Monday, January 6, 2014
President Johnson’s War on Poverty Fifty-Years Later
On this day fifty-years ago LBJ declared as part of his “Great Society” plan a war on poverty. As declared, this was a set of government programs designed to help poor Americans pull themselves out of poverty; such as employment, job training. and improvement of housing. Well we see how well that worked out! I think we can all agree that the war on poverty was a costly and in my view tragic mistake to declare. Particularly, when the results show there was no intent to achieve the goal.
It goes without saying that the people who’ve remained and are in poverty have known it was a failure for decades. Federal and state agencies have poured billions and billions of dollars into the so-called war on poverty and 50 years later the poverty statistics are worst than the when President Johnson declared such a war.
This is what I see; feelings of hopelessness have become so deeply entrenched with many Americans have long forsaken any expectation of a better life; mainly due to high and lasting unemployment. Then for the most part, the governments attempt to treat the despair with welfare programs: more people require and receive federal assistance, including food stamps, AFDC, and SSI disability payments, which is evidence that such a concept has not worked.
This begs the question, why did the war on poverty fail? Do we blame the politicians, activists, or the administrators who set up the welfare programs in the 1960s or do we blame those who are poor for being poor. Sargent Shriver once told Congress during his political career that the nation had “both the resources and the know-how to eliminate grinding poverty in the United States.” President Lyndon Johnson echoed the claim. “For the first time in our history,” Johnson declared, “it is possible to conquer poverty.” I personally agree with both and believe – yes we can!
To most people, these claims seem incredibly naïve. While the state of neediness, we call poverty does not lack material resources. As a result, what it has created is a systemic system of dependency. This involves psychological and moral problems, weak motivation, lack of trust in the system, ignorance, irresponsibility, self-destructiveness, short-sightedness, alcoholism, drug addiction, promiscuity, and violence. To say that all these behavioral and psychological problems can be “abolished” seems almost impossible to overcome.
I say it is the result of no serious effort or maybe a denial of the common-sense Biblical teaching that the wealthy know the poor will always be with us. Actually, according to the way the system was established there must be a permanent underclass in order for the rich to sustain what they’ve taken. Invariable this has bared a heavier burden upon the black and non-white community.
This is an outrage that in a nation with a technology that could provide every citizen with a decent life constantly marred in financial scandal should inflect such social misery.”The republican will tell you that this is not a moral imperative, which makes them seem selfish and insensitive. Particularly when most view the poor as being part of the 47% that they call “takers”. Many also say if the poor stopped engaging in the behavior that plunged them into neediness. Such, as they say, apply themselves, to work, save, stop using drugs, stop having babies they couldn’t support, or to make any other kind of effort to improve themselves.
Let me suggest that of all the wars on whatever, anytime they claim or impose a war on anything – it is doomed to fail. Let me add and be clear, this is the only war worth fight! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…