More than fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “war” on poverty. Since then, the government has created many programs to help lower-income Americans, but a recent House Budget Committee report asks, are they working?
In President Johnson’s state of the union address held on January 8, 1964, he had declared an “unconditional war of poverty.” President Johnson recognized that “very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom.” He further explained that “the cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities.” President Johnson also focused many of his programs around education. From the Head Start program to the Title 1 grants (ESEA) to Pell Grants for college bound kids, these programs help level the field in education for low income children. Currently there are now 28 education and job training programs, costing the federal government around $95 billion a year.
Despite President Reagan’s declaration in 1986 that “we fought a war on poverty and poverty won” over the last half century, poverty has fallen significantly, and other poverty related conditions have also declined. Factors such as a rise in education levels, higher employment among women and smaller families have actually helped push poverty levels down.
Nevertheless, we must recognize that there has been a rise in the number of single-parent families, a large growth in income inequality and a weakening economy, which have all pushed poverty levels up. The government has created many programs to combat these problems, and in recent years, the economy has improved, and assistance for single parent families has also increased through various government support programs.
Many of today’s efforts to combat poverty are focused on healthcare and ensuring that lower income children have a shot at financial success in their future. The government has given millions of Americans access to health care and has continued to fund K-12 education, and college aids and loans.
The government has made substantial progress against the war on poverty. Although not perfect, these government aid programs are effective in fighting the war on poverty. While poverty has not been abolished, the government continues to strengthen its efforts to reduce poverty.