Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Friday, July 18, 2014

We Haven't Won the War on Poverty

This year is the 50th anniversary, called the semicentennial, of Lyndon B. Johnson’s famous War on Poverty. President Johnson had a super majority of Democrats in Congress in 1964 to back him up, and he used his famous bullying tactics, known as the "Johnson treatment," to push Congress to pass 200 expensive new laws. Key pieces of Great Society legislation were enacted. His friend Joseph Califano boasted that "This country is more the country of Lyndon Johnson than any other president." These new spending bills included the start of Medicare, Medicaid, direct federal aid to public schools, bilingual education, Head Start, food stamps, vocational education, the Job Corps, urban renewal programs, new spending for the arts and humanities, a giant expansion of immigration, public housing, aid to college students, and handouts to PBS and NPR. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Higher Education Act were both born in 1965. Prior to that, federal powers-that-be never presumed to tell schools what to teach.

Charles Murray's influential book called Losing Ground showed that the Great Society's changes actually made the problems of the poor worse, not better. The policy of channeling all welfare money to mothers made the father-provider not necessary, and thereby broke up millions of intact families. Unfortunately, most of LBJ's spending programs survive to this day and continue to increase in cost.

Lyndon Johnson had a special purpose behind his spending. It was not merely to redistribute the wealth. Johnson's goal was to shift power from the states to the federal government, from Congress to executive-branch regulators, and from big-city political machines to Alinsky-style community groups so they could organize and make demands to increase federal power.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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