Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Semicentennial of War on Poverty

This year, the cheer leaders for big government are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the launching of Lyndon B. Johnson's so-called War on Poverty. This should be an occasion for mourning, not celebration, because that was the most expensive legislative failure in our history. Yes, failure. Today we have four million Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months, 49 million Americans living below the poverty line, and 100 million people receiving some form of food aid from the federal government.

Johnson became President in 1964 on the biggest landslide in U.S. history, and then he brought about the largest expansion of government in our history. Instead of lifting Americans out of poverty, President Johnson got Congress to pass 40 federal programs and those 40 programs trapped millions of Americans in permanent dependency. Today's legislative battles -- raising the minimum wage, expanding and perpetuating government-financed health care for seniors and the poor, extending long-term unemployment benefits, and big appropriations to the education establishment are all about extending government spending for the programs that Lyndon B. Johnson started.

LBJ announced his War on Poverty in his 1964 State of the Union address. He then summoned his young speechwriter and told him to use the unfinished John F. Kennedy program "as a springboard” and turn it into an "aggressive Johnson program" so that he could move us “upward to the Great Society." Johnson became fascinated with the term Great Society and talked about it all the time.

LBJ's pie-in-the sky promises, followed by continued expansion of the taxpayer spending he rammed through Congress, gave us a dozen years of what we, with hindsight, can see was a massive change in the role of government. It made millions of our fellow citizens perpetually dependent on government.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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