January 8th Marks the 50th Anniversary of the “War on Poverty”

Signing_of_the_Poverty_BillJanuary 8th, 2014—marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s State of the Union address declaring the launch of an “unconditional war on poverty,” which renewed the national commitment to fighting poverty through targeted programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, Pell Grants, expansions to Social Security, and nutrition assistance.  Since then, we’ve seen these services’ success in cutting poverty and creating greater economic opportunity.

Our safety net is working overtime to make up for the failed economy.  When families fall on tough times due to job loss, unexpected medical costs and other challenges, programs like unemployment insurance, Medicaid, nutrition, housing, and child care assistance keep families on their feet.  A recent Columbia University study shows that without these programs, many of which have their roots in the War on Poverty, our poverty rate would be nearly double today.

Poverty doesn’t just go away.  It’s something we must constantly work to reduce.  And we shouldn’t give in to those who want to take us backwards.  We mark the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty at a time when the very programs that have been so successful over the past 50 years are under threat.  Congress is considering cuts to nutrition assistance and has failed to continue unemployment insurance for long-term jobless workers who were laid off through no fault of their own – an unprecedented move at a time with such high rates of unemployment.  Strong majorities of Americans support continuing or expanding these programs, not cutting them.

And we must ensure that every child in America is ready for the jobs of the future.  Next to good jobs and wages, nothing is more urgent in terms of reducing poverty than investing in the education of our children from their early years through college.  Our kids today are the workers of tomorrow and we need to invest in their success from their early childhood years to elementary and secondary school, and make college more affordable for lower income students.  We must live up to our core value that everyone in America—regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or class—has a fair shot at success and is able to contribute to our national economy.

This material [article] was created by the Half in Ten Campaign (www.halfinten.org)” (print)