War on Poverty

From Academic Kids

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The War on Poverty (1964-1968) was a campaign of legislation and social services aimed at reducing or eliminating poverty in the United States of America. The term was first introduced by Lyndon B. Johnson during his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964. The legislation was designed in response to the poverty affecting over 35 million Americans as of 1964. The poverty line was on a sharp decline and not a rise nor fluctuation at the time Johnson was campaigning.

"This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America."
- Lyndon B. Johnson

Michael Harrington's book The Other America, 1962, is sometimes credited with being a catalyst in this moment.

Campaign Results
Historical Notes

The U.S. government continues to use the antiquated Orshansky measure of the poverty line, a measure which is only adjusted for inflation, and not adjusted for the actual cost of living against median income. in the 1960s the average cost of living was a mere 30% of individual income, today the cost of living averages 50% of household income. Because of this skew in measuring the poverty line it's believed that the current U.S. Census statistics published could actually be closer to 50 million Americans.

The 'War on Poverty' was enacted in response to hard economic times which saw a poverty rate of around 25%, however, the War on Poverty was enacted at a time of recovery and some viewed it as a last-chance effort to get congress to authorize social welfare programs, something that Conservatives have always railed against and continue to oppose.

Overall Campaign Success

Since 1965 America has never seen more than a 4% drop in the poverty rate. Poverty saw a low point in 1971 -- 1972 around the same time America and other nations adopted fiat money and abolished the gold standard. Since 1972 the poverty line and the cost of welfare has become higher than it was in 1965. Again the Orshansky method of measuring poverty not being updated for modern costs requires emphasis.


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