Anti-poverty programs are a perfect illustration of how government often harms the people it’s supposed to help.
Poverty was falling fast in the 1960s. It was nearly cut in half from 1959 to 1969 – with little interference from the government. But after the government’s war on poverty was fully implemented in the early seventies, progress stopped.
Fifty years of federal anti-poverty programs had no effect – other than to halt the decline in poverty that was already taking place while wasting taxpayer dollars. If wage earners could keep their money instead of paying taxes, it would free up hundreds of billions of dollars every year that could be spent by individuals, churches and charities to give a helping hand to those in need. Direct giving by caring individuals is far more effective at giving people a hand up than government welfare.
Too much federal relief serves, not as a safety net, but as a web trapping millions of Americans in a cycle of poverty. State and federal programs cut the benefits of the people who try to earn wages to get off of welfare. This has the same effect as a fifty percent tax bracket, which takes away their incentive to work. As a result, many people choose to stay on welfare instead, because work doesn’t pay.
The real cure for poverty is a vibrant economy that generates plentiful jobs and high wages, combined with an affordable cost of living. This can be done by eliminating the many government regulations that cripple economic growth.
Occupational licensing is a major job killer that keeps people in poverty. Those who are already entrenched in the market for given professions have lobbied to create government barriers of entry for newcomers. For example, in 2009 the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations began to force eyebrow threaders to undergo 750 hours of cosmetology training and sit for two exams in order to practice. Fortunately, the Texas Supreme Court struck this down in 2015. But thousands of licensing laws remain on the books.
Protectionist rules like this are completely antithetical to fairness and to the freedom to make a living. The government should not be in the business of giving privileges to one group at the expense of those yearning to make a living.
As president, I will spearhead legislation to reform occupational licensing at the federal level, and work with local and state governments to do the same. I would support measures that take the power away from state licensing boards and give it back to workers. This would open up an array of opportunities for people who need work.
Another of my priorities is to get rid of business regulations which make it harder to hire new people, particularly those who have not been fortunate enough to go to college or have formal job training. With every new mandated job benefit, more and more people are kept unemployed when all they want to do is earn a living for themselves and their families.
Minimum wage laws are particularly harmful to those who struggle to earn a living. Advocates claim that a minimum wage guarantees that workers will earn a “livable wage.” But they neglect to point out that those whose skills are worth less than the minimum end up with no wages at all. Many of them get laid off or turned down for new jobs as they get replaced by self-checkout kiosks, robots, and other alternatives that are more cost-effective than minimum wage. What’s worse, low-wage workers lose the opportunity to earn money while gaining valuable job skills that lift their earning power.
Another problem with federal minimum wage laws is that they ignore the fact that the cost of living in Kentucky or Mississippi is much lower than in New York City or San Francisco. The U.S. House has passed a bill to raise the national minimum wage to $15 per hour. If it becomes law, many businesses in low-cost areas will go under, and many entry-level workers will lose their jobs.
Federal regulatory interventions are no small matter. Americans pay $1.9 trillion to comply with almost 100,000 pages of rules and regulations. That’s more than all Americans combined pay in federal income taxes. These rules bog down our economy, and especially small businesses, preventing them from hiring as much as they otherwise would.
Perhaps the most heartless of government regulations are those that stand in the way of people who want to help those in need. This is especially true of free health care clinics that could save billions in taxpayer dollars while giving poor families loving and much-needed care when someone gets sick.
If I’m elected president, removing unneeded and harmful regulations across all industries will be a top priority of mine. I will work to repeal laws and regulations that prevent individuals and charitable organizations from helping others. I will veto any new regulation that stands in the way of those who are struggling to grab the bottom rung of the economic ladder. I want them to have every possible opportunity for a better life.
Another impediment to social mobility is in housing.
As part of the New Deal in 1937, the federal government imposed redlining, and its legacy remains to this day. As a result, neighborhoods around the country are segregated by race and class.
While housing policy is largely decided on the state and local level, I will work with governors and mayors to undo harmful zoning policies and red tape that make it harder for people to own homes and raise families. I will eliminate the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as it has existed only to reinforce inequality and federal failures in housing.
If we are to eradicate poverty, we must take a good look at which policies actually work – and which ones don’t. As president, instead of throwing money at programs that clearly don’t help, I will work to remove barriers to employment and to low-cost housing and health care. This will open up millions of new jobs for unemployed and low-income workers and give them a chance for a much better life.