History Bite

Who Do We Have To Thank For The Welfare State?

This name is surely on the tip of every American’s tongue: Otto von Bismark. In the late 1800s, Bismark brought German states under Prussian leadership and led Germany to become a world power.  However, despite having a conservative worldview, in order to galvanize his power in the newly unified Germany,  Bismarck created Europe’s first modern welfare state: nationalized healthcare (1883), accident insurance (1884) and old age pension (1889).

The Welfare State Comes to America

America’s “Otto von Bismark” was President Lyndon B. Johnson.  With stated goals of ending poverty, reducing crime, abolishing inequality and improving the environment, the “Great Society” ushered in the largest social welfare plan in modern history.

1963: Johnson launched the “War on Poverty” including federal funding for community action programs, loans and guarantees for employers offering work to the unemployed , grants to farmers and help for unemployed parents preparing for the workforce.

1964: Democrats controlling Congress voted Medicare and Medicaid programs into law.  Medicare covered hospital and physician costs for the elderly and Medicaid covered healthcare costs for people already receiving cash assistance from the government.

1965: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act guaranteed federal funding for education in school districts whose student majority was low income.

1965: the Housing and Urban Development Act provided federal funds to cities for urban renewal and development

1965: the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Arts directed federal funds to support cultural organizations including museums, libraries, public television, public radio and public archives.

1965:  Water Quality Act set national water quality standards

Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act formed the first vehicle emissions standards

Consumer Product Safety Commission and Child Safety Act created consumer product safety rules

Policies such as these may be useful but they have grown the administrative state which  is needed to promote and enforce these regulations adding significantly to the cost of growing, ever-expanding  government.