THE WAR ON POVERTY 50 YEARS LATER: A PROGRESS REPORT.


 

By Jueseppi B.

President Lyndon Johnson, on the porch of Tom Fletcher's cabin, listens to Fletcher describe some of the problems in Martin County, Ky., in 1964.

President Lyndon Johnson, on the porch of Tom Fletcher’s cabin, listens to Fletcher describe some of the problems in Martin County, Ky., in 1964.

 

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson stood before Congress and declared an “unconditional war on poverty in America.” His arsenal included new programs: Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, food stamps, more spending on education, and tax cuts to help create jobs.

 

At the time, 1 in 5 Americans was poor. Today, things are better, but tens of millions of Americans are still living at or below the poverty level. That raises the question: Did the war on poverty fail? In the coming year, NPR will explore this question and others about the impact and extent of poverty in the U.S., and what can be done to reduce it.

 

Amy Brundage and Jessica Schumer
January 08, 2014
10:33 AM EST

 

Fifty years ago, in January of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “War on Poverty” and introduced initiatives designed to improve the education, health, skills, jobs, and access to economic resources of those struggling to make ends meet.

 

Read the President’s statement on the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty here.

 

In the decades since, we have made progress in reducing poverty — but we still have work to do. Today, in a new report, the Council of Economic Advisers presents evidence of the progress made possible by decades of bipartisan efforts to fight poverty by expanding economic opportunity and rewarding hard work.

 

Take a look at the report here.

 

 

Statement by the President on the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty

As Americans, we believe that everyone who works hard deserves a chance at opportunity, and that all our citizens deserve some basic measure of security.  And so, 50 years ago, President Johnson declared a War on Poverty to help each and every American fulfill his or her basic hopes.  We created new avenues of opportunity through jobs and education, expanded access to health care for seniors, the poor, and Americans with disabilities, and helped working families make ends meet.

 

Without Social Security, nearly half of seniors would be living in poverty.  Today, fewer than one in seven do.  Before Medicare, only half of seniors had some form of health insurance.  Today, virtually all do.  And because we expanded pro-work and pro-family programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit, a recent study found that the poverty rate has fallen by nearly 40% since the 1960s, and kept millions from falling into poverty during the Great Recession.

 

These endeavors didn’t just make us a better country.  They reaffirmed that we are a great country.  They lived up to our best hopes as a people who value the dignity and potential of every human being.  But as every American knows, our work is far from over.  In the richest nation on Earth, far too many children are still born into poverty, far too few have a fair shot to escape it, and Americans of all races and backgrounds experience wages and incomes that aren’t rising, making it harder to share in the opportunities a growing economy provides.

 

That does not mean, as some suggest, abandoning the War on Poverty.  In fact, if we hadn’t declared “unconditional war on poverty in America,” millions more Americans would be living in poverty today.  Instead, it means we must redouble our efforts to make sure our economy works for every working American.  It means helping our businesses create new jobs with stronger wages and benefits, expanding access to education and health care, rebuilding those communities on the outskirts of hope, and constructing new ladders of opportunity for our people to climb.

 

We are a country that keeps the promises we’ve made.  And in a 21st century economy, we will make sure that as America grows stronger, this recovery leaves no one behind.  Because for all that has changed in the 50 years since President Johnson dedicated us to this economic and moral mission, one constant of our character has not: we are one nation and one people, and we rise or fall together.

 

 

THE WAR ON POVERTY 50 YEARS LATER: A PROGRESS REPORT

 

The Council of Economic Advisers January 2014

 

Executive Summary

“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope—some because of their poverty,
and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace
their despair with opportunity. This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional
war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort.”

- President Lyndon B. Johnson, January 8, 1964

 

Fifty years ago, in January of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “War on Poverty”
and introduced initiatives designed to improve the education, health, skills, jobs, and access to
economic resources of those struggling to make ends meet. While there is more work to do, in
the ensuing decades we have strengthened and reformed many of these programs and had
significant success in reducing poverty.

 

 

In this report, the Council of Economic Advisers presents
evidence of the progress made possible by decades of bipartisan efforts to fight poverty by
expanding economic opportunity and rewarding hard work. We also document some of the
key steps the Obama Administration has taken to further increase opportunity and economic
security by improving key programs while ensuring greater efficiency and integrity. These steps
prevented millions of hardworking Americans from slipping into poverty during the worst
economic crisis since the Great Depression.

 

 Poverty has declined by more than one-third since 1967.

 

 The percent of the population in poverty when measured to include tax credits and
other benefits has declined from 25.8 percent in 1967 to 16.0 percent in 2012.

 

 These figures use new historical estimates of the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty
Measure (SPM) anchored to today’s poverty thresholds. The SPM is widely
acknowledged to measure poverty more accurately than the official poverty measure,
which excludes the value of refundable tax credits and benefits like nutrition assistance
and has other limitations.

 

 By anchoring the measure to today’s poverty standards we are able to ask how many
people in each year since 1967 would have had inflation-adjusted family resources
below the 2012 SPM poverty thresholds.

 

 Despite real progress in the War on Poverty, there is more work to do.

 

 In 2012, there were 49.7 million Americans grappling with the economic and social
hardships of living below the poverty line, including 13.4 million children.

 

 While the United States is often seen as the land of economic opportunity, only about
half of low-income Americans make it out of the lowest income distribution quintile
over a 20-year period. About 40 percent of the differences in parents’ income are
reflected in children’s income as they become adults, pointing to strong lingering effects
from growing up in poverty.

 

 This significant decline in poverty is largely due to programs that have historically
enjoyed bipartisan support and increase economic security and opportunity.

 

 

 A measure of “market poverty,” that reflects what the poverty rate would be without
any tax credits or other benefits, rose from 27.0 percent to 28.7 percent between 1967
and 2012. Countervailing forces of increasing levels of education on the one hand, and
inequality, wage stagnation, and a declining minimum wage on the other resulted in
“market poverty” increasing slightly over this period. However, poverty measured taking
antipoverty and social insurance programs into account fell by more than a third,
highlighting the essential role that these programs have played in fighting poverty.

 

 Programs designed to increase economic security and opportunity lifted over 45 million
people from poverty in 2012, and led to an average of 27 million people lifted out of
poverty per year for 45 years between 1968 and 2012. Cumulatively these efforts
prevented 1.2 billion “person years” of poverty over this period.

 

 Social Security has played a crucial role in lowering poverty among the elderly. Poverty
among those aged 65 and older was 35 percent in 1960. Following rapid expansions in
Social Security in the 1960s and 1970s, poverty among the elderly fell to 14.8 percent in
2012.

 

 These programs are especially important in mitigating poverty during recessions.
Despite an increase in “market poverty” of 4.5 percentage points between 2007 and
2010, the poverty rate, appropriately measured, rose only 0.5 percentage points due to
both existing programs and immediate actions taken by President Obama when he took
office in response to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

 

“Deep poverty”—defined as the fraction of individuals living below 50 percent of the
poverty line has declined as a result of these programs. Without government tax credits
or other benefits, 19.2 percent of the U.S. population would have been in deep poverty
in 2012, but only 5.3 percent were in deep poverty when these benefits are included.

 

 Programs that strengthen economic security and increase opportunity continue to
be essential in keeping millions of Americans out of poverty and helping them work
their way into the middle class.

 

 Social Security benefits reduced the 2012 poverty rate by 8.5 percentage points among
all individuals, and by 39.9 percentage points among those aged 65 or older.

 

 

 Tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC)
reduced the 2012 poverty rate by 3.0 percentage points among all individuals, and by
6.7 percentage points among children.

 

 The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly known as the Food
Stamp Program—reduced poverty in 2012 by 1.6 percentage points among all
individuals, and by 3.0 percentage points among children.

 

 Unemployment Insurance (UI) reduced poverty by 0.8 percentage points in 2012.

 

 Antipoverty programs have been increasingly oriented around rewarding and
encouraging work and are an important source of opportunity for low-income
working families.

 

 Both the EITC and the partially refundable component of the CTC increase the reward to
work, offsetting payroll taxes and providing a supplement to labor market earnings.
Research has shown this increases work and earnings, and increases participation in the
workforce, particularly for single parents.

 

 Some traditional antipoverty programs have been redesigned to encourage and
promote work. The vast majority of Americans receiving nutrition assistance have a job
or are either too young to work, are over age 65 or are disabled. Meanwhile, bipartisan
welfare reform signed by President Clinton in 1996 strengthened work requirements
and put a greater emphasis on employment.

 

 Despite concerns that antipoverty programs may discourage employment, the best
research suggests that work disincentive effects are small or nonexistent for most
programs.

 

 Programs that help fight poverty and provide economic security touch a wide swath
of Americans at some point in their lives.

 

 Programs that fight poverty help a broad range of Americans get back on their feet after
economic misfortune. For example, about half of taxpayers with children used the EITC
at some point between 1979 and 2006, and over two-thirds of Americans aged 14 to 22
in 1979 received income from SNAP, AFDC/TANF, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or
UI at some point between 1978 and 2010.

 

 Social Security Old Age and Survivors’ Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, and
UI are available to all Americans with a steady work history. These social insurance
programs play an important role in keeping out of poverty those who retire, experience
a work-limiting disability, lose a parent or spouse, or lose a job through no fault of their
own.

 

 

 The economic and social benefits from these programs go beyond just helping
reduce poverty in the current generation.

 

 Increased access to SNAP for children has been found to lead to better health and
greater economic self-sufficiency in adulthood.

 

 Increased family income in childhood from the EITC and CTC leads to higher student
achievement.

 

 The long-term effects of Head Start and other high-quality preschool programs include
higher educational attainment, employment, and earnings, and lower rates of teen
pregnancy and crime, as beneficiary children become teenagers and young adults.

 

 President Obama’s policies to restore economic security and increase opportunity
have helped reduce poverty.

 

 The Affordable Care Act ensures all Americans have access to quality, affordable health
insurance, by providing the resources and flexibility states need to expand their
Medicaid programs to all people who are in or near poverty as well as financial help so
hardworking families can find a health plan that fits their needs and their budgets.

 

 The President significantly expanded the refundability of the Child Tax Credit, making it
available to millions of working parents who were previously ineligible. He also
expanded the EITC for larger families, who face disproportionately high poverty rates,
and for low-income married couples. Together these expansions benefit approximately
15 million families by an average of $800 per year. The President is proposing to make
these tax credit improvements permanent and also to raise the minimum wage.

 

 The Administration has advanced investments in early learning and development
programs and reforms for coordinated State early learning systems. President Obama
has proposed the expansion of voluntary home visiting programs for pregnant women
and families with young children; Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships to improve
the quality of care for infants and toddlers; and high-quality preschool for every child.

 

 President Obama has advanced reforms of the nation’s K-12 education system to
support higher standards that will prepare students to succeed in college and the
workplace; pushed efforts to recruit, prepare, develop, and advance effective teachers
and principals; and encouraged a national effort to turn around our lowest-achieving
schools. The Administration has also put forward proposals to redesign the Nation’s high
schools to better engage students and to connect 99 percent of students to high-speed
broadband and digital learning tools within the next five years.

 

 President Obama has proposed Promise Zones where businesses partner with local
communities hit hard by the recession to put people back to work and communities can
develop and implement their own sustainable plans for a continuum of family and
community services and comprehensive education reforms.

 

 

 The economic and social benefits from these programs go beyond just helping
reduce poverty in the current generation.

 

 Increased access to SNAP for children has been found to lead to better health and
greater economic self-sufficiency in adulthood.

 

 Increased family income in childhood from the EITC and CTC leads to higher student
achievement.

 

 The long-term effects of Head Start and other high-quality preschool programs include
higher educational attainment, employment, and earnings, and lower rates of teen
pregnancy and crime, as beneficiary children become teenagers and young adults.

 

 President Obama’s policies to restore economic security and increase opportunity
have helped reduce poverty.

 

 The Affordable Care Act ensures all Americans have access to quality, affordable health
insurance, by providing the resources and flexibility states need to expand their
Medicaid programs to all people who are in or near poverty as well as financial help so
hardworking families can find a health plan that fits their needs and their budgets.

 

 The President significantly expanded the refundability of the Child Tax Credit, making it
available to millions of working parents who were previously ineligible. He also
expanded the EITC for larger families, who face disproportionately high poverty rates,
and for low-income married couples. Together these expansions benefit approximately
15 million families by an average of $800 per year. The President is proposing to make
these tax credit improvements permanent and also to raise the minimum wage.

 

 The Administration has advanced investments in early learning and development
programs and reforms for coordinated State early learning systems. President Obama
has proposed the expansion of voluntary home visiting programs for pregnant women
and families with young children; Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships to improve
the quality of care for infants and toddlers; and high-quality preschool for every child.

 

 President Obama has advanced reforms of the nation’s K-12 education system to
support higher standards that will prepare students to succeed in college and the
workplace; pushed efforts to recruit, prepare, develop, and advance effective teachers
and principals; and encouraged a national effort to turn around our lowest-achieving
schools. The Administration has also put forward proposals to redesign the Nation’s high
schools to better engage students and to connect 99 percent of students to high-speed
broadband and digital learning tools within the next five years.

 
Read The Entire Report Here.

 

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11 Responses

  1. I need to read more completely, I have been so sick I can barely lift my head. What no one is saying that I am aware of is, no sooner did LBJ put programs and money in place for training, education, school programs then that money began to be diverted to the Vietnam war. When LBJ left office we had a series of Republican presidents, with one exception who further eroded the programs that would have truly made inroads into poverty by entirely decimating their funding. Then we had NAFTA, which decimated our manufacturing and the repeal of Glass-Stegal which decimated our banking; we lost the middle class and assured poverty would stabalize as backbreaking.

    We have only now, in the last 5 years begun to address some of the real issues. I don’t know if there is enough time to complete the work that needs to be done.

    • U R sick? Is anyone taking care of you? Do you have family or friends stopping by to check on you? Are you home alone?

      • Home alone, no one taking care of me but my sons are calling. They have kids so I don’t want them around me. Don’t want my grandbabies to get what I have.

  2. Reblogged this on Social Action.

  3. Reblogged this on okieprogressive.

  4. Reblogged this on TGM.

  5. […] THE WAR ON POVERTY 50 YEARS LATER: A PROGRESS REPORT.. […]

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