No. of Recommendations: 147
It's not even that the Post reporters weren't aware of the facts. In the 19th paragraph, the front-page story notes that "there are more than 80 poverty-related programs, which in 2003 cost $522 billion." The next line reads, "Yet despite those programs, 37 million Americans continue to live in poverty."

The same argument could be made with respect to a wide variety of endeavors.

Despite billions spent on police, crime still exists.

Despite billions spent on education, we still need schools.

Despite billions spent on defense, the threat of war still exists.

Despite billions spent on drug control, drug use persists.

I've seen this poverty meme popping up more often lately. A number of conservative commentators have suggested that unless a particular set of programs has eliminated poverty permanently and completely, it must be a failure. The possibility that ameliorating poverty may be an ongoing endeavor, rather than a one-off that is thereafter "accomplished," is never discussed.

The obvious retort to this criticism is exactly that: relative poverty is an unavoidable result of any free market system which allocates resources based on market forces. Some people - including children -will have fewer resources than others, whether by choice or accident of fate. Some people will have dramatically fewer resources than others, to the point where they are considered "impovershed" by the much wealthier society in which they dwell. Anti-poverty programs are not designed to permanently eliminate such poverty, but to partially redistribute wealth to mitigate the suffering that can accompany this allocation of wealth.

Note - conservatives may disagree with some or all of that response, and that's fine. But the notion that anti-poverty programs can be measured by the fact that poverty still exists is as fanciful as evaluating the defense department on the basis that world peace has not yet been achieved. Ready to give up the army?

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