Big Bucks in the War on Poverty

With the poverty rate stuck at 15% for an unprecedented three straight years, everyone is worried about the rise in poverty under Barack Obama.  The New York Times just published a book-length expose of the travails of Dasani, a bright and brave little girl with seven siblings who are all homeless and forced to live in one room in a Brooklyn shelter.

Relax.  The war on poverty is working great, if you just know where to look.  The ostensible beneficiaries (the poor) may not be doing too well, but poverty warriors—the valiant and selfless bureaucrats, social workers, foundationistas and academics struggling to create a more just and equitable society—are doing just fine.

Consider the research grants received by one prominent academic, who shall go nameless.  Based on the list of grants detailed in his CV, he and his co-researchers have received $7,914,083 in grants from governments and foundations, nearly all within the last 15 years. Most of the payout has come from the National Institute of Child Health and Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, and foundations we hear about all the time on NPR—Ford, Russell Sage, Annie E. Casey, William T. Grant, MacArthur, etc..  Here is a run-down, with slight changes of amounts and other details to hide the recipient’s identity.

  • Government grant of  $750,000 to study families
  • Government grant of  $736,000 to study families in Latin America
  • Foundation grant of  $27,400 to study school achievement
  • Foundation grant of  $65,000 to study ways to better measure poverty
  • Government grant of  $1,455,305 to study children and families
  • Foundation grant of  $71,360 to study family resources and education
  • Foundation grant of  $24,900 to study school readiness
  • Government grant of $139,000 to study child development
  • Foundation grant of  $79,600 to study childhood programs
  • Foundation grant of  $43,048 to study test scores by race
  • Foundation grant of  $17,506 to study test scores
  • University grant of $50,000 to study Head Start
  • Government grant of  $24,487 to study families and work
  • Government grant of  $2,545,000 to study child neglect
  • Foundation grant of  $410,000 to study inequality
  • Foundation grant of  $172,000 to study early childhood education
  • Government grant of  $600,000 to study family leave policies
  • Foundation Grant of  $252,000 to study parental leave policies
  • Foundation Grant of $180,000 to study humans (more or less)
  • Foundation Grant of $60,000 to study labor markets

Not to mention large sums received by this professor for numerous fellowships, conferences, etc.  And keep in mind these are the winnings of just one academic and his co-workers, albeit one who appears to be particularly proficient at grantsmanship.  There are many more where he came from.

I know what you’re thinking.  Instead of spending money on research that has yielded no observable benefit to the poor over the past fifty years, why not spend the money directly on the poor?  Dasani and dozens of other poor children could get a good education in a first-class private school, such as Washington DC’s Sidwell Friends, where Sasha and Malia Obama go.  Annual tuition at Sidwell Friends’ lower school runs $34,288, so the research funds spent by just this one professor could pay for 231 years of schooling at Sidwell Friends.

The flaw in such thinking is obvious.  We know, from the brilliant research of the brilliant Paul Krugman and other brilliant Keynesians, that the best way to expand GDP is through government spending.  If we actually reduced poverty by giving Dasani and her siblings a good education, government spending would go down and the economy would suffer!  The anti-poverty grants must flow freely to keep our wobbly economy afloat.

Copyright 2013 Thomas Doerflinger.  All Rights Reserved.

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About tomdoerflinger

Thomas Doerflinger, PhD is a prominent observer of American capitalism – past, present and future. http://www.wallstreetandkstreet.com/?page_id=8
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