Little Bits of History

The Great Society

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 8, 2013
Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson

January 8, 1964: President Lyndon B. Johnson declares war, this time on poverty. During his State of the Union address, Johnson outlined ideas which he claimed would put an end to poverty. The Great Society he envisioned was to have the federal government taking a larger role in social welfare programs. His ideas were an extension of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and Four Freedoms from decades earlier.

The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 included many programs funded at the federal level. Social programs concerning health, education, and welfare were addressed. The Social Security Act of 1965 enacted Medicare and Medicaid. The War on Poverty was declared during a time of economic recovery. The poverty level had fallen from a high of 22.4% in 1959 to 19% by the time of Johnson’s speech.

There are economists who claim the overall effect of the War on Poverty and the Great Society has been negative. Milton Friedman, William L. Anderson, and Thomas Sewell have written about the negative economic effects along with the devastating blow dealt to the African-American family unit. The poverty level in the US fell to a low of 11.1% over the next ten years and has remained at the approximate level ever since.

The estimated numbers show the US to have a 12% poverty rate as of 2005. Taiwan has less than 1% of its population living in poverty while Zambia has 86% of its inhabitants living below the poverty level. Chad, the Gaza Strip, Haiti, and Liberia all have an 80% or above poverty rate. These poverty lines are national estimates which are deemed appropriate by local authorities. They vary widely by country. Richer nations tend to have more generous standards than the poorer nations meaning that the poverty levels in these emerging nations are truly devastating. In Zambia, 63.8% of the people must live on less than a single dollar per day (purchasing power parity) and 87.2% of them live on less than $2.

“If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” – Charles Darwin

“Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.” – Norman Vincent Peale

“You can’t get rid of poverty by giving people money.” – P.J. O’Rourke

“Poverty is the mother of crime.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Almsgiving tends to perpetuate poverty; aid does away with it once and for all.” – Eva Perón

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Lyndon Baines Johnson was a Democrat from Texas who was Vice President under John F. Kennedy. He was thrust into the leadership position after Kennedy’s assassination. He had already served as both a Representative in the US Congress and a Senator. He is one of only four people to have served in all four capacities. The other three who also held these offices were John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, and Richard Nixon. LBJ died in 1973 at the age of 64 after having a massive heart attack. He died the day before a ceasefire was signed in Vietnam and he died only a month after former President Truman, whose funeral was Johnson’s last public appearance.

Also on this day: Genius Personified – In 1942, Stephen Hawking was born.
Teeny Tiny – In 1297, the Principality of Monaco gained its independence.
Zero Debt – In 1835, the US government was debt free, but just for a short time.

2 Responses

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on January 8, 2013 at 10:36 am

    In the United States those running the entitlement programs have often changed the eligibility threshold to keep their jobs without any relationship to the living conditions of those that they say are living at or under the poverty level. The fact is the federal government receives much of the so-called welfare money from state governments and then gives it out to those the states say it is to go.For a few a years I was considered disabled with myself receiving nearly all the monthly money going from the state to the federal government to me. After going to Social Security Retirement the state pays for the medication insurance which is a private business. In other words, much of the so-called entitlement expenses is still paid by the states with the federal government acting as a go-between.
    By the way the ceasefire was a formality arranged by me using Henry Kissinger as a pawn to satisfy various news people. Three years before complete peace had been attained in all of southeast asia. I even coached the participants on what to say- except for Kissinger who was such a fool for extortion money for his “services” that he was easily manipulated. On the day Richard Nixon left office he called Kissenger and told him how I and others had used him like a trained animal. Henry Kissenger was worthless even to himself after that-he had been broken.

  2. Anonymous said, on January 10, 2015 at 1:31 am

    You’re STILL mentally disabled, and apparently always will be. I should feel more compassion for a person as unhinged from reality as you are, Bobby, but it is supremely difficult given your ludicrous delusions of self-centered grandeur. For everyone’s sake, I hope you live in an institutionalized setting. I also wish they’d take away your internet.

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