Poverty among Americans between ages 18-64 has fallen only marginally since 1966, from 10.5% then to 10.1% today. Poverty has significantly fallen among Americans under 18 years old from 23% in 1964 to 16.3% today. The most dramatic decrease in poverty was among Americans over 65, which fell from 28.5% in 1966 to 10.1% today.I don't know how many billions have been spent, but it doesn't look like we've moved much except in the 65+ age group.
In 2004, more than 35.9 million, or 12% of Americans including 12.1 million children, were considered to be living in poverty with an average growth of almost 1 million per year.
UPDATE: John Rosenthal discusses the premature announcement of "the end of poverty" in Europe here with special attention to France:
Nonetheless, if it has not quite succeeded in "abolishing" poverty yet, the EU has indeed managed to make a remarkably large share of poverty in Europe disappear -- that is, as far as the official statistics are concerned. Thus, the EU statistical office, Eurostat, defines the poverty line -- or rather what it more gingerly describes as "the risk-of-poverty threshold" -- not in absolute terms, as in the US statistics, but rather as 60 percent of the median national income in each country. Thus, for example, the Portuguese "risk-of-poverty" threshold for a family of four gets set at around €10,000.Hmmm. I wonder how well How to Lie with Statistics sold to Eurostat employees?
Given the massive disparities in income among European countries, this convention makes for some interesting results. Whereas, for instance, according to Eurostat, a German family of four is "at risk" of falling into poverty with an annual income of €20,000, a Romanian family of four only "risks" poverty with an income roughly ten times less. (See here for a comparative chart from Eurostat including Germany [DE] and Romania [RO].) In this way, the EU has already eliminated a great deal of poverty in Romania even before the country's formal adhesion to the EU scheduled for 2007. Reason enough for the New York Times to be impressed!