In 1992 presidential candidate Bill Clinton assured ordinary Americans that he understood the problems we face. His philosophy was summed up in the soundbite: “I feel your pain.” Or as The Onion joked, “New President Feels Nation’s Pain, Breasts.” During a campaign event in 2010, President Obama reprised the line, explaining that he understood the pain of standing in the hot sun.
All well and good. But if liberals really believe they understand our pain, why do so many of their policies actually inflict pain instead of easing it?
The cruel fact of big-government liberalism is that it fails to deliver on its own promises. “It is possible to conquer poverty,” President Lyndon Johnson announced as he sent Congress the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. “The Act does not merely expand old programs or improve what is already being done. It charts a new course. It strikes at the causes, not just the consequences of poverty.” But it hasn’t worked.
In the last five decades, we’ve spent nearly $20 trillion on various welfare programs. But throwing money at a problem doesn’t solve it. Far from eliminating poverty, we seem to have simply trapped people in it. As Ronald Reagan put it, “poverty won” the war we’d launched against it.
Perhaps that’s because, even as we’ve spent more, we’ve demanded less.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy, patron saint of today’s liberals, famously said Americans should “ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country.” But we’ve come a long way since those soaring words.
In 2011 The Wall Street Journal reported that a third of Americans received means tested welfare. That includes food stamps, housing subsidies or TANF. “Another 14.5 percent lived in homes where someone was on Medicare,” Sara Murray reported, and “nearly 16 percent lived in households receiving Social Security.”