I reprint the article below that covers the history of the war on poverty from perhaps the best known American paper of record regarding many of our Government's most notorious and/or infamous programs.
Everything you need to know about the war on poverty
1. What was the war on poverty
2. What programs did it include?
• The Social Security Amendments of 1965, which created Medicare and Medicaid and also expanded Social Security benefits for retirees, widows, the disabled and college-aged students, financed by an increase in the payroll tax cap and rates.
• The Food Stamp Act of 1964, which made the food stamps program, then only a pilot, permanent.
• The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which established the Job Corps, the VISTA program, the federal work-study program and a number of other initiatives. It also established the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), the arm of the White House responsible for implementing the war on poverty and which created the Head Start program in the process.
• The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, signed into law in 1965, which established the Title I program subsidizing school districts with a large share of impoverished students, among other provisions. ESEA has since been reauthorized, most recently in the No Child Left Behind Act.3. Why did it start when it did?
Michael Harrington, author of "The Other America." (The Michael Harrington Center
for Democratic Values and Social Change)
The civil rights movement also deserves considerable credit for forcing action. Groups like the NAACP and the Urban League were prominent allies of the Johnson administration in its push for the Economic Opportunity Act and other legislation on the topic. Another factor is the fact that we just didn't have good data on poverty until shortly before the war on it began; our numbers only go back to 1959.
|Donald Rumsfeld, left, served as Nixon's first OEO director. Among Rumsfeld'slieutenants were Dick Cheney and future Defense Secretary Frank Calucci. (Ollie Atkins/Richard Nixon Presidential Library)|
5. Did it reduce poverty, actually?
It did. A recent study from economists at Columbia broke down changes in poverty before and after the government gets involved in the form of taxes and transfers, and found that, when you take government intervention into account, poverty is down considerably from 1967 to 2012, from 26 percent to 16 percent:
While that doesn't allow us to see how poverty changed between the start of the war in 1964 and the start of the data in 1967, the most noticeable trend here is that the gap between before-government and after-government poverty just keeps growing. In fact, without government programs, poverty would have actually increased over the period in question. Government action is literally the only reason we have less poverty in 2012 than we did in 1967.
What's more, we can directly attribute this to programs created or expanded during the war on poverty. In 2012, food stamps (since renamed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) alone kept 4 million people out of poverty:
And is even more important in fighting extreme poverty (that is, people living under $2 a day):
The impact of non-transfer programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Job Corps on poverty is harder to measure, but what indications there are are promising. Amy Finkelstein and Robin McKnight have found that Medicare significantly reduced out-of-pocket medical expenditures for seniors, which increased their real incomes. The Oregon Medicaid Study found that the program significantly reduces financial hardship for its beneficiaries, who, under Oregon's eligibility rules at the time, all fell below the poverty line. A randomized evaluation of the Job Corps found that it caused improvements on a variety of outcomes, most notably a 12 percent increase in earnings of participants but also reductions in rates of incarceration, arrest, and conviction.
7. What more could we be doing now to fight poverty?