Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Daniel Moynihan's Welfare Prediction Accuracy From 1965

I have never been a fan of the great majority of politicians. I find them shallow, selfish, and incapable of resolving even the smallest of problems and issues facing the country. However, there are a small handful that were willing to be honest and tried to fix what was broken, putting the country ahead of their self enrichment and ego. One of them was Daniel Moynihan, a U.S. Senator from New York and U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Three things impressed me about Moynihan. First, he was just plain smarter than most of his peers in his day and today’s politicians. Second, although he was a Democrat, he never hesitated to criticize Democrats or liberals when they deserved to be criticized. And finally, he is one of the few politicians who accurately predicted anything correctly.

Back in the mid-1960s, he predicted that the growth of the welfare state in this country would result in the breakdown of the black family structure in our cities and lead to “crime, violence, unrest, disorder.” The following are excerpts from a paper he wrote 50 years ago:

From the wild Irish slums  of the 19th century Eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Ageles , there is one unmistakable lesson in American history; a community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future -- that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder -- most particularly the furious, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure -- that is not only to be expected; it is very near to inevitable. And it is richly deserved.


The majority of Negro children receive public assistance under the AFDC program at one point or another in their childhood. At present, 14 percent of Negro children are receiving AFDC assistance, as against 2 percent of white children. Eight percent of white children receive such assistance at some time, as against 56 percent of nonwhites, according to an extrapolation based on NEW data. …


Again, the situation may be said to be worsening. The AFDC program, deriving from the long established Mothers' Aid programs, was established in 1935 principally to care for widows and orphans, although the legislation covered all children in homes deprived of parental support because one or both of their parents are absent or incapacitated. 

The steady expansion of this welfare program, as of public assistance programs in general, can be taken as a measure of the steady disintegration of the Negro family structure over the past generation in the United States.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan - The Negro Family: The Case For National Action

Office of Policy Planning and Research, United States Department of Labor, March 1965

What has happened in the African American community since he wrote that paper 50 years ago? Let’s see:
  • 71% of African American children are born into a single parent household, up from about 25% when he wrote this paper.
  • This compares to 53% of Hispanic children and 36% of white children.
  • Kids from homes with single and unmarried moms are five times more likely to live in poverty and 40% less likely to graduate from high school.
But it gets worse, according to a May 15, 2015 NewsMax article written by Ed Moy:
  • Since Obama became President, African American unemployment has increased 60%.
  • In that same time period, the Black/White wealth gap has grown to a 24-year high.
  • African Americans who live in poverty have increased to 27%.
  • Only 1.7% of Federal Small Business Administration loans went to Black businesses, compared to 8% under the administration of President George W. Bush.
So it appears that Moynihan was right. Unbridled growth in the welfare state has not lifted a whole lot of African Americans out of poverty. In fact, according to a Washington Post article and its graphs from a few years ago, seen below, it has not lifted a whole lot of anybody out of poverty,  the poverty rate in this country has remained about constant since the mid-1960s despite spending upwards of $20 TRILLION to reduce it (double click on the graph to enlarge)

What is also very interesting this graph is that the poverty rate was falling dramatically from the late 1950s into the mid 1960s. At that point, the Federal government and LBJ’s “War On Poverty” kicked in and the downward trend in reducing the poverty percentage stopped declining almost overnight. Which raises the obvious question: did the Federal government growth in welfare programs actually STOP the decline in the poverty rate?

But even as the poverty level percentage remained unchanged over a fifty year period, the government and taxpayer spending to try and reduce it grew at an almost exponential rate with no corresponding effect on poverty:

And while the percentage of African Americans living in poverty has shrunk over the past fifty years, it is still more than double the poverty rate of white and Asian Americans and the African American poverty rate is now growing significantly faster than the poverty rate of other races:

So, maybe it is time to revisit the insights Moynihan published fifty years ago since:
  • The African-American family breakdown he predicted has occurred as the Federal government and Washington political class spent more and more on welfare programs which made it easier for single parents to have and support children without a family infrastructure to make it happen.
  • African American kids’ futures are not much better than they were fifty years ago, and possibly quite worse, given crime levels, low high school graduation levels, etc.
  • Despite spending upwards of $20 TRILLION since the LBJ administration, African American poverty levels and employment levels and opportunities have not improved much at all.

Another political class effort that has failed miserably, expensively, and which may have made the original perceived problem even worse. And Moynihan saw it all coming decades ago.

But his insights should not surprise us since even though he was a member of that same political class, he also had two insightful observations about it:

The single most exciting thing you encounter in government is competence, because it is so rare.

Somehow liberals have been unable to acquire from life what conservatives seem to be endowed with at birth: namely, a healthy skepticism of the powers of government agencies to do good.

Great insights but let me add another from another brilliant man, Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Maybe it is time to stop the insanity of the past fifty years and find a way to compassionately transition from the destructive Federal government welfare programs that Moynihan warned us about in 1965 into a new paradigm, where government programs actually do what they are supposed to do at a lower cost without ripping the concept of family apart. That would certainly make Moynihan excited and happy and a lot of Americans better off than they are today.Our book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at:


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