Have we won the War on Poverty declared over 50 years ago? That’s an easy answer.

Despite how progressives celebrate the entitlement programs created by Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, Americans don’t think we’ve done enough to tackle poverty within our borders. In fact, our satisfaction with the government’s job has hit a new low.

Only 16 percent of Americans are satisfied with the work that federal government is doing to address poverty according to polling by Gallup. Gallup has been tracking perceptions over the past 15 years and while Americans have never been particularly satisfied starting at 26 percent in 2001, this 16-percent level is a new low.

Gallup points to declining satisfaction among self-identified Republican and Republican-leaning independents as the primary driver. Interestingly, from 2001 to 2005 when George W. Bush was president, roughly four in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaners were satisfied with government actions to address poverty. Since then, that support has shrunk to 14 percent. Over this same time, Democratic satisfaction has increased slightly but not enough to offset the decline in Republican satisfaction.

This question was among several that surveyed Americans’ satisfaction with government performance on other serious issues including the nation’s finances (23 percent) and immigration (24 percent). What does the government do right? You aren’t going to believe this: Mail delivery. Nearly 90 percent of Americans are pleased with the USPS apparently. 

Here’s more from Gallup:

Declining satisfaction among self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning independents is the primary driver of the decline in satisfaction with federal poverty efforts overall.

The same general patterns are seen by ideology, with self-described conservatives' satisfaction with poverty efforts down sharply from 36% in 2001 to 16% today, while liberals' satisfaction is up only slightly, from 10% to 17%.

The net result of these changes is that Republicans, Democrats, conservatives and liberals now show roughly equal levels of satisfaction with U.S. government poverty efforts. There is also little difference in satisfaction among race, education, gender and age subgroups.

Over the past 15 years, Americans have never been highly satisfied with government efforts to address poverty, and never has their satisfaction been lower than it is now. The lower level of satisfaction is partly a function of political dynamics whereby Republicans are more likely to be satisfied with government activities when a Republican is president. Republicans typically are also less likely than Democrats to see poverty as an important problem. Because of Democrats' greater concern about the issue and the difficulty the nation has had in greatly reducing poverty, Democrats may still have reason to be dissatisfied with government activity on the issue even when a Democratic president is in office.

Policymakers –particularly progressives – constantly call for the expansion of such programs. Yet, since the start of the War on Poverty, the U.S. has spent $20 trillion on significantly more than 100 anti-poverty programs supplying cash, subsidies, and other benefits. The poverty rate, however, barely budged from 19 percent in 1964 to about 15 percent today.

The impact on the family and work habits among the poor though has been disastrous. The out-of-wedlock birth rate has climbed for African-Americans from 24 percent in 1965 to 72 percent today and among whites from 3 percent to 29 percent. Despite requirements that they work, less than 42 percent of adult welfare recipients actually do so.

Americans recognize that the government has largely failed to put a dent in poverty. It’s not surprising that few of us are satisfied.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result. Expanding programs that are not achieving the overall outcome of ending poverty is insanity. We need to turn to new approaches that scale back broad and blind aid and instead target help to those most in need for temporary help. Those who can should be working and caring for their own families. We also need an environment that fosters starting and growing businesses to generate the good jobs that make working attractive.

We can get off the track of insanity, but we need political will and the courage to do what is uncomfortable now but will be fulfilling and empowering in the long-run.