Tuesday, October 14, 2014

War on Poverty has turned into a war against poor people, writer says

President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, launched 50 years ago, has now morphed into a war against the poor, Tom Eblen writes for Yes! Magazine. "Wealth inequality is growing. State support for education is withering. Social safety-net programs are under attack in Congress. Many Americans believe that if people are poor, it’s their own fault. The only 'solution' for poverty that many people advocate is allowing companies to create jobs offering wages too low to support a family." (LBJ Presidential Library photo: President Johnson visits with Appalachian residents)

"Although it is now widely—and inaccurately—portrayed as a costly welfare program, the War on Poverty was not a failure," Eblen writes. "If not for government anti-poverty programs since 1967, the nation’s poverty rate would have been 15 percentage points higher in 2012, according to a study published recently by the National Bureau of Economic Research."

"For the many Americans committed to fighting economic injustice, the War on Poverty offers some valuable lessons. It showed what can work—and what is still working," Eblen writes. "It can even work in some of America’s poorest places, such as the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky where Johnson traveled in 1964 to launch his 'war' from the front porch of a poor laborer’s cabin."

"Johnson’s passion for ending poverty was not shared by his successor, Richard Nixon," Eblen writes. "By the early 1970s, the Nixon Administration had killed or neutered many War on Poverty programs."

"At its core, the War on Poverty was not about a handout, but a hand up," Eblen writes. "It was about creating economic opportunity and giving poor people the skills and support they needed to take advantage of it. And it was about giving poor people a voice in decisions affecting their lives. A half-century ago, Americans made a commitment to fight a war on poverty, and we could do it again. Creating a society that is more fair, just and prosperous for everyone is a fight worth winning." (Read more)

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