War on Poverty, Then and Now
Half a century after LBJ, America is on the brink of another “War on Poverty,” this one not to ease the misery of millions but make them pay for tax cuts for the rich and comfortable.
Behind all the budget gabble is a reversal of Johnson’s “Great Society” that provided a safety net for the poorest Americans with Medicare, Medicaid, Federal aid to education and, not incidentally, civil rights, all of which led to prosperity until a decade ago when unregulated greed began to undermine it.
Now, those most responsible for an economic meltdown are proposing to reverse it by going back to policies that led to the Great Depression. In his first Inaugural, FDR railed against “the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish” and proposed a return to “ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.”
Republicans may be leading the charge backward, but the failure is bipartisan, a concentration on numbers with little discussion of those values behind them.
When the game of shutdown chicken ends, the President, instead of coaxing Congress to play nice, will have to set out an agenda that is faithful to the legacies of FDR and LBJ…