20 October 2014

When Poverty Was the Enemy, Not the Poor

When Poverty Was the Enemy, Not the Poor (Yes Magazine, 9 October 2014)

Excerpt:
It has been 50 years since America launched the War on Poverty. The Economic Opportunity Act and legislation to outlaw racial discrimination were the centerpieces of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s vision to create a Great Society. Today, rather than a war on poverty, we seem to have a war on the poor. Wealth inequality is growing. State support for education is withering. Social safety-net programs are under attack in Congress. Many Americans believe that if people are poor, it’s their own fault. The only “solution” for poverty that many people advocate is allowing companies to create jobs offering wages too low to support a family.

Although it is now widely—and inaccurately—portrayed as a costly welfare program, the War on Poverty was not a failure. If not for government anti-poverty programs since 1967, the nation’s poverty rate would have been 15 percentage points higher in 2012, according to a study published recently by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

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