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Country needs policies that prevent poverty PDF Print E-mail

Dear Editor:

Hoping to change the subject from health care to income inequality, Barack Obama recently pledged that his administration would “focus all efforts” on addressing a “fundamental threat” to the economy and the American Dream. He went on to warn that this threat from income inequality and lack of upward mobility is the “defining challenge of our time” which “challenges the very essence of who we are as a people.”

So it should come as no surprise that this intense national debate coincides with the 50th anniversary of President

Johnson declaring an “unconditional war on poverty in America.” Since then, however, it is estimated that upwards of $20 trillion has been allocated for anti-poverty programs which have produced mixed results at best.


On one hand, a vast majority of the 46 million people that the Census Bureau now define as living in poverty enjoy a standard of living today similar to that of the traditional middle class of several decades ago, thanks to an abundance of government-sponsored assistance born out of Johnson’s initiative.

But on the other hand, the original goal of the War on Poverty was self-sufficiency and never the singular focus of fostering higher living standards through an ever-expanding welfare state such as today’s model. Lyndon Johnson’s road map for eradicating poverty, which was never properly followed, primarily addressed “the causes, not just the consequences of poverty.”

Johnson reinforced this vision in his 1964 State of the Union Address, when he stated, “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.” Johnson’s main objective of prevention is not only an indictment of today’s status quo, but reinforces the position of those opposed to yet another government attempt to merely ease the consequences of poverty through more redistribution from the haves to the have nots.

To the contrary, what we are in dire need of today are government policies that prevent poverty in the first place by incentivizing the nuclear family (pair of adults and their children), as well as triggering an explosion of private-sector job creation. Couple those with a crackdown on corruption and crony-capitalism, which are partly responsible for the average incomes of the top 1% rising by a stunning 30% since Barack Obama became president, and we should have a winning combination.

Furthermore, there’s a growing thirst in this country for a resurgence of the uplifting national spirit that’s based in the time-tested American values of personal responsibility, community and self-reliance. That proven formula has a contagious effect and makes everyone more financially equal and upwardly mobile as a natural byproduct.

Frank Gabl

Prospect Heights, Ill.,

and Eagle River

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 9:48 AM
Last Updated on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 11:07 AM


-8 #5 Frank Gabl 2014-02-17 23:13

Your initial paragraph is a little ambiguous but I’ll assume that you believe today’s poor are worse off than when Johnson left office; which could not be further from historical fact.

Nevertheless, Johnson reduced poverty only 30% from about 18% to 12.5% during his tenure (which had already been in a steady decline from a high of 22.5% in 1959) and not the 50% that you claimed. Since then, the percentage has consistently fluctuated between 12-15% depending on economic growth.

In fact, the positive reduction was almost entirely a result of Johnson enacting Kennedy’s “conservative” economic policies shortly after Johnson assumed office when he lowered tax rates from 91% to 70% in order to spur growth. Consequently, the lower rate resulted in a 2% reduction in unemployment to 3.6 by the end of 1968.

Cont. below:
-7 #4 Frank Gabl 2014-02-17 23:10

But you seem to think that when Reagan lowered tax rates from 70% to 28% it also lowered revenues and hurt the poor, yet as always, the lower tax rates spurred economic growth which helped the poor, not to mention increasing tax revenues. The record shows that total federal revenue under Reagan increased 91% from $517 billion in 1980 to $991 billion in 1989.

After 50 years and $21 trillion spent on anti-poverty programs it’s clear that education, the family unit and economic growth, not handouts, effectively reduces poverty. According to the Census Bureau, “In 2007 5.8% of all people in married families lived in poverty, as did 26.6% of all persons in single parent households.”

Cont. below:
-8 #3 Frank Gabl 2014-02-17 23:09

By the way:

1) Would these be some of the “jobs bills” that you are referring to?

2) The “tax holidays for corporations repatriating their overseas profits” that you speak of occurred only once in 2004 and because it was a failure has not been repeated. Both parties are up to their eyeballs in “corporate welfare,” “enabling corporations to move jobs overseas,” as well as political unwillingness to abolish or rein in corporate loopholes that shelter trillions from taxes.

3) When you refer to “needless expensive wars,” does that include Johnson’s Viet Nam?

4) Little known facts about the minimum wage:

Cont. below:
-7 #2 Frank Gabl 2014-02-17 23:07

5) The government never shut down unless one considers 18% a “shutdown.” And the “$24 billion” talking point is actually $14 billion per the White House.

And finally, you forgot to mention Clinton’s Community Reinvestment Act (which began under Carter but became corrupted by Clinton at the same time that Barack Obama was directly involved as a community organizer in Chicago) which is ultimately responsible for the exploding housing bubble that crashed the economy; costing Americans trillions, not to mention reckless policies that the American economy has not seen since the Depression.
+7 #1 2014-02-15 04:52
Today's poor have a living standard equivalent to the Johnson years? Not even close. Johnson's War on Poverty cut poverty in half during his administration while also lowering the national debt by about 15% (as a percentage of GDP). He left office with only 3.6 percent unemployment.

The "mixed results" were caused primarily by American corporations moving jobs overseas, Reagan/Bush lowering tax rates on the rich by about 43%, minimum wage not keeping up with inflation, corporate welfare, tax holidays for corporations repatriating their overseas profits, needless expensive wars, the most expensive military and intelligence services on Earth, health care costs increasing by far more than the rate of inflation, staggering college debt, a $24 billion needless government shutdown, no jobs bill in over 5 years, and lots of other causes that poor people have no control over.

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