Posted 10 months ago on Jan. 8, 2014, 7:56 a.m. EST by WSmith
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50 years later, war on poverty has new battle lines
LBJ declared war on poverty on Jan. 8, 1964 Political leaders to mark 50th anniversary Obama expected to address economic inequality in his State of the Union address [Damn Right]
WASHINGTON — Fifty years later, LBJ's audacious promise in his first State of the Union Address may be resounding again.
On Jan. 8, 1964, just seven weeks after John F. Kennedy's assassination propelled him into the Oval Office, Lyndon B. Johnson described to a Joint Session of Congress the plight of Americans who "live on the outskirts of hope" because of poverty or race. "This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America," he declared in his Texas twang, voice rising. Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start and more would follow in a historic rush of legislation.
Now, issues of economic fairness and opportunity once again are fueling a more vocal populism, setting a more liberal Democratic agenda and prompting alternative proposals from some leading Republicans. In his own State of the Union Address this month, President Obama is expected to call for raising the minimum wage, extending long-term unemployment benefits and addressing the dramatically widening gap between the rich and everybody else.
Speaking at a community center in one of the poorest neighborhoods of the capital last month, he called it "the defining challenge of our time." On Capitol Hill Wednesday, California Rep. Barbara Lee will launch a series of 50 speeches in 50 days on the House floor by Democratic members to honor LBJ's campaign and rekindle a national effort against poverty.
"I think income inequality has really hit a nerve, a political nerve," Joseph Califano, LBJ's top White House domestic policy adviser, says approvingly. He notes the populist priorities outlined last week in the inaugural address by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, the most liberal mayor in at least two decades in the nation's largest city. "I think we're going to see a revival of programs really designed to give the poor a lift."
To be sure, there's little prospect Obama will be able to push through major legislation in short order the way Johnson did in the 1960s, utilizing big Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, his legendary legislative skill and the nation's resolve in the wake of JFK's death. From the 1964 State of the Union Address until he left office five years later, Johnson would sign into law landmark measures that extended civil rights protections and established safety net programs. (His presidency also would become mired in the expanding Vietnam War.)
Now, proponents in the Senate have been struggling to restore long-term jobless benefits that lapsed just after Christmas. The reception in the GOP-controlled House is likely to be even less hospitable. Speaker John Boehner says Democrats first must find ways to offset the $6.5 billion cost of a three-month extension.
Whether the legislation passes or not, the debate is putting a spotlight on an emerging set of issues and forcing candidates in midterm elections to take positions on them.
The energy on the Democratic left is offering a stronger offset to the Tea Party movement on the right. It has shifted the discussion on programs such as Social Security; long a target for cuts, some Democrats now argue retirement benefits should be raised. And it is altering the landscape for the 2016 presidential election, and not just for Democrats. Republican presidential prospects Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida each have proposed approaches to combat poverty, though they generally reject LBJ's reliance on government.
"The tectonic plates of our politics have shifted in the last few years," says Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "Our politics are changing, and the issues which have dominated our politics in the past — both Obamacare and the deficit — are not unimportant, but these types of issues may now supersede them."
LBJ set the goal high. "It will not be a short or easy struggle; no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won," he declared in his speech, 50 years ago Wednesday. "The richest nation on Earth can afford to win it." (CONTINUED:)
Hayes: Republicans being 'too wimpy' in the fight over unemployment benefits
Published January 06, 2014 | FoxNews.com
Fox News contributor Steve Hayes told viewers on "Special Report with Bret Baier" that Republicans have been "a little too wimpy" in the debate over whether to extend emergency unemployment benefits - a debate that was scheduled to be put to a vote on the Senate floor Monday night, until weather-related travel problems forced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to push the vote until Tuesday morning.
The expired benefits have been consistently renewed since the economy plunged into recession in 2008. While Democrats nearly unanimously support extending the benefits again, some Republicans have voiced opposition to this extension because the current plan doesn't provide for spending cuts elsewhere to make up for the deficit.
"They make a very pragmatic, practical argument about deficit neutrality," Hayes said. "I think that's a fine argument, as far as it goes. But I think Republicans are being a little too wimpy on this. I think it's time to make a moral argument against extended unemployment insurance forever."
Hayes argued that the benefits, once granted sporadically for dire circumstances, could actually lead to greater unemployment levels and are in danger of effectively becoming an entitlement program.
"We’ve been hearing that it'll be cut off now for the better part of five years," Hayes said. "There used to be widespread, bipartisan agreement in Washington that unemployment insurance was sort of the last place to go, the last place that somebody who was down on their luck could turn. Now, it's increasingly becoming a way of life."
"What's surprising to me," Hayes added, "is that Republicans aren't making a moral case about how often unemployment insurance that goes on forever leads to more unemployment."
Report: Florida hit hard by cutoff in federal unemployment benefits
50 Years After the War on Poverty, Will the Middle Class Become the New Poor?
If destructive policies continue, more Americans will come to know poverty firsthand.
January 7, 2014 | AlterNet / By Lynn Stuart Parramore
Fifty years ago today, LBJ threw down the gauntlet on poverty in his famous State of the Union address of 1964. Fired with passion and buoyed by bipartisan support, his anti-poverty team kicked off new health insurance programs for the old and the poor, increased Social Security, established food stamps and nutritional supplements for low-income pregnant women and infants, and started programs to give more young people a chance to succeed, like Head Start and Job Corps.
Americans have greatly benefited from big-picture economic changes like the minimum wage; investments in worker training and education; civil rights policies; social insurance; and programs like food stamps and Medicaid. As Georgetown University’s Peter Edelman pointed out in the New York Times, without these programs, research shows that poverty would be nearly double what it is today. According to economist Jared Bernstein, Social Security alone has reduced the official elderly poverty rate from 44 percent, which it would be without benefits, to 9 percent with them.
Some of our most prominent citizens have enjoyed protection from life’s vagaries through one or another of these measures. President Obama’s family once survived on food stamps. Congressman Paul Ryan was able to pay for school with Social Security survivor benefits when his dad died. A mere generation before, the workhouse or the orphanage might have been their fates.
Yet middle-class Americans are increasingly in danger of learning about poverty firsthand.
The gaps between the rich and poor are the widest they have been in a century, and the middle class is disappearing into the chasm. According to research by economist Emmanuel Saez, the share of income that goes to the top 1 percent has more than doubled since 1964. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the top 1 percent has sucked up nearly all of the income gains in the first three years of the “recovery" — a stupifying 95 percent. The fluidity of American society used to be taken for granted, but now the U.S. lags behind Europe in measurements of mobility. (CONTINUED:)