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.
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

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs