by Rod D. Martin
July 13, 1998

Thirty years ago, liberal Democrats declared a War on Poverty. What they gave us was a war against the poor.

The carnage was breathtaking. Medicare and Medicaid, those greatest programs of what was to be a Great Society, more than doubled the cost of every medical service in America within three years of passage, forcing more and more Americans onto the dole and rocking the greatest health-care system on Earth to its foundations. The Social Security trust fund, always largely a scam, became a complete and total fraud as the Johnson Administration began to use it to hide the true federal budget numbers and thus produce a sham surplus for fiscal year 1969 (a fraud continued by every administration since).

Welfare programs such as AFDC spawned a hopeless cycle of dependency and illegitimacy which has, for the first time in our history, created a true underclass, a veritable nation of multi-generational single welfare mothers which has neither the skill nor the family and community example nor even the barest incentive to allow them rise from their mire. Abortion became birth control, and sex became free, and we all became hardened to integrity and vows and even the preciousness of life. And in all of this, government kept growing, enabling the depravity, sucking ever greater shares of income from the productive — and even the productive poor — so as to supplant those institutions which could really help, and create new ones which merely fed on the ruined lives it spawned.

It was truly a war. It was a war of interests: the special interests of the bureaucrats, versus the general interest of the people. It was a war of economic theories: the theory that the state can and must engineer society, versus the theory that man left alone, acting in his own self-interest, will best create wealth and escape poverty. It was a war of moralities: the “morality” that says man is basically good and can be “educated” into “perfection,” versus the morality that says man is born in original sin, and that he will take advantage of foolish “help” so as to fall into corruption and depravity.

And on the most fundamental level of all, it was a war of gods: the Marxist/Leninist/Keynesian god of the omni-competent state, versus the true God whose predictable blessings and curses fall on those who obey or ignore His wisdom and law.

We have ignored Him. And the poor have paid.

But so have we all. It was not merely a legal imparative but wise counsel as well when the God of the Bible set the maximum tax rate at less than the tithe (i.e., ten percent). As University of Texas at Dallas Professor Gerald Scully’s study has shown, the failure to follow that injunction has cost America since 1949 over half of what would have been its Gross Domestic Product. In other words, we have all, as individuals and as a nation, lost half of what we would have had. Simply refusing to feed the beast of government would have eradicated poverty in America by 1990. Yet even now we continue to stunt our growth and impoverish our children.

No more. A new war on poverty must be declared. And this time it must be won.

It must start with honesty and fairness in taxation: a low flat tax with an abolition of withholding. The flat tax will eliminate the loopholes, eliminate the incomprehensible tax code and its consequent army of lawyers and accountants, and eliminate the class warfare which inevitably results from a Marxian “redistribution of wealth.” The flat tax will also allow every American to calculate in his head exactly what he owes and exactly what every new program will cost him. The abolition of withholding — every American will actually have to write a check to the IRS each month — will mean that Americans are accutely aware of what they are paying. They will not like this. And they will dismantle big government as a result.

The new war on poverty must privatize Social Security. We cannot tolerate the impoverishment of the old when compound interest could make every American retire rich. The most conservative numbers show that, if every American could invest what Social Security now takes, most would retire on almost double their salary, after inflation. Moreover, privatization would release a net present value $20 trillion (yes, trillion with a “t”) into the economy, representing an annual GDP growth rate of 8%. This alone represents a level of wealth creation which would eliminate poverty in America in a generation.

But most important of all, this new war on poverty must recognize the truth: America’s poverty is more spiritual than material. Its underclass is intractable because of the legacy of broken homes and sinful lives. Its children kill each other because they are barbarians, and its parents are helpless to stop them because they are compromised themselves. No amount of money will save them. No amount of aid will work a cure.

But we can begin to change America by tearing down the idol of government which has debased them, taking both their wealth and their dignity. And as the new order we create gives them new hope and better incentives, we can slowly, patiently teach them again the more basic truths they’ve lost.