Recently in Politics, Government & Public Policy Category
The New York Times builds on Peter Schweizer's book, "Clinton Cash", with an investigation into Russian nuclear giant Rosatom's purchase of American owned uranium supplies around the world. It's hard to summarize the details, because transactions like this are inherently complicated, so read the whole article if you want to really understand it. Conflicts of interest abound, but it doesn't look like there's a smoking gun quid pro quo. The appearance is bad enough.
As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One's chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.
And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company's assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show.
It's inconceivable to me that Hillary Clinton could win the presidency with a history like she has, but then I was shocked when Obama won re-election.
J. D. Tuccile makes a great point about this IRS pity party.
Whether they worked in Manhattan or Peoria, IRS veterans talk about something else that kept them at the service: the feeling of camaraderie. It was nice that they appreciated one another, because nobody else did. "You go to a party, and if you say you are from the IRS, half the people move into the other room," says Richard Schickel, a former senior collections officer in Tucson who retired in December 2013. "After a while, your wife and relatives get tired of listening to your stories. They say, 'How could you take those people's houses and their businesses?' The only place you get understanding is with other IRS people."
I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for these IRS employees, but Mr. Tuccile makes an insightful observation:
You know...When the people who live with you and (let's assume) love you recoil from you in shock and horror because of your behavior so that the only refuge you can find is among others guilty of the same conduct, perhaps you should consider the possibility that you're doing something really bad.
I don't think that the families of most government employees feel this way -- IRS families may be unique. We should consider why this is the case.
It's no coincidence that tax day is opposite of election day (April and November): this is the time of year we're all reminded of how confusing and inefficient our tax system really is. The IRS complains that it doesn't have enough money to administer the system properly, but what about the rest of us? What citizen is happy with the time and effort it takes us to deal with the system?
When callers do get a real person, they can forget about asking questions that require expertise. These are now considered "out of scope." The customer-service agents have been instructed to only tell callers what tax forms they need, where to get them and where to look for online information. Staff can no longer offer line-by-line assistance, provide guidance on tax planning or tax law, or help make payment arrangements.
The IRS doesn't know what it's doing, so how are we supposed to? Instead of pouring more money into the IRS, we need to drastically simplify our tax code to make compliance easier for everyone. Simplification is a separate issue from raising or lowering revenue. We can make a revenue-neutral tax system that is simpler for the government and for citizens.
Meanwhile, this statistic demonstrates the opposite of what the IRS probably intends:
And with 5,000 fewer agents than four years ago to go after tax cheats, officials estimate that $2 billion in revenue will go uncollected.
Each of these agents was only generating $400,000 in revenue? When you subtract the cost of their employment and the value of taxpayer time to deal with the hassle, it seems like a no-brainer to lay them off.
Hillary Clinton is promising a press conference after she attends an event at the United Nations; Ashe Schow has 18 questions worth asking Mrs. Clinton, and they aren't all about her email.
The New York Times broke the news about Hillary Clinton's secret, private email server that she used "exclusively" while secretary of state, but now the paper is poo-pooing the suggestion that this revelation could affect her chances to win the presidency in 2016.
The actual public response to the controversy is likely to be a combination of apathy and partisanship. Few Americans are paying attention to any aspect of the campaign at this point. Those who do notice will most likely divide largely along partisan lines, with Democrats interpreting her actions more charitably, especially once they see Republicans attacking Mrs. Clinton on the issue.
Any significant political costs are also likely to be fleeting because the revelations came so early in the campaign cycle. It is hard to believe that a lack of transparency in Mrs. Clinton's use of email will have a significant effect on a general election that will be held some 20 months from now. As the political scientist John Sides wrote on Twitter, "In October 2016, no persuadable voter will be thinking about Hillary Clinton's email account." It's equally implausible that this revelation will draw a second top-tier candidate into the race for the Democratic nomination given the advantages Mrs. Clinton retains over possible rivals like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.
I'm certainly rooting against Hillary, so maybe I'm biased, but I'm not so sure of Brendan Nyhan's conclusion. Some thoughts:
- Americans understand email. Every email user will cringe if you suggest that their email history might be made publicly available. So they will wonder: why was Hillary hiding her work email? What's on there that she doesn't want anyone to see?
- Hillary apparently fired the ambassador to Kenya in 2012 for using private email and in 2007 attacked Bush administration officials for using private email.
- There's no way to know if everything was turned over to the State Department. Just trust her?
- What if her private email server was hacked, and we just don't know it yet?
- With the Clintons there's a never-ending drip, drip, drip of scandal. "Emailgate" or "Servergate" or whatever this gets called won't be the last.
- It's true that "in October 2016, no persuadable voter" will care about the email... but how many formerly persuadable voters will have turned against Hillary before that point?
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed Monday that President Obama is "very interested" in the idea of raising taxes through unitlateral executive action.
"The president certainly has not indicated any reticence in using his executive authority to try and advance an agenda that benefits middle class Americans," Earnest said in response to a question about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) calling on Obama to raise more than $100 billion in taxes through IRS executive action.
King Obama should learn some history.
James Taranto thoroughly mocks John Kerry and Hillary Clinton for their flip-floppery on their support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and makes a keen observation:
Meanwhile, look at the list of prospective GOP presidential candidates (based on the polls we cited in yesterday's column): Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker. Not one of them was in Congress in 2002. That means there is a very strong likelihood the 2016 presidential election will pit a Democrat who voted to authorize the Iraq war against a Republican who didn't. The joke would be perfect if only the Democrat were John Kerry.
It seems like you're on precarious moral ground when you feel compelled to write laws that self-destruct if your opponents win an election. Looks like bad faith and sour grapes on the part of politicians who would take such a path.
The city's new municipal ID program allows for personal info provided by applicants to be destroyed at the end of 2016, in case a conservative Republican wins the White House and demands the data, the law's co-sponsor told The Post on Monday.
City Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn) said the measure was crafted so data submitted by those seeking the cards can be destroyed on Dec. 31, 2016.
The cards are aimed at undocumented immigrants.
"In case a Tea Party Republican comes into office and says, 'We want all of the data from all of the municipal ID programs in the country,' we're going to take the data," he explained.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats in Congress have confidence in President Obama as commander-in-chief. And does anyone have confidence in Congress?
President Obama's request that Congress authorize military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was met with skepticism from both parties on Wednesday, raising questions about Capitol Hill's ability to pass a war measure.
The divide is largely centered on language prohibiting the use of "enduring offensive ground combat operations" against ISIS.
Democrats say this does too little to limit the White House from committing ground troops to the fight, while Republicans say the restrictions could handcuff the military.
How those views can possibly be reconciled isn't clear, even with Obama using his bully pulpit to call on Washington to unify against what he said was a "barbaric" terrorist network.
Obama characterized the legislation, known as an authorization for use of military force (AUMF), as the product of "a sincere effort" to consult with both Republicans and Democrats.
"I'm optimistic that it can win strong bipartisan support and that we can show our troops and the world that Americans are united in this mission," Obama said.
Yet that optimism seemed ill-founded given some of the comments about the AUMF from lawmakers.
-- asks Ann Althouse in response to President Obama's new proposed infrastructure spending.
Quite aside from the problem of new taxes on business, what bothers me here is that Obama's old and extremely expensive "stimulus" package -- back in '09 -- was presented as a transformation of the "infrastructure" -- with lots of talk of roads and bridges -- but where are all those improvements we were gulled into thinking we were getting for our money?
Of the $840 billion spent on the "stimulus" here's how it breaks down ($100 billion not shown):
- $300 billion for tax benefits (remember those $400 tax credits?)
- $220 billion for entitlements (Medicare shortfalls, unemployment insurance...)
- $190 billion for contracts, grants, and loans (retaining teachers, etc.)
- $33 billion for infrastructure
It seems likely that Candidate Obama's youth helped him against Senator McCain, who was 72 when he ran for president in 2008. In 2016, Hillary will be 69 -- younger than McCain, but a striking 22 years older than the average Republican candidate:
Then, there's Clinton's health and age. She'd be 69 by election day next year compared to a field of major Republican candidates with fresh faces who average 50 including Romney and only 47 without him.
Whatever you think of it, it's hard to imagine that age won't be a factor in the election.
I've seen at least three stories in the past two days about low morale at important government agencies. Obviously this isn't all President Obama's fault, but in this day and age where does the buck stop anyway?
Here's a bit about low morale at the Secret Service:
The Secret Service has decided to remove four of its most senior officials while a fifth has decided to retire, the biggest management shake-up at the troubled agency since its director resigned in October after a string of security lapses, according to people familiar with internal discussions. ...
A scathing report by a DHS-appointed panel in December concluded that the agency was suffering from low morale among the rank-and-file and was "starved for leadership."
Here's some humiliating testimony from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen who admits that IRS employees have low morale because they're being required to obey the law.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified Wednesday that the ongoing investigations by Congress into the IRS targeting scandal are having the effect of lowering morale at the tax-collection agency.
Koskinen testified at a House subcommittee on Wednesday, and was asked by a Democrat how IRS workers were holding up under all the pressure from House Republicans seeking emails and other documents. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) said a top IRS lawyer told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week that pressure to respond to Congress's inquiries is putting a strain on workers, and Koskinen agreed.
"When they... are subject to depositions and recorded interviews, it sends -- these are all career people -- it has a deleterious effect on morale because they thought they were actually doing what they were asked to do," Koskinen said.
"Morale in the military is swiftly sinking, with the troops losing both their sense of mission and their faith that their superiors, political leaders - and the nation - still have their best interest at heart," said the Military Times. "Troops say morale has sharply declined over the last five years, and most of those in uniform today believe their quality of life will only get worse."
For example, according to the Military Times survey, in 2009, 91 percent of active-duty service members said their overall quality of life was good or excellent. In 2014, that percentage declined significantly to 56 percent.
"When nearly every category surveyed reveals a significant dip from 2009 to today, we must all take notice and ask, why is morale so low and what can we do to fix it?" said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in response to the Military Times survey. McCain added that it "requires immediate attention and action" by the White House, Pentagon and Congress.
And finally, a story about generally low morale across the Obama administration.
How bad is federal employee morale?
The good news tells the story.
In the 2014 government-wide survey of federal employees, positive responses dropped for 35 questions and increased for just 10 compared with 2013.
As bad as that is, it's a marked improvement compared with the three-year trend in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. From 2011 to 2014, positive responses dropped on 64 questions and increased for none.
Some people are incensed that the bipartisan omnibus spending bill doesn't defund Obamacare, but I think that's a mistaken instinct. "Defunding" is a gimmick move that is played from a weak hand -- because "defunding" is all you've got. With Republicans in control of Congress, they have a lot more options available than turning Obamacare into another funding fight.
There are several items in the bill that are big wins for America:
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE: One of the GOP's favorite targets will see its budget slashed by $345.6 million. The nation's tax agency also would be banned from targeting organizations seeking tax-exempt status based on their ideological beliefs.
The bill once again prohibits new standards that would ban the use of cheaper, less energy efficient incandescent bulbs.
NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH:
The nation's premier medical research agency would receive $30.3 billion, a $150 million overall increase.
The bill stops assistance to the Palestinian Authority if it becomes a member of the United Nations or UN agencies without an agreement with Israel. It also prohibits funds for Hamas.
For the first time, the benefits of current retirees could be severely cut, part of an effort to save some of the nation's most distressed pension plans. The change would alter 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers, many of them part of a shrinking corps of middle-income employees in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets.
The pension change is a big, inevitable change that's been a long time in coming. Pensions can't defy mathematics forever.
From a comment by Cicero Skip over at Ace:
During the 3-1/2 years of World War 2 that started with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and ended with the Surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945, "We the People of the U.S.A." produced the following: 22 aircraft carriers, 8 battleships, 48 cruisers, 349 destroyers, 420 destroyer escorts, 203 submarines, 34 million tons of merchant ships, 100,000 fighter aircraft, 98,000 bombers, 24,000 transport aircraft, 58,000 training aircraft, 93,000 tanks, 257,000 artillery pieces, 105,000 mortars, 3,000,000 machine guns, and 2,500,000 military trucks.
We put 16.1 million men in uniform in the various armed services, invaded Africa, invaded Sicily and Italy, won the battle for the Atlantic, planned and executed D-Day, marched across the Pacific and Europe, developed the atomic bomb, and ultimately conquered Japan and Germany.
It's worth noting, that during the almost exact amount of time, the Obama Administration couldn't even build a web site that worked.
Instead of comparing these accomplishments to the Obamacare website, compare them to the past 13 years of "combat operations" we've suffered through in the Middle East.
Yesterday President Obama issued an executive order declaring that up to five million illegal immigrants will not be deported, and will eventually be given work visas. It seems obvious that the President exceeded his authority, and he did so for at least three reasons: to ease the suffering of millions of people, to win Hispanic affection for the Democrats, and to poke the Republicans in the eye.
Republicans are up in arms over the President's imperial overreach, and their anger is justified. The President intentionally provoked it.
However, everyone needs to settle down. It's important to remember that there are more than ten million people here in the country illegally, and the vast majority of them have committed no crime other than their illegal presence. They're already here, and there's no practical way to "make them leave", no matter how strongly you feel about it. It's just not going to happen. America is not going to forcibly deport ten million people. This executive order didn't "create facts on the ground", it responded to facts on the ground: the people are already here.
Furthermore, President Obama could have Constitutionally issued pardons to each illegal immigrant individually if he wanted to, and there's nothing Congress or any future president could have done about it.
So, while the method and motivation behind this amnesty are troubling, it isn't the end of the republic. 99% of these illegal immigrants will make great Americans. The fact is, America's ambivalence to illegal immigration has led us to where we are now, and we really have no choice but to regularize their presence. If there's a national consensus to avoid this situation in the future, then Congress will have to pass some laws that will actually prevent it, and we citizens will have to elect presidents who will enforce those laws.
I recently received a review copy of "Healing the Heart of Democracy" by Parker J. Palmer and I learned from its perspective, but I fundamentally disagree with Dr. Palmer's main thesis. The book is a high-minded appeal to heal the divisions that polarize American democracy, and although it's inspiring perhaps I'm too much of a cynic to buy in.
Dr. Palmer lays out his thesis best in the introduction:
But these days, "We the People" have a great deal of trouble talking across our lines of difference about the common good -- so much trouble that many of us doubt the very concept of a "common good." Deformed by a divisive political culture, we're less inclined to differ with each other honestly than to demonize each other mercilessly. That's why it's so seductive to gather with folks who share our view of what's wrong and do little more than complain about all those "wrongdoers" who aren't in the room.
If we want to "create a politics worthy of the human spirit," [the book's subtitle -- MW] we must find ways to bridge our differences, whether they are defined by age, gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or political ideology. Then we must seen patches of common ground on the issues we care most about. This is more than a feel-good exercise. If we cannot reach a rough consensus on what most of us want, we have no way to hold our elected officials accountable to the will of the people.
Whew, there's a lot there! Where to begin? First, let me applaud Dr. Palmer for his aspiration. At the micro-level, no one would want a family, church, or workplace as fractured as the American citizenry as a whole. So wouldn't it be nice if we citizens could agree more with each other? However, even this aspiration immediately undercuts Dr. Palmer's thesis: we get to choose our church and workplace, and we get to politely avoid controversial topics when among family. As a result of these choices, we "gather with folks who share our view of what's wrong" in order to create a more pleasant environment for ourselves.
Reading the book (and having just searched the index), it appears to me that Dr. Palmer neglects to consider the impact of the median voter theorem on America's two-party political system. This impact is two-fold (at least) as it relates to his thesis.
- The median voter is defined based on one or more issues that are not accepted as part of the "common good".
- The two parties will always be fighting for the median voter.
In the first case, any issue for which there is common ground among voters will not be the deciding factor for the median voter. The two parties may disagree on this issue (even vehemently), but the voters with strong opinions will have already gravitated to their chosen sides and will not be the median voter. Alternatively, an issue which is accepted by a sizable majority of the population will simply not be in the political spotlight. No one fights over common ground, so it's easy to ignore it. Dr. Palmer appears to do so, and makes no allowance for the huge shifts in common ground that have occurred over the past century. Issues that were once contentious are not anymore: alcohol prohibition, women's suffrage, entering World War 2, capitalism vs. communism, engagement with China, civil rights for black Americans, no-fault divorce, tolerance of homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, contraception (and for unmarried women). The list goes on and on. Within the past century these issues were politically divisive, but now our political system has successfully settled them -- many people still disagree with the majority consensus, and they're free to do so, but the divisions have few political implications. The "common ground" of American politics is huge.
As for the second implication, conflict over the median voter is not a sign of sickness, it's a sign that our democracy is working as intended. It's great for everyone to remain civil and on-topic, but the two parties should vigorously contest the issues that matter to the median voter. Eventually one position will convince enough people that the dividing line will shift and the issue at hand will no longer be a concern for the median voter. This is how the system is supposed to work.
For example, Dr. Palmer makes a brief mention of abortion but focuses entirely on a personal emotions surrounding the issue without considering the underlying political environment. The primary reason that abortion is so divisive is that Roe v. Wade undermined the normal political process by decreeing that abortion is a Constitutional right -- the Supreme Court basically took the ball away from the game and thereby prevented the citizenry from gradually reaching consensus. This was a dangerous precedent, and one way that we Americans can help improve our political climate is to strongly prefer that our differences be resolved by legislation rather than by the courts.
Finally , Dr. Palmer's list of differences is mis-aimed: "age, gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or political ideology". This list accuses the American citizenry of harboring deep divisions due to surface-level bigotry -- a severe misdiagnosis. It's true that some Americans are unreasoning bigots, but for the most part our disagreements are due to significant, substantial differences in our goals and beliefs. Dr. Palmer throws in the word "ideology", which in modern usage is an epithet, to discredit the legitimacy of the political disagreements. Some divisions do line up around the characteristics Dr. Palmer lists, but it's not the characteristics per se that cause the differences; cause-and-effect may run the other way entirely, or the characteristics and underlying beliefs may simply be coincident.
Ultimately, "Healing the Heart of Democracy" is a well-meaning book, but it rings hollow by relying on an underlying belief in the inherent goodness of mankind. I don't history bears out that belief, and I think that our competitive two-party political system with its separation-of-powers is a brilliant approach to mitigating our inherent selfishness. Disagreements should be civil and purposeful, but contentious politicking is not a new thing -- it's been around for millennium and isn't going anywhere. Rather than attempting to fix the surface-level symptoms of our divisions, America would be best-served by strengthening our separation-of-powers, increasing transparency, eliminating politicization in the bureaucracy, and ensuring clean elections.
Obamacare has decimated elected Democrats around the country but it's been good for at least one person: Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber has been paid millions of dollars as a "consultant" for the federal government and numerous state governments. It's pretty offensive that a person with such little respect for the American public has so flagrantly enriched himself at the public trough.
Those "stupid" people have been extremely generous to Mr. Gruber. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2010 investigated the $297,600 that the Department of Health and Human Services paid Mr. Gruber to sing the praises of the health care scheme. Congress -- or part of Congress -- was concerned that this payoff violated a federal law against paid government propaganda, but the GAO said it wasn't a violation because Mr. Gruber had written his propaganda on his own time. Officially, he was paid only to "analyze various health care reform proposals and identify cost and coverage implications."
This is an extraordinarily lucrative enterprise in the age of Obamacare that Mr. Gruber himself brought about. Individual states have lavished taxpayer cash on Mr. Gruber in return for cookie-cutter reports that describe the impact of Obamacare for each of the several states.
Minnesota, for example, used federal Obamacare grants to pay Mr. Gruber to attend one meeting, participate in a biweekly email list and print a copy of the report, all for $329,000. Wisconsin paid Mr. Gruber $400,000 for the same material, requested by the office of then-Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat. When the report was presented, Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, didn't want Mr. Gruber at the news conference. Vermont is paying him another $400,000. Such a deal!
Or, if you prefer a more acerbic conclusion, taxpayers paid Jonathan Gruber in the mid-six-figures to lie to them, and then brag about it to all of his friends and fans later.
Republicans managed to avoid any embarrassing gaffes this year and finally won control of Congress from a faltering Democratic Party. It's common for midterm elections in a president's second term to go against his party, and this election was no exception. The Democrats were thoroughly repudiated by voters, in a sign that President Obama has done little to lift up his party despite his two strong presidential wins.
Riding a powerful wave of voter discontent, resurgent Republicans captured control of the Senate and tightened their grip on the House Tuesday night in elections certain to complicate President Barack Obama's final two years in office.
Republicans also did well in governorships across the country, though the final tally isn't known yet.
There were 36 gubernatorial elections on the ballot, and several incumbents struggled against challengers. Tom Wolf captured the Pennsylvania statehouse for the Democrats, defeating Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn lost in Illinois, Obama's home state. Republican Larry Hogan scored one of the night's biggest upsets, in Maryland.
Republican Charlie Baker was elected governor of Massachusetts. Maine's blunt-speaking Republican governor, Paul LePage, won a second term after a three-way race that focused on whether he was a divisive presence in state government.
So now the real question is: can the Republicans govern? We know that the Democrats were incompetent and more obsessed with protecting Obama's image than running the country. Hopefully the Republicans will focus their energy on effective governance and not on merely embarrassing the President.
Here are a few things to look for in the coming weeks and months:
- How do the demographics of the vote break down? Did Republicans make any gains with women, blacks, or Hispanics?
- Will Obama nominate an attorney general during the lame duck session?
- Will Obama follow through on his immigration agenda?
- Will any liberal Supreme Court justices resign so that Obama can make an appointment during the lame duck session?
- Will the Republicans force Democrats to vote on a straight repeal of Obamacare?
- Will the Republicans force Obama to veto a law authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline?
- Will we ever get to the bottom of the IRS abuse from 2012? Or Benghazi? Or Fast and Furious? Or any of the other scandals the Senate Democrats helped bury?
- Will the Republicans waste their governing opportunity chasing scandals that no one cares about anymore?
Finally, the AP story notes that "the elections' $4 billion price tag spending was unprecedented for a non-presidential year", but is that really a lot of money to spend disputing the governing direction of the most powerful nation on the planet? Coca Cola's marketing budget exceeded $4 billion in 2011.
You should read the whole thing and wince at every critical hit: "President Obama, Ebola and the total collapse of credibility":
Less than two weeks ago, the government told us that the Ebola virus couldn't spread here.
Also, the Internal Revenue Service isn't targeting, the Islamic State is JV, Iraq is secure, the National Security Agency isn't eavesdropping, Benghazi was about a video, the economy is getting better and you can keep your health plan.
The crisis of confidence in government has now reached epidemic levels, just in time for the government to bungle a possible actual epidemic.
The most important question (assuming we don't all get Ebola and die) is whether or not President Obama has fundamentally broken the bureaucracy. Eight years of this behavior create patterns that will be hard to undo -- and it's not like the civil service was working perfectly in 2008 anyway.
My biggest problem with the so-called "War on Poverty" is that it seems more intended to keep bureaucrats employed and grievance-mongers busy than to actually alleviate poverty. For proof, just consider the quantity of money wasted every year (emphasis mine).
Since its beginning, U.S. taxpayers have spent $22 trillion on Johnson's War on Poverty (in constant 2012 dollars). Adjusting for inflation, that's three times more than was spent on all military wars since the American Revolution.
The federal government currently runs more than 80 means-tested welfare programs. These programs provide cash, food, housing and medical care to low-income Americans. Federal and state spending on these programs last year was $943 billion. (These figures do not include Social Security, Medicare, or Unemployment Insurance.)
Over 100 million people, about one third of the U.S. population, received aid from at least one welfare program at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient in 2013. If converted into cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the U.S.
We could "solve" poverty for one-fifth the current price if we eliminated all our means-tested programs (and all the bureaucrats who run them) and simply wrote checks to the families below the poverty line. It seems like this kind of money-saving, welfare-enhancing program is just the kind of thing that could win support from a majority of Americans.
As for structure, my preference would be one or more negative income tax brackets that reward people for working.