Star Parker

Columbia professor Jeffrey Sachs intends to cut world poverty in half. He outlines his plan in a cover story in this past week's Time magazine.

Sachs isn't just an academic sitting in an ivory tower writing provocative papers. As director of the U.N. Millennium Project, he has tens of millions of dollars financing his activities and clearly is someone who knows how to get attention and mobilize power and influence. Time's cover story is just the latest of high-profile press coverage that the professor has received, which includes major stories recently in The New York Times Magazine and The Economist.

What's his plan?

Quadruple U.S. foreign aid. Add a total of about $130 billion to foreign-aid expenditures of the world's industrialized countries and recycle these funds into spending programs in developing nations. According to Sachs, these programs will reduce global poverty by 50 percent by 2015.

Is there an echo in here? Aren't these "new" ideas something we've heard before?

Sachs talks about "ending poverty in our time," which we can do by adopting his "new method." Tax and spend to end our problems? A new method? The real question is what is this guy peddling to reporters to induce their amnesia.

Here's President Lyndon Johnson announcing the launch of his "war on poverty" and the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964:

...(F)or the first time in history, it is possible to conquer poverty...

The Act does not merely expand old programs or improve what is already being done. It casts a new course. It strikes at the causes, not just the consequences, of poverty.

When Johnson launched his "war," the percentage of the U.S. population in poverty was around 19 percent. By the early 1970s, it dropped to around 12 percent. However, the decline in the national rate of poverty was already headed downward well before 1964. The poverty rate in the late 1950s was 23 percent. U.S. poverty has fluctuated around 12 percent for the last 30 years.

Despite trillions of dollars of expenditures with questionable impact on the incidence of poverty, the greatest costs of Johnson's programs were the human costs. People were taught to turn to government rather than their families and themselves for the resources to contend with life's challenges. The psychology of victimization, passivity and dependency is the great legacy of Johnson's poverty programs.

The black poverty rate - 23 percent in 2001 - remains well above the national average. Incidence of out-of-wedlock births and fatherless households in the black community are triple today what they were when Johnson signed his legislation.


Star Parker

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do About It.