(KMOV)-- The War on Poverty failed. That’s the conclusion of a massive report by the House of Representatives Budget Committee.
Nearly $800 billion were spent on federal poverty programs last year and the poverty rate keeps climbing.
It might be tempting to get political and discredit the committee's report since it was spearheaded by Republican Paul Ryan, but many democrats agree.
Also, the evidence is overwhelming that the war failed, at least if you look at the growing percentage of poor families.
If East St. Louis is ground zero for the War on Poverty, then here’s proof that we lost the war, but you could say the same about many communities across America.
“The War on Poverty has failed to benefit the people who need it the most,” said James Clark Vice President of Better Family Life; a non-profit that works in north St. Louis, says we need a neighborhood based approach to fighting poverty.
“We have got to go into our more troubled neighborhoods and go door to door and deliver the help that’s needed, and why it’s taken us so long to do that, i don’t know,” said Clark.
Vickie Forby, the Executive Director of Emerson Park Development, a non-profit in East St. Louis, says the failure of many inner-city school districts and the growing dependence on government subsidies, have given many poor families less encouragement to leave poverty.
“I think he’s absolutely correct. I think you have to get in and learn each family,” said Forby. “Very few people who are raised in poverty come out of poverty. Some do, but not near the numbers that used to.”
Poverty is up in East St. Louis and across the country during the last 30 years. In East St. Louis, more than 4 out of 10 live at or below the poverty line, and nationally 15-percent of the population is now considered poor.
And, in the East St. Louis area in particular, where there is a long history of public corruption, crooked politicians and cops make it even harder to find hope in the communities that need it the most.
Alorton Mayor JoAnn Reed followed two previous mayors who did prison time. She won election after getting charged with smuggling a phone and food to an inmate in the jail, though she insists the community has compassionate for the elected leaders who ripped them off.
“To live in this community and know the people...sometimes there’s a different feeling....there’s sympathy,” said Reed.
But sympathy for crooks won’t lift families out of poverty, and after 50 years, there’s growing concern that we have accepted that the war cannot be won.
“Now, poverty has given birth to a subculture...where poverty is now accepted,” said Clark.
The House Budget Committee’s report says “rather than provide a roadmap out of poverty, Washington has created a complex web of programs that are often difficult to navigate.
Some programs provide critical aid to families in need. Others discourage families from getting ahead”