War on Poverty – Part Two


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President Lyndon Banies Johnson State of the Union 1-8-1964

President Lyndon Banies Johnson State of the Union 1-8-1964

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           Welcome back My Dear Readers to The Other Shoe. In yesterday’s article I did not manage to elaborate, on the war on poverty, as much as I wanted. I wanted to convey the current level of poverty, in our great nation, and that progress has been impaired. The war on poverty was started, by (TEXAN) President L.B.J. on January 8th, 1964 with a mandate laid out in his State of the Union speech. Today, I want to share more of the climate in which these programs (making up the War On Poverty) were created, and how these programs have been undermined and gutted.

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First, let me take you all back to 1964 and the political climate in Washington, D.C. This is done, best, with words from the very State of the Union we mark the 50th Anniversary, today.

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        “Last year’s congressional session was the longest in peacetime history. With that foundation, let us work together to make this year’s session the best in the nation’s history.”[1]

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Our last two sessions of Congress have been (rightfully) labeled;

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“The least productive Congress(s) in history…”[2]

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Contrast our current majority party’s Congressional record with the Congress of 1963. Further President Johnson said;

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        “Let this session of Congress be known as the session which did more for civil rights than the last hundred sessions combined; … as the session which declared all-out war on human poverty and unemployment in these United States; as the session which finally recognized the health needs of all our older citizens; as the session which reformed our tangled transportation and transit policies… and as the session which helped to build more homes, more schools, more libraries, and more hospitals than any single session of Congress in the history of our Republic.”[3]

This is what it sounds/looks like when a President sets an agenda for an upcoming Congress. This is what it is to have a President feel the weight of legacy upon him, brought on by a great predecessor.

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President Lyndon Banies Johnson State of the Union

President Lyndon Banies Johnson State of the Union

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HERE are words that our current Speaker of the House of Representatives and Majority of the House must heed:

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        “If we fail, if we fritter and fumble away our opportunity in needless, senseless quarrels between Democrats and Republicans, or between the House and the Senate, or between the South and North, or between the Congress and the administration, then history will rightfully judge us harshly.”[4]

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Therefore, history will judge the 112th and 113th Congress(s) “harshly”. I have written that, using that exact wording, previously here at The Other Shoe. I am comforted and vindicated by President Johnson’s 50 year old evaluation of our last two sessions of Congress. Some final words, from President Johnson (a TEXAN), about the proper duty of Congress.

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        “Here in the Congress you can demonstrate effective legislative leadership by discharging the public business with clarity and dispatch, voting each important proposal up, or voting it down, but at least bringing it to a fair and a final vote.”[5]

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Our current Speaker and majority in the House of Representatives need to learn from the past, to avoid being “rightfully judge(ed)… harshly”. Now, on to the passages I failed to share, yesterday.

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        “Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope—some because of their poverty, and some because of theft color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.”[6]

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True in 1964, and quite sadly true in 2014. However, today we are told by elements of the Republican party that the path to prosperity for all is not to be shouldered by the Federal government. Rather, we should trust the forces of greed and avarice to correct the crippling poverty that grips tens of millions of Americans. Lying to the American people by saying that ‘the war on poverty has failed… because it was entrusted to the federal government…’ Nothing further from the truth could be spoken, more about that later.

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First, I want to share with you My Dear Readers the very words that set America on a ‘War on Poverty’ fifty years ago today.

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        “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort. It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it. One thousand dollars invested in salvaging an unemployable youth today can return $40,000 or more in his lifetime.”[7]

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  1.    “declares unconditional war on poverty in America”
  2.     “It will not be a short or easy struggle…” (yet in 1970 President Nixon worked to end or dismantle many of the programs started by that Congress)
  3.     “The richest nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it”
  4.     “One thousand dollars invested in salvaging an unemployable youth today can return $40,000 or more in his lifetime”

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Every single fact outlined above is as true today, as it was on January 8th, 1964. Yet, today we fact a poverty rate of nearly 17%. ONLY TWO percentage points shaved off in fifty years! Shame on America.

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President Lyndon Banies Johnson State of the Union

President Lyndon Banies Johnson State of the Union

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    “Poverty is a national problem, requiring improved national organization and support. But this attack, to be effective, must also be organized at the state and the local level and must be supported and directed by state and local efforts. For the war against poverty will not be won here in Washington. It must be won in the field, in every private home, in every public office, from the courthouse to the White House.”[8]

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It is unequivocal than (TEXAN) President Johnson understood that poverty was a “national problem” and as such should be addressed on the national stage. Clearly, this was a chore far too large to be handled by the individual states. For those of us that were alive, and politically aware in 1964, we clearly saw states squander funds meant for the poor. We saw many southern states allow “starvation wages” to be paid to employees in their respective states. This is as true today, as it was in 1964.

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As well, EACH AND EVERY one of these goals are true today, as they were in 1964:

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Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it. No single piece of legislation, however, is going to suffice. We will launch a special effort in the chronically distressed areas of Appalachia. We must expand our small but our successful area redevelopment program. We must enact youth employment legislation to put jobless, aimless, hopeless youngsters to work on useful projects. We must distribute more food to the needy through a broader food stamp program. We must create a National Service Corps to help the economically handicapped of our own country as the Peace Corps now helps those abroad. We must modernize our unemployment insurance and establish a high-level commission on automation. If we have the brain power to invent these machines, we have the brain power to make certain that they are a boon and not a bane to humanity. We must extend the coverage of our minimum wage laws to more than two million workers now lacking this basic protection of purchasing power.”

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These goals were met, by the Congress of 1964 &1965. By 1968 and 1969 America was gaining in the ‘War On Poverty’. Then, the Vietnam war heated up and the ‘Space Race’ demanded more of our national resources. Further, President Nixon had a particular personal dislike for the programs started under President Johnson, and F.D.R. From the his first days in office, President Nixon sought to cut all of the programs in the ‘War on poverty’ just as they were beginning to show promise.

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    “Nixon greatly disliked the programs of the War on Poverty–Head Start, the Job Corps, community action–and also Model Cities, the other big Great Society program aimed specifically at the ghettos. “No increase in any poverty program until more evidence is in,” he wrote Ehrlichman two months after taking office.”[9]

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The proof was in the statistics, as seen here;

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    “…the government began cutting off the route of escape from the ghettos that so many had used in the sixties: government jobs. Simply giving out money doesn’t get people out. From the time Nixon took office, the black rate of exit from poverty slowed to a standstill.”

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Under President Reagan we began to hear the mantras of ‘welfare queens’ and (with help from organizations like the John Birch Society) the mischaracterization of the poor as lazy, shiftless and living on the government dole. These bigoted statements became more of a norm under President(s) Bush, and have hit their stride with daily use on many programs on Fox ‘News’, and Rush Limbaugh.

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Too many Americans have become intellectually lazy, when it comes to the sociology of poverty, and allow themselves to be caught up in hyperbolic political rhetoric and bigotry. To some extend, I do fault these individuals for the simple fact that; if you are going to make sociological comments. One MUST be able to intellectually explain the underpinnings of their ‘opinion’. Further, they should be able to outline their rejection of previously proven social mechanisms of addressing poverty, as evidenced by the irrefutable evidence of the effectiveness of the federal programs of the ‘War on Poverty’ when fully funded.

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For six brief years America attacked the poverty in the “richest nation on earth”, then we lost our resolve… then too many good people have fallen prey to hyperbolic rhetoric and bigotry.

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Now is the time to renew the pledge to ourselves and our posterity. A pledge to eradicate poverty in the richest nation on earth, in our lifetimes. To make sure that all workers in America receive a ‘Living Wage’ and that no child should go to bed hungry. These are reasonable goals, these are obtainable goals.

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However, to think that simply trusting ‘free enterprise’… greed and avarice to solve our national problem of poverty? Is a lie wrapped in avarice. This is a national goal, for only our national resolve is strong enough to beat back the forces of greed and avarice and free our fellow man… fellow Americans from the terrible grips of poverty.

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As always I am flattered that you come here and read my work.

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Thank you!

 

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About Daniel Hanning
I am a; writer, editor and publisher. I write, most often, articles about our space program, fun videos andpolitical works. My most recent additions are; A Week In Review, Sunday Funnies and The Adventures of Nadia. Along with The Mars Report and Lost in Space. ENJOY!

One Response to War on Poverty – Part Two

  1. Pingback: A Week In Review – January 12th, 2014 | The Other Shoe

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