Fox Business host Stuart Varney, who has repeatedly mocked low-income Americans, dismissed the War on Poverty as ineffective on its 50th anniversary, ignoring evidence that government anti-poverty programs have been vital in decreasing the poverty rate.
On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson used his State of the Union address to enumerate proposals and policy prescriptions that would come to be known as the War on Poverty. Many of these proposals were eventually signed into law, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and a permanent food stamp program.
Fifty years later, Fox Business host Stuart Varney dismissed the success of these programs. In a January 8 America's Newsroom segment, Varney cast doubt on the War on Poverty's effectiveness in reducing the poverty rate:
VARNEY: We have not made that much progress in reducing the poverty rate. 15 percent of Americans are still in poverty. It's roughly the same level as it was back in 1964. It did help feed hungry people, treat sick people, and it did raise the standard of living for many, many poor people. However, the proportion of people still living in poverty, pretty much the same as it was back in 1964, Martha.
The federal anti-poverty programs Varney discounts actually helped reduce the poverty rate from 26 percent to 16 percent from 1967 to 2011, according to a recent study by the Columbia Population Research Center at Columbia University. From the study (emphasis added):
The OPM shows the overall poverty rates to be nearly the same in 1967 and 2011 -- at 14% and 15% respectively. But our counterfactual estimates using the anchored SPM show that without taxes and other government programs, poverty would have been roughly flat at 27-29%, while with government benefits poverty has fallen from 26% to 16% -- a 40% reduction. Government programs today are cutting poverty nearly in half (from 29% to 16%) while in 1967 they only cut poverty by about one percentage point.
The New York Times' Economix blog put that data into graph form to show how vital government programs have been in keeping people out of poverty:
Indeed, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, it is "simply not valid or accurate" to claim that federal efforts to alleviate poverty have largely failed.
Varney's refusal to acknowledge the progress made in the War on Poverty is in keeping with his record of shaming the poor. He has said that low-income Americans "have things -- what they lack is the richness of spirit," argued that furloughed federal workers deserve to be "punish[ed]," and attacked government funding for feeding children and seniors.