure work either out of ignorance or unavoidable circumstances such as lack of skills. But, the time limits set forced them to work unless they wanted to starve. It is, therefore, precise that governments are fixing a lot of funds for the safety net programs considering over $1 trillion is spent each year whereas some of those benefiting ought to be paying taxes (Tanner).

In conclusion, the welfare system used in the U.S. is providing a comfort zone for some people who do not want to seek employment or learn skills that would help in securing jobs. As long as one has legal documents, where some are forged or unreliable, it is unrealistic for them to work because they know the welfare state is too generous to let them fall beyond a certain point. However, the ones being hurt are the taxpayers because whenever the government is spending a lot of funds, taxes are hiked to bring in sufficient revenue. It is, therefore, public administrations' responsibilities to enact policies as President Clinton did in 1996 to reduce dependence and enhance labor-force participation. This way the citizens' burden will have been reduced as there will be more taxpayers and fewer beneficiaries.

Works Cited

Brooks, Neil, and Thaddeus Hwong. "The social benefits and economic costs of taxation." A Comparison of High-and Low-Tax Countries. Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (2006).

Ding, Hong. "Unemployment and Welfare State: What do the Data Tell Us?." Available at SSRN 2161044 (2012).

Dorfman, Jeffrey. "Welfare Offers Short-Term Help And Long-Term Poverty, Thanks To Asset Tests." Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 17 Oct. 2016,

Heritage Foundation, and Heritage Foundation. "The Welfare System's Perverse Incentives Undermine Self-Sufficiency." Medium, 2016 Index of Culture and Opportunity, 11 July 2016,

Hyejin, Ko. "How Does a Welfare State achieves Fiscal Sustainability? A Study of the Impact of Tax Equity." Taxes and Taxation Trends. IntechOpen, 2017. "Salary for Licensed Practical Nurse.",

Tanner, Michael. "The American welfare state: How we spend nearly $1 trillion a year fighting poverty-And fail." Cato Institute Policy Analysis 694 (2012).

The Economist. "Welfare and work Taxing hardup Americans at 95%." The Economist Paper Limited. (2016).

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