Sophia Weisheit American Political Thought Final PaperLOST THE WAR ON POVERTY The war on poverty is one that never ends. Throughout history we as a nation have been fighting this domestic war for a while and there is still no solution for this problem even after multiple attempts. The term “war on poverty” generally refers to a set of initiatives proposed by Johnson’s administration, passed by Congress, and implemented by his Cabinet agencies. As Johnson put it in his 1964 State of the Union address announcing the effort, “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptoms of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.”(Washington Post) According to Lyndon Baines Johnson (36th President of the United States) the reason that the war on poverty feels like it is never ending is because of the government. President Johnson stated: “Lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities. In a lack of education and training.
In a lack of medical care and housing. In a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children. Our joint federal-local effort must pursue poverty. Pursue it wherever it exists: In city slums and small towns, in sharecropper shacks or in migrant worker camps, on Indian reservations — among whites as well as Negroes, among the young as well as the aged, in the boomtowns and in the depressed areas. Our aim is not only to relieve the symptoms of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.” This really explains his thoughts and reasons of why the government for him is the main reason why poverty has been such a problem in the United States. Though this may have been a noble goal by President Johnson the reality is that with the government intervention into the lives of the poor and the dollar cost of the effort comes into. There were approximately 40 million Americans that were under the poverty line in 1965.
The cost of the poverty program was 75 billion dollars or 39 percent of all public spending. That means that the US Government spent on average of 5,333 dollars per person. By 1972 the cost of the poverty program had climbed to 185 Billion dollars and 46 percent of all public spending and approximately 33 million Americans for a cost of 17,830 dollars per person. The census counts per family were as poor if its “income” falls below certain lines and qualifications. Counting “income,” Census ignores almost all of the $943 billion in annual welfare spending. This, of course, makes the Census poverty figures very misleading. Ronald Reagan famously said “We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won” In his 1985 radio speech President Reagan stated “We’re in danger of creating a permanent culture of poverty as inescapable as any chain or bond; a second and separate America, a America of lost dreams and stunted lives. The irony is that misguided welfare programs instituted in the name of compassion have actually helped turn a shrinking problem into a national tragedy.
From the 1950’s on, poverty in America was declining. American society, an opportunity society, was doing its wonders. Economic growth was providing a ladder for millions to climb up out of poverty and into prosperity.
In 1964 the famous War on Poverty was declared and a funny thing happened. Poverty, as measured by dependency, stopped shrinking and then actually began to grow worse. I guess you could say, poverty won the war. Poverty won in part because instead of helping the poor, government programs ruptured the bonds holding poor families together.” President Reagan saw that people should have opportunities and addressed this in his 1st inaugural, he said “It is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work—work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it. “In that same speech President Reagan also said “We shall reflect the compassion that is so much a part of your makeup.
How can we love our country and not love our countrymen, and loving them, not reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they are sick and provide opportunities to make them self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just in theory?” The 1980s became known as “decade of greed,” the annual rate of growth in total charitable giving in the 1980s was nearly 55 per cent higher than in the previous 25 years, according to Richard McKenzie. As he wrote, “No matter how the records of giving is measured, the 1980s were in fact a decade of renewed charity and generosity.” President Reagan, was a big fan of private nonprofit groups to help out those in need due to the many cuts in government programs. In the early stages of his presidency, he was a supporter of an organization known as : The Task Force on Private Sector Initiatives lead by a man named C. William Verity.
This organization was designed to help out different government programs that needed funding as well as non profit organizations that also needed a generous benefactor to keep up and running. They also wanted to “out” / prevent philanthropists from doing more than just help communities and individuals get back on their feet, this movement/ organization’s overall impact on the general public was small and minuscule in comparison to other social and economic reforms that helped boost those in need. President Reagan saw the way to eliminate poverty was to minimize the use of public funds and move toward private charities. The main reason for this was that President Reagan recognized that the use of government funds prohibited individuals from being motivated to work their way out of poverty. President Reagan also saw that by persuading congress to pass the largest tax cut in American history unleashing the American economy and creating jobs to allow people to raise out of poverty.
As President Reagan said “a rising tide lifts all boats.”Though the number of Americans who lived under the poverty line was lower than in 1964 the percentage was higher than the 1970’s. It must be remembered that President Reagan enter office during the worst recession of all in 1981-1982, with unemployment soaring into double digits at a peak of 10.8%. At the same time America suffered from double-digit inflation, with the CPI registering at 11.3% in 1979 and 13.5% in 1980 (25% in two years). Along with double -digit interest rates, the prime rate peaked at 21.
5% in 1980. The poverty rate started increasing in 1978, eventually climbing by an astounding 33%, from 11.4% to 15.2%. A fall in real median family income that began in 1978 and declined almost 10% by 1982. In president Reagan’s final year the poverty rate didn’t improve, and Reagan did not accomplish the goal of reducing government funding on poverty; he had only reduced the growth during his term. To date the cost of the war on poverty to date is about 22 Trillion dollars. The sad part is that we did lose the war on poverty, but that doesn’t mean that as Americans we should stop fighting the war because we keep losing, it means that we should come up with more ways to help decrease poverty in out nation.
Poverty is something that isn’t going to go away forever because we live in a capitalistic society, but it can substantially decrease. Lenkowsky, Leslie. “Ronald Reagan Helped Philanthropy, Despite How Much Nonprofit World Objected to His Policies.” The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 10 June 2004, www.philanthropy.com/article/Ronald-Reagan-Helped/168649.Matthews, Dylan.
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