Tom Purcell

Did you ever have a week in which you had an impossible amount of work to complete, yet somehow got it done?

Likewise, did you ever have a week in which you knew your workload would be light, so you made grand plans to complete a personal project —and ended up loafing and getting very little done?

Such behavior is true for most people. It's amazing what we can do when we have no other option but to get our work done. This old saying is also true: “If you want to get something done, assign it to someone who is busy.”

The fact is, it is good for human beings to have things they must do. It's good to have deadlines and pressure and jobs and projects that we must complete. Our work can be stressful, but as we succeed, we are lifted up. We grow our skills and sense of self-worth and are able to take on ever greater challenges. We become self-sufficient and attain the means to provide for our families.

So why are we encouraging so many people to not achieve self-sufficiency through our welfare programs?

According to Robert Rector, a poverty researcher at The Heritage Foundation, “federal and state welfare spending today is 16 times greater than it was when President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War on Poverty.”

Yet 15 percent of Americans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, are still living in poverty —a percentage that is about the same as it was 50 years and $20 trillion ago.

Rector says the actual poverty rate doesn't factor in the income that welfare recipients receive from more than 80 means-tested programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care and other targeted social services.

Roughly 100 million Americans are receiving benefits from one or more of these programs, but only about 3 percent of these funds are considered “income”by the census.

“In other words, the government's official ‘poverty' measure is not helpful for measuring actual living conditions,”Rector says.

The census is good at measuring self-sufficiency, however, which is “the ability of a family to sustain an income above the poverty threshold without welfare assistance.”

Rector says the census accurately reports there has been no improvement in self-sufficiency for the past 45 years —even though self-sufficiency was LBJ's primary goal when he launched his war on poverty.

Why the lack of progress?

Tom Purcell

Tom Purcell, author of "Comical Sense: A Lone Conservative Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" and "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood," is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist syndicated nationally by Cagle Cartoons. Visit him on the web at