Southern Man

Friday, March 16, 2012

Intent and Outcome

"We intend to create new opportunities for certain hard-hit groups to break out of the pattern of poverty."
That's from President Lyndon Johnson's special message to Congress 'way back in 1964 to launch the so-called War On Poverty. Go ahead, read the whole thing. We'll wait.

It is clear that President Johnson's goals were well intended. However, rather than eliminating patterns of poverty, it institutionalized them. The War on Poverty has created a permanent underclass, forever mired in a web of government handouts from which they cannot escape.

But just try to criticize social spending today. You'll be accused of hating the poor, or being selfish, or racism (the preferred all-purpose liberal smear applied to anyone with whom they disagree). But listen carefully to these attacks. Liberals always defend the intent of social spending, regardless of the actual outcome. Indeed, a near-universal characteristic of liberals is their belief that intent is more important than outcome.

Look at the track record of nearly every program in government. Head Start? One of the longest-running government programs intended to assist and educate poor children, Head Start was re-funded in 2007 despite the US Department of Health and Human Services's own reports that Head Start had no lasting impact beyond first grade. But don't dare criticize it (or any other failed government attempt at top-down education reform) or de-fund it because it's for the children. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Intended to increase home ownership, their well-intended policies led to the housing bubble and subsequent collapse and recession. The Department of Energy? Created to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, the DOE has fought domestic energy production tooth and nail for forty years, with predictable results. As a reward, their budget was increased 75% under Dear Leader's stimulus package. Job Corps? The Department of Labor recently published a report that concluded that Job Corps had never even made any systematic measurement of outcomes. But don't dare criticize it; that would be racist, or something. Indeed, Southern Man challenges all three of his readers to find any government social or educational program that had outcomes that were consistent with intent. Hint - he knows of at least one, so they're not complete failures. But a record of one and many isn't very good.

And that leads to another defining characteristic of liberals: intent is so important that even when well-intended programs fail the funding must continue, because surely it will work next time. Won't it?


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