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Forum Post: 50 years after LBJ's war on poverty ~ 1% Class War on the 99% & Poor!

Posted 4 years ago on Jan. 8, 2014, 7:56 a.m. EST by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR
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50 years later, war on poverty has new battle lines


LBJ declared war on poverty on Jan. 8, 1964
Political leaders to mark 50th anniversary
Obama expected to address economic inequality in his State of the Union address [Damn Right]

WASHINGTON — Fifty years later, LBJ's audacious promise in his first State of the Union Address may be resounding again.

On Jan. 8, 1964, just seven weeks after John F. Kennedy's assassination propelled him into the Oval Office, Lyndon B. Johnson described to a Joint Session of Congress the plight of Americans who "live on the outskirts of hope" because of poverty or race. "This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America," he declared in his Texas twang, voice rising. Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start and more would follow in a historic rush of legislation.

Now, issues of economic fairness and opportunity once again are fueling a more vocal populism, setting a more liberal Democratic agenda and prompting alternative proposals from some leading Republicans. In his own State of the Union Address this month, President Obama is expected to call for raising the minimum wage, extending long-term unemployment benefits and addressing the dramatically widening gap between the rich and everybody else.

Speaking at a community center in one of the poorest neighborhoods of the capital last month, he called it "the defining challenge of our time." On Capitol Hill Wednesday, California Rep. Barbara Lee will launch a series of 50 speeches in 50 days on the House floor by Democratic members to honor LBJ's campaign and rekindle a national effort against poverty.

"I think income inequality has really hit a nerve, a political nerve," Joseph Califano, LBJ's top White House domestic policy adviser, says approvingly. He notes the populist priorities outlined last week in the inaugural address by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, the most liberal mayor in at least two decades in the nation's largest city. "I think we're going to see a revival of programs really designed to give the poor a lift."

To be sure, there's little prospect Obama will be able to push through major legislation in short order the way Johnson did in the 1960s, utilizing big Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, his legendary legislative skill and the nation's resolve in the wake of JFK's death. From the 1964 State of the Union Address until he left office five years later, Johnson would sign into law landmark measures that extended civil rights protections and established safety net programs. (His presidency also would become mired in the expanding Vietnam War.)

Now, proponents in the Senate have been struggling to restore long-term jobless benefits that lapsed just after Christmas. The reception in the GOP-controlled House is likely to be even less hospitable. Speaker John Boehner says Democrats first must find ways to offset the $6.5 billion cost of a three-month extension.

Whether the legislation passes or not, the debate is putting a spotlight on an emerging set of issues and forcing candidates in midterm elections to take positions on them.

The energy on the Democratic left is offering a stronger offset to the Tea Party movement on the right. It has shifted the discussion on programs such as Social Security; long a target for cuts, some Democrats now argue retirement benefits should be raised. And it is altering the landscape for the 2016 presidential election, and not just for Democrats. Republican presidential prospects Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida each have proposed approaches to combat poverty, though they generally reject LBJ's reliance on government.

"The tectonic plates of our politics have shifted in the last few years," says Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "Our politics are changing, and the issues which have dominated our politics in the past — both Obamacare and the deficit — are not unimportant, but these types of issues may now supersede them."

'Poverty won'

LBJ set the goal high. "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," he declared in his speech, 50 years ago Wednesday. "The richest nation on Earth can afford to win it." (CONTINUED:)


Hayes: Republicans being 'too wimpy' in the fight over unemployment benefits

Published January 06, 2014 | FoxNews.com

Fox News contributor Steve Hayes told viewers on "Special Report with Bret Baier" that Republicans have been "a little too wimpy" in the debate over whether to extend emergency unemployment benefits - a debate that was scheduled to be put to a vote on the Senate floor Monday night, until weather-related travel problems forced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to push the vote until Tuesday morning.

The expired benefits have been consistently renewed since the economy plunged into recession in 2008. While Democrats nearly unanimously support extending the benefits again, some Republicans have voiced opposition to this extension because the current plan doesn't provide for spending cuts elsewhere to make up for the deficit.

"They make a very pragmatic, practical argument about deficit neutrality," Hayes said. "I think that's a fine argument, as far as it goes. But I think Republicans are being a little too wimpy on this. I think it's time to make a moral argument against extended unemployment insurance forever."

Hayes argued that the benefits, once granted sporadically for dire circumstances, could actually lead to greater unemployment levels and are in danger of effectively becoming an entitlement program.

"We’ve been hearing that it'll be cut off now for the better part of five years," Hayes said. "There used to be widespread, bipartisan agreement in Washington that unemployment insurance was sort of the last place to go, the last place that somebody who was down on their luck could turn. Now, it's increasingly becoming a way of life."

"What's surprising to me," Hayes added, "is that Republicans aren't making a moral case about how often unemployment insurance that goes on forever leads to more unemployment."


Report: Florida hit hard by cutoff in federal unemployment benefits


50 Years After the War on Poverty, Will the Middle Class Become the New Poor?

If destructive policies continue, more Americans will come to know poverty firsthand.

January 7, 2014 | AlterNet / By Lynn Stuart Parramore

Fifty years ago today, LBJ threw down the gauntlet on poverty in his famous State of the Union address of 1964. Fired with passion and buoyed by bipartisan support, his anti-poverty team kicked off new health insurance programs for the old and the poor, increased Social Security, established food stamps and nutritional supplements for low-income pregnant women and infants, and started programs to give more young people a chance to succeed, like Head Start and Job Corps.

Americans have greatly benefited from big-picture economic changes like the minimum wage; investments in worker training and education; civil rights policies; social insurance; and programs like food stamps and Medicaid. As Georgetown University’s Peter Edelman pointed out in the New York Times, without these programs, research shows that poverty would be nearly double what it is today. According to economist Jared Bernstein, Social Security alone has reduced the official elderly poverty rate from 44 percent, which it would be without benefits, to 9 percent with them.

Some of our most prominent citizens have enjoyed protection from life’s vagaries through one or another of these measures. President Obama’s family once survived on food stamps. Congressman Paul Ryan was able to pay for school with Social Security survivor benefits when his dad died. A mere generation before, the workhouse or the orphanage might have been their fates.

Yet middle-class Americans are increasingly in danger of learning about poverty firsthand.

Middle-Class Tightrope

The gaps between the rich and poor are the widest they have been in a century, and the middle class is disappearing into the chasm. According to research by economist Emmanuel Saez, the share of income that goes to the top 1 percent has more than doubled since 1964. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the top 1 percent has sucked up nearly all of the income gains in the first three years of the “recovery" — a stupifying 95 percent. The fluidity of American society used to be taken for granted, but now the U.S. lags behind Europe in measurements of mobility. (CONTINUED:)




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[-] 4 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 4 years ago

Why Poverty Is A Much Bigger Problem Than The Government Thinks

By John Halpin, Guest Blogger on January 8, 2014 at 11:42 am

Much has changed in American society since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty” in his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964. Women, people of color, the elderly, and people with disabilities are more strongly protected by law and more integrated into our national economy than they were in the 1960′s (Republican efforts notwithstanding).

But unlike the 1960′s, when GDP and median wages rose together at a steady clip, today’s economy remains woefully bad for millions of Americans. A massive new study from the Half in Ten Campaign and the Center for American Progress of American attitudes about work, the war on poverty, and new proposals to fight poverty in the future underscores just how bad the problem is. Indeed, poverty, far from being a niche concern of “the poor,” is something that touches the lives over half of Americans.

As the chart below highlights, one-quarter to one-third of Americans, and even higher percentages of people of color and Millennials, reported suffering serious economic hardship within the past year. That includes falling behind in rent, mortgage, or utilities payments; being unable to afford enough food or necessary medical care; and failing to keep up with debt payments. A majority of Americans — 54 percent — say that someone in their immediate or extended families is poor, a figure that has increased two points since 2008, when CAP last did polling on poverty issues. Almost two-thirds of African Americans and nearly 60 percent of Latinos report a direct family connection to poverty.

War on Poverty table 1 (see link)

It’s also clear that official government statistics are not capturing the economic reality facing many Americans today. We asked respondents to estimate the official poverty line for a family of four ($23,550 in 2013) and Americans on average believe that it takes just more than $30,000 in annual income for a family of four to be considered poor — nearly $7,000 higher than the official measure.

Americans also believe that the average family of four requires more than $55,000 in annual income to be considered living out of poverty and safely in the middle class. Given these findings, it’s not surprising that the public vastly overestimates the percentage of Americans living in “poverty” as defined by official statistics. While the federal government poverty rate in 2013 was about 15 percent, Americans themselves believe, on average, that 39 percent of their fellow citizens are living in poverty:

War on Poverty table 2 (see link)

Why is there such a large divergence between official statistics and perceptions of actual economic conditions? Primarily because Americans believe the economy is broken. In a forced choice test of competing ideas about structural economic reasons for poverty and personal ones, Americans overwhelmingly choose economic causes. Nearly two in three Americans (64 percent) agree that “Most people who live in poverty are poor because their jobs don’t pay enough, they lack good health care and education, and things cost too much for them to save and get ahead.” By contrast, only 25 percent of Americans agree with a competing idea that “Most people who live in poverty are poor because they make bad decisions or act irresponsibly in their own lives.” Even white conservatives and libertarians prefer the structural explanation for poverty over the personal by a significant margin, 63 to 29 percent.

Because Americans believe the economy is unfairly condemning their fellow citizens to poverty, they support economic policies that would do something about it. We find that anywhere from three-quarters to more than 80 percent of Americans back a range of concrete proposals to help fight poverty. These include an increased minimum wage, universal pre-k, expanded college access, and measures to make health care more affordable.

The implications of this research are clear. The War on Poverty programs that lift millions of out of poverty aren’t failing the poor; our economy is. It’s high time our policymakers took the challenges of a low-wage economy seriously.


[-] 3 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 4 years ago

Ryan on the War on Poverty: 'It has failed'

Thu Jan 9, 2014 7:52 PM EST | By Domenico Montanaro, Deputy Political Editor, NBC News

NBC News' Brian Williams interviews Paul Ryan and a panel of journalists about poverty in America at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Former Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Thursday argued that the War on Poverty has “failed” in an interview with NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams as part of the network's "In Plain Sight" poverty reporting project, commemorating Lyndon Johnson’s the War on Poverty.

“I would give us a failing grade,” Ryan said, before adding of the War on Poverty: “It has failed.”

Ryan argued that the solutions to poverty have less to do with the federal government and more to do with people getting involved in their local communities. For example, Ryan, who is Catholic, cited suburban churches getting involved in urban churches.

“We’ve got to get our communities engaged,” Ryan said, adding, that the “family breakdown” is also part of the problem. He said, “People think it’s being handled by government. ‘I pay my taxes…’ People need to get involved in their own communities” and government, he said, needs to “remove the barriers that allow that to happen.”

Government can do some things, though, Ryan said, such as: “Income support” that “needs to encourage upward mobility and work,” measure whether federal jobs programs work, and school and housing vouchers.

He said “pre-K makes a difference,” but he did not endorse any specific solution – only to say that the government should “stop subsidizing programs that are failing.”

President Obama called for universal pre-K to be a national priority in his State of the Union last year. But there has since been no movement in Congress on expanding it.

The Wisconsin Republican and House Budget Committee chairman has kept a low profile since the 2012 presidential when the Republican ticket of himself and presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost in an electoral landslide. Ryan, who has said social safety nets have “failed miserably,” has made it a point to go to impoverished areas over the past year to try and show Republicans in a more compassionate light.

The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found Republicans lacking in that very area. There was a 28-point empathy gap with Americans saying by a 45-17 percent margin that Democrats did a better job “showing compassion and concern for people.”

Income inequality was a key issue in the presidential race. And an important piece of that was the Ryan budget. It was something President Barack Obama used to hammer the Republicans with. Obama and Democrats amplified that message with Romney's tax plan that favored the wealthy and the video showing Romney talking about what he said were 47 percent of Americans who wanted government entitlements that would vote for Democrats.

The Ryan budget would have substantially restructured Medicare; cut Medicaid, food stamps, and transportation infrastructure; reduce the top tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. The 2011 version of the Ryan budget would have transformed Medicare from a government-run program to one where future seniors receive a voucher or premium support to purchase health insurance from private insurers. The 2012 version, however, would give future seniors the choice of purchasing private insurance or through Medicare’s traditional fee-for-service model.

Ryan and his allies contended a bold plan – reforming entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid – and slashing discretionary spending is needed to reduce the deficit and debt. But critics argued the pain comes primarily from the poor and middle class.

An analysis from the liberal-leaning Center on Budget Policies and Priorities says that 62 percent of the spending cuts in the Ryan budget would come from low-income programs, while 37 percent of its tax benefits would go to those making more than $1 million per year.

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 4 years ago

the general welfare cannot be created through terms of war

[-] 3 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 4 years ago

Randi Rhodes Homework for 1/8/14 Anniversary: War On Poverty


[-] 3 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 4 years ago

Imagine RepubliCons taking up this cause?

Instead they used it against him, as they are today.

[-] -2 points by JesseHeffran (3903) 4 years ago

Of all the Democratic Party cheerleaders on this site, you are the easiest to engage with, so I have to ask you your take on these Promise Zones. What seperates these zones from Enterprize Zone, which are nothing more than corporate exploitation zones? 

For a president who is supposed to be so much better than a right wing thinker, his policy preferences don't seem much better than Republacan ones.  I believe the Democratic Party should be punished for abdicating the fight for their base's interests. If we reward them by giving them political power, will they never learn who they should really be fighting for?

You may call my idea 'chasing unicorns', but I call rewarding left wing capitulation to right wing policy preferences not only rewarding traitors, but it is also committing political suicide. It is the act of always voting for Democrats, no matter how much they fail, that has facilitated our nation's right wing drift.

The left for the last six years has looked more like the right, and I believe the only way they will begin to fight back is if they are punished for their timidity. They have done nothing to address NSA overreach, wealth inequality, nor corporate control of the political process. They have yet changed the narrative from one of needing austerity to one of needing government policies to address economic stagnation.  At this point, a ten percent third party protest vote coupled with a right wing win of the senate may do more to reign in rightward drifting Democrats than rewarding their capitulation. 

I don't know about you, but my mother never rewarded me for failing to heed her rules and wishes, so I believe it to be counterintuitive to reward political parties who blatantly ignore those who gave them power.

[-] 1 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 4 years ago

Oh, thank you, but having zero familiarity with you, other than this familiarly framed missive, I have to assume you're a 1%-Owned RepubliCon Cultist, prostrating your body & mind to your authoritarian leaders. Eew!

My question is why can't you zombies think for yourselves, instead of obeying the Roger Ailes approved dictates on Fox Lies? This does not seem pathetic to you? Especially when you idiots advocate such complete "self dependent individuality?"

A president obeying the laws cannot ignore even a recalcitrant Congress, treasonously defying/ignoring the normal activities and protocol of Congress. After all, he promised to change the predecessors culture of corruption (fraud, lies, laissez faire) ways of presiding. But could not change 40 years of RW entrenchment in one or even two terms.

I call you Unicorn Chasers because you act phantasmagorically. You fail to comprehend/understand the political reality Voter negligence has led us to, what a service your ignorance provides to the GOP, and what a dilemma you put Dems in. And yet you bloviate while being oblivious to these BLARING & DAMAGING facts; erroneously, without your due embarrassment, humiliation, and compensation.

I do not, cannot, believe that you don't know how radically wrong you are. I believe you are feigning ignorance and stupidity. False flag complainers, contrived outrage, GOP plants. This is their Strategy!

You confuse RW-GOP-1% sabotage and obstruction with LW reversal. NO such reversal or capitulation is in effect. Are you saying that you cannot see the Obstruction, Filibuster, Sabotage, and Malfeasance of the Republicon Cult??? And the lack of coverage on the 1%-Owned MSM??? Are you saying that you can't see what's going on???

If you can't see the fire, and you don't realize why things are burning down, and you think people are just self-destructing; you need to Wake The Fuck Up!!!!!!

[-] 4 points by JesseHeffran (3903) 4 years ago

I have no problem thinking for myself. In fact, it was just two years ago I was cheerleading for the Democrats. But then after witnessing first hand the timidity and lack of tanacity my president and his party's congress men have shown, I believe a new tactic is called for. Blaming right wing obstructionism can only get you so far. The president calling for promise zones--being nothing more than a euphemism for trickle down economics--and fast track authority for the TPP cannot be blamed on right wing recalcitrance. These are policy preferences that come straight from the President of the United States.

You have a lot of gull to accuse those who are pondering new tactics as having the inability to think for themselves, when it is the idea of embracing a failed tactic that you vehemently support. Remember you are no great political thinker when you embrace the lesser of two evils argument. It is well trotted path, one preached in every college campus in America. To use such a tactic is to be beholden to other people's ideas and optimizes a lack of thinking for ones self.

Unions and other working class individuals have been supporting the Democratic Party my whole life, and in that time we have slumped farther and farther down a fascist abyss. It has gotten so bad that even if Republicans controlled the Senate for the next two years, I don't believe it could get any worst. And if it did get worst then maybe you would get a majority who has truly awaken. Instead of this gradual slip into a Conservitive's wet dream, which is all your tactic seems to produce.

You may get your jollies off of name calling, but that does not change the fact that more and more people are dumping both parties at a record pace. If you truly wanted to convince me that I am wrong, and not just toot your own egotistical horn, you'd show me where my premise is faulty by directing me to articles where the president did not just pay lip service to the working class plight but attempted to rally for the reappropriation of the productivity gains created these last three decades.

I believe you'd have a hard time proving your case because no matter which side of the political spectrum you look at, neoliberalism is all you see.

Now, you may have your outliers within the Democratic Party, but they are no match for the Washington Consensus, especially while outside-of-the-box thinkers are ostracized by old school political cheerleaders, such as yourself, who hold on to broken promises.

Now that you have the floor once more go ahead and assassinate my character, but remember it is your blind obedience to a failed tactic that has gotten us to this juncture.

[-] 3 points by Renneye (3874) 4 years ago


[-] 0 points by spinoza34 (400) 4 years ago

I second that, Bravo!

[-] -1 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 4 years ago

Whether naivete or 1%-GOP cultism, your blathering misology is equally distracting and diffusive, and offers zero remedy. Just more obstruction and discouragement. Troll.

[-] 0 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 4 years ago

war causes poverty