Public Square

How We Lost the War on Poverty

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Photo courtesy of Lexie Stevenson

Nearly fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson stood on Tom Fletcher’s front porch in eastern Kentucky and outlined his “War on Poverty.”

He wanted to conquer poverty through government aid which included welfare, food stamps, affordable housing, and many other initiatives.

But the plan backfired. As New York Post contributor William McGurn writes,

A former elementary-school principal says that even the children in this area find themselves sucked in by the culture of dependency. “Instead of talking about a future of work, or a profession, they talk about getting a check,” he says. “That’s what they’ve heard all their lives.”

This impacts the lives of individuals and families throughout the United States, and in regions like rural Appalachia in particular. And the impact isn’t just financial or economic. McGurn says,

The human price is higher still. For in the culture of dependency you get just enough to get by — a roof over your head, food to eat, medical care — but not enough to move up the economic ladder, realize a dream or build a better future for your family…In many parts of China, people who started out under Communism have seen more opportunity for upward mobility than our fellow Americans in Martin County.

Johnson’s “War on Poverty” has not exactly conquered poverty the way many hoped it would. Are free enterprise and hard work part of a better solution?

Read McGurn’s entire article to find out.

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