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Did ‘The Great Society’ Ruin Society? by Pat Buchanan

800px-Lyndon_Johnson_signing_Civil_Rights_Act,_2_July,_1964 Did ‘The Great Society’ Ruin Society?

“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I’ll fix it.”

Thus did Mitt Romney supposedly commit the gaffe of the month — for we are not to speak of the poor without unctuous empathy.

Yet, as Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation reports in “Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts About America’s Poor,” Mitt was more right about America’s magnanimity than those who bewail her alleged indifference.

First, who are the poor?

To qualify, a family of four in 2010 needed to earn less than $22,314. Some 46 million Americans, 15 percent of the population, qualified.

And in what squalor were America’s poor forced to live?

Well, 99 percent had a refrigerator and stove, two-thirds had a plasma TV, a DVD player and access to cable or satellite, 43 percent were on the Internet, half had a video game system like PlayStation or Xbox.

Three-fourths of the poor had a car or truck, nine in 10 a microwave, 80 percent had air conditioning. In 1970, only 36 percent of the U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

America’s poor enjoy amenities almost no one had in the 1950s, when John K. Galbraith described us as “The Affluent Society.”

What about homelessness? Are not millions of America’s poor on the street at night, or shivering in shelters or crowded tenements?

Well, actually, no. That is what we might call televised poverty. Of the real poor, fewer than 10 percent live in trailers, 40 percent live in apartments, and half live in townhouses or single-family homes.

Forty-one percent of poor families own their own home.

But are they not packed in like sardines, one on top of another?

Not exactly. The average poor person’s home in America has 1,400 square feet — more living space than do Europeans in 23 of the 25 wealthiest countries on the continent.

Two-thirds of America’s poor have two rooms per person, while 94 percent have at least one room per person in the family dwelling.

Only one in 25 poor persons in America uses a homeless shelter, and only briefly, sometime during the year.

What about food? Do not America’s poor suffer chronically from malnutrition and hunger?

Not so. The daily consumption of proteins, vitamins and minerals of poor children is roughly the same as that of the middle class, and the poor consume more meat than the upper middle class.

Some 84 percent of America’s poor say they always have enough food to eat, while 13 percent say sometimes they do not, and less than 4 percent say they often do not have enough to eat.

Only 2.6 percent of poor children report stunted growth. Poor kids in America are, on average, an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than the youth of the Greatest Generation that won World War II.

In fiscal year 2011, the U.S. government spent $910 billion on 70 means-tested programs, which comes to an average of $9,000 per year on every lower-income person in the United States.

Among the major programs from which the poor receive benefits are Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food program, Medicaid, public housing, low-income energy assistance and the Social Service Block Grant.

Children of the poor are educated free, K-12, and eligible for preschool Head Start, and Perkins Grants, Pell Grants and student loans for college.

Lyndon Johnson told us this was the way to build a Great Society.

Did we? Federal and state spending on social welfare is approaching $1 trillion a year, $17 trillion since the Great Society was launched, not to mention private charity. But we have witnessed a headlong descent into social decomposition.

Half of all children born to women under 30 in America now are illegitimate. Three in 10 white children are born out of wedlock, as are 53 percent of Hispanic babies and 73 percent of black babies.

Rising right along with the illegitimacy rate is the drug-use rate, the dropout rate, the crime rate and the incarceration rate.

The family, cinder block of society, is disintegrating, and along with it, society itself. Writes Rector, “The welfare system is more like a ‘safety bog’ than a safety net.”

Heritage scholars William Beach and Patrick Tyrrell put Rector’s numbers in perspective:

“Today … 67.3 million Americans — from college students to retirees to welfare beneficiaries — depend on the federal government for housing, food, income, student aid or other assistance. … The United States reached another milestone in 2010. For the first time in history, half the population pays no federal income taxes.”

The 19th century statesman John C. Calhoun warned against allowing government to divide us into “tax-payers and tax-consumers.” This, he said, “would give rise to two parties and to violent conflicts and struggles between them, to obtain the control of the government.”

We are there, Mr. Calhoun, we are there.

Essays by Pat Buchanan may be found here. Books related to the topic of this article may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

The dead soul of Adam Lanza by Patrick J. Buchanan

Buchanan: The dead soul of Adam Lanza

By: Patrick J. Buchanan

12/18/2012 02:43 AM 

Buchanan: The dead soul of Adam Lanza

 

“No set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.”

So said President Obama in words of comfort in Newtown. The president was right to speak of evil, but mistaken when he called the massacre “senseless.”

For this was a premeditated and purposeful act of mass murder, and the devil that did it knew exactly what he was doing and why.

When he put four bullets into his mother’s head while she lay in bed, Adam Lanza wanted her life ended along with his. When he headed for Sandy Hook Elementary, with the Glocks and Bushmaster rifle, he knew he would encounter no armed resistance.

Before he went into that school to shoot 20, 30 or 40 children, barely more than babies, he knew his slaughter would be so stomach-turning and heart-wrenching that the TV crews would come running.

And by day’s end, the world would know who Adam Lanza was.

Lanza kept firing at the children until he heard the sirens. Then he pulled out one of the Glocks, put it to his head and ended it, knowing he was on his way to becoming world famous.

Just as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of Columbine are famous. Just as James Holmes, the “Joker” of the Aurora “Dark Knight Rising” massacre, is famous. Just as Jared Lee Loughner, the Tucson mass murderer who shot Gabby Giffords, is famous.

A desire to be famous coupled with a dead conscience is the common thread running through these recurring atrocities. These loners and losers want us to know who they are. And, to succeed now, each almost has to outdo in horror those who went before.

Since the news first came in Friday from Newtown, we have argued about guns in America and mental illness, but heard little about the moral sickness of our society.

Americans have always owned guns. But in Prohibition, when gangsters like John Dillinger, “Machine Gun” Kelly and “Baby Face” Nelson were notorious, the most remembered atrocity was the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.” Al Capone’s gang executed seven of Bugs Moran’s gang in a Chicago garage.

Yet, just two years ago, when one Washington, D.C., drive-by shooting ended with four dead on a sidewalk and five wounded, it was just local news.

Why are these atrocities growing more frequent and deadly?

We are told that it is because the guns used — especially assault rifles like Russian-made AK-47s and civilian copies of the M-16 used in Vietnam, like the Bushmaster — are all too available.

But the guns used in the Sandy Hook massacre were legally purchased by Lanza’s mother, and she and Adam lived in a state with some of the strictest gun laws in the country.

And the Bushmaster is not a machine gun but a semi-automatic, as are the 100-year-old Colt .45 and M-1 rifle used by GIs in World War II. Fully automatic weapons like the Thompson submachine gun cannot be purchased without a federal license. No fully automatic weapon has been used in any of these massacres.

Will ending all sales and transfers of assault rifles and limiting the rounds in clips and magazines reduce these massacres in malls, movie theaters and schools? Did it succeed when the assault weapons ban was in force in the Clinton years?

If assault rifles are evil things that ought not be in the hands of decent Americans, why do “shoot-to-kill” video games feature these weapons?

Why does Hollywood glamorize assault rifles in action-packed films of slaughter starring Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris and Jason Statham?

Few of America’s young have seen an assault weapon fired outside the military. Scores of millions have seen them fired on TV. Many of our movies are advertisements for the efficiency of assault weapons in the hands of good guys doing heroic deeds.

Are the folks who think America would be a better place with a more restrictive Second Amendment willing to restrict the First Amendment to stop all distribution of movies and cable shows that depict famous actors blasting enemies with assault weapons?

Not long ago, there existed in our hearts “a fear of God.”

How, we would ask ourselves, if we commit an evil act like murder, will we answer at God’s judgment seat? For He will decide if we enter what the president called in Newtown, God’s “eternal house in heaven.”

But if God is dead, not to worry. Just put the gun to your head and pull the trigger, and it’s over. No trial. No disgrace. No prison. Nothing to worry about anymore.

No voice of conscience told Adam: Do not do this evil thing! Now he is no longer a nobody, a nerd, a recluse. He is famous. Everybody is talking about him, and ruminating on what might have motivated him.

Adam wanted to be somebody. And now he is.

And out there others like him are thinking: That could be me.

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