News / USA

Fifty-Year 'War on Poverty' Brings Progress, Not Victory

Fifty-Year 'War on Poverty' Brings Progress, Not Victoryi
X
January 05, 2014 1:06 AM
Fifty years after U.S. President Lyndon Johnson declared a "war on poverty," experts are debating how many battles have been won. As VOA's Kent Klein reports, the so-called "war" has resulted in many government social programs, some more effective than others.

VIDEO: Fifty years after U.S. President Lyndon Johnson declared a "war on poverty," experts are debating how many battles have been won. VOA's Kent Klein reports.

TEXT SIZE - +
Kent KleinKatherine Gypson
In January 1964, President Johnson was aware that almost one in every five Americans lived in poverty.

In his first State of the Union address, just weeks after taking office, he proposed a solution.

File - President Lyndon B. Johnson delivers State of the Union address to joint session of Congress, Washington, Jan. 8, 1964.File - President Lyndon B. Johnson delivers State of the Union address to joint session of Congress, Washington, Jan. 8, 1964.
x
File - President Lyndon B. Johnson delivers State of the Union address to joint session of Congress, Washington, Jan. 8, 1964.
File - President Lyndon B. Johnson delivers State of the Union address to joint session of Congress, Washington, Jan. 8, 1964.
"And this administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America," he said, issuing his first salvo in the "war" that would take the form of new programs to improve nutrition, health care, education and job training.

"Our chief weapons in a more pinpointed attack will be better schools, and better health, and better homes, and better training, and better job opportunities," he said.

According to James Jones, who later became Johnson's chief of staff, the president wanted to complete the unfinished domestic agenda of previous Democratic Party presidents.

"Things such as Medicare, which [then-President] Harry Truman first proposed in around 1946-47, and nothing had been done on that," said Jones. "Things such as fair housing, which, again, went back to the Truman administration, and nothing had happened in 20 years."

File - President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, center left, leave home of Tom Fletcher, a father of eight who told Johnson he'd been out of work for nearly two years, Inez, Kentucky, April 24, 1964.File - President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, center left, leave home of Tom Fletcher, a father of eight who told Johnson he'd been out of work for nearly two years, Inez, Kentucky, April 24, 1964.
x
File - President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, center left, leave home of Tom Fletcher, a father of eight who told Johnson he'd been out of work for nearly two years, Inez, Kentucky, April 24, 1964.
File - President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, center left, leave home of Tom Fletcher, a father of eight who told Johnson he'd been out of work for nearly two years, Inez, Kentucky, April 24, 1964.
When President Johnson and his wife toured impoverished areas in 1964, 19 percent of Americans lived in poverty. Today's figure is 15 percent, not good enough according to Michael Tanner, senior fellow at Washington's Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

"That's not a great deal when you consider how much money we've spent," he said. "If you want to reach back to 1964, we've spent maybe $15 trillion, and yet poverty seems to be pretty flat."

Critics in Congress say spending on poverty reduction programs is out of control, and the Republican-led House of Representatives recently voted to cut funding for the Food Stamp assistance program by about $4 billion a year.

Tanner also says the wide availability of welfare benefits reduces the incentive to work.

"Look, poor people are not lazy, but they're also not stupid," he said. "If you pay people more not to work than they could make by working, then chances are many of them are going to consider — think twice, at least — about working."

Still, Johnson's initiatives, despite their flaws, have lifted millions out of poverty, says Ron Haskins, a former White House and congressional advisor on welfare issues and co-director of the Center on Children and Families at The Brookings Institution, a Washington-based non-profit research organization.

"The general direction and the focus on poverty and some of the specific programs have been enormously successful," said Haskins. "The country is better off because Johnson did it."

Former aide Jones says the programs that arose from the War on Poverty were among Lyndon Johnson's top achievements.

"I think, now that history has had a 50-year look at his time, I think they're beginning to appreciate that he really was an outstanding president," he said.

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Taxed Enough
January 05, 2014 4:55 PM
The more you pay people to be poor, the more poor people you will have. Check out LBJ's so-called War On Poverty. $16 TRILLION given to the poor since the 1960s with 80 means tested welfare programs and we have more poor now than we did then. And we are $16 TRILLION in debt. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that the two numbers are closely related and that all those giveaways do not work. Of course the liberals still have a problem making the connection.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid